Category: Metro Atlanta

Poor and Homeless in the Deep South

The Washington Post published a deep look into the plight of the poor and jobless in the southern United States. Much of the story focuses on south Atlanta, and the challenges one woman, a single mother with a young child, has with finding a job. The story opens with the woman trying to get from a homeless shelter in Forest Park to a company in the Fulton Industrial District; a journey of less than half an hour by car, but almost two hours by bus and train.

Aboard the bus, Scott zigzagged through Clayton County, an area that runs south from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and has transformed over 25 years from majority white to majority black, its poverty rate rising during that span from 9 percent to 24 percent. A generation of poor people resettled here after Atlanta shuttered inner-city housing projects, and now title loan and pawn shops were the lone life in sleepy strip malls; traffic backed up for an hour to wait in line at a weekly food pantry; and at a blood plasma center where people could get up to $50 for donations, lines formed many mornings around the building before the 7:30 a.m. opening.

The long commute is illustrative of one of the main themes of the article: a lack of decent mass transit options for the poor makes it very difficult for those without a car to get around to find work, let alone make a daily commute. The other focus is on how, beginning with welfare reform instituted back when Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich was speaker of the house disrupted the safety net systems southern poor relied on, including housing projects and cash welfare.

Over the past 20 years, Atlanta’s wealthiest areas, spread along the north of the city, have changed little. But formerly middle-class suburbs to the south — areas of modest single-family homes — have been deluged by newcomers who lost homes as city officials dismantled dozens of housing projects in the hopes of reducing concentrated poverty. Experts who have studied Atlanta’s economic geography say the change has been partly successful; class no longer changes so clearly between neighborhoods, but meanwhile, the poor — given modest vouchers to help subsidize their housing costs — must head far from the city to find places they can afford.

“This city hasn’t built out its society,” said Deborah Scott, the executive director of an area nonprofit organization, Georgia Stand-Up, that focuses on low-income communities. “We’ve given the suburbs to the poorer people, but the opportunities aren’t here.”

There’s a lot more to the article than what can be excerpted in a blog post. Read the whole thing.

Old Cities, New Cities, And One Non-City Ranked on Best-Of Lists

There are lots of things that make a community a city, but nothing (other than a yes vote – sorry, LaVista Hills!) legitimizes a city like making a best-of list on the internet.

By this metric, the nascent City of Tucker is now really a city. Two lists released last week by WalletHub and 24/7 Wall Street include several Georgia cities ranked by virtue of their affordability, economic health, education and health, and quality of life.

Of the 1,268 cities with a population between 25,000 and 100,000 residents on the WalletHub list, Georgia’s representatives include:

  • Alpharetta (83)
  • Duluth (145; ranked first in most restaurants per capita)
  • Kennesaw (174)
  • Marietta (183)
  • Evans (249; #1 in Highest Income Growth)
  • Milton (323)
  • Newnan (532)
  • Lawrenceville (572; #5 in most restaurants per capita)
  • Johns Creek (575)
  • Smyrna (602)
  • Peachtree City (606)
  • Tucker (632)
  • Dunwoody (662)
  • Roswell (694)
  • Martinez (726)
  • Douglasville (885)
  • Stockbridge (955)
  • Mableton (1007) (Wait, what?)
  • Hinesville (1027)
  • Statesboro (1083; dead last in the highest percentage of residents below the poverty level)
  • Warner Robins (1100)
  • Gainesville (1119)
  • Rome (1161)
  • Sandy Springs (1166; third from the bottom in income growth, but their median income is pretty good, so interpret that as you will)
  • LaGrange (1172)
  • Dalton (1173)
  • Valdosta (1182)
  • Macon (1220)
  • Albany (1225)
  • East Point (1242)

On the 24/7 Wall Street list, which only ranked cities with a population of more than 60,000 residents, Johns Creek received an overall score of 95.4 out of 100. The site notes that, “While Georgia generally fares worse than most states in many social and economic measures, Johns Creek residents benefit from high incomes, low poverty, high levels of education, and plenty of amenities.”

The methodology used in each set of rankings is key to contextualizing the lists, which may come as a relief to Sandy Springs when they find themselves ranked below Mableton, which is not actually a city (yet).

Atlanta City Council Adopts a Resolution In Support of Regional Solutions

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council became the first area governing body to adopt a resolution known as the “Pledge to Win the Future” that originated from the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Millennial Advisory Panel. The resolution is in support of the Commission’s The Region’s Plan, a long range planning document that is expected to be adopted by the ARC board early in 2016.

