…Retaliation, rubber stamps, and red tape, essentially.
The last time I wrote about the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board, I shared that I discovered (by attending another, wholly separate public meeting) that the APAB President requested a meeting with the Office of Inspector General regarding my writings in this “little newspaper”.
In our most recent APAB Executive Committee meeting (another public meeting), that information was shared with the rest of the Executive Committee members. The discourse was…telling. Here’s the audio file. I couldn’t get this SNL skit out of my head as I listened, so now I’m gifting all of y’all with this memory as well. I’ve tried to transcribe the notes as best as I’m able, but some points are more difficult to understand than others to make out. The City of Atlanta doesn’t record our Executive Committee meetings for us, even though the meetings are conducted in a room wired for recordings. I guess that isn’t how they currently define “administrative support”, as dictated in code to be provided by the Dept. of City Planning. There’s a fair amount of cross communication in the recording that makes Otter.ai not transcribe to its fullest capacity.
The main portion I’d like to draw Peach Pundit readers to is the part where “calls from the Mayor’s office” are referenced. If you want to listen along, it starts at 24:57 of a 3 hour meeting. Hence why it’s taken me so long to transcribe the notes- there’s a LOT here.
“There are some aspects of his request that I cannot discuss at this point. But I have been getting calls on my work phone, on my personal phone and private emails with people all around the city wanting to know ‘what is going on with APAB?’. They of course are reading the articles in Peach Pundit, they’re reading the articles in what is that the Saporta Report? What am I doing with this thing? And they have you know that I don’t have a problem with that, because it’s quote unquote, journalism, and people have the right to read and write what they want. However, when you have been appointed to a board for a municipality, you do not have certain rights. Okay? I don’t have certain rights even as the chair and as such I have been getting the calls, the emails, even on my office phone from departments that this city about articles that are being written about APAB. Now I had planned not to even discuss this, and I can only discuss it to a certain point. But you all know that I work at a law firm. But you don’t know who Anne Elizabeth Phillips really is. So today I’m going to let you know. I have been in administration since I was 16 years old. When I went to the military, I started out in intelligence because of my administrative experience. I have worked with all ages, all races, all sizes, all colors of people. And not one organization where I was in charge, even in the military. Have I had the kind of foolishness that I’ve had in the past three months here on APAB. Now, my personality I don’t try to stifle anybody’s anything. Because what you do with your life, that’s your business. What I do with my does my business but when you start trying to hurt the organization that I am in charge of. We got problems. And when I get calls from people in the mayor’s office that I hadn’t even talked to in years, okay, that you got to do something about this. Well, first of all, why are you saying I have to do something about it, we got a whole legal staff. So if the legal staff is not doing anything about it, why should I have to do something about it. Because, you know, I’m not about to jeopardize anybody’s first amendment rights. However, when you start trying to refer the organization name is mine on the top of the oh yeah, we got a problem. But I am one of those people who believe in doing things legally. So yes, I requested a meeting with the Inspector General do for practicing attorney… the Inspector General. And the reason I did the request is whenever you are a member of a board of directors, whether it is a for profit or nonprofit, or whether it is under a governmental agency. You have an obligation to that board. And one of the obligations is not to do any harm to that board. To the improprieties of the same can actually get you in a world of trouble. And yes, like I said I do everything legally and I made a point to make a meeting, have a meeting with the inspector general to find out what the impropriety, improprieties actually are, and what their recommendations are. Now you want to talk about millennials Yes, I did say that these millennials, I’ll repeat what I said because it was recorded in accurately in that Peach Pundit article. I did say that these millennials think they can write anything that they want to in these little newspapers. And they do have the right to do that. That is exactly what I said. But…If they are on these boards, they don’t have that right. And we need as members of those boards. We need to have a way to protect ourselves from any possible litigation I’m sorry, any possible litigation as it relates to anything that they have said, Okay. Now I know that we got some very clever people