BUCKHEAD COUNCIL OF NEIGHBORHOODS
Conducted Online Via Zoom
September 10, 2020
6:00 – 7:20 PM
September 10, 2020 AGENDA
ADOPTION OF MINUTES – Gordon Certain, Secretary
STREET SAFETY TASK FORCE: Presentation of Street Safety
Resolution Amber Connor, Co-Chair, David Gylfe
TREE ORDINANCE UPDATE – deLille Anthony, Tree Canopy Chair
ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT – Zone 2 Commander, Major Andrew Senzer
Fulton County Chair Robb Pitts
Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore
City Councilman JP Matzigkeit
City Councilman Justin Hillis
City Councilman Matt Westmoreland
Fulton County Sheriff-Elect Pat Labat
No formal introduction of participants was conducted at the beginning of the meeting. Instead, since the meeting was conducted using the Zoom app, participants were asked to enroll online in advance of the meeting. Some participated without enrolling in advance and but were identified later. Several were never identified. This meeting had about 250 participants, far more than any previous in-person BCN meeting. Participants came from 20 different Metro area ZIP Codes.
The meeting’s participants were notified that the meeting was being recorded to ensure accurate minutes.
ADOPTION OF MINUTES – Gordon Certain, Secretary
Mary Norwood: Welcome everyone! It’s six o’clock and we’re going to get started right now.
Gordon Certain: Okay, for everybody that’s listening right now, the meeting is being recorded so that BCN can provide you with quality meeting minutes. I prepared the minutes for the March 12th meeting and they’re 15 pages long. That’s pretty darn long but these BCN presentations are important and getting the detail insights is really key to understanding them. I encourage you all to read them. The minutes are online on the website. I try to get everything right but if there are any problems, either misstatements or if something said is not clear, please let me know so we can get it fixed.
Mary Norwood: And Gordon, what I’d like to see us do is to adopt the minutes without objection. If there are any objections from anyone on this call, please note in the chat and we will hold off adopting the minutes. But I’d like to officially adopt them if we can right now or certainly by the end of the meeting. They are excellent. I helped Gordon a little bit and I was amazed at how much time and energy it takes.
Also, sign in if you have not signed in. We want to be able to follow up with all of the data from the meeting. And so if you will, please sign in at BuckheadCouncil.org/sept2020meeting.
Right now, we’re already up to an amazing 241 Zoom participants. We have such a comprehensive agenda today and we’re going to cover it all in an hour. First up is a presentation by Amber Connor. Amber and David Gylfe have both chaired our Street Safety Task Force working with seven other of our members and they did a fabulous job for us.
STREET SAFETY TASK FORCE – Presentation of Street Safety Resolution – Amber Connor, Co-Chair and Greg Zimmerman
Amber Conner: Good evening everyone. Thank you for attending. We really appreciate your attendance tonight. It is nice to see so many people. I’m going to keep this short and concise. Let’s touch base on the past two weeks that we have seen in Buckhead. We all understand Street Racers have been causing chaos throughout the city. They have been seen at Peachtree and 12th, Sidney Marcus at Piedmont, 2575 Peachtree Road, 1841 Brook Drive, West End Station, Howell Mill and 10th Street, 930 Howell Mill Road, Peachtree at Deering, Peachtree Road and Peachtree Hills Avenue.
Plus, there have been multiple car larcenies near 639 Morosgo Drive – not to mention gunshots and fireworks seemed to be an all-night issue this past weekend at Peachtree Hills, Lindbergh and Hurst Drive, Piedmont and Lindbergh, Cheshire Bridge and Liddell, and Lambert Drive and throughout the whole city, from Zones 1 to 6. There were many car larcenies at The Peach, Lucy’s Market, Miami Circle, Whole Foods, and gas stations around the area.
Murder and homicide is up 140%. There was an obnoxious amount of gunfire this last weekend and the weekend before. I will name a few areas of note: 2193 Peachtree, Collier Road BP; A man received gunshots to the head near Eleven45 nightclub at the Shell station at 3:45 AM; fights with weapons at Lenox Road and Marriott Hotel; a shooting at Hanover Luxury Apartments; crowds dancing in the middle of the road at 10th and Piedmont; and a giant group of people in front of the Havana Club in the middle of Piedmont blocking the road. Also, last but not least, street racers decided to block off I-85 North to celebrate a fellow street racer’s birthday.
Due to this unrest, BCN has written a resolution. We have had three passed resolutions concerning Public Safety Tree Ordinances and Transportation. We strongly felt it was necessary to start a task force to write another resolution concerning the climate that we face today.
