BUCKHEAD COUNCIL OF NEIGHBORHOODS
November 12, 2020
Zoom Meeting: 6:00 – 7:00 pm
6:00 – 6:05 Gordon Certain, Secretary – Adoption of Minutes
Robin Morgan/Jennifer Rose – Nominating
6:05 – 6:15 Major Andrew Senzer: Zone 2 Commander – APD
6:15 – 6:20 Captain Howard, Georgia State Patrol
6:20 – 6:30 Jim Durrett, President: Buckhead Coalition and Buckhead CID
TRANSPORTATION – TRAFFIC
6:30 – 6:34 Denise Starling: Executive Director: Livable Buckhead:
Commuter Busses update / PATH 400 update
6:34 – 6:44 Josh Rowan: COA Transportation Commissioner: Vision Zero update
6:44 – 6:46 Fulton County Chair Robb Pitts
6:46 – 6:48 Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris
6:48 – 6:50 Councilman Howard Shook
6:50 – 6:52 Councilman JP Matzigkeit
6:52 – 6:54 Councilman Matt Westmoreland
6:54 – 6:56 Councilman Andre Dickens
6:56 – 6:58 Council President Felicia Moore
A total of 215 identified individuals participated in this BCN Zoom meeting.
Mary Norwood: Good evening. The police have changed the Zoom information. So, I’ve sent that out in email as well as on all the websites and Facebook and Next Door. So hopefully people will get that new information, but it was just changed, and Jim Elgar was kind enough to send it to me.
Gordon Certain: This is BCN’s 13th Year; we’re really lucky to be as strong as we are and getting a lot stronger thanks to Mary. It’s been grand and we have two more neighborhoods that want to join us and yes, and I will get that information out to all of our board members
Mary Norwood: This is their community meeting where they want to hear from the community. Major Senzer, can you give Felicia a little more information about it?
Major Senzer: So, this this meeting was facilitated by Deputy Chief Murphy. She’s in charge of all Field Operations Division, which encompasses all 6 Zones and some of the other units. This is an opportunity to address some of the issues from a lot of different perspectives and have some of the others Zone commanders on to speak about some of the topics some of which we all share and some maybe are unique to certain zones and how they tackle them. So, I’m kind of curious to see how the meeting is going to go too. I think it’ll be informative.
Mary Norwood: And I’ve been really clear that I’ve asked Gordon to literally stop the meeting at 6:59. Even if someone’s in mid-sentence–so that all of our viewers can go immediately to the police meeting. So, I’m making that very clear. I’ll try to keep us on track for sure, but we don’t want to we don’t want to run over today 10-15 minutes. Also, we need to make it clear to everybody that we’re recording this meeting and that that needs to be disclosed. And we want to remind everyone to please go to BuckheadCouncil.org and Sign in. You can do that even after the meeting, so we capture your information.
Mary Norwood: First, I want to thank our council president and all the council members for their wonderful support of the street drag racing ordinance. That was fabulous. The council listened to 11 hours of public comment. We had over 495 people who spoke to the Council requesting their support in favor of the ordinance and it really made a difference. The Council did not vote until almost midnight and to have had a vote of 10 to 3 was really special. And so, thank you President Moore for your leadership and for your council members who all were so thoughtful after a very long day to take that important vote.
We’re not where we need to be but we made a an important first step and that’s what we want. What I am so grateful for is that everyone who called in from our community was very respectful and I was so glad to see that. It was an outpouring of community support–neighborhood person after neighborhood person who said, “Please help us”. So, I’m glad for the Major’s sake that we got something done and sent a signal that we are going to take seriously the efforts to get our community of Buckhead and the whole city safe and lawful.
Debra Wathen: That was a really great accomplishment–first step. Felicia, I know there was a follow-up piece of legislation about asking the state legislature to help with impounding the cars.
