by Chris Kazakos
The proposed Big Box development at 800 Glenwood Ave. and the upcoming elections have become intertwined. The timing of both can provide us with a perspective that could shift the paradigms for our locally elected and appointed officials.
With that said, I’m endorsing Robert Welsh for Atlanta City Council District 1.
Robert Welsh: He’s an honest, energetic and highly-intelligent person. He represents a new generation of District 1 residents who want a walkable and safe Atlanta with improved public transportation. And he refuses to accept money from organizations that are actively trying to destroy that vision.
Carla Smith’s handling of the proposed development at 800 Glenwood Ave: She could have done more to stop this a long time ago. The property sat on the market for over a year before the public was made aware of the development plans. Rezoning legislation in 2011 might have made a big difference. But she failed in being proactive. Instead, she introduced reactive, election-year legislation that possibly could get the City of Atlanta sued.
Carla Smith’s list of contributors: According to Georgia Common Cause, during her time in office, she accepted money directly from Jeff Fuqua and McKenna, Aldridge & Long, which is the law firm currently representing Fuqua Development. In addition, Smith’s list of coffers is a veritable who’s who of Atlanta developers and those that serve developer’s interests. How can we be certain that she’ll represent her constituents before the interests of these organizations that line her fundraising?
Just to be clear, I am neither associated with nor am I representing any neighborhood organization or planning unit. I'm also relatively new to the area having lived in Ormewood Park since 2011. I’m just one guy with an opinion.
Around this time last year I first read of Fuqua Development’s plans for 800 Glenwood Ave. after the story was released by East Atlanta Patch. But the issue was lacking coverage from other local media outlets. Many of my neighbors were either ill-informed or not enlightened to the negative effects a development this grandiose could have on our quaint community.
Since there was no real organized effort to let the neighbors know about the day-to-day news about this development, I decided to start a Facebook page and petition. The intent was to raise awareness and foster a discussion. During the past year this effort has gained nearly 800 followers on Facebook while the petition continues to climb past 2,500 supporters.
As the process played out, I've learned a lot about how local politics and politicians work. I got a great opportunity to take a close look at those who have had a role in this development, specifically District 1 Councilwoman Carla Smith.
I learned that Ms. Smith is a nice person who is beloved by many neighbors in this community. But there is another side to Ms. Smith, one that many of her supporters choose to ignore, but one I feel obligated to share after receiving a nasty onslaught from some of her most ardent cheerleaders.
Last January, in a blog sent to petition supporters and posted on East Atlanta Patch Voices, I attempted to shed some light on Ms. Smith’s silence regarding the aforementioned issue - http://eastatlanta.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/glenwood-place-project-fight-far-from-over
The result of my exercise in free speech, admittedly tinged with some criticism, was a barrage of negative and personal attacks to me from Carla’s supporters. Over the following months I was taught an important lesson in Grant/Ormewood Park politics: “Love Carla, or go [expletive deleted] yourself.”
Her grip on our neighborhood is tight and often times unscrupulous. Some members of more than one neighborhood association’s leadership team have been actively and bizarrely campaigning for Carla’s re-election, which seems ethically wrong. When someone who has earned official status in the neighborhood shamelessly campaigns for a candidate, it’s a huge conflict of interest and needs to stop.
The blind loyalty she enjoys from some local leaders and neighbors is part of a wide and significant systematic issue that got us into this “Big Box” mess in the first place. It’s the responsibility of official neighborhood leadership to act in the interest of the neighbors, not their favorite councilperson.
For the past 12 years, Carla Smith has coasted as District 1’s representative in City Hall. In previous elections, she has either run unopposed or against lackluster opposition. This status quo lifestyle has left us with a shady system resulting in a potential development that could negatively alter the course of our neighborhoods and the Beltline for the next half-century.
Please don’t let loyalties blind you when voting on Nov. 5.
You can vote for Robert Welsh, a man who has a detailed vision for the future of District 1 (see robertwelsh.nationbuilder.com); a man whose values are aligned with the neighbors, not his campaign donors.
Or you can vote for the incumbent who has no plan or vision for the district. Someone with pockets lined by the same developer and attorneys who are trying to ruin our neighborhood. A person who publicly ignored the Glenwood Big Box development until election season.
The only way Atlanta will mature into a city we all envision is by its residents voting for the right leaders who will get us there.
If you continue to allow our local elected officials to coast, don’t be surprised when the next unwanted strip mall springs up in the neighborhood.
We are the developers of our community. Please take the first step in laying the foundation on Nov. 5.
Mr. Kazakos is a resident of Ormewood Park.