Decatur to present first draft of diversity plan

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 2, 2015
Shannan Miller (top right) visits with different tables during the Community Action Planning Cafe Conversation. File photo: Jonathan Phillips

Shannan Miller (top right) visits with different tables during the Community Action Planning Cafe Conversation.
File photo: Jonathan Phillips

After months of meetings and input, the Decatur is getting ready to release its first draft of a plan to address dwindling diversity in the city.

The first draft of the Community Action Plan will be unveiled on Nov. 12. There will be a community review from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Marriott Courtyard’s Decatur Conference Center, Ballroom B.

“This is a public gathering open to all, so please come and add your perspective on how Decatur can best foster the diversity that makes us such a wonderful place to call home,” the announcement from the city says.

The plan has been almost two years in the making, sparked by allegations of racial profiling by police officers that were raised back in January of 2014. Former School Board member Don Denard said he had been profiled, and other black residents and visitors soon came forward with their own stories. The city hired a consulting firm, the Art of Community, to facilitate conversations and help create the plan. The consulting firm put together a Leadership Circle of residents and city employees that has been meeting regularly to develop recommendations about how the diversity discussion should move forward.

On Aug. 29, the city hosted a community-wide diversity discussion at the Ebster Recreation Center. Hundreds of people came out to the Community Action Planning Cafe Conversation on Aug. 29 to discuss issues such as diverse and affordable housing, racially just community policing and other issues.

According to a report produced for the City Commission, whites accounted for 60 percent of the city’s population in 1990, while blacks accounted for almost 40 percent. According to the 2010 census, about 73 percent of the city’s population was white and 20 percent was black. The remainder of the population was non-black minority, which includes Hispanics.

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  • Teed

    By your numbers Decatur is more diverse. According to your numbers we were 60/40 white/black. Now we have 7% of all those races who were missing before. More groups = more diversity. Unless of course you choose to define diversity solely as “percentage of non-white people”.

    • They aren’t my numbers. They are the city’s and the city has used them to inform its process for developing the community action plan.

    • underscorex

      Yes, but the growth in whites alone is almost double that of “everyone who isn’t white or black”, so while it may be more not-black-and-not-white than it used to be, it’s also whiter than it was before.

      • Steveg700

        Okay, white people are choosing to buy property here, and non-whites aren’t. What’s the problem there that requires fixing?

        • underscorex

          Findings from the data:

          1: The proportion of Decatur’s population made up by black households decreased 2000-2010.

          2: Part of that decrease has been filled by Asians and Hispanics.

          3: The lion’s share of that decrease, however, was filled by whites.

          Questions this raises:

          1: Where did the black people go?

          2: Why did they leave?

          3: Might the increase in white households have exacerbated this situation (e.g. teardowns and the commensurate spike in property assessments driving out working-class and retired residents)?

          • Steveg700

            Thanks for the info, but do you have any answers to the legitimate questions I raised? We have examples going back decades of trying to fix lack of diversity by mandating low-income housing, and the result is generally increased crime, lowered property values, and white flight (q.v. “Show Me a Hero”).

          • underscorex

            Define “decrepit.”

            Define “desirable.”

            If you mean “places where poor/old people live” then yeah, Decatur is doing a bang-up job of running those folks out in favor of yet another shitty McCraftsman.

          • Steveg700

            I define those words using the conventional definitions you can find in a dictionary.

            Underscorex, you’ve regarded other people in this thread as being irrational, but now when presented with reasonable questions about how to resolve the issue, you seem to be sidestepping. Here’s a direct question for you or anyone to answer: If people can’t afford to live in a nice neighborhood, is the solution then to have not-so-nice neighborhoods? Or is there some way to have a nice neighborhood with rock-bottom property values?

          • underscorex

            >If people can’t afford to live in a nice, clean, safe neighborhood, is the solution then to have not-so-nice, not-so-cliean, not-so-safe neighborhoods?

            I will answer your question with a question: Why should ability to pay be the arbiter of who gets to have a safe neighborhood? I’m not even kidding here – why do we, as a society, consider that an acceptable outcome?

          • Steveg700

            Answering questions with questions is a pretty good indicator of lacking viable answers. Which is nothing to feel bad about, because it is a rather nasty catch-22.

            Why do I have to spend most of my waking hours working? Why do I have to take the bus? Why is my home 588 square feet?