Felicia Moore: It goes to Public Safety this coming cycle. What I will say is that it’s not as simple as it sounds. I’ve had series of meetings with some state legislators about that starting with seizure; and that kind of got thrown off the table; then to impoundment…it seems like it may have some issues as well. Any impoundment longer than just a regular empowerment–what if someone is not found guilty, then what happens? Who pays all these fees? Identifying the seizure party becomes difficult if the person whose vehicle is taken is not the owner of the vehicle or if a bank has a lien on the vehicle, so I’m not sure what’s going to be the path forward on the impoundment piece. And you know, there were a lot of different people from prosecutors to defense attorneys, social justice people — everybody that was on the phone. So, it was very good array of people, but it doesn’t look like that that’s going to work.
Mary Norwood: 6:00 PM – MEETING BEGINS: Thank you everybody for coming to the November meeting of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods. And we have a packed agenda in a very short hour so we’re going to get started. And first is Gordon Certain to give us the adoption of the minutes and his update.
Gordon Certain: The minutes are posted on the website and they were an extraordinary detail thanks to modern technology. Please look at them and approve them. This is the 13th year of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods. It started 13 years ago in July when four neighborhoods on either side of Roswell Road got together and said–citizens in the neighborhood—residents need to have a voice and so we went to the Secretary of State and founded the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, and it has grown from the 17 neighborhoods that we started with two more than double that. We have a strong voice and are getting stronger. We really appreciate the support of our elected officials and really respect them.
Mary Norwood: All right. So, what we will do is to have the minutes stand approved without objection. If any of our board members have any objections that would need to be conveyed to me when I send out the information next week on the two neighborhoods that are applying for membership. And we also will do a vote on our nominations from our Nominating committee. We will hear from our Nominating Committee now: Robin Morgan and Jennifer Rose.
Gordon Certain: Before we get there, this meeting is being recorded and you all need to know that it’s going to be put online.
Robin Morgan: Thanks. Jennifer Rose and I contacted the committee chairs, the president vice-president treasurer, secretary and as well, we contacted each share of each subcommittee and we are happy to note that everyone has decided to continue to stay in their positions and move forward into 2021.
Mary Norwood: So, we will send the slate out to all of our board members that it is a repeat of the slate from last year. Is that correct?
Robin Morgan: That is correct. There may be some additions and co-chairs for the sub chairs, but this was just basically for the officers.
Jennifer Rose: I would add thank you all for continuing to serve. Mary’s got such great momentum going. It’s nice that we’re continuing it.
Major Senzer: This is one of my favorite meetings. In a couple days, I’ll be celebrating my year anniversary as the Zone 2 commander. When then Chief Shields asked me to assume command of the Buckhead Precinct, I knew it was going to be challenging. I spent the first five–six months getting to know everybody, getting know all the stakeholders–the people I needed to establish relationships with and I had just started to get comfortable and then all of a sudden we had probably The Perfect Storm happen–the biggest confluence of circumstances with the pandemic, the police shootings, and the anti-police sentiment that had the biggest impact on law enforcement across that country that I’ve seen in my 25 year career. I say that to say that the Buckhead Community has…To use a football reference…been our 12th man throughout the past five or six months. You guys have been tremendously supportive. We felt that and continue to feel that, and we wouldn’t have been able to weather the storm without your help. So, thank you on behalf of the men and women of Zone 2.
When people ask me, how do I do this job, it’s all about relationships. Even as a young officer building the rapport with the people served as a beat officer that I patrolled, to now, building relationships with the council members and the community leaders and all the other stakeholders has just been such a fulfilling experience for me. And although this has been the most challenging by far. My assignments have definitely been the most rewarding. So with all that being said, when I first came here, I told everybody that Zone 2 would be more than report takers. We would all be Crime Fighters.
And pulling out of the trough that we were in the last 5-6 months, I’ve been so proud that my guys–my officers–have been so resilient. We continue to lead all zones in proactive policing. It’s something that I keep track of. When our guys are out there doing traffic stops, it does a few things, they’ve got their lights on. They’re sending a message to everybody that we’re out there. We’re visible. It’s an opportunity for my officers to conduct–police citizen contacts–to get to know people in and around the Zone and we also catch bad guys. So, you know, the Chief is looking at the Zone 2 model on how we’re doing this. I’m not boasting. That’s just a testament to how great your officers are in Zone 2 are and I continue to be proud of them.