and they’re careful not to use names when they do yesterday, what’s his name Ruchs R-U-C-H how you pronounce it? Over at Saporta… he writes this article about the South River steering committee. Well, I live right there near the South River. The lake Charlotte is in a community right behind is in my NPU he names it he goes through this whole thing about who’s been appointed to this steering committee where he makes a special effort to say that Anne Phillips is one of the appointees to the steering committee. Well, he’s right. I can’t say anything about that because he’s right. Well, he also made a point to say that. Identify me for being PUC. And when I would just say that I’m also on the public Safety Stakeholder Advisory Committee. I haven’t appointed myself to anything if this city appoints me to something, they have a reason for doing it. Because they know that I’m going to do the work, and I’m going to do it above board and legally. So that being said, Yes, Mr. Hunter. When you are I’ve been where the Millennials are, and I probably was just as eager to show the world what I could do. But people you are appointed to a municipal board. Now whether you understand the importance of that. I strongly recommend that if your family has a you have counsel, or you have somebody that you have on retainer for legal questions, I strongly encourage you to speak to them, to ask them the importance of that there are aspects of this situation that I cannot discuss with you at this point. And I’m not. But if you have any other questions for me, I will be happy to answer them”
I’m not saying someone from the Mayor’s office isn’t calling, I’m just saying it may be more the intern than the man himself.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think I rate AT ALL with the Mayor. I have a feeling the man doesn’t give one flip about me, my resolution, or my writings. I don’t take it personally, I just think he has a big city to run. This isn’t faux humility, the man just scored #FIFA2026 for the city. He’s got bigger fish to fry than APAB. I seriously doubt the man is calling in to check up on me. I think this is more about attention that has been drawn from the APAB President’s own words in (again) another PUBLIC meeting and exacting some retaliation on me for amplification of those words. I particularly appreciated the clarification that my First Amendment rights stop at the door of Atlanta’s municipal boards. I must have missed that portion of the Ethics Disclosure when I signed it.
Unclear to me, this Board does somehow imbue some extra powers to the APAB President, though, of which our Parliamentarian is in disagreement. That exchange begins at 36:09
“And so, also, you know, I’ve also told you before as parliamentarian that we’re not supposed to make unilateral decisions, you should not go to legal. We should not be going to… officers should not be going to the to the Inspector General, on behalf of this board without us being aware and I’m not talking about the executive, I’m talking about the entire APAB because the executive board doesn’t have the power to vote to tell you to do that.
I do have the power to do that. Mr. Hunter.
You do not. You’ve been doing that.. you’re by yourself. And the results of and any consequences of that meeting can impact all of us. We’re all members who have the same rights of this board.”
Here’s a link for those following along to our current bylaws. If you can find where this power exists for the President to act independently of the board, your next cocktail will be on me.
But this is really only part of the story, and frankly, I’m not even the central character.
There’s a whole other thing that this meeting reveals about APAB’s Public Safety Designee position that was initially in the resolution passed by Council under the Bottoms administration. When the resolution by Councilmember Joyce Shepherd was passed, it initially included an APAB Designee position and then was updated on February 7, 2022, under the Dickens administration with the current version that removed the APAB Designee position. This may seem small, but this distinction gave greater access to the Citizens’ voice at the deciding table and voting rights on the Public Safety Commission versus just working groups. Technically, APAB got more appointments in the second round, but they are to working groups, not the Commission itself. IMHO the working groups are a dog and pony show that’s supposed to engage the public to keep them busy and feeling like they’re heard rather than actually giving them rights to directly impact public safety in the city. I’d compare them to study groups in the General Assembly. I don’t think they’re impotent, more just that their power depends upon who is in these groups and how they leverage others’ involvement. What’s more, the APAB Public Safety Chairman has a union organizing background and regularly uses these skills to inform folks across the city in communications. In September 2021, APAB voted on the APAB Designee and another Public Safety Commission appointee position. Here are the minutes from that meeting that identify those appointments.
