Commissioner DeKalb to call for further review of training center and appoint new advisory board member – SaportaReport

By John Ruch

DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry is planning a resolution calling for a closer look at the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Center while naming a replacement for a member of his advisory board who was kicked out for criticizing the plan.

Terry, who represents DeKalb District 6, said he plans to introduce the resolution this week. And his candidate for the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSAC) will be Amy Taylor of Starlight Heights, who, confusingly, is already a member but serves as a nonvoting “alternate” due to a legislative error.

Lily Ponitz, Terry’s former contestant, was voted out of the CSAC on June 21 after publicly criticizing the training center’s plan in various forums, including a SaportaReport opinion piece.

The $90 million facility, which would train Atlanta police and firefighters and field services, is planned for 85 acres of the former Atlanta Prison Farm, property owned by the City of Atlanta but located outside the city limits on Key Road in unincorporated DeKalb County. The Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), a private, nonprofit organization, is leading the planning.

Terry is among DeKalb officials who have expressed frustration with the lack of information from the APF and CSAC, including about a Land Disturbance Permit (LDP) application that is crucial for the start of work. of pre-construction. Last month, Terry obtained and published the LDP’s request after the APF told the CSAC it would remain secret due to security concerns over a protest against the plan.

Terry is now formalizing his interest in more information with the commission’s resolution, which could be presented on July 12. He said he would “request further consideration before an LDP is issued…Hopefully it’s not too late.”

District 3 DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson is a member of CSAC, although he has not been a vocal participant in its meetings. Johnson did not respond to a request for comment on CSAC’s process.

Meanwhile, Ponitz says she challenges his withdrawal from CSAC, a vote that has raised legal and procedural questions even among other members proposing it that remain largely unanswered. Concerns include parliamentary procedure and the possibility of removing an Atlanta City Council appointee. CSAC previously discussed a ban on members speaking to the media, also in relation to Ponitz, which raised First Amendment free speech concerns.

Ponitz says she believes the withdrawal was procedurally invalid because of its unusual “vote by exception” method, where only those who oppose the decision would vote and abstentions are not possible. She said it was inappropriate for CSAC public officials — such as Johnson, the acting chief of the Atlanta Police Department and the first deputy chief of the Atlanta Fire Department — not to speak. to abstain on a vote to remove “a member of the community who was accountable to them.” Those officials or their departments did not respond to requests for an opinion on Ponitz’s removal.

Ponitz said she intended to speak to the city’s ‘integrity officer’ – an official who typically reviews supply issues – but did not respond to questions about the condition. of this investigation. CSAC President Alison Clark previously said she was seeking legal advice from the City, but she and the City did not respond to inquiries about the advice being sought or given.

Terry was highly critical of Ponitz’s impeachment, taking to Twitter the next day to call it a case of “democratic” process being “spoofed to stifle dissenting views”. But he is moving on with a replacement candidate. He said he had not received a response from officials on how to appoint a replacement, but would do so after being briefed on the process by SaportaReport. According to a city council spokesperson, this involves submitting the nominee to the council’s public safety and legal stewardship committee, followed by confirmation by the full council and an amendment to the CSAC enabling legislation. . The earliest that can happen is next month.

CSAC members have been confused for months because the original legislation failed to include certain people who ran for membership – including Ponitz – and incorrectly identified who some were supposed to represent. Taylor ended up being one of two people listed as representing Starlight Heights, even though she was supposed to represent a DeKalb Commission district. After several months, the CSAC resolved the situation with regulations that created non-voting members for dual nominations at Starlight Heights and Eastside Walk. If Terry’s nomination is accepted, Taylor would then become a voting member as his District 6 representative.

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