Sometimes the Jokes Write Themselves

Last week I wrote about my challenges within the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) as we navigate the Executive Order signed by Mayor Andre Dickens directing us as a city BACE (Board, Authority, Commission, Etc.) to go back to in-person only meetings. I shared my email exchanges with the Department of City Planning indicating that if we do not comply with the EO, we’ll be subject to a potential misdemeanor and fines ($1,000). Like most boards, there are committees. In our last General Body meeting DCP took up about 15 minutes of time explaining in GREAT DETAIL how committees are likewise subject to this EO and so I’m sure Peach Pundit readers can only imagine my amusement when I showed up for the first in-person meeting of the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) Executive Committee to find out no one from DCP notified City Hall security we would be having a meeting. We were effectively shut out of our own meeting- to do city work-by the city. 

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves. 

I arrived at 55 Trinity Ave. around 10-15 minutes before the meeting started. I was preceded by the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) President and a DCP staff member. Bless this staff member. She furiously called everyone she could to get us into this meeting ASAP. On top of that, she came in on a Sunday to cover for the staff member who was supposed to give a presentation to the Executive Committee but had a wedding to attend. That staff member was even available via cell phone to answer any questions we might have during the meeting. The in-person staff member sat through probably an hour and a half of meeting time before getting to her presentation and the staff member on the phone didn’t miss a beat in responding to the phone call. 

I want to make certain it is known that DCP staff really tried their best to facilitate this meeting- it’s just somewhere some things fell through the cracks. 

We eventually all got in- that’s me in the picture above on the far right. It was helpful in more ways than one to have these staff available for questions, as the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) Executive Committee learned that not only are city employees not all back in the office, but it is an office by office decision of who works remotely and who does not. For the record- bravo to the City for protecting our city employees. Their health and workplace satisfaction should be prioritized. I don’t want to compromise on that.

Concurrently, I think it’s very UNreasonable for the Mayor to have signed a document that compromises VOLUNTEERS’ health and volunteer workspace satisfaction. 

I mean, the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) President made her own copies for the meeting. 

I feel like I’m not asking for much, y’all. 

In a city where the Mayor just announced he’s vying to host the DNCC in 2024 (awesome, love those tourism dollars!) Imma need us to clean up our act before we invite company over, so to speak. Just a thought.

‘But it’s just a board, right? There’s always going to be snags as changes occur with administration’. 

Absolutely! Only this professional city board has a history of being ignored depending upon who occupies the Mayor’s office. There’s a book by Richard Rothstein that talks about how urban planning across America has contributed to the challenges we face today. I recommend it! We also have a history in our city of, you know, racist practices created by the Department of City Planning (not current staff) that affect our crime rates and economic development in Atlanta and the metro area. And the board on which I sit is the citizen’s only method of addressing that directly. We are tasked with not only engaging citizens across the NPU system but also very specifically to address the Comprehensive Development Plan for the city.

While more Peach Pundit readers may see Georgia economic development, county polices around it, and city planning to be separate and isolated, I’m here to tell you, it isn’t. 

Microsoft is setting up their campus 10-15 minutes away from my home. The state of Georgia allocated money for the Bankhead MARTA station to be redeveloped/ improved, and I am SO GRATEFUL. (Like, handwritten thank you notes to each of the Budget Chairmen, thankful). My guess is there will be some overlap in the cyber security grads coming out of Augusta and the jobs in Atlanta with Microsoft, or perhaps the opposite- Georgia Tech grads moving out to my hometown area for jobs working at Rivian or handling logistics at the Port of Savannah. I find the state is more connected than we like to give it credit. But right now in Atlanta, DCP and ADOT have no Commissioners and their staff seem to be scrambling. As a state, we seem to be very concerned about education and crime in Atlanta. That’s fair- and Fulton County Development Authority will decide how much of our future will be ransomed to facilitate Microsoft’s move via tax abatements. Meanwhile, the city “Too Busy to Hate” will have to figure out how to develop so that the folks moving here can work, educate their children, purchase or rent homes, and live a little. 

…And the plan that guides all of that is created by DCP- the same folks who told me I will be subject to a misdemeanor and fines for a meeting that they never notified City Hall about. 

If you wonder why I’m concerned, I hope you see it isn’t because of my own personal time and health- yeah, that matters, but I care more about the state and what we’re not planning for that will affect FAR MORE THAN ME that keeps me asking questions. 

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