In the eyes of the court, Commissioner Ted Terry may technically call himself “aggrieved,” but you wouldn’t know it to speak with him. A dedicated environmentalist in the sprawling Atlanta suburbs and a committed progressive in the American southeast, Terry is used to being a bit of a contrarian, albeit a highly productive one. As a two-term Mayor of Clarkston, Georgia, Terry made headway on issues from LBGTQ+ and immigrant rights to adaptive reuse of a local mall. Now that he’s on the DeKalb County Commission, he finds himself squarely in the middle of one of the most contentious and high-profile political stories in the country: the proposed Atlanta Police Training Facility in the South River Forest. On this episode of The Possible City, Commissioner Terry talks with Cate and Kerry about his entry into politics working on pedestrian safety issues and how we weave housing, economic stability, the environment, and public safety – all hot-button issues! – into a coherent and practical political worldview.
DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry hosted an event at the Maloof Auditorium to kick off a “DeKalb Green New Deal” initiative on April 17.
Additional events during Earth Week include webinars on clean energy, environmental justice, and green jobs from April 18-20. Terry will speak at Decatur’s Earth Day celebration on April 22.
In addition, Terry plans to introduce a resolution to allocate $100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for a Green New Deal development fund at the Board of Commissioners meeting on April 18.
“As we know, climate change is already here,” Terry said while explaining why he feels DeKalb needs the initiative to address climate change. “Georgia is one of the fastest warming states in the country.”
Storms are increasing in frequency and severity, causing more frequent flooding, which puts lives and property at risk and strains emergency services, Terry said. Heat waves, flooding, and erosion will affect agriculture in many parts of the state and strain the power grid and other infrastructure.
Terry says that the goal of a DeKalb Green New Deal is to simultaneously address the effects of climate change on the county while creating new jobs through renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green infrastructure.
A Federal Green New Deal introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 did not pass. Still, some of the same policies were incorporated into the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
Terry said that hundreds of millions of dollars are available through grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the US Department of Agriculture.
“This really is the best time to act,” Terry said.
Terry said that less than 2% of DeKalb County remains undeveloped, including 3000 acres of the South River Forest. Most of the forest is currently zoned industrial, therefore, not protected. The South River Forest also includes the proposed site of the controversial police training facility called “Cop City” by activists.
Dr. Jacqueline Echols, Board President of the South River Watershed Alliance (SWRA), said that she got involved in conservation because of a 1999 consent decree between the EPA and the City of Atlanta, which came about because the city was dumping raw sewage into the Chattahoochee and South Rivers. She began work related to the consent decree after receiving her doctorate in Political Science from Clark Atlanta in 1999.
Echols said that the South River is a headwater of the Ocmulgee-Altamaha River Basin, which drains about one-quarter of the state of Georgia, and is one of the three largest river basins in the Eastern Seaboard.
Echols said that DeKalb has been the major source of sewage pollution in that river system since 1961, and in 2010, five decades of violations resulted in an EPA-enforced consent decree.
Echols said that 76% of residents along the upper South River corridor from south Atlanta to south DeKalb County are Black. Eighty-six percent are non-white people of color. Pollution contributes to significantly higher rates of health problems such as asthma among those populations, who are 80-100% more likely to live near wastewater discharge.
“What’s going on with the Atlanta forest is probably one of the most horrific environmental injustices that is taking place in this country today,” Echols said.
Echols explained that despite some improvements, Atlanta and DeKalb wastewater still pollutes the South River water system, affecting everything downstream, including places like Macon that take drinking water from the Ocmulgee watershed.
“The system operates by overflowing. So, you need the green space along the creek and the river to clean the water as it moves downstream,” Echols said.
Increased stormwater due to climate change, along with any development that will increase runoff, is likely to worsen existing erosion and pollution problems, which will cost taxpayers money to fix.
“The city of Stonecrest has committed over a million dollars to dealing with the stormwater at Panola Shoals. It comes from Atlanta. It comes from upstream,” Echols said.
Echols said that SRWA does cleanups, water sampling, and advocacy. The organization is currently working on encouraging recreational use of the river, which is key to dismantling what Echols calls a “culture of avoidance” and improving water quality. Echols said that since the Georgia Environmental Protection Department prioritizes recreational areas, encouraging recreational use is part of protecting the river.
Terry said that in addition to offering information, part of the purpose of the events this week is to seek input about the community’s priorities. Terry said that the resolution he presents to the Board of Commissioners on April 18 only sets aside money and that specific projects will be brought back before the board for a vote.