We are up Citywide, and Zone 2 falls along that trend, some Part One Crime that continue to be troubling. Our aggravated assaults are up 21% and our auto thefts are up 30 percent for the year. So, in spite of the fact that our guys are out there, we continue to see the spike of these crimes.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Atlanta Police Department has been the only component of our criminal justice system that has been operating 24/7 non-stop throughout the pandemic…Throughout everything that we’ve been going through, so that has a direct impact on the crime that we’re seeing if the process stops after us. If we cite somebody or make an arrest and then that process stops, then nobody’s being held accountable. It’s one of the frustrating things that we have to deal with. We certainly share that frustration with everybody and we’re looking forward to the courts getting back open and all of our criminal justice partners getting back online again.
So in addition to the part one crimes, there’s some quality of life issues that we’ve been dealing with–the water boys–the kids selling water out in the street–was a phenomenon that just appeared it seemed out of nowhere and Zone 2 has been pretty effective in mitigating the problem for the most part. It definitely is persistent. It hasn’t gone away but we were the first Zone to really start enforcing the law: making arrests and detaining individuals. As soon as we started getting guns off of 14 and 15 year olds, and we started to see different groups of kids robbing other groups of kids, which is akin to some of the drug-dealing activity that I used to see back in the day. It was time to pump the brakes and take a look at what was going on and start really taking a stronger attack on that. We continue to do that. We run a water boy detail every shift change between day watch and evening watch so our guys are out and about. We wind up chasing them around. Last week we detained three kids and their dad came and picked them up; it took about an hour or so. Our guy was out of service for about an hour dealing with that. But if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we’ll do. They were charged with “pedestrian in the roadway”. So, we are holding the kids and the parents accountable. One of the other things that hinders us is the fact that the Atlanta Public School truancy unit is not operating right now. So that would be a place where we could take the kids who normally would be in class, but that’s not up. So, but we’re continuing to fight that issue.
The street racing, and I’m sure you’ll hear more about that in our meeting later on tonight, is a Citywide issue. It’s really a national issue. It’s an issue where the Atlanta Police Department is always going to be outnumbered as far as officers to Street Racers. Just to give you a short story: One of our guys was coming out of the fuel pumps on Northside Drive and encountered a 150 Street Racers. He did exactly what I would want him to do. He turned on his blue lights and sirens and tried to push those motorists back on the interstate to get them out of the zone. Instead of leaving, they surrounded his car, kicked his car, spit on his windshield, tried to rip the license plate off, lit fireworks off at his car. So, he retreated and lived to fight another day. But there is a success out of that story. Even though nothing was done at that time for officer safety reasons, we were able to obtain the body-worn camera footage and the dashcam footage from that officer and his vehicle and match that up to a social media profile. And that individual…We did obtain arrest warrants for that individual. So, we have to find a way to kind of fight this asymmetrically. We can’t fight it head on. The ordinance that was passed certainly helps out when we make it an arrest, but it’s not the silver bullet. So, we continue to think outside the box and figure out a way to tackle this issue and hopefully working with state legislators and our other partners, we’ll be able to start really attacking that issue aggressively.
And then finally, I know we’ve had some issues with violence around some of the clubs. A lot of these establishments are restaurants that are in essence masquerading as clubs and operating outside the parameters of what they should be doing. So, we’re always teaming with our licenses and permits unit. I know the head of that unit very well and he always is responsive to me and coming and doing compliance checks. We were successful in obtaining due cause packages to go before the License Review Board on occasions where fines were issued, and their licenses were suspended for a short duration. But you know, I think we have to also rethink how we hold these places accountable. I’ve spoken with some of the council members and maybe they can address this as well. But you know, I’m all for having a year probationary period for these establishments we all know it’s easier to obtain a restaurant license. The distance to residential establishments or are not as strict. They don’t have to have the parking requirements that clubs have and then there’s the financial incentive for these places because they can operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week if they’re licensed as a restaurant and then like I said, they just push the edge of the envelope and then it falls on APD and license and permits to deal with it. I think we can be creative in how we tackle that as well. But I just want you to know that that APD is committed to dealing with those problems anyway we can right now in the interim.
