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I. Welcome & Introductions
Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the November meetings were not brought up for approval and need to be addressed in an upcoming meeting. Gordon Certain provided “2015 Neighborhood Survey” forms for each neighborhood to fill out so BCN would have contact information for current officers and representatives to BCN.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be admitted to membership in BCN.
IV. Goals and Strategic Priorities
BCN didn’t have a December meeting because of a conflict with parking for an event at the church. But the BCN Executive committee did meet. They talked about goals and strategies for 2015. The decision was made to reconstitute BCN’s committee structure (listed below). If members want to serve on any of
these committees, please let the committee chair know. The goal of this committee structure is to do a better job of learning what’s going on, disseminating that information, and then, if there is a consensus on what to do, advocating on that position.
Regarding education, Tom wants to focus on APS, not state or private school activities. He wants to keep us apprised of everything that’s going on. The way we effect change is to be involved. He wants to reach out to private school parents and those with no school children. Tom plans a meeting later in January with Margaret Kaiser, Beth Beskin, and others to explore issues related to Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding.
Committee chair Debra Wathen wants to focus on the City – Buckhead is an important area but it is part of a City. She wants to focus on transit as well as, how do I get to my office at 7:30? She wants to explore solutions to our more global problems. Traffic and transit. She wants to solve both. She wants to get outside experts involved in seeking solutions. Debra wants to seek the help of outside experts to help us as representatives of our neighborhoods. Representatives of the Transportation Committee met with Representative Pat Gardner in early January. Pat is on the House Transportation Committee. Gardner recommended getting with Ed Lindsey, Mike Jacobs, Brandon Beach, Stacey Key (GDOT rep to Lewis’ District 5), Jeff Lewis (GDOT rep to Loudermilk’s District 11). Pat was “energized” to see us come down and spent the time talking with her. A constitutional amendment is needed to get the 3% sales tax on gasoline available to spend on transit as well as roads and bridges – gasoline sales taxes cannot go to transit but excise taxes are so not limited. If anyone wants to help, contact Debra. You don’t have to be a BCN board member to be involved. It needs to be a grass roots effort.
Ron Grunwald chairs this effort. Development and transportation are intertwined. He said that transportation infrastructure is not adequate for the level of development that’s happening. Impact fees are not keeping up with the needs of development. A 2010 effort to address impact fees stalled – we lost out. The roads are terrible. The transportation infrastructure bond effort is coming. The Northside didn’t participate much in that process and needs to catch up. Ron needs to hear about neighborhood transportation issues. The zoning code still needs to be updated, the sooner the better.
This topic includes topics such as Legislative, NPU, Parks, Voter Education/Registration, etc. It will be chaired and will meet as necessary.
Councilmember Felicia Moore
Felicia Moore is seeking access to the City’s financial records. She explained that there are two things she is asking for – it started out as one issue and morphed into another.
1. She wants to have computer access to the city accounts payable. She wants to be able to go on-line, whenever she wants to, wherever she wants to, just to be able to look at the accounts of the city. The city’s IT department has to give her access. To make a long story short, Mayor Reed said “no”. She is an elected official and she wants to be able to represent her constituents. It is “our” money. She doesn’t feel like she should have to rely on someone else for that information. She has been on the City Council for 18 years and she has been relying on others for that kind of information. She asks and often doesn’t ever get what she asks for. Or she doesn’t get all of it or it may not be correct. She plans to be fully trained in Oracle software so that won’t be an excuse. Once she’s trained, she will pursue access for herself.
2. As she was going through that, she realized that other cities across the country are posting their accounts payable on-line. Either in real time or on a delayed basis. She wants the City of Atlanta to join those other cities and post that information on-line. She says the information she is asking for is not proprietary and it is subject to “open records”. She plans to educate the public about this issue and then, if necessary, get the City Council to act to secure her two objectives. This is the public’s money and it’s a matter of transparency.
Councilmember Andre Dickens
Andre Dickens came to BCN to speak about the City/APS Beltline controversy. Tom attached a couple of “fact sheets” to the agenda – see Meeting Agenda with APS/Beltline Background. Tom outlined the situation: the Beltline involves a Tax Allocation District (TAD) and there’s a line in the TAD’s contract between Atlanta and APS in which APS gave up the right to property tax amounts for a number of years in exchange for a schedule of annual payments. The amount due from the Beltline TAD to APS is $13.5 million; the city has now missed two payments, and for whatever reason, Mayor Reed does not want to pay. Tom is concerned that APS needs the money and it is becoming very politicized: Beltline vs. students. Tom said the terms of the agreement are that if the City is behind in payments, it cannot issue a bond – there’s a bond referendum coming in March. All the infrastructure funding could be put on hold.
Andre said the issue is near and dear to him. He is a product of Atlanta Public Schools and his daughter is a student at E. Rivers. Andrea is on the City Council, on the board of the Beltline and on the board of Invest Atlanta. He gets to see the budget in those places so he can report back to the City Council. He said that TAD payments have been made to Fulton County but not APS. He said it is important to know that the Beltline TAD agreement was made before the Great Recession when it was expected the Beltline would generate $3 billion. It is unlikely that number will be reached by the time the TAD ends in 2030. APS is entitled to fixed payments totaling $162 million under the Beltline deal, whether the money is there or not. Fulton’s payment is tied to the actual increment is tax revenue, which is more realistic. So, in Andre’s opinion, there is a need to renegotiate the APS agreement. He said it is a “false choice” to say the issue is between either the Beltline OR APS. Having students well educated by APS is important to the city’s economic development, too. The Beltline/APS agreement allows the city to be late in making payments up to $15 million, so the city is not in default; it’s just late. Once a default exists, the city has four years to cure it. So, maybe APS can’t sue right now. In the end, after much discussion, the board agreed to have Tom draft a letter to both the city and APS encouraging them to quickly resolve the issues.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business
VII. New Business/Announcements
VIII. Next Meeting February 12, 2015
IX. Adjourn – The meeting adjourned at about 8:45 PM.
Note: The opinions expressed by the speakers and individual neighborhood representatives in these minutes do not necessarily represent those of BCN or its member neighborhoods.