Breaking News:

Multiple bomb threats made across metro Atlanta, entire country

ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
51°
Mostly Cloudy
H 54° L 37°
  • cloudy-day
    51°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 54° L 37°
  • cloudy-day
    54°
    Today
    Mostly Cloudy. H 54° L 37°
  • rain-day
    54°
    Tomorrow
    Rain. H 54° L 45°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local Education
Atlanta school board to meet Friday on Gulch deal 
Close

Atlanta school board to meet Friday on Gulch deal 

Channel 2's Richard Belcher reports.

Atlanta school board to meet Friday on Gulch deal 

The Atlanta school board is considering a resolution that will attempt to restrict further use of school taxes to fund redevelopment on the city's Westside, including the massive Gulch project.

The board has called a special meeting at 8 a.m. Friday to vote on a resolution that would require written approval before school property tax dollars can be used to fund future development in an area known as the Westside Tax Allocation District or TAD. The vote comes just days before a Fulton County Superior Court hearing that is required before the first set of bonds for Gulch redevelopment can be issued.

Three bond lawyers who were unable to comment on the record because of client conflicts told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it’s unclear what the resolution would accomplish. Atlanta Public Schools agreed in 1998 and again in 2005 to forego future tax dollars within the district until 2038 to help fund redevelopment.

MORE ON PROPOSED GULCH REDEVELOPMENT

The Gulch deal is backed by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and was approved last month by the Atlanta City Council. Future school taxes from the Westside TAD could be over $300 million of a public financing package that could rise as high as $1.9 billion for the downtown mini-city, which will stretch from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the Five Points MARTA station. The proposed $5 billion Gulch development would bring a mix of apartments, office towers, hotels and retail stores to a 40-acre swath of parking lots and rail lines.

Since 1999, APS has contributed hundreds of millions of school tax dollars to support development projects included in five TADs, areas where property tax collections are frozen for a period of time. Future increases in tax collections from rising property values as the area redevelops are used to help pay for development.

In theory, after the TAD expires, the participating government bodies such as school systems reap the financial benefit of new, higher property values.

But current APS board members, who were not in office when the Westside TAD was created, are concerned about diverting tax dollars that could help students. For at least the last year some school leaders have said they want to renegotiate the terms of the TADs in which the district participates.

School board Chairman Jason Esteves said the board has not had a big voice in the Gulch deal and wants APS to be part of the process.

“We want to resolve outstanding issues that we have with the five TADs that APS participates in before having a conversation about the Gulch or any other economic development project,” he said.

Esteves said the board’s action isn’t to oppose the Gulch but instead to ensure “everyone is being good stewards” of school taxes.

APS spokesman Ian Smith declined to answer questions about potential legal action or what the district’s next steps might be. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, who was not in office when the TADs were approved, declined an interview request through Smith.

A statement issued by the school district said, in part: “The resolution is intended to encourage ongoing collaboration with the city in hopes of reaching a resolution that will balance the board’s educational mission with the interest of economic development.”

ORIGINAL DOCUMENT: ATLANTA BOARD OF EDUCATION RESOLUTION

Bottoms’ office interpreted the resolution as the school system’s intent to withdraw from the TAD, calling it “disappointing” after the city has worked with the schools, the state and Fulton County to revitalize the Gulch.

“The opportunity to leverage combined state and local resources to benefit Atlanta’s citizens has not been seen on this scale in this generation,” the statement said. “The city has relied on the written commitments from the board of education, as expressed in their prior official actions as to their commitment to the redevelopment of the Westside. The city is determined to continue its efforts to be a good and responsible partner to see this part of downtown prosper and is optimistic that APS will join in this effort as well.”

The Friday school board meeting comes before an expected hearing Monday before a judge to “validate” bonds to be used to help start development of the Gulch property. Under Georgia law, a validation hearing is required before a governmental entity can issue bonds. It’s typically a routine matter in which a judge assures investors who would purchase the bonds that the debt issued by the government agency is legal and binding.

But in recent years, taxpayers and other groups have attempted to challenge bonds for major projects, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park, though those objections have failed.

APS, as a participant in the TAD, might have standing to contest the bond validation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen, speaks with reporters during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017. (CASEY SYKES, CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM)
Close

School vote would raise questions about Gulch deal

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen, speaks with reporters during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017. (CASEY SYKES, CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM)

On Nov. 5, the City Council approved a complex financing package allowing California-based developer CIM Group to use future sales and property taxes generated within the Gulch to help fund the project. The proposal drew significant opposition from the public during council meetings, and the city revised the proposed public financing package after Carstarphen and council members expressed concerns about the deal. The amendments, CIM and the city said, would allow council to move forward and not require approvals by the school system or Fulton, which also contributes property taxes to the TAD.

“The school board has not formally consented to the Gulch TAD but has directed the superintendent to negotiate with the city as to future use of the education taxes for redevelopment purposes in the Westside TAD,” the school board’s proposed resolution states.