I am excited about you know, moving forward into the next year. I’m excited about our new District Attorney Fani Willis. I’m excited about our new Sheriff Pat Labat. I’m excited about the partnerships that we continue to grow with the Coalition and our council members. I think that having everybody involved is really going to help us map out APD’s and Zone 2’s crime fighting strategy into next year. And I think that especially with the Coalition they’ll be able to enhance what we can do as far as putting boots on the ground to tackle some of these issues. So, I am excited, and I do think that things are going to get better. So, call me optimistic, but that’s just me. That’s all I’ve got to report out on if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.
Mary Norwood: Thank you. Major. Your leadership is really very much appreciated. Your men and women are great and they’re great because you’re great and your leadership throughout your entire zone is really very good. We are all very grateful for you and for them.
Amber Connor: About the truant officers not working, since we have APS police, is there any way that the school police–if there’s an issue with the water boys–they could come and pick them up?
Major Senzer: I’ve had small conversations with the Atlanta Public Schools Chief and how we can go about getting them involved. Initially it was whether or not they were going to stand up the truancy unit and to my knowledge at this point, they still haven’t done that but I think that we can still maybe figure out a way to partner with those officers.
Mary Norwood: I think that’s something that BCN and our member neighborhoods can do. We can contact school board members and see if we can get a majority of the school board members to understand how this would be helpful to them and to their students. I think that’s a great point. So, let’s do that. And Amber as y’all know is our Public Safety Chair.
Charles Meriwether: It’s my pleasure to introduce Captain Howard of the Georgia State Patrol. He’s working in conjunction with the Atlantic City Police Department and helping us end the street racing.
Captain Howard: First. I’d like to say good afternoon. Obviously my first time in this meeting and just the first 15 minutes or so. I can tell you guys are about business. I want to take just a minute to give you a little bit of background on myself and the Georgia State Patrol and our responsibilities within the Metro Atlanta area. I’m the captain and have the responsibility of the five Metro counties which includes Fulton and primarily we speak with Zone 2. Obviously, the responsibility of Zone 2 and Governor’s Mansion which is within that area but not only that, all the support that we can give in that area.
The thing we’re trying to focus on now obviously is our protection of our state properties and facilities and the civil unrest that we have, so that’s taken a lot of manpower. It’s taking a lot of hours away from us being able to do some of the other things that we’re mandated to do.
We don’t necessarily wish to spend the amount of time that we do but we know that right now that it’s necessary in order to ensure that everyone’s First Amendment rights are protected and that everyone has that opportunity to voice their opinions in a peaceful way. So, we’re going to continue to do that.
The street racing is what we are partnered with along with many other areas with Atlanta PD is a problem as Major Senzer said earlier–it’s a problem all over the country but in my area of responsibility out of the five counties, I think we see more so of that within the Fulton and Gwinnett County areas as those individuals take the highways and create chaos, and they endanger not only all those around them. They don’t think of this, but they endanger themselves as well.
We are partnering with APD in all six zones in order to try to combat this problem. Of course, with the visibility that it received on West Paces in reference to the Governor having to call and say, “There’s some street racing going on.” That’s not simply why we responded. We respond because we have citizens that’s calling in as well, but it’s just one of those things where the resources are sometimes not in the right place at the right time. And we try to be able to predict through the network has been created within the different law enforcement agencies and surrounding counties insofar as where these individuals are gathering; what time they are predicting to leave those locations; and where they’re going next. Sometimes they hold true to social media, but at the same time they realize that we are monitoring social media, so a lot of that is just saying, “Let’s see if we can trip them up” and go somewhere else.
