CORRECTION: Some clarifications of the Point of Order taken in the APAB election voting process were made to me today and they are shared at the end of the post.
The past few weeks have been busy in Atlanta! In addition to the midterms, most Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) elections took place, as did Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) elections and last night was the Dept of City Planning’s first workshop on the Zoning Rewrite for the city. Prior to my last piece I also made some open records requests. I’m still waiting on some from DCP (I placed them back in October), but the ones I did receive from the Office of Inspector General I’ll share here. They tie back to some previous pieces and I would say have some ramifications for why our APAB elections remain unresolved. Oh, and APAB has made appointments to the Atlanta Citizen’s Review Board (ACRB)-remember that piece I wrote about how the APAB President slow-walked the application of a previous ACRB applicant so much that the applicant was appointed to a federal committee before the one here in Atlanta? Yep. That one. The APAB President was so keen on moving these current appointments forward that she had me send them over the Thanksgiving holidays- look at that eagerness as the year winds down! One works for Morehouse and the other is a resident of Buckhead. My guess is there’s some stacking of the board here in advance of either the decision regarding the APD officer that pulled the Morehouse students from their car or potentially some other police activity around Morehouse’s problematic trap houses (h/t to George Chidi) and some good ‘ol fashioned positioning of demographics so Buckhead can’t be perceived as all-white. Grab a toter and walk with me as I bring you up to speed on the city ‘too busy to hate’.
I think most of us value competitive elections, right? I was frankly surprised I didn’t have competition for my seat as Correspondence Secretary. But that may have been because the APAB President did, in fact, have competition. It also may be because I’ve made it no secret that I’d like to eliminate my own position- who needs a Correspondence Secretary in 2022?? Further, I’ve tried to make the case to anyone who’ll listen that if the City of Atlanta supported our Board appropriately, there would be no need for my position whatsoever. Either way, I nominated the current APAB Parliamentarian as a candidate, and he accepted. I have always admired leaders who are able to make decisions and presiding officers that redirect committee work in the general body back to their committees.
As expected, the vote was close- but it didn’t achieve a majority. Like Georgia’s US Senate race, both of APAB’s Presidential candidates didn’t achieve the requisite majority of ballots cast. There was a total of 20 ballots cast, with 10 ballots in favor of the incumbent, 9 ballots in favor of the challenger, and a single ballot cast for a write-in (the 2nd VP). While the APAB Nominations Chair called the victory for the incumbent, there was a challenge from the floor in the form of a Point of Order. (Discussion begins at 1:43:30) This challenge occurred because Robert’s Rules defines majority as one more than half the ballots cast (RONR (12th ed) 44:1) so if 20 votes are cast, a majority (more than 10) is 11. The challenger (and current Parliamentarian) knew his rules, and tried to speak up, yet (as expected) a vocal minority opposed this, and the Nominations Chair moved on. It was only in a later Bylaws Committee meeting (I serve as one of the 5 appointed members) that this definition of majority was pointed out very clearly to the current APAB President and pointed out that another election should be called.
At the time of publishing, I’ve received no notifications that another election has been called, so if you want to see the proceedings firsthand, I hope you’ll join us for the December APAB meeting!
I look forward to seeing how this all plays out, don’t you?
In some ways this all could be seen as frustrating. I instead see it as refreshing- despite the machinations of the incumbent President, the vocal minority within the body, and what I have learned about DCP’s own interventions in trying to reduce our voting members- change will still come. The community’s voice is too strong- more than any one of us individually. And I’ve found that no matter one’s politics, most of us still value transparency, hard work, and getting the job done.
Btw- the open records request that remains outstanding from DCP is one where I’m looking to verify that the APAB President actually sent any of our resolutions passed by the body onto DCP, as she told the Executive Committee she did. You know, her main responsibility in this role. I have yet to find any verification that she’s fulfilled the very obligation for which she was elected to do in our body. From what I can tell, the Handmaiden of the City sits on many boards, committees, etc. but she doesn’t do much other than carry water.
One of those passed resolutions is the one I referenced in my last piece, and also shared a copy of it here. This resolution calls for our APAB meetings to be in hybrid form because DCP is unwilling to ask the Mayor to move our meetings from in-person only to a hybrid form. The Mayor has issued various Executive Orders requiring Boards, Authorities, Commissions, Etc. (BACEs) to meet in person only. Despite this, many BACEs meet virtually- ATAG III, the Public Safety Training Center CSAC, and the Short Term Rental Commission- all of which have fellow APAB members on it. But DCP and the APAB President (who serves on all three of the previously referenced BACEs) will not host our meetings virtually. In the past I have asserted that I think it’s because the city would prefer to reduce citizen’s participation. After reading the email exchanged in the OIG open records request, I now know this to be true. These emails demonstrate a staff member who isn’t here to serve the citizens, but to dole out edicts from the City- whether that’s helpful to the task of engaging citizens (one of APAB’s expressed purposes) or not.