The Region’s Plan has three fundamental goals, which were adopted as part of the Council’s resolution:

BE IT Finally RESOLVED, that the Atlanta City Council recognizes that there are regional goals and objectives that we will consider in our work. We agree to consider the following principles:

  1. Competitive Economy:
    1. Build the metropolitan Atlanta region as a globally recognized hub of innovation and prosperity.
    2. Develop a highly educated and skilled workforce, able to meet the needs of 21st Century employers.
  2. World Class Infrastructure
    1. Ensure a comprehensive transportation network, incorporating regional transit and 21st Century technology.
    2. Secure long-term water supply.
  3. Healthy Livable Communities
    1. Develop additional walkable, vibrant centers that support people of all ages and abilities.
    2. Promote health, arts and other aspects of a high quality life.

In a statement, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell said:

This legislation is an important step in supporting the Atlanta Region’s Plan, as it speaks to the future of metro Atlanta. As an ARC board member, I am excited that the City Council voted to accept the ARC Millennial Advisory Panel’s pledge of support for the Atlanta Region’s Plan. I look forward to opportunities that help ARC continue its partnership with Millennials in advancing meaningful policies to support the Atlanta region.

The Millennial Advisory Panel is a group of 135 young people brought together by the Atlanta Regional Commission to advise it on the needs and expectations of millennials, and to provide input into the group’s planning process. The panel is divided into eight action teams, each with a separate focus, such as transit, education, or livable communities. Group 8 was charged with developing a regional vision for the future, and that led to the pledge that was adopted by the Atlanta City Council.

“It is extremely encouraging to see the City of Atlanta leading the way in adopting our Pledge to Win the Future,” said Mike Davis, a member of the ARC Millennial Advisory Panel. “Regional cooperation is the only way that we will reach our full potential as a region, and this is a great first step. Adopting a regional mindset is truly the only way forward. The Millennial Advisory Panel encourages others to embrace a regional mindset by signing our pledge.”

The full resolution adopted by City Council is below the fold. Read more

Cathy, Chick-Fil-A Move To Help ATL’s Westside

Last Thursday I attended the Council for Quality Growth’s annual dinner. They were honoring Chick-Fil-A’s Dan Cathy with their Four Pillars Award. Cathy accepted the award on the condition that he and others be allowed to talk about his latest effort, helping to revitalize Atlanta’s westside. Here is a video shown at the event:

As Maria Saporta reported yesterday Chick-Fil-A will be opening a restaurant in 2017 at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.

At the Council for Quality Growth’s Four Pillar Award dinner on Oct. 1, Cathy also was to tell to attendees that the Chick-fil-A Foundation would be donating a total of $300,000 to the Westside Future Fund, an entity that has been established to serve as a focal point for corporate and philanthropic donors wanting to invest in the Vine City, English Avenue and surrounding communities.

“Individuals and businesses are going to have to be willing to prime the pump and get the fly wheels to start spinning again,” Cathy said in an interview a few days before the dinner. “We are going to try to stop this socio-economic divide that’s seen in so many urban markets. We are going to take a stand with others including the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.”

Among the groups spotlighted at the Four Pillars Tribute was City of Refuge, which Cathy has supported for several years now. Read more

You Spin My Head Right Round

When you’re commuting in Georgia, it’s generally because (with apologies to Flo Rida) you’ve got people to see, and your time is precious. Daily commutes are getting longer, so perhaps communities should defer to traffic engineers – and the Mythbusters – and embrace the roundabout.

As reported in the AJC, roundabouts are on the increase in Georgia. Since 2005, 145 have been built in Georgia, and another 130 are either under construction or in the design process, so if there’s not one in your community yet, chances are, you’ll see one soon. In Smyrna, we currently have three roundabouts, and one is in the works for the 2016 SPLOST. Smyrna’s nascent roundabout will replace a traffic light that controls a six-point intersection. Traffic there is light, but the time drivers spend waiting for the lights to cycle through each street is frustratingly long; that’s the kind of interchange that was made for a roundabout.

The AJC notes that feelings on roundabouts range from love to loathe:

Surveys have shown that before roundabouts are installed, a lot of people don’t want them, said Mike Hunter, director of the National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management at Georgia Tech. But afterward, they tend to be well-received.