“For instance, last year, we did $10,000 to the Decatur Greenway to build a bioswale,” Terry said. At least 40% of the fund will go to communities impacted the most by climate change and environmental injustice, including those along the upper South River corridor described by Echols.
Terry said that Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding could be used in addition to the ARPA funds for some of this work. Terry said that the legislature has passed a new “clean” SPLOST for DeKalb, and the Board of Commissioners will meet next Thursday at 10 am to discuss projects.
Terry said that he hopes to build on past successes and plans to hold a DeKalb Green New Deal summit on Oct. 14 of this year to discuss what has been accomplished up to that point.
“We can lead for ourselves and encourage others by doing so,” Terry said.
From the Georgia Sun
The “DeKalb Green New Deal” kickoff event is set to take place on April 17 as part of Earth Week celebrations in DeKalb County.
Hosted by Super District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry, the initiative aims to engage the community in local climate action and advocate for greener public policy.
The Maloof Auditorium in Decatur will house the event from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Terry emphasized the need for transformative investments to address ongoing health, economic, racial justice, and climate crises.
“The time is now to advocate, innovate and execute transformative investments that address the interconnected and ongoing health, economic, racial justice and climate crises we are facing today,” said Commissioner Terry. “The DeKalb Green New Deal initiatives that I seek to initiate will focus on strategies that DeKalb County can implement to help meet President Biden’s ambitious climate and environmental justice goals and build an equitable, pollution-free future.”
Following the launch, Earth Week will feature town halls, webinars, and educational opportunities for county residents. The Zoom Webinar Series includes discussions on a Just and Equitable Green New Deal (April 18), Clean and Efficient Energy (April 19), and Conservation and Access to Nature (April 20), all taking place from 7 to 8 p.m.
Those interested in attending the kickoff event can register at https://actionnetwork.org/events/dekalb-gnd-kick-off. For webinar registration, visit the respective links provided in the press release. For more information, contact Miranda Rupkey, DeKalb County Super District 6 Project Administrator, at 404-371-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Super District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry, elected in 2020, represents about 350,000 residents from South, Central, and North DeKalb. His platform focuses on affordable housing, transit equity, the DeKalb Green New Deal, DeKalb voting rights, and criminal justice reform. For more information about Commissioner Terry and his platforms, visit www.commissionertedterry.com.
From GPB News
April 13, 2023 4:55 PM
By: Amanda Andrews
Wednesday, the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected an appeal over the land disturbance permit allowing construction to begin on the police training center also known as “Cop City.”
The appeal was filed by Amy Taylor and Carolyn Tucker, residents living near the site, along with DeKalb District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry. They argued the project would violate the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s water quality laws for allowable sediment.
DeKalb Zoning board members found the Atlanta Police Foundation followed state and local guidance and said further appeals should go to the EPD.
Attorney Simon Bloom representing the Atlanta Police Department said it’s “outlandish to suggest” the project is not following best management practices.
“This is the most-watched real estate development project in the region,” Bloom said. “It is being inspected every single day, which is outlandish to suggest, not only by independent and objectively hired inspectors, but also by the DeKalb inspectors.”
Vice Chair Dan Wright expressed discomfort with the decision before motioning to reject the appeal.
“I’m sorry to say so because I have reservations about this project as well, and the location that’s being selected, and of course all of the unfortunate things that have happened related to public activists,” Wright said. “We all know what those things are.”
Following the announcement of the decision, Mayor Andre Dickens released a statement thanking the Zoning Board for their decision to uphold the permit.
“A challenge to the project was also turned back by a Fulton County judge,” Dickens said. “Every part of this project has been scrutinized and has been found to be fully compliant with the law and all environmental protection requirements.”
Environmental Attorney Jon Schwartz, representing the people appealing the permit, recently requested an administrative hearing with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
DeKalb Commissioner Ted Terry said the Georgia EPD is not infallible.
“The Georgia EPD has a history of not following their own rules or procedures or federal law,” Terry said. “I mean, look no further to just a couple of years ago, Georgia EPD approved a landfill recycling permit for Metro Green Recycling in Stonecrest, which later a judge threw out as improper.”
Grassroots organizers in Atlanta said they will continue protesting the police training center until the project is canceled altogether.
Decatur, GA — Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett and local leaders, including DeKalb Commissioner Ted Terry, celebrated the federal investments being made in Georgia related to clean energy during a press conference on April 11 at the Decatur Recreation Center.