In the last Executive Committee meeting, the DCP representation identified that she’d just made an honest mistake and had “forgotten” the resolution (discussion begins at 1:40:55, but the REAL GEM of the DCP representation telling us she was human and we couldn’t believe it because she’s so “amazing” begins at 1:45:16).
This is PEAK DCP- doing the absolute least while claiming THE MOST.
Here’s all 19 files that were sent to me from the OIG. If after reading these you think that DCP mistakenly forgot the resolution and think they aren’t purposefully trying to reduce APAB’s membership, you’ve got more faith in the City of Atlanta than me.
Normally I would block out the names and email addresses, but these are all open records requested, so I’m going to let folks stand by their words.
In this email, the APAB President identifies that our current Parlimentarian and myself “were potential problems last year”, with the previous President. The problem our Parlimentarian had last year with the President was his role- he told her when she was acting outside of our bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order-you know, what a Parlimentarian is supposed to do. LOL. The problem she had with me was that when she didn’t answer my emails over the course of 9 months, I started asking other people…we’re trouble makers over here, I tell ya! I also must apologize to you, dear readers- I’d asserted the current APAB President wasn’t discriminating based on age previously, but this email exchange definitely seems that I was incorrect. My mistake! I will assert that I was correct about the rescheduling of the Mayor’s appearance before APAB, though- didn’t have anything to do with the Mayor and everything to do with the APAB President. LOL!
“APAB will return to in-person meetings in April as directed. I emailed Mr. Cabiness of the Mayor’s office yesterday notifying him of same, and to inquire about the Mayor’s appearance since that is Easter weekend. Honestly, with the current insurgence and the total uncertainty of attendance at the first in-person meeting, I am inclined to reschedule the Mayor’s appearance altogether. I will let you know my decision after I here from Mr. Cabiness.”
This email exchange was the internal conversation between DCP and the City’s Handmaiden/ APAB President to the emails I shared in this piece. While my piece was written in May, these emails date back to March when the Parliamentarian and I were posing questions about membership and voting rights- namely because (as you read the bottom of the email) the city is trying to reduce our membership to only 25 members- we are a Board of 25 voting members- on that we’re in absolute agreement (it’s defined in municipal code). The disagreement arises from the Parliamentarian and I (and many other APAB members, might I add) that the vote belongs to the NPU, not to any individual member. Our NPU Chairs are busy with maintaining their meetings and being responsive to neighborhoods. The delegates and alternates that are a part of APAB’s body are an extension of the NPU and relieve those chairs from various other meetings (a total of 43 this year for me, by the end of the year, including committee meetings and whatnot). The chairs, delegates, and alternates bring our membership to a potential 75, while there remains only 25 voting members-a single vote per NPU.
DCP wants to reduce the number of our membership so the President and this DCP Assistant Director have worked to influence our Executive and Bylaws Committees (unsuccessfully, yet tenaciously) on the city’s behalf.
Why, you ask?
Because for the first time in 40 years the city is updating it’s Zoning Ordinance, and the NPUs and APAB play a part in planning our city. APAB is the advisory body for DCP, and we’re also a fairly tenacious and dedicated bunch. Rag tag, for sure, but we show up, ask decent questions, and try to advocate for better for our areas in the city.
So the fact that the current APAB election holds both this “potential problem” member and the incumbent who has actively worked to remove members of other BACEs at almost a tie tells me this board is at more of a tipping point than even I realized.
…And for that I’m grateful. Last city election we saw a change in Mayor and Council. Now we’re finally seeing it on the NPU level. People may not like my tactics, but the issues of voting rights and membership of this board are bigger than me and our city deserves better from DCP than what they’re currently getting.
By the way, I’d like to give a BIG THANKS to the members of Atlanta’s City employees, staff members of DCP, and most of all, the APAB President for adding to the current Peach Pundit readership. In this email, you’ll find where the APAB President and VPs began their Ethics Investigation of my writings on this lovely blog! It seems that asking questions of DCP and the APAB President “have been perceived as harassing and needlessly adversarial”. The City of Atlanta and the APAB President would really like me to stop asking so many hard questions. Critical thinking is hard, y’all.
I think the funniest part of all of it is this email, where DCP identifies the 2nd VP called her to initiate an Ethics Investigation because they think I write for Peach Pundit for personal gain. Dear readers, I hope y’all laughed as hard at that as I did! We all need to laugh more, don’t we? I hope my experiences here entertain someone! So the latest theory- I’m aspiring to be an opinion editor in Washington, D.C. I kid you not. The APAB President conveyed this to me in an email recently after I got frustrated at another board member I said I’d “govern myself accordingly”, and I have- I don’t attend committee meetings anymore- what’s the point? We do all the committee work in the general body meetings, anyway. Why should I give up more of my time and effort? (See the 43 meetings I referenced earlier).
The APAB President (and at least this other VP) have not only deluded themselves about me- they’re asking other City officials to be engaged in this lunacy! That wouldn’t normally concern me a great deal- they just don’t realize that no one is paid on Peach Pundit and my Ethics disclosure already requires me to disclose any sources of income- that’s all pretty straight forward. The more concerning aspect of these ideas is that they neither recognize how spam works and rather than talking sense into them, DCP is entertaining these theories and passing them onto the Ethics Division.