David Gylfe: Well, as Amber said, we set out to address three broad areas with the resolution: one was obviously the illegal street racing which everyone knows about. A second related item is illegal truck traffic: trucks leaving the approved truck routes established by the city and the state. This is leading, in our neighborhoods, to congestion, to noise, and just lowering the level of safety on our streets. And finally dealing with the issues of illegal noise violations. Now this includes bars and clubs in the activity around them. But it also includes cars and motorcycles, and carrying over from the last point, the illegal truck traffic coming through our neighborhoods. We have the resolution, which I’m hoping everyone has had a chance to download it. Amber then read the resolution. See https://mailchi.mp/buckheadcouncil.org/2020-june-election-5245173 for the full text of this resolution.
Mary Norwood: Are there any questions about any of these Provisions from any of our participants? We certainly welcome your questions.
Rick Hamilton: Has any lawyer reviewed this?
Mary Norwood: We had lawyers who reviewed it who were involved in the neighborhoods. We took out several provisions that we had originally included because we had lawyers within the neighborhoods who requested their removal.
Rick Hamilton: I’m concerned about the bystanders: to say who is a bystander and who is an accidental bystander.
Mary Norwood: In all of our resolutions, we want them to be specific enough that the City and our government officials understand what we want and what we’re concerned about. We’re not writing legislation. This is a resolution: a proposal to give to our elected officials saying these are the types of things we want to see you address. But we want the resolution to be strong enough, and if we think that they ought to take a look at spectators, then we want to include that in the resolution. And then the Law Department and our elected officials can say, “No, that won’t be something that we will address.” They initiate legislation, but we want them to know what we think is important. There were two or three similar clauses where the question of enforcement was raised. The answer is that if we believe it’s important, then we ought to ask them to include it and they will then make that decision.
As you all know, our resolutions have to have a two-thirds affirmative vote by our neighborhoods, so we will need over 25 neighborhoods to agree that they would like to support this. Over the next few days, we look forward to hearing back from our neighborhood representatives as to any issues that they may have with any language and whether or not they will be able to support it.
Because, at the end what we would like to do is have something to give to City Hall sooner rather than later, but with the kind of wonderful support we’ve had with our other resolutions.
Michele Torres: I’m in Loring Heights. By the way, I think the bystander thing is kind of a moot point because if we are successful in shutting them down, there’s nothing to watch. So, I think most of our efforts really should be concentrated on just shutting them down and making it impossible for them to do business here and we can do that in a lot of ways. The ways that were mentioned for sure, but there are other ways to do it. It’s all about social media: if there was no social media, these people would not have their cameras out filming this stuff. What they do is they upload them to their social media; they get followers and then they get sponsors. So, the more followers they have and likes they have, sponsors are more likely to give them money. I’ve been monitoring their social media and there are clubs all over the country in these big cities. So, I think our goal is to shut down their social media and to make it impossible for them to do business here in the City of Atlanta.
Mary Norwood: Amber has been monitoring social media as well for a very long period of time.
Michele Torres: If we do that and really impose very strict, unaffordable fines and the noise ordinances and all of those things and really hammer that hard, they’ll go away as well as shutting down these nasty clubs. I think the incentive will be to move on.
Mary Norwood: I look forward to hearing back and the committee looks forward to hearing back from all of our member reps and seeing where we go from here. Everyone who signed into this meeting will get all the information as it becomes available so that you will know what our next steps are.
TREE ORDINANCE UPDATE – deLille Anthony, Tree Canopy Chair
Mary Norwood: Let’s go on to our next presenter, which is deLille Anthony. She has information to give us about the tree ordinance, which was as, you know, the first resolution that we adopted.
Note: for the screen images deLille used in her presentation see www.treenextdoor.org/images/stories/Presentations/the%20state%20of%20buckheads%20trees.pdf.
deLille Anthony: What I’d like to do is talk a little bit about the state of Buckhead’s Tree Canopy and what we can do about it. There have been some things going on during COVID that I think people should know about. One of them is that we are actually having fewer trees being taken down than we’ve had in prior quarters. Please note that it’s fiscal year 2020 because some people get confused with the quarters not lining up with the calendar years, but that most recent quarter you see is from March through June, which is a time of COVID. We have been really anxious to see what COVID was doing to our tree take down. It was actually resulting in fewer trees being taken down. But unfortunately, the distribution of trees changed a little bit as you can see where the number of healthy trees was reduced, but the trees that were taken down claimed as a dead, dying, or hazardous tree went up. So did the illegal trees. When you look at this on an annual basis, you will see that we have a huge number of trees this past fiscal year (9,340) that were taken as dead, dying, and hazardous.
We tend not to believe that all of them are dead dying and hazardous, or else we’ve got a real problem going on with some infestation in the city which none of the city arborists I’ve talked with are aware of. We do see that there has been a reduction in the number of healthy trees permitted, that was actually a trend that we saw a little bit during the winter and it definitely escalated during the COVID months, but so did illegal tree cutting. It actually increased by 4% last quarter, whereas removal of healthy trees decreased by 32%. Why is this happening?