Sometimes it becomes a cat and mouse game but those opportunities where we are able to be where they are and be actually proactive instead of reactive. We can find ourselves on a constant move from City to City and from County to County. So those Partnerships are vitally important. We’re going to continue to try to foster those Partnerships and foster those networks, but at the same time we ask citizens continue to provide us with the information–with the locations–and give us that opportunity to respond. We’ve had some success in planning–what we call “concentrated patrols” where we are saturating the area. We go in and specifically concentrate on traffic violations and stopping vehicles. My purpose tonight is for you to know that we are taking this matter seriously and that we’re constantly looking for ways to try to combat it and get some successes.
At the same time, they are gradually spreading out–not concentrating in one area. In any given night now, we can be dealing with them in Alpharetta and at the same time, dealing with them down in Clayton County. And then that same unit, sometime that night, needs to be dealing with them over in Douglas County. So, they’re very mobile and creating problems throughout the Metro Atlanta area. I would like to say that I am open to suggestions. I know that it’s going to take a collective effort. I’m here to say we’re looking into it and at the same time we’re asking for your help in providing the assistance so that we can stay on top of it.
Mary Norwood: Thank you Captain. I know our department is very grateful. Every time your guys are out with our guys, it is a major multiplier in what y’all can do collaboratively; what you can do; what they can do within all of your guidelines and it just helps an awful lot in trying to get this under control.
Rick Hamilton: Captain Howard are the Flock cameras of any help to identify the street Racers?
Captain Howard: Obviously a lot of those vehicles are stolen, and so sometimes the what the vehicle is and how we see the vehicle, so it doesn’t necessarily match up. But I think any type of video–any type of surveillance–any of those things are very valuable, but sometimes it takes a little bit of legwork in order to connect the dots. So, anything that we have out there is definitely a help but it may take a little bit of time–based on what who’s driving the vehicle, who the vehicle belongs to, locations, quality of the image. But anything out there can definitely be of help.
Jim Durrett: I run the Buckead Coalition and Community Improvement District and for the past months, we’ve been working in collaboration with a lot of others to understand what our opportunities are to partner with the Atlanta Police Department and others to enhance the Safety and Security within Buckhead. There about 15 to 20 of us that have been working on this: they include representatives from Atlanta City Council and the County Commission, the Police Foundation and the Police Department, various organizations in Buckhead including Denise’s Livable Buckhead, the NPU’s, the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, and the Mayor’s Administration.
We have proposed an actionable security plan with near-term, mid-term and longer-term actions to increase the safety and security among the people who live in Buckhead people who work in Buckhead and people who visit Buckhead on business, for shopping, and for entertainment
The plan will be collaborative with both private and public sector support but is intended to lead to greater public sector support without an over-reliance on private sector contributions. We divided the plan into actions to consider that fall under the headings of deterrence and enforcement and policy and procedural change. And what we’re doing Once we come to agreement on all of the elements of this plan, then it’ll be our job to assign responsible parties for taking ownership of really diving into the opportunity and understanding the costs and developing proposals for funding sources for it because nothing comes for free.
Under deterrence and enforcement, a big header here is expansion and improvement of the Operation Shield network of cameras and license plate readers throughout Buckhead, but also for Buckhead to provide support to APD to expand the program elsewhere because crime originates everywhere and it’s not all just within Buckhead. We’ve got different steps defined to address how we can help with the Operation Shield expansion. A second element is further investment and boosting and improving the importance of the Crime Stoppers Atlanta program. The more people that understand that they can rat on people and earn money then that can be a help to us. So, we’re going to figure out what we can do strategically to boost the Crime Stoppers program.
Next a dedicated Buckhead supplemental security force. Just about all of your neighborhoods already hire security in your neighborhoods. And so what we’re talking about is taking your secure security patrols and those that are funded by the private sector in business districts either for particular retail establishments or also what the Community Improvement District funds and better integrating all of those so that they’re communicating and collaborating in a more seamless way and use that to help provide more people working together on the ground.
We’ll be taking a good look at the Clean Car campaign and making sure that it’s operating as effectively as it can be, so that we and our neighbors are all better informed about things that we need to be doing in terms of behavior that will limit car thefts and stealing of property out of cars.
