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We’re getting gaslighted on the Gulch when we should be getting community benefits

Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), Mayor Bottoms, and CIM Group have been spending a lot of energy this week (we’d love to know exactly how much money it has cost them) on a multifaceted effort to convince Atlantans that there’s no better opportunity for developing the Gulch than the one CIM has proposed. No negotiations needed. It’s perfect as is. They are all calling the effort “Greenlight the Gulch.”

greenlight the gulch montage
Greenlight the Gulch montage

Obviously, many Atlantans strongly disagree with this campaign.

In fact, multiple people have pointed out this week that “Gaslighting the Gulch” is a 100%-accurate phrase to describe what’s happening here.

CAP, CIM Group, and Mayor Bottoms seem to be partners in a shared effort to gaslight Atlanta into thinking their Gulch is so worthless and ugly and desperate that this is the only chance it has at a “relationship” – we have to do whatever CIM wants us to do and ask no questions.

Don’t rock the boat by questioning the huge incentives – that’s the implication here. Don’t waste time asking for passenger rail platforms or public streets. Developers seldom make passes at ugly gulches, so we have to take what we can get.

The parallel here with relationship gaslighting is frighteningly perfect.

There’s a public event at City Hall (September. 26, 6pm) where Mayor Bottoms will present her case for the Gulch development. (NOTE: see our notes about what happened at the event, at the bottom of this post.)

Will Bottoms answer questions? Will she tell us why she promised to get Community Benefits Agreements for developments that get public dollars while she was running for mayor, but now that she’s in office she’s not following through and supporting one for the Gulch?

Here’s video from one of the mayoral debates with Bottoms making that promise:

Bottoms should follow through on that promise and also allow City Council more time to investigate the proposal. There’s a better way to do this deal and it’s not too late to embrace it, particularly if we can slow down and allow Atlanta more time to consider what we’re getting into .

Reasons for taking more time to investigate the Gulch deal

Here are just a few reasons we can think of that highlight the importance of slowing down the Gulch deal instead of “greenlighting” the CIM Group proposal as it is:

1. There’s evidence that negotiations between CIM Group and the City of Atlanta on the Gulch deal were entered into secretly. If true, that puts them in violation of the City charter authorizing the mayor to enter into deals of this type. Who’s looking into this at the City level?

2. From on- and off-the-record comments, it’s clear that the “negotiations” were simply a set of demands by CIM. As a city, we deserve and demand better from our public officials when negotiating. Of course, this may be easier if we actually know they’re negotiating before the fact, not after, which ties in with that point about secret meetings.

3. The details of the financials are difficult to understand; the mayoral administration and CIM Group are using that to their advantage by misrepresenting the city’s obligations to the debt financing.

4. Nothing in the proposals or the public renderings offers assurances that the Gulch will be developed for a less car-dependent future, and there are no assurances that space for future intercity rail will be included.

5. The public infrastructure, especially the streets, will be private property unless there is a legal requirement for public streets. Added to the shameful transfer of Underground’s streets, downtown Atlanta will now be private property, where citizens have no rights to be on our most public places, our street and sidewalks. And we’re going to GIVE INCENTIVES to make that happen?

6.The City of Atlanta and Invest Atlanta need to provide detailed, reality-based accounts (as opposed to models) showing the achievement rates of prior incentives-laden deals, in regards to the promises made by developers. This would include, but not be limited to,The Georgia Dome, Turner Field, Philips Arena, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Lakewood, Ft. McPherson, Underground Atlanta, NCR, etc.

7. Any deal impacting the city of Atlanta for decades to come should never be strong armed or rushed without proper vetting by the public and council. The $500 million in bonds being offered, in any other circumstance, would almost certainly require a referendum. And any tactics that fail to offer this proposal the same public scrutiny should be opposed.

Update about the Gulch-development event at City Hall.

Here’s a brief summary of the “Greenlight the Gulch” event that Mayor Bottoms hosted at City Hall on Wednesday September 26, 2018.

  • The meeting was so well attended that they had to have an overflow room.
  • There was no opportunity to ask questions verbally and have conversation (written questions were taken). It was a promotional presentation about the proposal from Mayor Bottoms and the developer, CIM Group. The first question, “I’ve read CIM’s getting a $1.7 billion check from the city. Is that true?” seemed like a plant.
  • Because questions were curated and likely planted, Bottoms escaped having to answer this question: why are you breaking your campaign promise to pursue a Community Benefits Agreement?
  • The CIM proposal was pitched as a zero sum game – take this or we have a hole in the ground forever because no one else is going to ever make a pass at the Gulch again. So take what we’re offering, don’t ask questions, and give us the exact incentives we’ve asked for.
  • We’re hearing that the “supporters” of the proposal who wore green shirts were stocked in the audience by Bottoms and CIM.
  • All the robocalls to Atlantans this week promoting the CIM proposal were paid for by Central Atlanta Progress, but it doesn’t appear that CAP had anything to do with the event last night.

This whole sham of a public meeting highlights that Atlantans are getting railroaded and gaslighted at the same time from multiple fronts. No one can recall a situation like this ever happening before, where the mayor, a developer, and an org like CAP joined forces to prevent City Council from taking its time to deliberate and investigate a major incentives package for a major project. It’s unprecedented in its ickiness.

Here’s a photo of the green shirts, taken by a local reporter who attended the sham.

Keep talking to your Atlanta City Councilmembers about this. Let them know we don’t want them to be pressured to rush into a decision about the Gulch project and its incentives package.