“I think there has definitely been a tipping point in Georgia, where you are now starting to see more and more people request them,” Hunter said. “It’s not the transportation agencies going in and saying, ‘We think this is a good location for one.’”

It’s also clear that driver education is key – although, arguably, if you have the wherewithal to operate several thousand pounds of steel, you should be able to figure out how to circumnavigate a circle. The Georgia Driver’s Manual currently gives roundabouts only a passing glance, but they will be covered in greater depth for next year’s edition. (Admittedly, if there’s a stop sign at the roundabout, the situation is sometimes fraught.)

Alternatively, some believe that roundabouts are kin to ten-foot sidewalks as a tenet of Agenda 21. Benignly innovative traffic calming tactic, or part of the UN’s onward march towards global domination? Discuss in the comments.

Political Antics Heat Up in Snellville Prior to Qualifying

Qualifying for mayor and two seats on Snellville’s City Council won’t start until Monday August 31st, but the politics are already heating up in the Gwinnett County city where everybody is somebody. Up for election is the mayor slot, currently held by Kelly Kautz, and city council seats held by Dave Emanuel and Diane Krause. Emanuel plans to stand for re-election, while Krause’s seat will become open. In addition, Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Witts intends to run for mayor, leaving a third council seat up for grabs.

Witts has long telegraphed his interest in becoming mayor; his signs have been visible for months. There has been much speculation over whether Kautz will run for another term, but we’ve heard rumors recently that she has decided to go for it. We’ve also heard rumors that at least two other candidates could jump in for the top job.

The shenanigans began recently when someone registered the domain votetomwitts.com, which is similar to Witt’s campaign site, votewitts.com. As of this writing the domain leads to a parked GoDaddy page, but earlier, it apparently redirected to a pro Kelly Kautz site.

Snellville voters opened their mailboxes recently to see two flyers bashing the campaigns of Witts and Emanuel. The mailers were allegedly paid for by Joe Newton, the Norcross activist who has previously stuck his nose in other Gwinnett campaigns. There are also rumors going around that political consultant Bill McKinney, who has also been been behind some questionable Gwinnett campaign activity may get involved in one of the races.

Stock up on the popcorn. This could be quite interesting.

Attorney General: Brookhaven violated Open Records Act

Georgia’s Attorney General says DeKalb County’s largest city has violated the state’s Open Records Act.

The Brookhaven Post is reporting that on Monday, the Attorney General responded to its request that Brookhaven city officials release public records relating to an alleged sexual harassment incident involving the city’s former mayor.

“The Attorney General’s letter … confirms Brookhaven officials violated the Georgia Open Records Act by failing to produce documents pursuant to our request and urges the City to release any other documents in its possession that are related to this issue,” the Post reported.

Last month, the media outlet filed an Open Records Act complaint after requesting the release of public records relating to the cover up of an incident where former Mayor J. Max Davis was accused of sexual harassment after he allegedly sprayed a female city employee on the back-side with Lysol.

“New city attorney Chris Balch read the Attorney General’s letter during Tuesday’s Council Meeting,” the Post said. “Balch told the Council there are no sanctions at this time – assuming Kurrie and Davis being gone as the reason.”

It’s UGA vs. Tech in Brookhaven

Former Tech QB Taylor Bennett will meet Republican J. Max Davis — a former offensive lineman at UGA — in a runoff for House District 80.

The Brookhaven Post is reporting that the two will meet in an August 11th runoff for the seat vacated by Republican Mike Jacobs, now a DeKalb state court judge.

Republicans Catherine Bernard and Loren Collins came in third and fourth, respectively, in Tuesday’s special election. 

Analysis

Bennett — whose campaign visibility throughout the district was dwarfed by Davis and Bernard — was surprisingly the top vote-getter on Tuesday, with 36 percent. Davis came in second, with 33 percent.

Bennett’s campaign seemingly came on strong in the final days before the election, as the Democrat received endorsements from such organizations as the Sierra Club, Georgia Association of Educators, Planned Parenthood and even former state senator Jason Carter.

Davis, Brookhaven’s first-ever mayor and arguably the highest profile candidate in the election, also had a hefty list of endorsements, most notably from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and local political heavyweights such as state Sen. Fran Millar, Rep. Tom Taylor and three of the four members of the Brookhaven City Council.