Well, one of the things that’s happening is that the number of DDH (dead, dying, or hazardous) trees has increased and the reason for that increase is that the percent that are being approved has really jumped up. It used to be about 80% to maybe 85% of trees were approved as DDH when someone would apply, but some of them were denied because the arborist really felt like the tree wasn’t DDH, but now they’re approving all of them pretty much, 98%. This is resulting in 60% of all the trees that are cut in Atlanta being cut as a dead, dying, or hazardous tree. And the problem with that is these trees are not recompensed or replaced. Illegal tree-cutting has also soared. As I said, it was up 4% last quarter and that represents 18% of all healthy trees that are coming down right now, they are coming down illegally and this really isn’t so much the arborists’ fault because the arborists can’t always be on site when trees are being cut illegally. We think that people are getting bolder and are more willing to just go out there and cut trees when they think no one is watching.
Another problem we’re seeing is that on the different site plans that were approved this past fiscal quarter, we saw far fewer trees being replanted than we had seen before. You can see that in the last bar where you see only 936 trees scheduled to be replanted as opposed to about 1900 the quarter before and that’s a problem. Why is this happening? The reason it’s happening is because the Arborist Division is requiring all of their field arborists to stay home to keep them safe during these unprecedented times. That’s a direct quote from an email that we received from David Zaparanick (Chief Arborist). What this translates into is that DDH inspections are being done by photographs alone. Site plans are not being verified on site at all. They’re just taking the developer’s word for whatever’s on the site plan as being accurate. And we’re seeing site plans that have mistakes on them. The developers and other permit applicants are being expected to do their own postings. And we’re having issues with that and we’re seeing sometimes a preliminary approval will get done before the first orange sign goes up and that’s completely backwards. They do have one arborist, Peter Stovall, who has gone out and investigated some complaints, but there is a long list of complaints of violations that haven’t been investigated yet because they simply don’t have the manpower out in the field to investigate. The problem we’re having is that the Park and Recreation Arborists don’t seem to be under the same restrictions for some reason as Field Arborists in the Arborist Division, and all we’ve been told is “Well, they have different guidelines for their inspectors.”
You may not know, but tree workers and construction workers have always been considered essential employees throughout this entire pandemic, and we feel that the city employees who are responsible for monitoring them ought to be considered essential employees as well. We also don’t feel that inspecting trees outdoors particularly on unoccupied properties presents a real risk of catching COVID.
Meanwhile, the other thing is happening during this time of COVID is the tree ordinance is being rewritten. It’s been a very quiet process because there is very little public participation. They can’t have meetings; they are not holding Zoom calls. There have been some tree activists who have been trying to work with them. I would say that initially our thoughts were that the city was listening, but now we’re not real sure how much they’re listening based on some recent feedback that we got from them. All we know is we’re not going to really see what they’ve taken in from the tree advocates’ recommendations until we see their next draft which they’re saying will probably come out in early October. Meanwhile, our committee has put together a list of some “must haves.” These are the things that we really need to have in a tree ordinance.
What we’re going to do is put this together in a letter that we will be sending to the city employees responsible for the new tree ordinance as well as to City Council. We’re looking for a simplified ordinance. The draft that came out in March 2020: that was an extremely complicated ordinance. We want a simplified ordinance with all these goals in it. We do not want exemptions for City-approved projects because that essentially puts them about the law that the rest of us have to comply with. Overall, we want to make sure that there’s no reduction in the protection of the trees compared to what we currently have. We also want to make sure that we’re preserving priority trees. and we think we can do that by insisting that we have some kind of a pre-application process whereby the developers can sit down and discuss with the arborists alternative plans that actually say high-priority trees. However, it’s imperative that we do not have any incentives or credits or any schemes or things like that in there that actually are going to result in less recompense being paid overall to replant trees or trees coming down that don’t need to be coming down because they were never part of the construction plan to begin with.
We also want to really be looking to improve posting procedures. We have had a lot of complaints with people not knowing when trees are going to be coming down: that needs to be made much more transparent both electronically and visibly on site. We want to make sure that the appeals process is open for all. Right now, there are restrictions based on what kind of tree you’re appealing and where you live: all that needs to go away. We want it to be open to all; to make sure that there’s a reasonable time of calendar days that we used to have to be able to file an appeal. We also want to make sure that we’re getting timely quarterly reports published on not only the tree removals but also the tree trust fund revenue and expenditures. We are getting tree removal reports right now, but they’re not coming on a timely basis at all and that’s a real problem.
We’re looking at increasing enforcement. One of the ways we’re looking at doing this is to – because we aren’t restricted with the $500 or $1000 fine that we can charge for somebody who damages a tree – we’re looking at using administrative penalties like they have in the stormwater ordinance and these administrative penalties would actually put more teeth to our ordinance by charging perhaps a penalty per inch of trunk illegally removed or actually banning them from being able to apply for a new ordinance for a certain period of time. And then we’re looking at making sure that the ordinance is focused on replenishing the tree canopy.
