“Atlanta is a great city with many wonderful people and an inspiring history. But it must become that shining city on a hill once again. Atlanta has to believe that its reach is beyond its current grasp.”

Dickens helps to Create Compromise in APS-BeltLine Deal

Today, the City of Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and the BeltLine came together for a new Intergovernmental Agreement. As a proud product and parent of APS and an Invest Atlanta and BeltLine Board member for the last two years, I have consistently said that our children must be our priority so I am thankful for the deal we have today. What I wanted more than anything was to make the payments to APS current and to restructure the agreement to make the future payments from the BeltLine realistic for a post-Recession economy. This deal is the result of good people on all sides persevering through difficult negotiations and doing what was right for our children and the people of this city.

This deal also keeps the BeltLine viable. The previous deals were based on Tax Allocation District (TAD) revenue estimates that did not foresee the Great Recession. If those terms stayed in place, the BeltLine would likely have closed its doors just as dirt moves on the Westside Trail and as we start to bring access and equity to our residents there. The BeltLine should be able to make these payments and continue to build out an internationally awarded asset to the citizens of this city. For the $400 million of public and private investment that has been made in the BeltLine to date, $2.4 billion of private development has been realized for a 6 to 1 return on investment. The BeltLine is a major catalyst for development in our city. Our school system is the biggest recipient of that economic boost due to their share of the property taxes. We needed a deal that fairly treated our youth and ensured the continued growth of the BeltLine and vibrance of our City.

The deal prior to today, first agreed to in 2005 and amended twice in 2009, allowed APS to choose the governmental property they wanted. These actions were taken before I was on Council. This is a good deal and a compromise. Both sides had to give up things that they very much wanted. We can work with APS on this but it meets the terms of the previous deals.

I’d like to thank the Mayor, Councilmembers, APS, the legal team, Invest Atlanta and the BeltLine for their dedication to seeing this through to completion. I would especially like to thank the concerned citizens and parents who made this your priority. You made sure your voice was heard and you helped ensure we got here today. I was proud to make three “yes votes” today – Council, BeltLine and Invest Atlanta – for the ordinance I cosponsored at City Hall.

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