            The most basic answer is because I’m not entitled to anything. In order to receive, I am expected to contribute. If I want a car, I pay for one. If I want a two-story house, I pay for one. If I want homeless to stop sleeping and defecating in my condo’s laundry room, I have to contribute towards a security system. And the more I pay, the nicer a good or service I can receive. I’m not being “run out” of the Porsche dealership. I just can’t afford one. Now, how I get the money to do any of that? Well, there’s the rub. I’ll let you know when I figure something out, and I hope you’ll return the favor.

            Beyond that, I’ll further posit that the reason my ability to pay dictates how nice a neighborhood I’m in is because if I did pay a pretty penny for my home, I’m inclined to take care of it. If I’m simply given a home, I take it for granted just as anyone takes that which they did not earn for granted. When it starts falling apart, I complain that the providing party should come perform maintenance, and not at my expense.

            You ask why society considers it acceptable to require people to pay for safe neighborhoods. In truth, society has been giving away neighborhoods to the impoverished for decades, and they start out safe and clean, right up until they are occupied. Where do the graffiti, litter, loitering, noise, substance abuse, substance dealing, burglary, robbery, and other forms of criminal behavior originate? Do they descend on low-income communities from some netherworld?

            Answer: It mostly originates from within the residents. This leads to an unsafe, unclean neighborhood. Cue the white flight. Now, here’s the real kicker: if patrolled diligently by the police, that is resented by the residents as discriminatory and fascistic (because it’s their own being arrested and shot). If not patrolled diligently, that is resented by the citizens as a sure sign of civic malfeasance and apathy.

            We have enough indignation and accusations to last an eternity. Solutions? Anyone?

          • underscorex

            That’s a really long way to go to say that you consider poor people subhuman criminals.

          • Steveg700

            That’s what I was afraid of, Undersorex. Rather than offer anything insightful, you just resort to the very accusations and indignation I already predicted above. Heap them on the pile.

            You initially responded like someone genuinely interested in discussion, so I gave you benefit of the doubt. However, when presented with the complexities of the issues at hand,
            you’re no different from those you’ve accused of being conspiracy-mongers. You consistently reply with reductive straw-manning and as your sole means of rebuttal. In other words, trolling.

            Well, if that’s all you’ve got, then at least you stand exposed.

  • ThePlan:DeportWhites?

    No one likes to be stopped by the police, I get it.

    But just because you are black doesn’t automatically make it racial profiling, and this means YOU Don Denard. That should be especially obvious when you are stopped by a *black* officer. Sorry Don, serving on the school board 10+ years ago doesn’t makes you a celebrity to the local police department. Identify yourself thank them for their diligence in protecting your life and home, and be on your way.

    We are paying the PD to do a fine job catching the guys who just SHOT at a homeowner while burglarizing a house a few weeks ago. Where, oh where is the outrage, community action plan, and commission hearings on that incident? No where because it was an “entitled” “gentrified” white person getting shot at. And if you stop and frisk people acting suspicious or walking around aimlessly in neighborhoods they don’t live in it is racial profiling? Nonsense. I’ll be damned if my neighbors should have to live in fear or get murdered to protect some self important retired school board members ego.

    And this is all about your ego Don. Now Decatur is wasting taxpayer dollars with an ILLEGAL racial steering plan. We could have hired a couple of new officers for what we have thrown down a rat hole with this where-did-all-these-whites-come-from “diversity” plan.

    Yes folks, this action is illegal according to the Federal Fair Housing law. And anyone who supports this tripe is an open racist. Tread carefully Decatur officials. I smell a lawsuit brewing.

    • underscorex

      I’d be quite careful who you accuse of being a racist with an account handle like “The Plan: Deport Whites?”

      Can we talk about that? Are you legitimately suggesting that the city of Decatur is actively planning in some way to drive out white residents in the name of “diversity”? Because if that’s what you’re alleging, I’m going to need some evidence to go on here beyond your axe-grinding against Mr. Denard.

      • Marty

        Would that be analogous to Don’s axe grinding against the DPD? Over a 100 thousand dollars could have helped a good number of poorer and elderly on fixed incomes pay their Decatur property taxes.

        • underscorex

          And it could have bought a lot of delicious ice cream too, while we’re making up things that the city could have done with the money.

          Or a pony!

          If he feels he was wronged by DPD, he is well within his rights to file a complaint, raise hell, etc.

          None of this has anything to do with this commenter’s allegations that some genocidal scheme is afoot in our fair city to somehow do away with its white population, of course.

          • Marty

            Yep, and commentators can grind an axe against Don in the same manner as he did with the DPD. Raise hell as you write.

            Perhaps there are some folks who would prefer some help with their bills instead of 6 figure ponies.