We’ve been experiencing a lot of people in the city, and City Council members as well, who are wanting to use our Tree Trust Fund for other things than tree planting. The bottom line is if we do not replant our trees, we will not maintain our tree canopy. We want to make sure setback trees are clearly protected. There is some talk about perhaps exchanging setback trees for buildable area trees if the buildable area trees are more valuable and we would be open to that provided that the neighbor who lives by the setback was agreeable to that.
And then, finally, we really want to make sure that the city starts recognizing the stormwater benefits of trees and making sure that they do not cut down trees to install storm water detention devices or to remove trees from stream buffers.
Now, what can you do? Well, there are two things we need you to do:
- First, to get the Field Arborists back in the field, you could help do that by contacting Commissioner Tim Keane and the Arborist Manager Dave Zaparanick and your own City Council Member. Some people have already started to do this and this is really good. But we really need to make a concerted effort to get the Field Arborists back in the field, especially when they’re going to visit sites that are not occupied and there’s really low risk of them seeing another person.
- Second, to ensure our Tree Ordinance covers what we need, as I mentioned, we’re going to have a letter going out and we would like you to support that letter of the must-haves. We need to be prepared to write letters and make telephone calls when this next draft is released in October because they’re not going to be any public meetings and it’s very hard during this time of COVID to have the appropriate public participation that we need to have, particularly when something as big as a Tree Ordinance rewrite is going on.
I want to end this with a present. I have something for you that actually just came to me a couple of days ago. A tree advocate who wishes to remain anonymous has developed an app called “Trees” and if you text “Trees” to 404-637-0080, you’re going to be returned all the different arborist records within a mile of your home. This will alert you anytime any of your neighbors have a filed a permit to remove a tree. You might see eight or nine texts because it’ll be covering everything for the past couple weeks. And then after that, you probably won’t get more than one text a day, if that, so it’s not something that’s going to be constantly pinging you, but it will keep you informed.
Mary Norwood: Thank you. Thank you, deLille, for following this so closely for all of us as it’s just really important information. So, thank you for sharing your slide presentation with us today.
ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT – APD Zone 2 Precinct Commander, Major Andrew Senzer
Major Senzer: I’m assuming that that you guys have a few things that have been concerns in the Buckhead area. That’s the street racing, activities of the kids selling water, and stolen vehicles. And your party houses are probably at the top of your concerns, so I’ll start off with the street racing activity because that’s what I get a lot of complaints about. As I mentioned before in some of the NPU meetings, the street racing activity has grown from what was a battle once a month event to a weekly event throughout the city and really extending beyond the city. It’s grown beyond the capability and scope of what any Zone Commander can handle with the resources that we have in one particular Zone.
What the department implemented a couple weeks ago, and kind of got put on hold with the civil unrest issues that we had to address which was running concurrently with the street racing activities, was more of a centralized street racing detail incorporating our partners with Georgia State Patrol and our border crimes enforcement unit and rotating some of the discretionary units from our six Zone Precincts.
Zone 2’s team is up this weekend so will be teaming up with those partners to go Citywide and hopefully spend a lot of time in Zone 2. So, with the number of occurrences that we’re seeing now, it’s also grown in the number of motorists that we’re seeing as well.
A couple weeks ago when I was out and about, I know we got about 200 motorists that assembled at the Trinity Presbyterian Church. Once we realized that they were there, we sent a couple of officers over there and pushed them out. But by that time, you know, they had created a lot of noise, a lot of congestion, a lot of smoke and you know, we just can’t keep going through this every night. It’s 200 motorists here; another 200 motorists down on Armour Drive and they’re assembling very quickly due to social media. And at this point some of the organizers have actually complained and are fighting amongst themselves with the number of occurrences. Like I said, it used to be once a month, now it’s every week, and so they’re saying, of course, that is there’s more heavy police presence. And they’re fighting amongst themselves.
A couple of these organizers have gone even darker in their media correspondences or posts, it’s going to make it a little bit harder for us to infiltrate and keep track of where they’re meeting. There’s a lot of infighting among the organizers, which on one hand is indicative of some of the intervention that we’ve been able to provide and some of the arrests that we’ve made.
I know it’s kind of hard to see, but we are making things more difficult for them when they come here to the city to do their shenanigans. But you know, we’re hoping that once we get this detail rolling and sustained for a number of weeks, we’ll be able to impact this to the point where it’s going to diminish.
And what we’re seeing as far as every week has just been a big burden on us and I know it’s been a very big nuisance for all of you. We’re doing the best we can with the resources that we have.
To put things into context: Zone 2 has 10 beats. On an average day, I’ve got an officer per beat. We’re usually very good at filling those positions on a watch basis, on a nightly basis, and I may have one or two umbrella cars and I’m running a small team of discretionary units that are out and about keeping tabs on the Pharr Road Corridor or street racing activities or people out to do our part one crimes in Zone 2.