Georgia has been allotted about $83 million in federal funding through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Local cities and counties like Decatur and DeKalb County haven’t received federal funds yet, but can apply for grants through various agencies like the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the state Environmental Protection Division and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to a press release, these investments will improve energy efficiency, accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and lower energy costs for Georgia families with the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
“I am thrilled to celebrate these historic federal clean energy investments that will advance our plans to cut pollution, lower our operational costs, and lower energy costs for our communities,” Garrett said in the press release. “Decatur has ambitious sustainability goals to meet in the coming years, including a total transition to clean energy for our municipal and community buildings, and weatherization efforts that reduce energy usage are key to meeting our targets and making our communities more resilient to a changing climate.”
Decatur is developing a comprehensive strategy to utilize federal funds, mobilize the community, and implement clean energy measures. The city of Decatur recently adopted its clean energy plan, which sets goals for the city to transition away from fossil fuels and toward a resilient, renewable future.
“This document, Decatur’s Clean Energy Plan, is intended to guide Decatur’s energy transition and address the city’s contributions to the climate crisis while also improving living conditions and addressing equity issues,” the executive summary of the plan states. “This plan describes a path to a Clean Energy Future while facing an aggressive goal and conditions outside of Decatur’s control.”
When the city was working on the 2030 Strategic Plan, climate action became a top priority.
“Acting on a key recommendation of the city’s clean energy plan, the city is working to create a community energy fund to complement the available federal funding to support low and moderate income households and their ability to take advantage of these programs,” Garrett said during the press conference.
Every year during the city’s Martin Luther King Service project, volunteers do minor repairs on homes of seniors and part of that includes weatherization.
“We want to expand that program and also work with our land trust to be able to make sure we’re meeting the needs in the community that don’t have access to the funding for putting in insulation or replacing systems and those kinds of things. We’re using the time now as grants are being released [to see] what are we a city eligible for,” Garrett said.
During the press conference, speakers highlighted how federal funding will address the needs of communities with access to fewer resources.
“Today, we’re shining a light on a critical component of Georgia’s plans to significantly reduce our energy consumption, and create a lifeline for many through efficient, effective home weatherization,” Terry said in the press release. “The expansion of programs like WAP, which help low-income families reduce their energy bills, will have a profound impact on those communities that are on the front lines of a housing crisis and facing increasing costs to cool and heat their homes.”
Weatherization is a key aspect of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Terry said during the press conference.
“It’s the process of making homes and buildings more energy efficient, which in turn reduces the amount of energy required to heat and cool them,” Terry said. “It’s achieved through a combination of very basic things, including sealing air leaks, insulating walls and attics, and upgrading the heating and cooling systems. The benefits of weatherization are numerous. For one, it saves homeowners money on their energy bills.”
He added that weatherization reduces one’s carbon footprint and creates jobs as it requires skilled professionals to carry out the work.
“Finally, it’s not just about saving money or reducing our impact on the environment, it’s also a matter of social justice,” Terry said.
Local funding through DeKalb County and the American Rescue Plan Act has gone toward weatherizing homes in Clarkston and South DeKalb. The Empower Clarkston program, which is run through the Tekton Training Center, has been expanded with help from the county’s APRA funding.
“The program is aimed at training refugees from the immigrant community as well, and communities that have been impacted by COVID-19,” said Malek Alarmash, program manager at Tekton Training Center. “The training program focuses on trade skills and includes specialized trainings such as the Empower Clarkston program.”
The 14-week program is centered around green construction and efficiency training, which includes identifying and addressing energy needs and plumbing issues. In 2021, the Empower Clarkston program trained 15 people and assisted 15 homeowners.
“The program’s impact was demonstrated through data which showed a significant reduction in power bills and amounting in approximately $700 in energy savings per year. This represents a significant cost savings of more than 33%,” Alarmash said.
Tekton will be working on 20 homes in DeKalb and has been recruiting trainees and homeowners to participate in the Empower Clarkston program.
The Rev. William Flippin Jr., added that weatherization is a critical tool in fighting climate change, and it improves the wellbeing of communities by reducing greenhouse pollutants.
“Legislation that expands and makes these energy efficiency efforts accessible to all is the inclusive and expansive approach that we need to meet the climate change challenge,” Flippin said.
In addition to highlighting the tangible benefits realized in these laws, speakers also urged federal leaders to further expand on them to reduce carbon pollution.