Are Reed and City Council at Odds?

June 4, 2014 15:19 pm

by Tim Darnell · 10 comments

According to some city council leaders, they are.

That’s according to a Wednesday post in the AJC, where some council members say they’re being left out in the cold on major real estate questions like Underground Atlanta, the Civic Center … as well as that other little piece of property called Turner Field.

Councilwoman Felicia Moore says the council is simply being used to rubberstamp Reed’s plans. Michael Bond opposes Reed’s plans to sell the Civic Center, saying he wants a public debate over what to do with the property. And Howard Shook really isn’t sure what role the council should play when it comes real estate deals anyway.

Things apparently came to a head on Monday, during the council vote on approving the transfer of Civic Center to Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, which will oversee bids to sell and redevelop the property.

For his part, Reed says he’s gone out of its way to keep the council informed, arguing the delicate nature of real estate deals can jeopardize their chance for success.

And the mayor deserves kudos on this issue. Atlanta city council meetings are interminably long, poorly organized, and filled with needless grandstanding and speechifying by members seemingly desperate to gain whatever amount of recognition they can. If left to the council’s wares, the Civic Center and Underground would become more of an urban wasteland than they already are.

If Reed can put together deals that sell these properties for redevelopment and grow city coffers at the same time – and in a quick and efficient manner – more power to him. While the ink on the sales deeds is drying, the council will complaining about missing their photo op.

Baker June 5, 2014 at 8:49 am

So Peach Pundit has its very own Reed “Nod Squad” member? Who knew?

I get his point about “”sensitive” real estate deals but, to keep it short, considering the speed at which some of these decisions are being made and the potential BILLions of dollars this is all adding up to, I’d like to see the City Council have some more input. We didn’t elect them for nothing.

Ed June 5, 2014 at 9:09 am

“We didn’t elect them for nothing.”

Don’t tell that to CT Martin.

Baker June 5, 2014 at 9:36 am

FWIW: I think much of the “needless grandstanding and speechifying” comes mainly from Nod Squad members who see an alignment with Reed as a way up (or to stay) in politics and the grandstanding is to make sure they get their faces out there (See the faces in every Reed political photo op).

Rick Day June 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

I respectfully disagree. There is something that those who do not know whom to ‘pay extra fees that don’t give out receipts’ have to go through. That is called The Process™.

This Process includes clear instructions from something called the Code of Ordinances™.

In order to perpetuate the Illusion of Fairness™, Hizhonor must follow this Process. There is no SECRET that the city wants to sell Underground and Civic Center. Who gets a real opportunity to bid and who gets handed a plum deal MUST be clearly shown.

Because I don’t want to read an article from PP in 3 years when Reed is running for Senate that there was shenanigans in the bidding process for all this multi-billion dollar transfer of public assets and taxes into the Friends of Reed™ because folks like you encouraged opaqueness due to the ‘sensitivities of such things’.

I’m sure Nixon said the same thing.

Will Durant June 5, 2014 at 10:00 am

Why wouldn’t city owned property just be let out for bids for public auction? What “delicate nature” is there to selling to the highest bidder?

Ed June 5, 2014 at 10:21 am

Well, for one, the citizenry might not want to sell said property. And their voice is the city council…

Harry June 5, 2014 at 10:32 am

More likely everybody’s looking to get a cut.

linuxfanatic June 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm

@Baker:

Seriously. The underground and the civic center have been losing money for years. If anyone had better ideas for what to do with that property, they would have proposed them by now. The same deal with Turner Field. The Braves announced that they will move 8 months ago, and the next idea from anyone other than the mayor’s office on what to do with it will be the first. Instead of reaching out to people and trying to come up with ideas, the city council and the county commission tried to organize protests and rallies to pressure Liberty Media not to sell. Like that was going to work.

But that is the only idea that they had, Baker. Why? Because it is all they know. The folks on the city and county commission are for the most part people from the professional activist community. The NAACP. SCLC. Rainbow/PUSH. National Action Network. And so forth. They know how to organize rallies (which no one attends anymore) and make open-ended general demands for justice (which gets ignored) but no actual ideas on how to so much as govern a lemonade stand, let alone a city with nearly half a million people. So as far as they are concerned, the civic center, underground and the Ted can sit empty, losing money, attracting vagrants and whatever and they will not care. Or maybe they will care to some degree, but not enough to DO anything, to take responsibility or be held accountable for their own ideas or leadership. Instead, they will be content to blame the “racist” white people for not patronizing or investing in the underground, the “racist” white people for not scheduling events in the civic center, the “racist” white people for moving the Braves to Cobb, the “racist” white people who choose to live in Cobb (and Gwinnett, Forsyth, Hall, Cherokee, etc. etc. etc.) for not living in Atlanta, the “racist” white people for not “investing” enough in MARTA, downtown, the city, and for choosing “racism” over whatever they define as social justice.

