But the day after the vote, opponents had already announced their next move: a public campaign to garner enough signatures to get the training center on ballots in November.
Members of Atlanta’s advisory board — which consists of members from every one of Atlanta’s 25 Neighborhood Planning Units — said the body voted Saturday morning in favor of putting the question to voters.
APAB wrote in a communication to Mayor Andre Dickens and the clerk’s office that it supports “a referendum to be placed on the November 7th ballot regarding the public safety training center,” board members told the AJC.
Dickens has been lobbying neighborhood groups to get on board with the project and has met with multiple NPUs to answer questions about the controversial facility. Dickens and other city officials have continually claimed that there is widespread support for the training center in both DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta.
Yet more than 400 people spoke for 14 hours against the center during a public comment period at a city council meeting two weeks ago. Only four people spoke in favor.
“Those individuals just aren’t as loud, they don’t come down to City Hall,” Dickens said at an NPU meeting in May. “They make their support known in other ways, and they are a variety of individuals across a full spectrum of incomes, races, creeds, etcetera. They want safety for the citizens and for police and fire to be well trained and well prepared.”
Supporters of the referendum say that a vote would provide a true account of how Atlanta residents feel about the project, regardless of what the outcome is.
Kevin Friend, chairperson of NPU-W — east Atlanta’s neighborhood group whose members have been vocal opponents of the training center — said that a vote would confirm if there is silent support for the project like city officials have said.
“So if it’s really wanted and really needed then let the city vote for it, let the people vote for it,” he said.
Efforts to hold a referendum on the ballot in November stalled after the city clerk told organizers the initial petition was missing a line requiring city of Atlanta residents to validate each signature.
Opponents aren’t able to begin collecting signatures until the paperwork is approved. The group estimates that it will need to collect more than 70,000 signatures to be able to put the referendum on the November ballot.
“We respect each person’s right to free speech and the process regarding referendum,” a spokesperson for the mayor said earlier this month. “We firmly believe that our residents deserve well-trained first responders who have access to adequate training facilities. We will continue to share our view that the PSTC and the more than 300 acres of greenspace are the right approach to ensuring Atlanta will be a national model for public safety.”
On Tuesday, “Stop Cop City” organizers announced that they filed a lawsuit to press the clerk’s office to approve the petition after it had been delayed.