So that’s a pretty small number in comparison to having 400 motorists show up in the zone. When we’re out trying to deal with street racing activities, we’re also trying to answer 911 calls; we’re also trying to deal with the clubs and all the other hot spots. I just want to put that in context, and I know you guys know that Zone 2 is working hard. We are best in class as far as our proactive policing.
We talk about this every week at our meetings and I’m very proud of my officers for leading and the amount of proactive traffic enforcement stops that we’re making and that’s going to have an impact on street racing and all the other crime that we’re seeing in Zone 2 as well. On a weekly basis, our men and women are leading in that category every week. So that goes to show that in spite of what we’ve been through with the virus and the civil unrest, our guys are back in the saddle. They’re re-engaging with the public and they’re doing what they need to do. We’re fighting for you guys.
Michele Torres: It’s my understanding that APD has lost 39 more officers this month. Am I correct in understanding that or is the number different?
Major Senzer: I don’t know what the exact number is. I see the personnel orders that come out re: the people who are retiring, whether it’s early retirement or on time and you know resigning, those are pretty robust orders that continue to come out. I know Zone 2 has lost some good officers to the other departments and some just decided to get out of policing altogether. I don’t have a figure for you. But that’s something that we’re will probably be dealing with for a little while.
There’s one area where we’ve experienced a “win”. I felt like at some point this was something that Zone 2 personnel could handle without having to call in other units, and we’re at the point now where we’re almost in a routine maintenance phase and that’s with the kids selling of water in the street. We do have people that pop up at our intersections here and there but I think the word’s gotten out once they see our cruisers roll by, they leave, so we know that the prime time for them to show up is around shift change between day and evening watch. We know the main intersections where they’re likely to be and we try to have officers over there when they’re not answering calls and have a detail car around Peachtree and Lenox, especially in down around Piedmont, the Lindbergh area, Sidney Marcus area, 400 and Lenox.
I think we’ve been very successful. I think Zone 2 is has set the bar as far as handling that situation. When we started to see the weapons being taken from the juveniles, the aggressive behavior exhibited towards the motorists, it was just time to take action regardless of what the city’s overall posture was with that. I think it’s been effective.
Any questions about that? I know we get we get some kids that pop up in the intersections, but the calls for service related to the water boys are down and I know just driving around that I just don’t see the heavy presence like we used to.
Please continue to call 911 if you see it and we’ll send a car out. Like I said very easy to mitigate that right now so, you know, especially with the tone that we’ve set. I think that’s a big “win” and that’s a quality of life and perception of lawlessness issue that we that we don’t have to deal with right now.
Question about street racing: What the game wardens learned in the 80s dealing with sort of similar nuisance crimes was writing a fine, that may or may not get 90 days later, was less effective than confiscating equipment. I don’t know what the laws are, and I know that’s beyond what you can do in Zone 2, but to the extent you can confiscate, that gets people’s attention.
Major Senzer: Very good. The new legislation that was that was passed has a mandatory 30-day impound for the vehicles one of the things that we discussed at the executive level was to push out a media piece stating that “you’re looking at losing your car for 30 days.” So I agree with you. Our public affairs department is working on that. I think if that message gets out and once a few cars are impounded and they lose their ability to move around for a month, then they might reconsider coming in here and doing that. I think that if that media piece is pushed out and we make some examples over the next couple weeks that we will probably see reduction in that activity. So, appreciate your taking that up.
Rick Hamilton: Is it possible to for the city to move to a plainly audible noise statute? In other words, if an officer hears a noise from a hundred feet away during prohibited hours, then can he or she write a citation?
Major Senzer: As it relates to vehicles?
Rick Hamilton: Any kind of noise? Parties? Vehicles? Fireworks?
Major Senzer: The noise ordinance is very effective. Their parameters are set for daytime and evening time and you know, we been able to cite businesses clubs. Even you know, gyms that have had amplified outdoor music, a lot of the gyms have been moved to conducting classes outside near residential areas and a lot of them are actually violating noise ordinance statute, so it is enforceable. I think the way it’s worded right now is fine for businesses and static locations. As far as the street races go, that’s a lot more dynamic and it’s very hard to enforce that. The exhaust laws that are on the books right now: I spoke with our Motors unit who are the preeminent traffic guys with our department, and they say the way that’s worded, it is almost unenforceable.
Michele Torres: Question: Is there a way to look at these aftermarket mufflers and aftermarket? I don’t know what they are boosters or something like that and ticket for those things. Is that on the books or is that what you’re talking about?
Major Senzer: So yeah, that’s it. There’s no actual decibel level or a “feet away from” standard. I think it’s worded as “unreasonable”. If we had set parameters that we could be able to write down as in a citation, that would be beneficial.