Over the course of the last, now, seven months of 2022, the APAB Public Safety Chair has inquired about the follow up to this appointment. Initially the APAB President said in our May Executive Committee meeting this was a mistake by Councilmember Waites that could be corrected. You can hear that in this audio file beginning at 1:16:52. I apologize the notes aren’t transcribed- I had originally not planned to include this recording in this piece, but remembered I had it after it originally published. As an aside, while one might think Atlanta’s public meeting recordings (especially on Zoom) would be somewhere available online, one would be wrong. There are lots of opportunities for improvement on defining the “administrative support” DCP is required to provide for APAB via code, but that’s another piece for another day. Please know there have been open records requests made. Then the APAB President said in email it was the APAB Public Safety Chair’s fault for not getting the necessary documents to the APAB President in time. However, that’s the thing about emails- they have timestamps and dates to create a correspondence receipt that demonstrates the fact from the fiction. Please note the date of January 17, 2022, of the attachment at the bottom of the email. Ultimately, there’s a happy ending to this part of the story- the APAB Designee position was reinstated by Council-despite the APAB President’s dragging of feet on paperwork and the Public Safety Commission held its first meeting. Here’s the news coverage.
IMHO, this demonstrates a pattern that I want to make certain people don’t miss.
In the meeting some APAB members identified the APAB President’s comments as age discrimination regarding “Millennials”. Maybe; I’ll be honest, I couldn’t care less about the motivation. I care more about the result.
In each instance, whether it was the removal of Lily Pontiz from the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Public Safety Training Center, the reaching out to the Office of Inspector General regarding me and my writing, and then again with the impeding of the APAB Public Safety Chair’s appointment to the Public Safety Commission, it is my personal belief that this is a pattern of obstruction intended to keep people who regularly shine light on the City of Atlanta’s Public Safety issues either in the dark or off these boards, as it were.
Peach Pundit readers may think this is personal difference or personality conflicts within the city. Maybe, but I think there’s a bigger cultural shift here that this speaks to and you’d only know its subtle depth by residing here. That was briefly discussed in the meeting as well.
If you listen to the audio, you’ll hear some points made by our Transportation Chair about something that’s recently been addressed (thankfully) by some of the newer members of Council- renters. Here’s what the Transportation Chair said regarding meetings around the city and disparaging comments about renters, younger folks, and car free folks. It’s at 36:24:
“If I may? So I want to start with kind of something that’s a core topic. I have been on many meetings…dozens and dozens of meetings from NPUs to neighborhood associations and regularly and I mean regularly. If we need to go back and watch the videos we can there are regularly disparaging remarks against not only millennials, but young people and also renters on a regular basis. And this is something as a renter, as a Millennial, as someone that is car free. That are very sensitive to me. I have heard chairs I’ve heard neighborhood presidents here in over yonder make many discouraging columns comments about renters, young people and millennials. And I think that it is a conversation in itself to really have and to be addressed maybe right now. Moving forward, we can no longer keep praising homeowners or praising those that have stepped up to the plate and have been do and have been contributing to the city of Atlanta for X amount of time that is wonderful at the same time. We have to have the respect and understanding that there are many young people that do want to be involved in APAB and neighborhood associations and NPU meetings. But they’re not because not only are they reading these articles, but they’re hearing and they’re on Twitter talking right now about what’s happening at these meetings. And it’s not a good conversation to be very honest. It’s not so without question. Yes, there has indeed been many on a regular basis. Comments about renters, young people and millennials regularly. So we can’t sit here and say that that’s not true no one’s blaming any one person. This is an overall issue across the city across every neighborhood across every NPU that really and truly does need to be addressed head on. It cannot be allowed anymore. And when we hear that at NPU meetings when we hear it at neighborhood association meetings, it is for the chair of that meeting to stop it when it happens each and every time and that has not been happening. And again, if we need to replay these meetings because they’re recorded, we can do that. I think that’s a great idea for us to watch ourselves back again. But without question and moving forward, no longer can that be allowed and it really does need to be addressed. Thank you.“
He’s right. I remember my own shock in a previous NPU K meeting a few years ago in which homeowners/investors/ landlords were shocked that renters had equal voting rights to them in the NPU! They felt that one should have to own within the NPU to be able to vote. They also felt each home should have only one vote. (Because clearly we’re living in an age where a spouse or partner could not have a differing opinion- I’m sure you all know my feelings on this one.)
