Nov 2, 2021 - Politics

The Peoplestown flood fight rages on

Kasim Reed stands at a podium in front of campaign signs

Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

The day before voters head to the polls, four of the top mayoral candidates spent a decent part of the day grappling over a long-simmering dispute over persistent flooding and eminent domain in Peoplestown.

What happened: Former Mayor Kasim Reed started the morning presenting his “solution” to an issue that dogged his past administration. It resurfaced recently when a Peoplestown resident berated him during a town hall for trying to use eminent domain to take her home.

No thanks, said the Atlanta City Council, including several of his fellow opponents, calling the proposal an out-of-left-field political move to gin up votes.

Flashback: In 2014, Reed’s administration proposed building a retention pond in Peoplestown to resolve persistent flooding issues — we’re talking sewage spewing from manholes.

  • To build the project, the city bought more than 20 properties owned by people who lived in the most flood-prone part of the neighborhood.
  • When several families refused to sell, the city moved forward with eminent domain, kicking off a legal battle that continues to this day.

On Monday morning, Reed, joined by Council members Carla Smith — Peoplestown’s longtime representative who’s not seeking re-election — and Michael Julian Bond said he’d helped find a solution: a $1.75 million payout using city funds to the three of the four holdout families.

  • That’s fair market value and then some, Reed told reporters.

Yes, but: While Reed’s news conference was wrapping up, housing activists and residents, plus Tanya Washington-Hicks — an affected Peoplestown resident who was not included in the payout proposal — held a rally on the City Hall steps.

  • Washington-Hicks, who tells Axios she received an eviction notice from the city on Friday, said the families hadn’t been consulted about the payout plan — and that roughly $500,000 each wouldn’t cover their legal and other costs the families have already spent. (Axios could not reach a city spokesman before publishing.)

Not so fast: A few hours later, during Monday’s full City Council meeting — overseen by Moore and attended by Council members Andre Dickens and Antonio Brown, all of whom are also running against Reed — efforts by Smith and Bond to fast-track the legislation paving the way for the deal hit a wall.

What they’re saying: “We need a full comprehensive conversation about this [issue] and not immediate consideration [...] when the affected parties aren’t around the table,” Dickens said.

  • “Nobody bothered to inform the Peoplestown residents that legislation was being introduced to Council that would affect their lives,” Moore said in a statement to Axios. “[The families] deserve justice.”

The bottom line: It’s unlikely that Reed’s last-minute proposal — made without the residents’ or their lawyers' input — factors heavily in tomorrow’s election. But the larger issue of Peoplestown will come up if he makes a runoff.


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