CARLTON FLETCHER: Time has come for a closer look at ADICA

OPINION: Agency must redirect focus to maintain downtown relevance

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Don’t you want to take another look?

— The Cars

City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher’s question may have been rhetorical, but in light of recent developments with the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, perhaps it deserves consideration.

“Has the time come for us to dissolve ADICA as it currently is and look at doing something else?” Fletcher asked during the discussion of Rabbitman Footwear principals’ proposal to secure a lease of city-owned College Drive property that formerly housed a skate park.

Change has been guaranteed now that ADICA board member David Prisant has stepped down. Another board member told me in an email (s)he is considering the same action. Certainly anyone who attended the last two meetings held by the quasi-governmental authority’s board can understand Fletcher’s question and some board members’ frustration. Over the course of those two meetings, ADICA’s board:

— Engaged in a raucous, everyone-talk-at-once, back-and-forth with Johnny and Tony William over a skate-park lease agreement that had been dragging on for six months;

— Found out they’d allocated more project funds than they had left in their account (an oversight, it must be noted, that was due in large part to misinformation provided by a now-former employee in the city’s Finance department);

— Put a respected developer in a position of having to apologize for not asking to be placed on the meeting agenda after an ADICA board member assured him he would be allowed to make a statement during a meeting (again, as a side note, it should be pointed out that audience members had been allowed to speak openly at the authority meetings prior to this exchange);

— Had a member walk out of a meeting after a heated discussion over procedure;

— Voted to approve dwindling funds for a proposed downtown development group after, first, being warned against such action by City Attorney Nathan Davis and, finally, after Davis recommended the board have some kind of protection in place before allocating the funding;

— Found its actions being second-guessed by City Commissioner Tommie Postell at the first meeting that he attended, although he had been assigned oversight responsibility back in January;

— Found itself in a position in which the city’s chief financial officer has recommended that no more funding be allocated for ADICA until hoped-for development brings in enough new taxes in a tax allocation district that will pay off debt service owed on tax-anticipation bonds secured by ADICA to spur downtown development.

Those concerns aside, it must be noted that the now six-member ADICA board includes some very capable individuals, starting with board Chairwoman LaNicia Hart. There’s no question that the authority board — which also includes Thelma Johnson, Tommy Gregors, Martin Carter, Charles Ochie and Michael Stewart — has the best interest of the inner city at heart.

And from the top levels of the city government down, it is generally acknowledged that the need for an agency like ADICA exists. Without such a group, the city would be limited in making the kind of development deals that has brought Homerun Foods and Waffle House franchises downtown, that has sparked renewed interest in potentially dramatic downtown redevelopment and in having a “pass-through” agent for funding such organizations as the Flint RiverQuarium and the Albany Civil Rights Institute.

Before anyone writes ADICA completely off, though, Sharlene Cannon should absolutely be given an opportunity to work some of her magic on the inner city. The new interim downtown manager, who becomes de facto president of ADICA as well, has a proven record of redevelopment successes — most notably in nearby Thomasville — and she has a mutually respectful working relationship with interim City Manager Tom Berry. To top it off, Cannon — who could be relaxing in retirement were the vibrant revitalization specialist not bored by such inactivity — really wants to help Albany’s inner city become relevant once again.

It may take no more than a come-to-Jesus meeting with Berry and other city officials, or it may take a complete overhaul of ADICA, a return — as some have suggested — to the days that the more public-private entity Albany Tomorrow spearheaded downtown development. But it’s become all too apparent that something definitely needs to be done. And soon.