I remember my very pale, property-owning husband asking me in jest about if they were looking to move back to a time when only he could vote. I wish he had asked it aloud at the meeting. He has a bit of a deadpan delivery that sneaks up on you if you’re not paying attention.
Moreover, this speaks to a general difference I see in development and planning for what the city should/could be, moving forward. It involves both public safety and planning, and APAB is sort of in the middle of it all-namely because of our President. Ironically, I’m grateful for the mentioning of APAB in the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Public Safety Training Center Meeting now. I don’t think I would have been able to see all of this as connected before that meeting.
You see, crime was a campaign issue on which Dickens ran. While I attended the APD’s Citizens’ Police Academy, I learned about code enforcement being used to target night clubs. Essentially, the City of Atlanta sees various nightclubs and the economy after dark as a direct threat to maintaining safety in the city. I remember the Code Enforcement presenter discussing how clubs and bars were being watched more closely and code enforcement being weaponized against them. I also remember from my own interaction with the DOT Commissioner that there were challenges with the Edgewood corridor (a great little enclave of after-dark activity-Mother had a GREAT Dark & Stormy prior to Covid). Then I saw the news about Dugan’s (a local biker bar) being replaced by a Chic Fil A on Ponce, moving it from a smaller parking area to now a larger parking footprint- kind of the opposite of what one hopes for if we’re moving toward more public transit in the city vs. less cars. *sigh* Additionally, King Williams has been talking about the “Alpharettication” of Atlanta via the Saporta Report for some time. Here’s his recent twitter thread. The gentrification of Atlanta is moving our city from a cultural hotspot that has some quirky or edgy spots to something geared entirely toward businesses and families. If you don’t like Williams’ take, read Thomas Wheatley’s recent piece about some of the haunts I’ve loved.
MJQ was a dance party I loved late at night after college. Bookhouse was the cold beer I had after session days on the way home from the Capitol. And the Local? The last time I was at the Local was after a show at the Beep Beep Gallery with the guys who ran the gallery. They were the reason I found out about Castleberry Hill’s Art Strolls and the in-home galleries of many of Castleberry Hill’s residents. I’ll go on. I danced ‘til wee hours at Compound. My 23rd birthday had a VIP list for my friends at eleven50, that eventually became Opera and is now closed. I had VIP status at Cosmolava. The club scene in Atlanta was top notch and none of these were violent or deadly. I may not stay out past 9 anymore, but that doesn’t mean others in the city should tuck themselves in just because I do. The city used to come alive in the dark in small clubs and after parties. After days at the Capitol, my 5pm was at Lenox mall, and one of the girls I worked with played her mixtapes over the store speakers. She was an aspiring rapper, and I remember doing shots with DJs and producers after work she knew in some little club we hung out in the Fairlie Poplar district by GSU.
To lose this vibe is to lose some of what makes Atlanta the creative space it has always been. It’s not clear what the “Nightlife Division” the Mayor has established will render, but my personal fear is that it’s shifting the public safety element to business owners rather than in the hands of those trained to handle the city streets because we don’t have the numbers of police to provide this across the city. In my May NPU K meeting, when the APD was asked if Zone 1 will be getting more officers to improve response times, the officer responded honestly and said most new Police Academy grads were going to staff the new Buckhead precinct.
I’m not here to criticize the Mayor- it seems he’s trying to work with what he’s got and make the best of it. My only personal suggestion to him would be to hear out the citizens around him. We may have some ideas that could help.
King Williams makes the solid case in his writing for Saporta Report for pointing out that development is occurring away from the after-dark economy because it’s led by 50-60+ year olds vs the 40 and under crowd.