That’s not a good look for DCP.
One would hope DCP would be conveying intelligent guidance, consistency, and even-handed support to the Board leadership, but this….is indulging some ridiculous theories that stretch beyond the reality of individuals with full mental capabilities. I can somewhat understand, maybe even sympathize with the lack of knowledge around spam for the APAB President and 2nd VP. We get a lot of spam in the inbox and the digital gap is a real thing- for myself included-things move faster than I can often keep up with as well.
But the DCP Assisstant Director?
The DCP Assistant Director knows what spam is and can’t possibly be sending this to the Ethics Division in good faith. This is a personal ax to grind with me, and my bet is if her superiors get to checking her conversations with people they’ll find she’s opened the City up to a fair amount of liability. I’d say just give it time- someone with this attitude toward their work for the city-it’ll catch up to them eventually. Bet on that. It won’t be me, but I’d bet this person leaves a wake of challenges in their work for the city. I just write, but I won’t be surprised at all if I see them as a source of litigation from another citizen in the future.
…Because I’m not special. While this is all problematic, please keep in mind if it wasn’t me- these folks would just go after someone else who was asking the same questions I ask. I’m just in a unique position because of the insider nature of this blog and platform I have. I may not be able to prevent anything, but I can expose and amplify. And DCP, this President, and the 2nd VP clearly don’t want that and are willing to distract from the actual business of the Board.
Remember those ACRB appointments I mentioned?
For those that are unaware, the ACRB reviews law enforcement complaints. Atlanta’s had some challenges with law enforcement, remember? An APAB appointment to this board is not unusual. The unusual nature of this was how the APAB President brought it before the board- in the most recent Executive Committee meeting, she removed consideration of any other appointment to clear the field in our meeting for these. In our Bylaws, the appointments are all made by the President. For whatever reason, the current and previous Presidents brought appointments before the General Body for a vote. It’s meaningless process, but I abstained nonetheless. This wasn’t to oppose or refrain from endorsing the candidates based on character or eligibility, I just have a feeling the City’s Handmaiden is carrying more of the City’s water to protect the APD when various issues go before the ACRB. There was also this awkward moment when one of the appointees received a question from the audience and the 2nd VP spoke for the appointee (59:31 of the meeting recording). It was an attempt to be helpful, but IMHO, it was an overstep that highlighted the appointee’s lack of preparedness for the body’s questions. These are the bios that were shared to the body of appointment from NPUs A-F and NPUs S-Z. I’m sure they’re perfectly nice folks. I look forward to learning about the cases that come before them.
So where do we go from here?
We’ll see! What I do know is that a few people won’t stop the will of an evolving city, especially when the city departments aren’t responsive to its citizens. Even the Dept of City Planning learned that back in the ‘70s! I’m here for it and I’m not planning on moving. As I explained in the last piece- the city has already begun to evolve around a nonresponsive DCP and APAB. It’s begun in Buckhead and my bet with Microsoft money and better Community Benefits Agreements, SWATS will follow. Until the city cleans house in their own ranks I don’t bet they’ll be rid of the looming specter of secession by Buckhead. Me? I know that criticism is the cost of leadership and if I’m unwilling to pay it then I’m unwilling to really serve…And I invite the City to bring their A game and invite the City’s Handmaiden to do her very worst. The more arrows they throw and less actual work they do, the more they prove my points. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to use myself as an example of what foolishness Atlantans have to endure with DCP and APAB. I’ll continue to write and connect the dots where I can. Sunlight is a great disinfectant, and I look forward to being as transparent as possible about what happens here. If nothing else, I hope it will add to the content and entertainment found on this website.
The point of order that was raised at 1:43:30 dealt with the propriety of counting the votes for the office of Parliamentarian, which had nothing to do with the earlier vote for President and ended up wasting a lot of time and creating a lot of confusion. During that confusion, an APAB member got up to the lectern and asked the question about the majority vote. It was misunderstood that this point of order pertained to the Presidential election, as it was in reference to a different office (namely the one that we were in the process of counting ballots for and arguing about at the time) and further clarification from that APAB member was not sought at that point.
The bylaws are silent on how we count ballots for office and therefore defer to Roberts Rules on this point. Roberts Rules state that a protest vote is treated as an abstention, which is not a cast ballot. That was how the write-in vote for the 2nd VP was treated during the election (i.e. 10 is both a plurality and a majority of 19). It is not how it should have been treated because the write-in was an eligible candidate for office and protest votes are only those that have been cast for ineligible candidates. The correct procedure at that point would have been to go to a second ballot and then a third and so on as is done at political conventions. A possible result of that process would be the eventual election of a compromise candidate. This is a pretty good system when there are a lot of people who want the job, but doesn’t work so well when there aren’t, which is usually the case for APAB. The notion of a run-off is not supported by either the bylaws or Roberts Rules.