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Atlanta examines community banking needs.

More than 400 people--concerned citizens, homeowners, would-be homeowners, city councilmembers, bankers, community activists, academicians, business people, community leaders and even the homeless-participated in the city of Atlanta's Community Credit and Banking Needs Forum on Saturday, February 6.

The forum, held in the City Council Chambers, was arranged to clarify the financing and banking needs of Atlanta's low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and residents.

The National League of Cities, in cooperation with Carras Community Investment, Inc. is working with the city of Atlanta to define the city's credit needs and to help develop a strategic community investment plan. The forum was a part of that process.

"It's hard to build a city and hard to build a community if you can't get access to capital" noted Mayor Maynard Jackson in his opening remarks.

Councilmember Barbara Asher, a member of NLC's Advisory Council, led the organizing effort for the forum. "We conducted the forum because there was a real concern that we couldn't do a better needs assessment than the banks currently do if we didn't hear from the public. Interviews and surveys don't bring home the issues to the public and elected officials the way a public forum does."

In addition to Asher, the following Atlanta Councilmembers took part in the forum: Marvin Arrington, Debby McCarty, Jibari Simama, Mary Davis, Clair Muller, C.T. Martin, Jim Maddox, Dozier Smith, Robert Pitts, Sheila Brown, Myrtle Davis, and Morris Finley.

Also participating in the forum were department directors from Atlanta's offices of Finance, Housing and Planning.

Three two-hour sessions were held during the event--Banking Services, Affordable Housing, and Small Business Women and Minority Economic Development. Each began with brief remarks from a diverse set of panelists who framed the issues for that particular session. Open microphone discussions then dominated each session. The remarks from the audience varied widely but all expressed a sincere concern about access to capital for low- and moderate-income residents.

Following are just some of the many notable statements made.

"We're seeing a lack of banking services, closing or removal of banks, and reverse-redlining predator tactics by banks."

"I have a $165 welfare check and a hungry family and I can't walk into a bank and cash the check because I don't have an account I can't open an account because I don't have a job. Yes, I do have a job, I'm trying to take care of my children."

"Education is needed just as this forum is part of the education process. People need to know that they are not required to go to check cashing places. They need to be made aware of their options."

"Working capital is available but not in certain geographic areas."

"We have a successful business on the north side of the city and wanted to open a franchise on the south side. We couldn't get a loan."

"We need to be careful to not put the cart before the horse. What good is affordable housing if you don't have a job. Need to focus on small business."

"What is affordable housing?"

"Make CRA a real program, not a community-feel good program."

"We are not helpless. We have billions of dollars we generate. We have money to spend."

Silvia Correa, a founding member of Georgia Hispanic Alliance and one of the panelists, spoke in Spanish for a few moments, then remarked, "if any of this is difficult for you, you know what my constituents go through every day in trying to get banking services. The need for banking services in the Hispanic community represents a missed business opportunity."

"Every community should be actively engaged in the process of defining its credit needs and ways to meet those needs," said Asher. And, a community credit and banking needs forum can, and should, be part of the process."
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Title Annotation:includes related information on establishing a public forum on community credit; Atlanta, Georgia
Author:Mayer, Virginia
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 22, 1993
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