We’re going to be looking at technology and how we can use that better. We’ve got 19 different policy and procedural changes that we’re taking a look at–everything from looking at laws that we’ll need to work on with the state legislature to practices and the way we do things today as opposed to the way we need to be doing them tomorrow. All of that’s in the works and we’re working really hard on it and hope to have a lot more details in the not-too-distant future.
Mary Norwood: Thank you Jim. It really is important to have everybody working together and coming up with definite plans. And we’ve talked about the bars masquerading as restaurants. That’s part of this. It is very much focused on getting Buckhead safe and getting Buckhead lawful. So, I’m very grateful for your leadership and your support in leading this important initiative.
Denise Starling: A little bit of the overview of what I’m talking about here today. So, I’m actually switching back to you on the topic that used to be the #1 topic. It was top of mind for everybody before crime took that spot–and that’s more traffic. And what I want to share with you today is that a few months back y’all were instrumental in pulling together a number of letters of support for us for the express bus service to Buckhead. As you all know, we’ve been trying to get this service in the plans for many years now and it’s been quite a big topic on the neighborhood front because a lot of the traffic that you experience is cut-through traffic. It’s regional traffic that really needs to be coming directly to the commercial office center for their commute. Obviously that’s changed a bit during Covid, but one of the key things we are looking to get in place is Express Bus Service from Cobb County into the commercial core of Buckhead. I’m excited to report that because of y’all’s support, we’ve been able to do that. We were able to get the plan into the ATL which is the transit agency’s plan. And so that’s the first step in becoming a real project and getting it into funding sources and other things like that.
We still have some work to get all the details worked out on everything, but what’s great is that we don’t really have much of a capital cost on this. It’s about an 11-million-dollar cost over 20 years, so under half a million a year to operate it. And our next eligible date for looking at funding on this is coming this summer. So, it’s a bond opportunity in the summer of next year. It’s not something you’re going to see immediately, but it is a pretty major step forward to get this plan into the Region’s recognized plans and thank you so much Mary for all of your hard work. I know that you hounded everybody to make sure they got those letters in and that was really instrumental for us.
Mary Norwood: Thank you, Denise. You and Jim really turned that around in record time and we are all very grateful.
Denise Starling: You have all probably received an email asking you to send out The State of Buckhead Survey to all of your respective associations. This is the first time we have done this as a community and so what we’re doing–it’s a pretty extensive survey–it’s got questions on everything from your attitudes about Buckhead; how it should be represented–to what your commute looks like; to how you want to engage in volunteer activities. It’s a whole host of topics that we are using in a variety of different ways. The first of those is we’re embarking on a community positioning campaign. We’re trying to figure out essentially how, now that all of our organizations are aligned together, how we all need to collectively talk about Buckhead. As y’all know things are changing extensively, so we need to really nail down how it is we present the community. So, this information on the survey will feed into that but then it will also feed us shaping our plans and programs for the years to come. We do anticipate doing this as an annual or every other year approach. But the idea there is to track the trends; see what the things are that the community is really looking for us to do; and be able to incorporate those into our work programs. So, we really do we’ve already got tremendous response on it. Two days ago, which was the second day, we had over a thousand responses. Please keep pushing it; the more the better. That way we’re able to really parse our data a lot more. So, thank you so much for your help on this. If you do have any challenges or anything that comes up with the survey, please feel free to reach out to me. And we will probably be looking at sharing some of those results after the first of the year. So, look for that.
Mary Norwood: Thank you Denise. Thank you for all your work for us all in Buckhead. We are we are most grateful.
Josh Rowan: I’ve got three talking points and I’m going to move fast through them. The first thing that that we’re especially proud about–and it’s a local item–it was about 14 months ago. We had a wheelchair ride on Peachtree. Please thank Kathy Zahul and Russell McMurry because we’re going to be voting on legislation at next Council meeting to accept a $150,000 from the State. They closed the budget gap on that project and enabled us to get that work done. So, I think that’s pretty exciting that in just a little over a year, we’ve been able to do that work.