          • underscorex

            Perhaps! And perhaps you’re coming up with the most outrageously altruistic use of this money you can think of. It could have been spent on something utterly mundane like road maintenance or fixing the ugly faux-brick crosswalks along Ponce or, you know, any old thing.

            Saying “It could have been spent on this specific noble purpose” is a fairly weak attempt to say “I don’t like that it was spent on what it was spent on.” Let’s interrogate that further, shall we? If your problem with the money going to some diversity initiative is that it wasn’t spent on directly paying old folks’ mortgages, please feel free to suggest other sources of funding we could draw from. Otherwise, kindly articulate what your specific beef is with the diversity thing beyond “the city did it all to placate one specific citizen” which borders on the conspiratorial.

          • Marty

            Thanks for the comments and questions underscorex. Your last sentence with the quote “the city did it all to placate one specific citizen” is not my writing, so you will have to look elsewhere for articulation. It is my perspective that when one makes accusations or grinds an axe against others, others may also do the same to an accuser or axe grinder, so to speak.

            Tax relief as a mechanism to address the issue of dwindling socioeconomic diversity is not a novel concept or an “outrageously altruistic” approach. To clarify, I specified tax relief, you wrote “directly paying old folks’ mortgages.”

            Outrageously altruistic tax relief to address diversity:
            a href=” “> 3) Decatur’s decreasing diversity is a concern for many in the city. Are you concerned about Decatur’s diversity? If so, as an elected official, what will you do to promote diversity in the city of Decatur?…”Tax relief for our seniors and affordability for our low-income residents is a priority. I intend to keep promoting and protecting all of our citizens to be a part of keeping Decatur diverse.”

            a href=””>The Decatur City Commission has been looking for a way to provide tax relief to seniors since the Georgia House of Representatives defeated local legislation during the 2015 session that would have allowed the city to increase homestead exemptions for older residents.
            “Please feel free to suggest other sources of funding we could draw from.”

            Sure – how about private resources derived from true altruism or warm glow altruism? There is so much wealth in Decatur. Was this approach attempted before 6 figure sums were utilized via revenue from taxes? The same taxes acting as causation for dwindling diversity.

            Perhaps you and I could combine our economic resources underscorex and help at least one of our poorer residents or an elderly resident on a fixed income with their property taxes (via outrageous altruism) that are due in December. In this manner, we could serve as inspiration to Decatur commissioners/leaders to do the same to address decreasing diversity. Similar to taxes, it’s just money.

  • Chris Billingsley

    Thanks Dan. At the last commission meeting, I petitioned the board to direct Decatur Next to publish their findings before the election so the candidates could comment. It’s been two months since the diversity fest at Ebster but the city manager said the recommendations were not ready. Hard to believe.
    Now, if it were DeKalb stonewalling important recommendations about the police, housing quotas and the like, the AJC and other groups would be raising Holy Hell. But Decatur is held to a different standard. We are the Smart Progressives.

  • CMR

    “I have never seen a town put so much energy into displaying such an exaggerated sense of social consciousness”. Congratulations, You can have your Whole Foods.

  • Marty

    Decatur became a “Welcoming City” in March. Perhaps this is a primary mechanism by which Decatur will increase diversity. At the same time, the increased diversity should help Decatur become stronger economically, according to Mr. Lubell in his Forbes article.

    • Steveg700

      How does diversity equate to a stronger economy? Does it mean that businesses will spring up that cater to a predominantly non-white clientele? If so, what kind of businesses?

  • Cities Are Bad

    Maybe there can be a law that says if you are a diverse kind of person you are not allowed to sell your house to make money. You have to live there to keep a percentage. Too many white people already.

  • Steveg700

    So, Decatur is getting gentrified, and that’s something that must be deterred? Predominantly white neighborhoods should be shattered wherever they’re found? How is this a problem that needs fixing, and what is the proposed solution supposed to be? Retooling city zoning with the goal of lowering property values so that higher-income–and thus, presumably, white–families will be shunted elsewhere? Or just zone a bunch of run-down, low-income housing in the heart of Decatur? If folks just want cops to have some sensitivity training, I’m fine with that. Otherwise, people have freedom of choice to buy or not buy property here.

  • Show up on November 12

    The comments here illustrate why the City of Decatur needs a Community Action Plan. I hope everyone who comments here also attends the November 12 event. I admire Chris Billingsley for attending the August 29 event even though it did not fit his political and social leanings. Get engaged with this effort before you criticize. Then you can criticize based on experience, not just assumptions.

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