Any contest fielding four candidates is most likely bound for a runoff, but Bennett’s first-place showing has to be considered somewhat of a political shock, given the district’s strong GOP leanings, along with some of its neighboring communities.

Another factor contributing to Davis’ second-place showing could be residual damage resulting from some unflattering charges made against him during the campaign, dating back to his tenure while mayor of Brookhaven.

In any event, if Bennett defeats Davis on August 11, it could signal a dramatic, political changing of the guard in an important metro Atlanta house district.

Some Friendly Advice to Mayor Reed

This post needs to start off with a caveat: I like Mayor Reed. I think he’s doing great things for the city. I think his vision of where cities will be in the future is innovative and spot on. I think he might have a bright future ahead of himself but, he’s got to become friends with the local media.

To wit: Maria Saporta wrote two columns on the Fort McPherson deal. The now-closed army base was sold so that a new Tyler Perry Studios could be built on site. The first column from Saporta said the deal “may become known as one of the worst transactions in the city’s history. The second added to the criticism saying, not entirely incorrectly, that turning Fort Mac into something more than a movie studio was Atlanta’s “greatest missed opportunity.”

Both were fairly harsh but not harsh enough to warrant a mayor of major metropolitan area issuing a statement denouncing the columns. Which is exactly what Mayor Reed did.

In a 1,280-word statement, Reed blasted Saporta saying:  “Maria Saporta has chosen not only to disregard, but also to distort these facts and instead create a false narrative based on misguided assumptions and questionable sources.” And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Mayor Reed is entitled to a rebuttal but man… going to such great lengths to do so and personally calling out a reporter is beyond petty. Reed can say he doesn’t want to run for governor in 2018 but let’s be honest, he has higher aspirations. If he does want to go far, he’s going to have to warm up to the local media. The most frustrating thing about his communication “strategy” is that he can be the cuddliest person to the media, just watch his appearances on MSNBC, NBC or his successful attempts to cozy up to the national press. What will happen when the news outlets he’s wooed start taking a critical eye toward him? Will he coil up and strike them, too?

If the mayor or his aides are still reading this I would tell them to simply take a low-profile approach for his final two years as mayor. Apologize for being a bully, get the Atlanta press corps on his side and then Reed will be able to write his own ticket to the future.

R.I.P. Eva Galambos, Mother of Sandy Springs

The woman who spent nearly forty years on the effort to create the city of Sandy Springs has died. Eva Galambos passed away Sunday afternoon after a battle with cancer. She was 87.

In a statement, current Sandy Springs mayor Rusty Paul said, “This is a great loss for the city and a great loss personally. Eva was truly our city mother. Her efforts led to the city’s creation. She cared and nurtured the city, and the strength of our community is due greatly to her unwavering love and devotion to creating something better for us all.”

Although she may best be known for her guiding the incorporation of Sandy Springs in 2005, and then spending eight years as the city’s first mayor, she spent many years developing policies and procedures for local governments, according to an extensive obituary published in the Neighbor Newspapers. Her accomplishments include developing a new model for capturing business license revenue and establishing a public-private model of providing city services that was used in Sandy Springs, and which has been successfully tried in other cities.

The incorporation of Sandy Springs in December 2005 marked the very end of an era where the city of Atlanta and Fulton County dominated the politics of the metro region. Since that time, new cities in Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Milton, and Johns Creek, among others, were incorporated as the Georgia 400 corridor north of the Perimeter has grown to become a business center as large or larger than the central Atlanta downtown.

Funeral services will be held at 1 PM on Tuesday at Temple Kehillat Chaim. According to a city spokesman, the family requests consideration of a donation to the Anne Frank in the World Exhibit or to a charity of one’s choice in lieu of flowers.

Travis Roberts lives again… Cancer Kicks formally launched

cancerkicksA year and a half ago I had the honor of introducing the Peach Pundit family to a man named Travis Lee Roberts. Since that time #travsarmy helped make the final months of Travis’ life and the months after his passing something incredibly special for Travis, his family, and his friends.

The outpouring of support to get Travis on GameDay in Athens was a campaign lead by Travis’ brother-in-law, Joe Pettit. What Joe accomplished with the help of #travsarmy was nothing short of heroic and showed the selflessness that we should all strive for. Now Joe has taken up another campaign for Travis, and he needs your help once again to help other individuals and their families in their fight against cancer.

