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I. Welcome & Introductions
Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:50 PM. A quorum was not present.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the April meeting were not brought up for approval.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be considered for BCN membership.
IV. BCN Standing Committee Reports
– No report.
– Nancy Meister, Atlanta Board of Education Vice Chair and District 4 Board Member provided an update on the APS ESPLOST ballot issue on the May ballot. She began by reminding everyone of the Buckhead area schools that have been rebuilt or renovated by previous ESPLOST revenues. If the new round of revenues is approved [it was] they plan to update/replace their entire bus fleet, continue bond payments for North Atlanta High School, enhance technology, improve security and safety, and improve HVAC systems. The sales tax is anticipated to bring in $546 million over the next four years.
– No report.
Jim King, President of the Chastain Park Athletic Club, updated BCN on the many changes made involving the Chastain Park Pool. The most obvious change is that the 75-year old pool is now partially covered with an immense contemporary “pool cover”.
The cover permits some control of temperature and provides options on amount of sunshine experienced, enabling the pool’s operations to convert to a year-round schedule. It covers the swimming lanes which make up about 40% of the pool. The water in the pool has been heated to about 80 degrees for the past several years. The Chastain Park Athletic Club was organized as a 501(c)(3) in 2002 to operate the Chastain Pool after efforts to replace it fell through and the City defunded its operations. A summer swim team was organized in 2003. Their swim program has grown and their summer swim team has placed in the top three in the Atlanta Swim Association Summer League for the past nine years. They were champs in 2014 and 2015. Due to the economy, they had a major decline in revenue in 2012 and decided to move to year-round operations. This past year they completed the conversion to year-round swimming and created a USA Swim Team for kids and a US Masters Team for adults. Jim said that their long term plans include some new sidewalks, replacement of the pool, the addition of a splash pad for younger kids, and a bath house.
– Felicia Moore, Atlanta City Councilmember, 9th District, briefed BCN about her unsuccessful efforts to get financial details about City operations, information that she believes is necessary to perform her job as a City Councilmember. Specifically, she had asked for access to the City’s Oracle financial transaction database. That access was not granted.
In researching the practices in some of the country’s other major cities she came to understand that many progressive cities have provided “checkbook online” access – all expenditures in those cities are posted online. So, rather than having to prepare an open records request, everyone (media, citizens, vendors, and elected officials) is able to look up the transactions themselves. She wonders why Atlanta isn’t providing the same kind of access.
Moore discussed a 2013 analysis of the nation’s top 30 cities. The analysis, entitled U.S.PIRG Educational Fund “Transparency 2.0”, gave the City of Atlanta’s budget accountability and accessibility practices a grade of “F”, as shown in the figure at the right.
The handout observed: “Failing cities (“F” range): Five cities, including Atlanta, have made minimal progress in meeting Transparency 2.0 standards. Also, these cities provide very little information beyond the data on the budget and CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report). No Failing city provides residents with an on-line checkbook of the city’s expenses – keeping citizens in the dark on which companies and non-profits receive taxpayer funds.”
Councilmembers Moore and Mary Norwood are jointly encouraging residents to complete a survey supporting improvements in the City’s financial transparency.
V. Speaker – Ayanna Williams, Park Pride’s Director of Community Building
Ayanna is the Director of Community Building with Park Pride, www.parkpride.org. She has been with Park Pride for eight years. Park Pride is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which has worked with City of Atlanta parks for about 27 years. Their offices are currently co-located with the City’s Parks Department, which shows their important role in providing residents of the city with access to excellent parks. Park Pride also works with DeKalb County parks and with other metro parks systems. Park Pride also works directly with volunteer groups supporting individual parks. Their focus tends to be on the parks themselves, as opposed to recreational programming. In Buckhead, Ayanna mentioned support of volunteer activities at Little Nancy Creek Park, Mountain Way Common, Atlanta Memorial Park, Peachtree Hills.
They also have a community program and she mentioned having worked with Blue Heron Nature Preserve and Peachtree Hills. She said there are 22 community gardens active in City of Atlanta parks. She said that many park volunteers start out working on their own neighborhood parks and later come to realize that the issues they deal with are city-wide. Park Pride does advocacy work to support city-wide improvements to the parks system. Park Pride has an Adopt-A-Park program which often provides support for the many tiny parks that the Parks Department doesn’t have the resources to support.
Park Pride has a successful Park Visioning Program. Andrew White is Park Pride’s new Director of Park Visioning. Several of the prominent figures working with the visioning program have moved on to City roles. Walt Ray, who worked with visioning for many years, has now moved over to become the Atlanta Parks Department’s Assistant Director, Office of Park Design and Becky Katz, who worked with Walt, has become the City’s Chief Bicycle Officer. Park visioning is the community engagement process for organizing local interests around a current or future park. The goal is to create a consensus vision of what improvements should be included in a conceptual master plan for that park. Buckhead examples mentioned included Mountain Way Common and Little Nancy Creek Park.
Park Pride also operates a Friends of the Park program, which Ayanna leads. She has worked with Park Pride for eight years as part of that program and now works with 87 different Friends of the Park groups. Friends of the Park are a group of people who live near a park or use it and want to see positive change happen, either physical changes or programmatic changes. Friends group membership is open to the public and are almost always run by volunteers. Friends identify annual goals and organize events such as volunteer work days. Projects include special maintenance such as fund-raising activities, removing English Ivy from trees, building benches, painting, and larger projects. Since Park Pride is co-located with the Parks Department projects, follow-up about Friends projects and plans can be accomplished on an informal basis.
Park Pride provides grants for park improvements. These range from $2,500 grants made quarterly to $100,000 grants made annually. Examples include grants for a new tree house at the Chastain Park playground and improvements at Mountain Way Common, Little Nancy Creek Park, Blue Heron Nature Preserve, and other. Dollar-for-dollar matching funds are required. Ayanna helps Friends groups find matching funds, including other grants. They do grant and fundraising workshops and provide publicity for park events. Park Pride’s 2016 Grant Workshop is August 13 at Central Park Recreation Center, 10 am to noon.
Ayanna discussed Park Pride’s many events. They hold a PARC Meeting (now called Park Meeting) monthly at 7:30 am, each month in a different park. The most significant meeting every year is the Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference, which is held in late March each year at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Park Pride has a calendar of events online at www.parkpride.org/calendar.
Park Pride’s next calendar event involving Buckhead parks is the Peachtree Creek Clean Up Day, August 22 – Peachtree Creek – 9am.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business/Announcements
VII. Next Meeting
August 11, 2016
– The meeting adjourned at about 8:00 PM.