The second item I want to touch on real quickly–on Vision Zero–just a few things to make you aware of. In early 2021, we’re going to launch our Vision Zero action plan. We had planned to do this by now, but COVID interfered. We wanted to get some Public Health officials involved. We figured that they had other things on their plate. This is actually a study being funded by ARC and we want this to be a community-wide activity. So, stay tuned for more to come on that one.
Last month, we released our tactical urbanism guide which essentially gives neighborhoods the ability to make changes to their streets in a manner to make things safer. We’re very excited about that. I think often times the best thing we can do as a DOT is to get out of the way.
The third thing with Vision Zero I want to share is we’re developing a traffic calming toolkit, and we have a number of streets all over the city that are too wide; they’re two lanes. They’re straight; offset intersections. We’re seeing a pattern in a lot of the speeding through (I would say more residential areas)–not quite neighborhood streets, but near schools, near parks, and so, we’re developing this this framework and our thought is we can be implementing this more in phases on a citywide basis versus doing a one-off approach. I’m excited about what’s going to come out of that, and I think we’ll start seeing much more progress over time.
And then the last thing I’ll share with you all and trying to move pretty quickly through this on. I believe it was December 9th at 5 p.m. There’s going to be a council work session with the Department of Transportation where we’re going to be talking about funding options for state of good repair work through the leadership of Councilmember Matzigkeit related to the streets and Councilmember Farokhi related to the sidewalks. We’re taking a hard look at the data that we’ve just collected on our condition assessments and we’ve estimated that about 1.6 billion for state of good repair. I was guessing that our bridge needs for about 300 million–it ended up being about half of that–still a big number, but we want to talk about essentially how you put together funding strategies to get that done over about a 20-25 year period to really move the maintenance needle as well. And we feel that the maintenance and the safety are really tied together because while we are preparing, we’re able to make safety improvements.
Mary Norwood: We are delighted to hear it Josh. We appreciate so much everything you’re doing to help us with our streets and traffic. And the date…I think you said December 9th is a day for us to be aware of. If you will send me three or four of those critical dates that you want me to get out to the entire membership. I will do that.
Robb Pitts: Thank you for having me. We’re in the process now; we are ready to hand count almost 600,000 votes. So, I will be very quick. As you know, I’ve sort of been involved with the working group on the tactics–fighting crime–street racing and other crimes in the Buckhead Community with the new District Attorney–with the new Sheriff–we are all in lockstep in terms of putting whatever County resources are necessary to improve and get back to a real quality of life in the Buckhead Community. The problems that we’re facing in Buckhead, and I always emphasize this, are not unique and limited or restricted to Buckhead. They’re citywide and countywide but I live in Buckhead–y’all live in Buckhead. So that’s where this the focus is; we are committed to working with you. Our police presence is limited to the 35 to 40 officers that we have in the Fulton Industrial District area, but from the point of view of the Sheriff, Deputy Sheriffs and the Marshals, Patrick Labat has committed to putting more of his Deputy Sheriffs on the street. So, we are here to work with you and for you.
Mary Norwood: Thank you. Chairman Pitts. You have been front and center on this and I am very grateful for that. Next we have Councilman Howard Shook.
Howard Shook: I will yield my time to the next speaker.
Lee Morris: Jim Durrett has mentioned the working group that we’ve been involved with. I met with Sheriff Pat Labat yesterday. He’s committed to all of these efforts in Buckhead. I met this morning with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia’s legislative committee with a bunch of legislators, and we’ve talked about some legislation we might need to do to address the jury trials and some of the other things that may be problematic for us to continue to try to deal with some of the crime aspects during this remainder of the COVID. Hopefully, with the vaccine will be out of this in 6 months or a year.
I just wanted to briefly mention that the county budget is being worked on right now had a brief on the county manager’s proposed budget–just a slight increase from last year’s planned budget although we didn’t spend anywhere near what we had budgeted. He’s proposing that we’re going to fund all the vacant positions that had been frozen last year many of which are in the criminal justice system. For example, a 20 public defender positions that they were frozen and hope to hire those.
