Atlanta City Council: Publish petitions calling for public safety training center ballot referendum

The Atlanta City Council approved a resolution to scan and publish all petitions gathered to decide the fate of the future public safety training center.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 7:25 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:13 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - On Monday, the Atlanta City Council approved a resolution to instruct the city clerk to scan and publish all petitions gathered as part of an effort for Atlanta voters to decide the fate of the future public safety training center.

Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari introduced the resolution in the final minutes of Monday’s Council meeting.

After referring to the city attorneys, the resolution was passed unanimously by the council.

“It’s a small step. But it’s a step towards moving the count forward, or at least making it public,” Bakhtiari said.

“We’re encouraged by these steps, and we call on the entire Council to support legislation to put Cop City on the ballot without delay,” said Britney Whaley, tactical lead for the Cop City Vote Coalition and Southeast Regional Director of Working Families Power.

Organizers against the public safety training center said they collected more than 116,000 signed petition forms.

Those forms, in 16 boxes, were turned in to the city clerk on Sept. 11.

“I fully support the action taken by the city council today,” said Mayor Andre Dickens, in a statement provided to Atlanta News First on Monday. “As I have stated before, I support allowing the process to run its course in an open and transparent manner. Like many, I want to know exactly what is in those boxes and this moves us one step closer.”

Attorneys for the City of Atlanta said the city clerk could not begin verifying the signatures until the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issues a final ruling on recent challenges to the signature-gathering process.

“We can’t start counting, but the public and other members and other election experts and other folks can,” Bakhtiari said. “It will begin to give us an idea of did we, did the public achieve going out in the hottest summer on record and gather all these signatures? Did they in fact meet the threshold for fifty-eight thousand (votes) to get this on the ballot?”

Activists with the Cop City Vote coalition were encouraged by Monday’s action, but also expressed privacy concerns.

“It is essential that the Municipal Clerk take all possible steps to safeguard the privacy and safety of the over 116,000 signatories and witnesses of the petitions,” said Tiffany Roberts, Policy Director at the Southern Center for Human Rights. “In an already heated political moment, it is imperative that sensitive information like signature, phone number, and street address be redacted from any documents proactively posted online by the City, to ensure that this information is not misused by bad actors seeking to chill free speech and intimidate.”

Councilmembers ensured that private information would be redacted in accordance with the state’s Open Records Act.

RELATED: The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center | A timeline of violence, controversy

Bakhtiari told Atlanta News First that the city council anticipates the clerk will publish all petition forms on a city website by Sept. 28.

While the clerk can still not review the forms, the public will be able to.

The City Council released the following statement,

Atlanta City Council member Keisha Sean Waites released the following statement,