Atlanta council may override of mayor’s veto on road deal

Rolanda Powell rides her bike down Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Rolanda Powell, head of her neighborhood organization, has been raising concerns about the safety of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway following several recent fatalities. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Rolanda Powell rides her bike down Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Rolanda Powell, head of her neighborhood organization, has been raising concerns about the safety of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway following several recent fatalities. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Credit: Rebecca Wright

More than a decade has passed since the Atlanta City Council has overridden a mayoral veto, but some say the prospect of saving pedestrian lives on a busy west Atlanta thoroughfare may have emboldened the city’s legislative body enough to make a serious attempt at it on Monday.

Two weeks ago, the council approved legislation that would have allowed the state to control a short stretch of road at the Georgia Capitol’s southern border, but only after the state completed safety improvements to the four-lane Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway on the city’s rapidly developing Westside.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms vetoed the legislation last week, arguing that the council members did not have the authority to negotiate such deals. A representative from Bottoms’ office previously told the council that the $6 million had already been set aside for the Hollowell safety improvements.

The issue sets the stage for a showdown between the city’s legislative and executive branches on Monday afternoon that could be historic.

The mayor’s spokesman did not return phone and email messages seeking comment on Friday.

Regardless of the politics, residents in the area say that changes to Donald Lee Hollowell are long overdue.

Residents in Grove Park, a westside neighborhood along the corridor, said it’s essentially a highway with few intersections used by Cobb County residents traveling into the city, along with semi-trucks.

“Literally, people are killed on the street several times per year,” said Tobias Trapp, 38, former chairman of the zoning committee for the Grove Park Neighborhood Association. “It’s always elderly people and kids.”

Sarah Grizzel, a 10-year Grove Park resident, said many of her neighbors don’t own cars and walk and the situation is poised to become even more dangerous.

Kipp Woodson Park Academy and YMCA early childhood development center will soon open to students on the north side of the parkway. Many students live in neighborhoods south of Hollowell.

“There are a lot of kids who are going to need to be crossing the street,” she said.

Grove Park Neighborhood Association President Brandon Pierre-Thomas said roughly 20 people have lost their lives on the corridor in the past 10 years.

“We need safety improvements to save lives,” Pierre-Thomas said. “For far too long our neighborhood has been neglected and disinvested in. This is a time for politicians to set aside politics.”

Councilman Michael Bond said residents along Hollowell have flooded him with voice messages expressing their anger in recent days.

“My disappointment is overwhelming, bordering on outrage, as I hear from more constituents,” Bond said.

According to longtime council members, the council last overcame a mayoral veto during former Mayor Shirley Franklin’s administration. Kasim Reed made it through his two four-year terms as mayor without a single override, and Bottoms has made through the first three years of her term without one.

The council approved the deal with the state for the improvements with a 12-1 vote. District 10 Councilwoman Andrea Boone was the lone dissenter. Ten of 15 council members’ votes are needed for an override.

But during these moments, council members often reassess potential costs of rebellion, for themselves and the people who put them in office.

“This is when you get told that you have been looking at the picture upside down,” said Councilman Howard Shook. “I think it’s going to be close.”

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