The language also notes various financial pressures the district faces, including a school property-tax millage rollback approved by the board that will cost the district $25 million a year, and the passage by voters in November of a measure that provided school tax relief to some homeowners.

This isn’t the first time APS and the city have tussled over the use of school taxes for development projects. Talks between the school district and former Mayor Kasim Reed turned testy over the Beltline TAD. The school system was supposed to get a portion of its tax money returned to it in payments.

But because of financial hardship, in 2016, the two sides agreed to a new deal that called for Atlanta to pay back less money than previously agreed upon. At the time, a school official heralded the conclusion of that conflict as a signal of a “renewed partnership” with the city.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during the Stacey Abrams election night watch party at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Close

School vote would raise questions about Gulch deal

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during the Stacey Abrams election night watch party at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

During the 2017 mayoral campaign, Bottoms said she’d be willing to renegotiate the TADs that APS participates in. The school district is part of, and the largest contributor to, five TADs, which have collected almost $434 million in school taxes from 1999 through June 30. Nearly $100 million of those school taxes have gone into the Westside TAD, the oldest of the five.

APS wanted the Eastside TAD closed as part of its terms for signing on to the Gulch deal, according to text messages between Bottoms and Carstarphen that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained in June.

CIM did not make an executive available for an interview.

In a statement, the company said, “We believe the development of the Gulch will be great for Atlanta’s economy. By rebuilding this former industrial portion of downtown it will create jobs, connect communities, and generate future tax revenues.”

Under the plan, CIM would buy the bonds initially and recoup its investment from future tax revenue created by the development.

“CIM, its partners, and co-investors will be the sole initial purchaser of the bonds and will assume all of the bond repayment risks,” the statement said.

THE STORY SO FAR 

  • The Atlanta City Council in November approved a public financing package for developer CIM Group to revitalize the Gulch, a 40-acre tangle of parking lots and rail lines between the Five Points MARTA station and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • The council agreed to a package of up to $1.9 billion to support a $5 billion project to build a mix of offices, apartments, hotels and retail.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