How do we know this? Simple. Because these are the same people who were going to let their vast network of housing projects destroy the city, and only left doing so because HUD stopped writing checks for them. These are the same people who let MARTA run up huge deficits and appointed a welfare rights activist to its board. These are the same people who did nothing over the Atlanta sewer crisis. These are the same who did nothing when crime rates spiraled out of control (other than make Beverly Harvard police chief and replace her with a police chief from NEW ORLEANS). They also did nothing when public sector pension obligations were threatening to bankrupt the city. And they did nothing while the city’s public schools became … well. So if this is the type of “leadership” that this city council has exhibited for decades, why do you believe that they are suddenly capable of coming up with useful ideas now?

They don’t want to sell those properties to developers because their left-liberal backgrounds make them inherently hostile to private enterprise. They also would rather not have an influx of high income (meaning white) residents moving into condos and townhomes in those areas and displacing their voting base. Yes, they would rather Turner Field, Underground and the civic center lose money, become eyesores and gathering places for homeless people and graffiti vandals than see that happen. If they do have some ideas for those areas let me tell you what they would be: senior citizen centers, community centers, “affordable housing” (meaning section 8 apartments to get the people who were forced out of the city when the public housing projects closed back) and “green space.” In other words, the same old urban left-liberalism that has been tried and failed 100 times in 100 cities for the past 60 years. Why? Because those are the only ideas that this crowd ever has.

So if you want “input”, this is the “input” that you are going to get. Reed – who has actually went out and made a living in the private sector – and his leadership team, most of them who also came from the private sector (mostly from Bain) confronted the council with the reality: take on pension reform or the city will be bankrupt in less than 15 years. So rather than being the “nod squad” and approve the measure, they watered it down. Result? The city got maybe half of the pension relief that the original plan would have given, and the city’s bond rating was lowered because the future pension liabilities were still too high for the city’s revenue projections. And guess what? The public sector unions are suing anyway, so there is a chance that either in arbitration or a settlement, the pensions deal, which was already bad, will be made even worse. And these are the people that you want to have input? Please.

This isn’t about the alleged speed that these things are moving (ridiculous when most of these areas have been plagued with trouble FOR DECADES) or the need for the people that you elected to have input. This is about knocking Reed, who is a nationally known and respected, powerful and ambitious figure that is not in your party and does not adhere to your ideology and often makes the guys from your party in power in this state look like rubes in comparison, down a peg. While the humbling of Mr. Uppity King Hizzoner Reed may give you personal satisfaction, it isn’t going to accomplish anything for the city that you happen to live in. Yes, even in your safe perch of north Atlanta, you would benefit if the Turner Field area were given to Georgia State and developers as opposed to turning it into a section 8 corridor like “Able” Mabel Thomas, Emma Darnell and Derrick Boazman would prefer (or for some of the other nutty ideas such as turning it into some sort of Georgia lottery casino with the occasional low-rent horse racing).

Baker June 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Okay…what to respond to…

A) You’re totally conflating the Fulton County Commission and the Atlanta City Council which, while there is some overlap of problems regarding the decades-long “activist” mindset of some of them, are two very different with different areas of responsibility for problems we see in the Atlanta area.

B) I’ve commended Reed here and other places for his work on the pension issue.

C) In a lot of cases, specifically the few non-“Nod Squad” members on the City Council, these are explicitly not the same people that caused a lot of the problems you listed above.

Howard Shook, Kwanza Hall, Alex Wan, and Felicia Moore are four members who I think are generally viewed as more independent of Reed than some others. Ms. Moore was elected in 1997 and has been there the longest of those four. As you so clearly stated regarding lots of those problems, they go well back before that.

D) Just because the problems have been festering for decades doesn’t mean unload it all at once with no oversight in a city that, let’s just say, doesn’t have the best record on city contracts and bids and such.

E) (for good measure) Since you have such a problem with the past few decades of Atlanta politics, a thought experiment. From the 70’s into the 90’s the city was run, for good or ill, by the Maynard Machine. Mr. Jackson pretty much personally selected every mayor through Shirley Franklin. You know who she picked as the torch bearer for the Machine?

greencracker June 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm

A good presiding officer uses “needless grandstanding and speechifying” tactically or else shuts it down.

I have my own favorites and nonfavorites.

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