You might say, well, that’s pretty typical because the 40 and under crowd rarely show up at the table in order to make change (or at least not by going through the regular protocols). They protest on Facebook or tweet, but don’t engage in the system.
…But I just gave you three examples of those of us (I’m the oldest, at 40) who are actively engaging through established channels, showing up to meetings, serving in leadership positions, and even being appointed to city-wide boards and we’re either being actively blocked, investigated, or removed- by the same person.
I think this is less about age, and more about carrying out whatever public safety and planning agenda the City of Atlanta has. I don’t know who is at the helm- maybe no one. The APAB President’s remarks in the meeting indicate the Mayor’s office wants something to be done about me. Like I said, I kind of doubt I rate that high on the Mayor’s list. Is it DCP, the APD or Police Foundation, or some other entity or combination of all of them? Maybe the APAB President is acting alone and the comments made in the meeting were a deflection.
I truly have no clue. And while I’m curious, I’m not going to waste my time trying to figure it out. I’ll leave that up to investigative journalists and people who do more than write opinions. I just know this isn’t random. It’s a pattern anyone can see and it has a direct impact on planning and public safety in Atlanta.
If anyone does figure this out, I hope they will choose to share it with me.
What I also know is that this is probably a contributing factor to the Planning Commissioner’s abrupt resignation. He was a big advocate for densification, reduction of parking minimums, and affordable housing. And I don’t say that because I’m a Tim Keane fan, in fact, it was hard for me to take the man seriously in meetings. I was always struck by the fact that the first time I saw him in real time was when he greeted a group of NPU leaders for a training session and showed up in a stained white T shirt looking like he’d just rolled out of bed. The man may have been brilliant, but not reading the room enough to know he shouldn’t have had a stained T shirt on showed either a flippancy with which I’m too old school for or a ‘devil may care’ attitude that told me that Bottoms wasn’t a strong disciplinarian.
With the budget that passed, we’re only partially funding the affordable housing Dickens promised to avoid displacement, and that was only reinstated because advocates raised cain. Further, Atlanta’s continued apex position as a national cultural landmark will definitely decline if we don’t keep some parts of the ‘Dirty South’ in fact, dirty. Atlanta can’t influence anything if we’re just like every other suburban town. Further, this is literally stupid from a taxation standpoint. Our small businesses are the city’s economic backbone because we regularly mortgage our children’s future in APS via the Development Authority of Fulton County to the larger corporations like Microsoft who will continue to not answer anyone’s questions about if they’re seeking tax abatements. I know; I’ve asked. My husband has asked. My neighbors have asked. Microsoft will not answer that they aren’t seeking tax abatements. Instead, Atlanta creates a Beltline special services tax district that penalizes small businesses and renters to fund our paved path through the city in the forest. Here’s an AJC piece from almost a year ago that discusses the intersection (and corruption) of DAFC, Invest Atlanta, and the Special Services Tax District. Yikes!
What I also know is that APAB would be a really effective rubber stamp for various things if no one speaks up. But you see, that isn’t actually our purpose. And, as the recording demonstrates- I don’t think any of APAB’s Executive Committee will go silently into that good night.
Essentially formed out of protest of the city, APAB is to advise the city- namely on the Comprehensive Development Plan, yet also on other citywide issues as well. This is in code.
- Sec. 6-4003. – Functions.
The Atlanta Planning Advisory Board may:
(1) Prepare its own bylaws, not inconsistent with state law or city ordinance;
(2) Serve as an advisory board to the city on city-wide problems, issues, goals and objectives relative to the preparation and updating of the comprehensive development plan;
(3) Advise the city on matters relating to citizen organizations and participation in the planning process;
(4) Perform other functions required by federal law relative to citizen participation where federal law does not mandate assignment to a specific agency; and
(5) Perform other duties as assigned by the mayor or the council.
(Code 1977, § 6-4003; Ord. No. 2004-08, § 11, 2-10-04)
- Secs. 6-4004—6-4010. – Reserved.