“Travis founded Cancer Kicks to help thousands of families, who are not only fighting for the lives, but are struggling to pay their medical bills as well as to raise funds to assist world-class cancer research centers who are dedicated to providing research to finding a cure for Cholangiocarcinoma and other rare cancers that are currently underfunded,” said Joe Pettit, President of Cancer Kicks and Travis’ brother-in-Law.

While I am sure Joe would rather be taking his orders directly from Travis as to how Cancer Kicks should be run, I know that Joe will build the organization into something that makes Travis proud. Take some time today and visit the website and read about Travis’ story from those who know him best. While Travis’ body might not be among us, his legacy of hope and determination lives.

How you can help:

Website: CancerKicks
Twitter: @CancerKicks
Facebook: facebook.com/cancerkicks

 

Because They Are Delicious, and Proof That God Loves Us

“Why do so many people crave fried chicken and hot buttered biscuits for breakfast?”

That’s the question posed by the British in the most recent issue of The Economist (remember, it’s a newspaper).

They Wish They Were in Dixie” runs the gamut from chicken biscuits, low (or no) property taxes, the Georgia Recovery School District plan, the influence of air conditioning, and God, to Georgia’s tax incentives for a certain European auto manufacturer.

It’s a good read, and – like so many conversations about the New South – finishes with Atlanta:

Read more

“Connect 400” Transit Initiative Moves Forward

MARTA’s efforts to extend access to transit to the Georgia 400 Corridor will move one step closer to reality next week as the agency invites public comment on its proposals.

Possible future MARTA stops along the Georgia 400 corridor.
Possible future MARTA stops
along the Georgia 400 corridor.
Ultimately, the goal of Connect 400 is to connect Sandy Springs to Alpharetta via transit, preferably through Heavy Rail Transit (HRT), an option MARTA’s Board approved as the locally preferred alternative on March 5 of this year. This proposal would extend the Red Line from the North Springs stop up to Alpharetta at a new Windward Parkway station. MARTA would also add intermediate stops at Northridge Road, Holcomb Bridge Road, North Point Mall/Encore Parkway, and Old Milton Parkway.

However, MARTA’s preliminary report, which you can read in full here, seems to indicate they might consider Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a last resort. These buses could operate in an “exclusive guideway” or on the same lanes as automobile traffic.

MARTA invites anyone interested in the specifics of the proposed route to come to “to learn more about the environmental process, comment on the locally preferred alternative, and discuss how the project fits into the community.” Details on each of the three public meetings are below: two next week and one on April 30.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 – 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
North Fulton Service Center – Community Room
7741 Roswell Road, #104
Sandy Springs, GA 30350

Thursday, April 16, 2015 – 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Georgia State University – Alpharetta Center
3775 Brookside Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30022

Thursday, April 30, 2015 – 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
East Roswell Recreation Center
9000 Fouts Road
Roswell, GA 30076

Alternatively, those wanting to comment on the proposed move online can use this online form, set up by MARTA officials. The deadline for public comments will end on May 11.

MARTA hopes to approve a final plan for the GA 400 Corridor by Spring 2017.

ARC Chairman Optimistic About the Region

Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Kerry Armstrong addresses Gwinnett Chamber members at their monthly luncheon. Photo: Jon Richards
Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Kerry Armstrong addresses Gwinnett Chamber members at their monthly luncheon. Photo: Jon Richards
Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Kerry Armstrong addressed the members of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce at their monthly luncheon on Wednesday, saying that the Atlanta region is ready to be a rockstar on the world stage. Armstrong, who has been at the helm of the area’s metropolitan planning organization for just over a year, brought the audience up to date on three areas the ARC works with, including the area’s aging population, transportation and mobility, and water.

Comparing the baby boomer generation to an elephant moving through a python, Armstrong said the commission was trying to figure out how to prepare the region for an older population. As the population ages, some would prefer not to drive, and many older people will want to want to downsize from their standalone housing. Admitting the issue was one that is always on the table, he noted the bright spot that many millennials have the same interests as the older generation, so a solution for one would be of benefit to the other.

Addressing transportation, Armstrong said that for the first time in his career, he sees a resolve to solve the region’s mobility issues, especially from the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House. Armstrong hopes the legislature willl find a solution that is big enough and bold enough to make a difference, noting that an additional $150 per year per car would double the amount the state currently spends on constructing and maintaining its roads and bridges. He admitted that, while we know the solutions, the challenge is how to pay for them.