News

  • Around the world, people search Google for just about anything. In 2018, the term they searched most often was “World Cup.” Google released its list of top searches, broken down by category and by country. Worldwide, the top five searches, in order, were “World Cup,” “Avicii,” “Mac Miller,” “Stan Lee” and “Black Panther.” >> Read more trending news  The top search term stayed the same in the United States, but was followed by “Hurricane Florence,” “Mac Miller,” “Kate Spade” and “Anthony Bourdain.” Meghan Markle was the most Googled person in 2018, up from No. 2 in 2017. Her royal wedding to Prince Harry was No. 4 on the list of news searches. Two Marvel blockbusters sparked curiosity globally: “Black Panther” clocked in as the No. 1 most-searched movie and “Avengers: Infinity War” was No. 4. Google expanded its categories for country-specific results, including politicians, “who...?” “what is...?” and “how to... .” More people in the U.S. searched for Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate in the Georgia gubernatorial race, than any other politician. Abrams beat Beto O’Rourke, Ted Cruz, Andrew Gillum and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in that order.  This year’s midterm elections sparked Americans’ need for information, specifically “How to vote” and “How to register to vote,” which were at the top of the “how to...” list. More Google search trends from the year can be found at the Google Trends website.
  • Channel 2 Action News is investigating a string of bomb threats that have been made across metro Atlanta and across the country.  Several metro counties have reported threats t Here is a minute-by-minute look at what is going on: 3:05 p.m. Calhoun EMA says the city has received multiple threats:  'We have received multiple bomb threats all over town. No dangers have been found at this time. Be aware of your surroundings but please stay calm. We have found nothing to validate any of these threats.'  3:02 p.m. The FBI has released a statement saying: “We are aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety.”  3:01 p.m. In Cobb County, authorities tell Channel 2 that threats have caused them to evacuate the courthouse. Threats were also made at Cobb County police headquarters, which also houses their 911 center, and police precincts 1 and 4.  @wsbtv @cobbcountygovt nobody is allowed in the building there are police at every corner and I was told by another another attorney that the judges were taken to a secure chamber— J. Feathers (@Evlfthrs) December 13, 2018 There have been at least four locations across downtown Atlanta where bomb threats have been reported.  Cartersville police also say they are looking into a threat on South Erwin Street. Earlier in the day, five DeKalb County schools were placed on lockdown after police said someone called in threats to them. It is unclear at this point if these are all related.  Bomb threats have also been made to universities, newspapers and television stations across the country.  We're working a number of bomb threat calls in OKC. There have been similar threats called into several locations around the country. No credible threat found at this point. We encourage the public to continue to be vigilant and call with anything suspicious.— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) December 13, 2018 MSP Fusion Center tracking multiple bomb threats emailed to numerous businesses in the state. MSP Bomb Squad notified and local departments are responding in their communities. Similar threats have been received in other states. We will share more info when available.— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) December 13, 2018 CapAlert: There has been a bomb threat at Yochum Hall. Please evacuate Yochum Hall until further notice.— Capital University (@Capital_U) December 13, 2018 #BREAKING UPDATE: Second bomb threat made against library in Georgetown. Follow developments: https://t.co/WGlll81vWf — WPDE ABC15 (@wpdeabc15) December 13, 2018 #BREAKING UPDATE: Second bomb threat made against library in Georgetown. Follow developments: https://t.co/WGlll81vWf — WPDE ABC15 (@wpdeabc15) December 13, 2018 CMPD is actively investigating multiple unsubstantiated bomb threats in the Charlotte area. At this time, there are similar reports happening in other cities across the country. We’ll continue to release information as it becomes available. pic.twitter.com/eC9nMbxcGa — CMPD News (@CMPD) December 13, 2018
  • A 27-year-old man has died after falling while working as a window washer at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. >> Read more trending news  Jonathan Garcia, of Las Vegas, fell to his death around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Clark County coroner. Garcia's cause of death is pending. Witnesses said winds had pushed the rigging against the building several times before the man fell, reported KTNV-TV. Officials with the Trump organization released the following statement Wednesday: 'We are deeply saddened to learn of the incident today. We are working diligently with the owner of the third party company to investigate the details. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and his family.' The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.
  • Lawmakers clashed over science, ethics and politics on Thursday at a House hearing on using fetal tissue in critically important medical research, as the Trump administration reviews the government's ongoing support for such studies. Research fields in which fetal tissue is used include HIV, childhood cancers, treatments that enlist the body's immune system to battle cancer, and the hunt for a vaccine against the Zika virus, a cause of birth defects. Republicans said alternatives to fetal tissue are available and should be used instead. Democrats said that view is at odds with science. Each side called on expert witnesses. 'Most of my constituents don't understand when you harvest baby parts, why that is OK,' said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who chaired the hearing by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Meadows, leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is one of President Donald Trump's biggest allies in Congress. But Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., responded: 'The consensus in the scientific community is that there is currently no adequate substitute for fetal tissue in all of the cutting-edge research for which it is used today.' The government has funded research using fetal tissue for decades, under administrations of both political parties. Trump has gone out of his way to court social and religious conservatives among his staunchest supporters. The administration's new review of whether taxpayer dollars are being properly spent on fetal tissue research has raised alarms among medical investigators, who fear their work will be stopped to satisfy anti-abortion activists. Under Sec. Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Department says it is trying to balance 'pro-life' and 'pro-science' imperatives in its ongoing audit of fetal tissue research. Azar's office said in a statement that the National Institutes of Health put a pause on procurement of new human fetal tissue in the fall, after the audit was announced. The department says research with fetal tissue already on hand was allowed to proceed, and that it never intended to stop research. The HHS statement left open the possibility of procuring new fetal tissue to prevent research projects from being interrupted. HHS has not announced a timeline for completing its audit. Fetal tissue is used to produce research mice that model how the human immune system works. The tissue, from elective abortions, would otherwise be discarded. Biochemist Tara Sander Lee told the committee that alternatives to fetal tissue are available and can be used. 'We do not need fetal body parts from aborted babies to achieve future scientific and medical advancements,' said Sander Lee, with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which is opposed to abortion. Tissues from infants who have to undergo heart surgery are among the alternatives, she said. But neuroscientist Sally Temple, testifying on behalf of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, told lawmakers that alternatives to fetal tissue are simply not suitable for every disease and condition being studied. 'The consensus opinion is that those alternatives are not sufficient,' she said. Temple explained that tissue samples from different stages of the life cycle are not interchangeable. 'It is not the same material,' she said. 'It is a different developmental stage. It has unique properties.' Temple said researchers would readily use alternatives to fetal tissue if that was suitable.
  • A Vermont man who is in an ongoing dispute with his town is letting officials know exactly how he feels by erecting a large wooden sculpture of a fist with the middle finger raised on his front lawn. Ted Pelkey says he's been trying for about 10 years to move his truck repair and recycling business to his property but has been unable to get a permit. He says he paid about $3,000 to have the sculpture made and he put it up on a pole with lights at the end of November. Since then, people have been stopping by during the day and even night to take photos of and with it. A town official would not comment on Pelkey's case. He has appealed to the state environmental court.
  • A homeless, hungry woman who broke into a police station was caught stealing popcorn and taken to jail, according to investigators. >> Read more trending news  Tressa Weathers, 40, climbed through a kitchen window of the Rose City police substation and was caught by an officer Dec. 6 with a handful of microwaveable popcorn packets, KLRT reported.  “I just broke in to get some food,” she told officers, KLRT reported. “I broke in here, take me to jail.” Weathers, whose address is listed as homeless, was arrested and charged with burglary. She is being held in jail on $5,000 bond.