I think this role of the board is really key to understanding some dynamics of both my experience in board service as well as why things function so poorly here in the city. The board seems to have previously served more as a rubber stamp of the city’s policies and a fiefdom of the NPU leaders who ran it rather than an advisory role led by citizens. I can see how the rubber stamp has occurred over time- if the city starved you of resources, your power and influence would dwindle as well, right? And you’d fight over petty things rather than meaningful policy change too, if the policy change was this difficult to address through process. I wouldn’t even assert it’s entirely purposeful, except you know, this year seems to stand out. IMHO, it just depends upon the leadership at the helm and what hills folks wish to die on.
For me, the hill to die on is the ability to have virtual meetings. I drafted a resolution that was passed by the APAB General Body in our June meeting to continue our previous citizen engagement. For others, it’s just requesting meeting space that somehow requires a meeting with the VPs and Parliamentarian before a committee meeting can be held. Either way, there somehow always seems to be some red tape.
Pray for Atlanta. The willful obstruction of forward movement is tedious to me, but Imma keep at it, y’all. I’m sure the gatekeepers that exist are doing their absolute best to ensure I-and others don’t!
Concurrently, Peach Punditers will find it amusing that audio and visual wasn’t working during the APAB General Body meeting in City Hall, when my resolution came up for a vote, even though all of the rooms we were in are wired for it. (Make it make sense, y’all.) We normally meet in Council Chambers, but moved to Committee Room 1 in order to at least be able to gather together closer-in as even the microphones were somehow not working that morning. In a profoundly amazing demonstration of performance art that would impress even the most gifted of mimes, the meeting was conducted by us huddling together in a circle. This would shock no one who has ever attended a post Crossover Day Senate Rules Committee Meeting.
Theater of the Absurd, here we are, minus the Senate Rules Chairman’s preference for theme music.
The resolution was also the first we took a vote on in APAB meetings in which a roll call vote was required. I can only assume this is because roll call is implicit in Zoom, and since the Mayor’s Executive Order won’t allow that (or at least DCP tells us we’re going to be subject to a misdemeanor if we do), we now have to take roll call votes of all present for any resolution. This is tedious and all because the City continues to fail at providing us with what the rooms were literally wired for- “cablecast” is the term in code, I’m told.
Either way, thankfully two of us recorded the meeting. This is audio only, provided by Kyle Kessler, of the Center for Civic Innovation. I’ll have a transcription available asap to share as well, it’s just the audio for transcription is so abysmally poor. It takes me hours to listen to this to even try to transcribe it.
You didn’t really think I’d let the City of Atlanta’s lack of support derail me from passing a resolution, (unanimously, might I add) did you? Nah. Maybe one day the APAB President will sign it and get it to DCP, the Municipal Clerk’s office, and ultimately Council as well. Edit: Here’s the final copy with the APAB President’s signature. Either way, you read it here, first. Who knows, maybe the Mayor will as well since according to the APAB President his office is calling so much!
So that’s what’s going on at APAB.
If anyone in the Mayor’s office is actually interested, I’d encourage them to walk on the wild side and actually attend our meetings. As you can hear, the Executive Committee Meetings are the most interesting ones. Unfortunately, DCP doesn’t record those nor does it link them online. Here’s the link to the archive to the General Body ones though. You can sit in for me in the July Executive Committee meeting, as I’ll be out of town and unless the City of Atlanta becomes more consistent in which BACE meetings are participated in via virtual meetings (ATAG III, and the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Public Safety Training Center Meeting are both virtual exclusively, albeit the city never updates the public notices on the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Public Safety Training Center meetings.) The Mayor would be welcome to sit next to me. I won’t bite; promise. And I prefer to sit among the body, not the dais, as I think that misrepresents an elevation of power the Executive Board does not actually have within our bylaws. See for yourself. Don’t believe me! Or the recordings! Show up and watch your citizens at work. It’d sure save me a lot of time in transcription and maybe the powers that be will listen and fix the audio and visual faster. Who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see what the next episode of this series in performance art brings.
Y’all bring popcorn!