Michele Torres: Major, I want to make you aware of is the fact that Patrick Shaw and I are both here and we both are audio and video producers. We are working really hard to get all of the footage and stuff together that we can so if you need anything from us, we both worked on Fani Willis’s campaign and we are really willing to step up and provide you with anything that you need. We want to work alongside you producing videos to help solve these problems putting them out there. And include Home Park and Grant Park and everybody outside of Zone 2. If there’s anything we can do to help you, let us know.
Major Senzer: Absolutely. Thank you. I appreciate that.
One of the Part 1 crimes that we’re up in is auto thefts in Zone 2. I just met with one of our investigators who is in partnership with our federal partners, and the good thing is these auto thefts, especially the ones targeting Range Rovers and some of the high-end cars, are only being done by a few small groups of individuals. We’ve actually identified who these players are. We still need to do some work in investigation to make solid cases against them and you know, we’re waiting for Fulton County to open up a little bit more to get some indictments on these players. We’re very close to getting arrest warrants and making arrests of some of the crews that are coming into Zone 2.
What I can tell you, though, is we’re still seeing that about 70% of the cars that are taken are either running at the time of theft or have the key fobs in the vehicle. These crews are looking for vehicles that are not locked up. You know, I think I mentioned before and at one of my meetings that one of the tell-tale signs in a Range Rover is that if the side view mirrors are left extended, there’s a good chance that the car is either running or unlocked and that the key fob is in it.
They’re pretty savvy. They look for that and they’re going to wait for an opportunity and take a vehicle if it’s easy. So, you know keep imploring people to make sure that they secure their vehicles. Even if it’s running in to get the take-out food or going in to get gas, lock it up and keep the key fob with you. But the good news is, we know who these main players are and we’re very close to securing arrest warrants for them. So that’s a positive thing, and my guys are out and about obviously making traffic stops and being a visible presence.
We’re also tackling the party houses. We’re coming at it from a couple of different angles right now. We’ve been successful on the one on Andrews Court. We’re looking at doing the same thing with 3511 Roxboro and some of the other locations. Anything related to that, just reach out to me. Send me an email and we’ll be working on it for you.
Mary Norwood: Thank you. And thank you, Major. What a great guy you are. And what great guys you have working for you. We are all very grateful for your support and for everything you do to help people be safe.
All the comments that we have gotten this morning and this evening. We will get those to the appropriate people so everyone who’s made a comment to be addressed to you and about your issues and the safety issues. We will get all those distributed. Thank you, Major, for taking time out tonight to be with us.
ELECTED OFFICIALS – Fulton County Chair Robb Pitts
Robb Pitts: My wife and I live on Peachtree Road. We moved from Chastain Park over right across from Cathedral of St. Philip’s. I want to tell you about street racing. We’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve experienced it firsthand, but let me tell you last Saturday night had to be the worst. At 1:30 in the morning, many of our neighbors were out on their balcony. We couldn’t sleep; dogs were barking; cats were meowing. Something has to be done and the something that I think it may be time for us to begin to look at something like they’ve done in Midtown: Midtown Blue. I talked about that when I was interviewed by Channel 2 earlier in the week. I’ve also talked with our Patrick Labat about the possibility of using (and we don’t control what the sheriff does although he explained to me that he is very sympathetic to what’s going on) and he will be willing to work with us to use some of his officers to supplement, not replace, but to supplement what APD is doing. I think that’s also something positive because what happening they’re very sophisticated. They make the noise; they do what they’re going to do. When the police come, they’ll run away quickly and it’s difficult for APD to keep up. They’ve got other priorities. This is not at the top of the list, which I understand, but with the assistance of the Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Sheriff’s, and the possibility of us might be Buckhead Blue, I think we can put a dent into this. We have to do something creative.
Mary Norwood: Thank you Chairman. I am delighted to have your participation and the participation of the new sheriff because I agree with you. It’s got to be greater than just relying on our police department. It’s having all of us work together.
ELECTED OFFICIALS – Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore
Felicia Moore: I am working on two tracks, and Commissioner Pitts, I do think I need to pull you into the conversation as well. We have to get some of the state law changed so that it makes it easier for us to enforce it on as a municipal or county level, confiscating vehicles and being able to do something with them. I am working with a state representative who reached out to me about coming up with some legislation as well.
Today, I talked with the city attorney of a neighboring city. We’re going to try to get together with a group of state legislators to talk about it, so that maybe during the next legislative session we will have some legislative fixes, but then that doesn’t preclude enforcement. As I’ve been monitoring it, what really strikes me is the fact that the Department is doing a wonderful job, but that the resources they’re spending just on the street racing alone is taking away resources from responding to the myriad of other calls that take place.
I have had contact with some of the 911 operators and dispatchers and they’re telling me that they’re having calls backed up for service because they don’t have officers to come out. Some people are waiting two hours. I had a gentleman reach out to me today that the police never showed up at an accident and that’s because they are prioritizing calls. I think it’s really important that we deal with the street racing issue in four or five different places simultaneously across the city. It stretches our resources and it leaves to rest of our citizens vulnerable. I’m going to do the best that I can, and Commissioner Pitts and I will be reaching out to you to see if I can be part of that conversation.
