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Stadium critics accuse city of attempting land grab | News

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Stadium critics accuse city of attempting land grab

ATLANTA -- Tonight a small gathering of community activists are making some big accusations. 

Namely, that the city of Atlanta, the Falcons, and Friendship Baptist Church have all been "colluding" in a "land grab" for some prime real estate on the campus of Morris Brown College. 

It's a charge Mayor Kasim Reed's office calls "preposterous." 

Sitting just to the south of the south site of the new Falcons stadium proposal is the campus of Morris Brown College.

Documents show that as part of the tentative $20-million deal between the city and Friendship Baptist is a request to help the church get the Middleton dorms property, which would serve as the new site of Friendship. 

"The information that we know now shows without speculation the church, the mayor and the Falcons have been in touch," said State Senator Vincent Fort of Atlanta. "(They) have been colluding to get Morris Brown's property." 

The mayors office was quick to respond, issuing this statement:

"The claim that Mayor Kasim Reed and the City of Atlanta are attempting to "land grab" Morris Brown College for the proposed new Atlanta Falcons stadium is preposterous. Mayor Reed's sole interest has been to enable Morris Brown to secure a stronger, financially healthier future as an educational institution that has been a vital part of the city since 1881. In addition, the Mayor is focused on bringing positive economic development and neighborhood revitalization to the West Side and the MLK corridor. His desire to assist Morris Brown has been unwavering, including his support of the decision by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Education to forgive more than $9.4 million in debt owed by the college.

Mayor Reed and his administration continue to believe that the $10 million financial offer put forth by the city, which would have eliminated all of Morris Brown's debt, provided the school with a campus and gave the board the opportunity to repurchase the school's assets while working toward accreditation, has been the best solution. However, we wish Morris Brown well in pursuing any other holistic alternative for securing the college's future, including reaching a deal with Friendship Baptist Church to sell its properties.

Finally, any negative assertion about Mayor Reed's commitment to serving and protecting all Atlanta residents, including the African-American community, is blatantly false and misleading."

"If the mayor had as much interest as educating young black boys and girls as he does in (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank building a billion dollar stadium, Morris Brown's debt could be ameliorated and the tower's restored," said community activist and radio talk show host Derrick Boazman. 

A spokesman for Friendship Baptist says it will continue to support the community and Morris Brown, as it has for more than a hundred years, also noting that, if asked by the school, the church would consider purchasing property on the campus. 

Opponents of the stadium deal say they hope the church won't sell its priceless black history for what they call "30-pieces of silver." 

"At no means do they have the right to infringe upon this historic institution,' said activist Michael Langford. "Or do anything that will prevent them from coming back to full existence." 

The church is expected to vote on the sale next week. 

In related news, Common Cause Georgia lost its bid to stop the Falcons stadium with a petition drive that would have forced a voter referendum on the use of 200-million dollars in taxpayer money. The group said the support was there, but process was too onerous to get the signatures needed. It garnered about 10-thousand signatures, but fell short by about 25-thousand.


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