Opinion: Atlanta City Council needs to step up, prioritize public safety?

07/28/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Abandoned buildings are scatter throughout the site for the new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, located along Key Road Southeast in Atlanta, Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Public Safety Training Center will be located across 150 acres of the old Atlanta Prison Farm, which is city-owned and located east of the city in unincorporated DeKalb County. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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07/28/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Abandoned buildings are scatter throughout the site for the new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, located along Key Road Southeast in Atlanta, Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Public Safety Training Center will be located across 150 acres of the old Atlanta Prison Farm, which is city-owned and located east of the city in unincorporated DeKalb County. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

ANOTHER VIEW

The recent City Council vote to table consideration of the Key Road site for the Public Safety Training Center would rightfully cause an informed citizen to question the priorities of their elected representatives who believe that another month of briefings will somehow crystalize “clear thinking” on the topic.

Some facts:

  • APD and Atlanta Fire Rescue have each abandoned decrepit training facilities for a temporary classroom setting that while free of vermin, roaches, roof leaks and faulty bathroom plumbing remain inadequate to the task of tactical training for law enforcement.
  • The city conducted an exhaustive search for property that could accommodate a comprehensive training center and chose the Key Road site, property owned by the city for more than a century and the original public safety training site established in the 1970s.
  • The Key Road site has hosted APD and AF/R tactical training for more than 50 years.
  • APF has secured private-sector and philanthropic donations that will save the city’s taxpayers $60 million, contingent on issuing a 50-year ground lease to the Atlanta Police Foundation which will build the training center and turn it back to the APD and AF/R.
  • The city’s Key Road plan has been subject to two intensive months of scrutiny, torrents of misinformation, and deliberate lies about the intentions of the APF to develop the campus.
  • APF has agreed to design and build the training center in strict adherence to federal, state, county and local environmental regulations.
  • It has even agreed to replace any displaced trees with new plantings and any displaced hardwood with 100 new hardwood plantings. Yes, 100!
  • Violent crime in Atlanta is surging, while APD has more than 400 vacancies and AF/R has more than 180 vacancies.

City Council members who voted to table the decision approving the ground lease suggest they support public safety, but either prefer a site other than Key Road or just “more community input.” They don’t, however, name an alternative site.

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Robin Loudermilk Jr.

Credit: contributed

Robin Loudermilk Jr.

Credit: contributed

Combined ShapeCaption
Robin Loudermilk Jr.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Most citizens probably think that those they elect to City Council have an obligation to study the issues before them, seek input from experts, then render an informed decision in the best interests of their constituents.

Seven of 15 City Council members did that on Monday night. Eight chose to study the issue more closely and seek more community input. That’s fine.

We would hope that the next few weeks will enable the 8 who don’t believe they have enough information to get fully informed of the public safety issues before them.

Council Members have four months left in their terms to propose actions that will improve the safety of our citizens who are suffering from depleted police and fire departments, the highest homicide rate in two decades and an ongoing demand for police reform and enhanced training for their law enforcement professionals.

The next vote is Sept. 7. Let’s see what insights their three weeks of study will turn up.

Perhaps those who failed to join a member of APD and AF/R command staff for a tour of the Key Road site will decide it’s time to take a closer look at the only affordable, viable, and practical site that can accommodate APD and AF/R’s training needs.

Robert C. “Robin” Loudermilk Jr. is president and CEO, The Loudermilk Cos., and chairman of the Atlanta Police Foundation Board of Trustees.

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