I just want to remind everybody to please if you have not already, fill out your census before the end of this month. It’s really important to the city.
Just to remind you that your city council has not missed a beat since mid-March. City Hall is still closed to the public. But you can still call in remotely with your public comment and those times are posted on the city’s website and on the city council social media page. I hope you follow me on social media. I host all of that information. I put all of my contact information in the chat. Please feel free to always contact my office.
ELECTED OFFICIALS – Councilman JP Matzigkeit
JP Matzigkeit: I want to share a few things that I’ve been working on and much of this conversation tonight is where I’ve been focusing on public safety. They haven’t given me a gun and a badge yet. So, I’m just going to have to use my voice. Just before this Zoom call Councilmember Shook and I had a lengthy call with Chief Bryant making sure that your voices are heard in discussing the issues with Buckhead. He’s heard us and hopefully we will see some action. It’s certainly going to take a village and working for cooperation with the state which we have been receiving with the street racing. Pat Labat, I can’t wait for you to get into office and help us with your resources as well as also the Atlanta Department of Transportation. Hopefully, they can help use their resources to address this issue. So, Chairman Pitts, I love your thought about a Buckhead Blue and we need to have more conversations around that. I’m paying for an off-duty officer to be at out on Peachtree Street on weekend nights to address street racers. It’s certainly not going to solve it, but it is going to help.
Some other things that have been going on that I’ve been working on are some clubs, some issues there that have been very troubling, and we’re working to address those issues as well as a short term rental on Andrews Court and we’ve been successful there. We’re using a template and many of the tactics that we used to address the 4499 Garmon Drive Party House a year or two ago. And so that’s been very helpful.
And also, I did sign on, as a co-sponsor to Councilmember Shook’s short-term rental legislation. With regard to transportation, one of the things that has struck me is that we’re not spending enough money on regular maintenance on our roads, and I’ve introduced a resolution calling on the Department of Transportation to develop a plan to spend money and invest in our roads at the rate that would equal the replacement rate which would be about $50 million dollars a year right now. We’re well below that at about $10 million dollars a year on a regular basis. So hopefully we will have lots of good conversation about making sure that we’re investing in our infrastructure at the rate that we need to.
ELECTED OFFICIALS – Councilman Matt Westmoreland
Matt Westmoreland: I want to acknowledge Dustin’s presence on this call and his leadership on a piece of legislation that I think passed unanimously at our second meeting in August around street racing and greater penalties in additional tools for our officers to use. Both JP and Felicia referenced the State and our need to work more closely with them and, Betsy Holland, thank you for being on this call and hearing the issues that we are facing at the city level.
I want to go back to the presentation that deLille made. I chair our Community Development and Human Services committee, which is overseeing the Tree Ordinance rewrite and I’ve taken a picture of the two slides that came up earlier today and agree that all of those need to be in the new ordinance that we’re looking to pass by the end of this year. The Administration has been working on a version of this ordinance. But so too has a group of citizens, dozens of people from around the city who’ve been incredibly engaged on this issue. They have actually taken the time to write legislation that they believe needs to come before Council and all the things that need to be in a strengthened ordinance. I know, deLille, you’ve been working with that group and look forward to seeing the next draft of your work and making sure that it is incorporated into the discussions that we have and then the final draft that we pass later this year. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out. My cell phone number is 404-408-0980 and email at MWestmoreland@AtlantaGA.gov.
ELECTED OFFICIALS – Councilman Dustin Hillis
Dustin Hillis: On the topic of street racing, I did introduce, and we did pass a street racing ordinance in City Council that focused on non-participants and non-drivers. Drivers, of course, are already subject to state law and have been cited as such. This ordinance concentrated on participants, which we had to whittle down a little bit on the advice of our Law Department. It ended up including those who are actively participating in the events such as doing betting or helping set up for the event and also those that are organizing these events. These are highly organized events; 200 people just don’t show up in Buckhead and decide that they’re going to race and do donuts and spin outs and then also the passengers that we have seen crazily in these videos hanging out some roofs and windows and such. So, it does give some additional teeth to what we would really like to see. As Major Senzer and others mentioned, we’ve got to hit these folks where it hurts and to me that is impounding their cars. We are limited as to what we can do there by state law. We did put in the ordinance that they would get a minimum $1,000 fine, which is also the maximum fine. The fine we set is as much as state law allows. But again, we would love to see that increased and we’ll work with our representatives and senators at the Statehouse to remedy that.
My office applied for a Northwest Corridor study. It will extend somewhat over into Buckhead and District 8, into Midtown and some of the other council districts that border District 9 here in Northwest Atlanta. So that should be getting up and running within the next few months and hopefully have some public meetings about that. And that is again the Northwest Corridor study that will really look at our truck routes and our truck traffic and how those trucks are being routed.