Ensuring an adequate water supply in the region is a long running challenge the ARC and the state need to address. After it seemed that the Florida-Georgia-Alabama water wars had been mostly resolved, Florida filed suit against Georgia over the amount of water taken from the Chattahoochee, and especially Lake Lanier. Late last year, the Supreme Court agreed to take the case, and appointed a special master to oversee the process and find facts. With the special master in place, the court would like to see some resolution within three years, as opposed to the more typical 8-10 year timetable a case like this would take.

Meanwhile, the state has filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, hoping to force them to specify the region’s rights to withdraw water from Lake Lanier and the rest of the ACT water basin in their Water Control Manual–something they have been reluctant to do in the past. Armstrong admitted he didn’t know what the Corps might eventually decide, but that having something solid to go on would be better than the current lack of guidance.

The one bit of good news on the water front was the appointment of 7th District Congressman Rob Woodall to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the first time a Georgian has been on the committee that makes important decisions regarding not only roads and transit, but ports and waterways as well. He noted that both Florida and Alabama have long had representation on the committee, and that Woodall’s appointment would level the playing field a bit.

Noting such milestones as the 54,000 jobs added in the region over the last year, and the fact that the regional GDP is the tenth largest in the country, and larger than the GDP of 33 states, Armstrong said he was positive about the future. Yet, noting that the area’s population of 5.2 million is expected to grow to over 8 million by 2040, he admitted that challenges lie ahead. But, he said, regional leaders are willing to work together to find solutions for the common good of the area. And, that’s a major reason he is more optimistic than ever.

APS Parents Pressure Kasim Reed To Resolve Beltline Dispute

Eight parent groups have called upon Atlanta City Hall to resolve the long-standing multi-million dollar dispute between the Atlanta Public School system (APS) and the Beltline. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that these parent groups have sent a joint letter to the Atlanta City Council asking the council members to sign a pledge to pay school system what it is owed. From the AJC:

The exact amount the city owes the school district is in dispute. But what’s clear is that the Beltline is currently behind on a $6.75 million payment that was due last January, and is set to owe an additional $6.75 million next month. The parents contend the city should also pay interest and attorneys fees associated with the debt.

“We just want the city to make good on their promise,” said Shawnna Hayes-Tavares, president of Community Advocates for Special Education. “This is not just a business venture … This is about the children of Atlanta.”

The parent groups are also calling on Mayor Kasim Reed to settle this dispute as they believe “the city should pay up and now.” Mayor Reed has been spearheading the dispute negotiations regarding the Beltline debt to the APS since this summer. The parent groups want council members to urge Mayor Reed to ensure the immediate repayment of the Beltline debt to the APS as some parents believe he has been holding up the negotiations by “refusing to budge.” According to a WSB TV video accompanying the story, Mayor Reed’s office has responded to this petition by labeling it as a “manufactured controversy” with a timing that is “questionable at best.”

To gain a better context of the issue at hand, one would have to go back in time to 2005 when Mayor Shirley Franklin created the Beltline Tax Allocation District (TAD) for which she requested a buy in from the APS and Fulton County. Under the original Beltline TAD plan, Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County, and the City of Atlanta would agree to forgo the property tax revenue they received in order to have this revenue go towards the Beltline project. The plan was to have these revenue payments stop once the Beltline was completed by 2030. In return for their cooperation, the schools, county and city would reap better communities and higher property tax income.

However Mayor Franklin agreed to make fixed payments to APS through 2030 for a wide variety of reasons in addition to making fixed payments of a lower amount to Fulton County through the TAD. While the Beltline has upheld these payments to the County, it has been unable to do the same with the APS. The Beltline claims it has not been able to make these payments to the APS for two main reasons: a lawsuit and the Great Recession. While the lawsuit temporarily kept the Beltline from using school taxes, the Great Recession has led to the TAD only raising one third of the funding for the Beltline as opposed to the originally projected 60 percent.

To complicate things further, during the duration of the lawsuit, the property tax revenue that would have gone to the Beltline was held in escrow and not invested in the project. In 2009, city officials signed a contract agreeing to let APS keep these funds, amounting up to $26 million. The agreement specifically stipulated that this money would not be credited towards the Beltline’s debt. Ever since then, City and APS officials have unsuccessfully attempted at negotiations to amend this deal.

Meanwhile, city leaders simply want to make progress on completing the project. With progress delayed due to the recession, they fear making payments to the school system would cause further construction to grind to a halt.