Lee Morris: I asked about when we might start jury trials and they are convening two grand juries, but the jury trials are still a problem. Nobody wants to gather in those jury rooms during COVID. So, we’re going to try to work all that out and maybe ACCG’s efforts will help us remove that as well.
Lots going on down at the county–always glad to be here. Thank you for everything you all do. If everybody was as committed as all these good citizens on this screen, we would have good government at every level.
JP Matzigkeit: I’m feeling really optimistic and excited about the future because we’ve got a lot of really smart and capable and committed people throughout Buckhead working together to solve all of these problems that we talked about tonight. Yeah. I’m really focused and involved in Buckhead Blue, in the Buckhead security, as has been mentioned as well as some of the investments in transportation infrastructure in our roads and sidewalks that Commissioner Rowan mentioned. So, I’m optimistic.
Matt Westmoreland: I chair the Community Development-Human Services Committee. We should be receiving in the next three weeks or so the draft ordinance from the Planning department as it relates to our new Tree Protection Ordinance. I know that many of you have been involved in conversations that have taken place over a very long period of time. We are getting to the point where we will all have something on paper to react to and discuss and debate and revise in the weeks and months ahead and I’m looking forward to that conversation. For the first time in 27 years, the city is getting ready to update its impact fee as well which will provide additional resources for police precincts, fire stations, parks and infrastructure improvements on our streets which will be coming at the beginning of 2021 as well. A couple of meetings ago Council passed a non-binding resolution calling on the Fulton County Development Authority to stop issuing tax abatements inside the City of Atlanta. I want to thank Commissioner Morris for his leadership on that topic. Every time an unnecessary abatement gets approved, it’s a burden on homeowners across Atlanta and so continuing to raise that issue and try and bring about some change and that entity.
Andre Dickens: I’m the Transportation Committee chairperson and you guys let Josh Rowan go before me and he literally stole all my thunder. He said all the things I was going to say. A year ago, I led the brigade to start the Transportation Department: Atlanta DOT. And then we were blessed with Josh Rowan to become our commissioner. So, we’re grateful for that.
One thing that we happened this week is that we passed laws to do a street lighting plan. As you know, throughout the city, we have streetlights that we pay for on a lease and operational agreement with Georgia Power. We have about 50,000 lights, but as you know, we can use more. More traffic lights mean more safety for pedestrians; more safety for cyclists; and of course, for motorists; more safety for us in our cars as well as just personal safety. So, we’re going to do that and make sure that we have a better cost structure as well. And we did a lot of work on sidewalks and he mentioned the Shepherd Center. We talk about street racing. Associated with street racing legislation, we’ve worked on legislation. But we’re also using tactics that we can do administratively to curtail some of the street racing. I mean, it’s everywhere all over the city. So as Transportation Chair, while it’s a public safety issue, it’s happening on our roads; it’s happening at parking lots–west side of town–north side of town. So, you might see some barricades up to make streets narrower you can’t do a doughnut in a 10 ft. lane. So, if you narrow some of the roads, you’re able to stop some of that. So, we’re doing the best we can in those areas.
One other Public Safety comment I want to make is that Jim Durrett and I were just on the first-ever Atlanta Police Chief’s Advisory Board meeting. We’re going to be working with him about citywide solutions to crime and how we get a handle on crime. It is spiking as you all know. It has already spiked. As a lifelong Atlantan, I’ve never seen it at this rate in terms of aggravated assaults and homicides as well as car larcenies, and so we do have to get a hold of that and I’m on that with Jim as well as AJ Robinson in Downtown Atlanta. So, the CID’s and myself, being a council representative and someone the business folks and as well as some Community organizers.
Felicia Moore: It was asked about the street racing. I have been talking with some state legislators, and it may be some difficulty with the impoundment. I am still working on that and I’ll report back at another time. So, thank you.
Mary Norwood: Do we have any other elected officials. I never want to leave one out. If so, speak now or forever hold your peace for the next 4 minutes. Thank you for being here. Please do go take another hour out of your life and let’s hear what the police have to say. Everyone, have a good night and good weekend and good Thanksgiving and take care.