We’ve been very engaged with the Underwood Hills neighborhood, which is a BCN neighborhood, regarding traffic calming on Defoor Avenue between Howell Mill and Collier Road. We have already instituted one all-way stop at Harper Street due to some sight-distance issues around that curve, but there’s a request from the neighborhoods to enact even more all-way stops for more traffic calming. If Underwood Hills approves, there will be some additional traffic calming coming to Defoor Avenue.
I know that there has been a lot of talk about the clubs and restaurants that are causing issues by staying open late. That has been an issue for years, and it just baffles me and others how you can get so many complaints and yet stay open. We have called for, and it has been approved that we’re going to be auditing APD’s licenses and permits office which oversees those licenses and permits. So, hopefully, something good will come out of that.
Then lastly Ridgewood Heights, we’ve been working on sidewalk improvements over there getting ADA ramps and doing some sidewalk repairs. As many of you know, we have the new Publix that President Moore worked hard for many years to get, and just want to increase access from Ridgewood Heights Fernleaf, Bolton, and other neighborhoods over there. So, they’ve completed probably about 75 to 80% of that and there’s more coming.
ELECTED OFFICIALS – Fulton County Sheriff-Elect Pat Labat
Pat Labat: First of all, thank you. Thank you for having me. I am certainly honored and humbled that the citizens of Fulton County led by you, Mary and Amber, and my esteemed colleagues from the City of Atlanta Council chose to allow me the opportunity to really redefine what law enforcement looks like. The next level, I must say is an interesting opportunity. Many of you know how aggressive I can be, so I have spoken to each one of our County Commissioners no less than two or three times already. I have talked with as many judges as I possibly can to start building relationships given our circumstances and certainly have kept our Chairman Robb Pitts on speed dial. We have started to really have this conversation about how we impact crime.
The question I got Saturday morning after all the mayhem was “Do I need anyone’s permission, as Sheriff to go in and throughout the county to enforce laws?” Let me be clear, I do not but what I do need is each you all support when it comes to helping me fulfill my goals and put more deputies out on our streets. One of the things that I’ve heard for almost two years is how absent the Sheriff’s Office appeared to be. Perception is everything and we want to be very forward thinking about how we partner with our Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant. He and I have already begun to have several conversations about how we create this force multiplier; how we lean in and really create a safer environment. My pledge is steadfast; I’m completely engaged in what our County needs from a holistic standpoint and I look forward to doing that. I must compliment Major Senzer who has reached out to me to say look, I know you’re not sworn in yet. I know you’re not over there yet, but I need your help with this party house. Or I need your help and thought processes on how quickly we can make some of these things a reality and that I will certainly lean on each of you as I ask that we move from the city to the county, and as President Moore said to the state to help us strengthen the laws of impounding these vehicles. For the ones that I do not know you can reach me directly at 404-859-0237 as well as at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s an exciting time, I tell most people. In the first 72 hours after winning the election I had close to 9,000 text messages and a couple of hundred phone calls. The one thing I do is I answer them personally. I certainly look forward to creating an environment where we can serve better from the Sheriff’s office.
Mary Norwood: We are delighted. It’s going to be a new day with a new district attorney and a new sheriff and all this working together collaboratively and we very much appreciate your being here tonight. Before we wrap up, I just want to circle completely back around with the resolution that we presented and would like to have the neighborhoods and off on it if they will within the next 30 days so we can have it at the first council meeting in October. Will all of the Reps, please let me know and David and Amber if there are any changes and modifications you think should be made and finally if the Reps would like to have a separate Zoom meeting for just us to discuss the resolution, we will certainly set that up. I will be delighted. Gordon is always wonderful about setting up a Zoom meeting for just us if we need to have in-depth discussion.
Amber Conner: I wanted to add really quick the citizens and go to APD website, AtlantaPD.org. You’ll see a link for Code Enforcement and you can fill out the Complaint Form: A code complaint about night clubs that are bothersome to you; you can complain about illegal activity noise violation or impeding traffic and fill out a form. That gives it more legs when our elected officials talk with the permits individuals so that they can maybe push for a hearing on that.
Sadly, I also wanted to let people know that we have just reached our 97th homicide for the year. It happened in Zone 3 today. I’m hoping we don’t make it to a hundred before the end of the year, but it doesn’t look so good and I just want people to realize that it’s the whole city of Atlanta that matters and in every corner of the city people are wanting to feel safe.
Mary Norwood: Well, thank you to the over two hundred people that are on our call. You will all get this information. If you haven’t signed in yet, please do so. We want to be able to keep up with you and get your concerns and we will distribute all the comments. Thank you all in Buckhead for being so supportive of all of our efforts to try to keep us safe and make Buckhead the place we all know it has been and needs to be again. thank you all and good night. I look forward to our next meeting in November.
These minutes were prepared by BCN Secretary Gordon Certain With much appreciated help help from Mary Norwood and Sue Certain.