July 16, 1995; Orlando Sentinel; Carter's Atlanta Project Is Marginal Success; by Jeff Kunerth.
Olympics 1996 - The world comes to Atlanta - Atlanta's Olympic-size task
The Idealistic Project Has Suffered From Lack Of Focus And Low Participation.
July 16, 1995|By Jeff Kunerth of The Sentinel Staff
ATLANTA The Atlanta Project, Jimmy Carter's five-year, $33 million plan to alter this city's social ills before the '96 Olympics, has one year left to run. And the initial assessment is not good.
''While The Atlanta Project has achieved notable successes, the progress to date toward its goals appears modest relative to the amount of effort and money expended,'' wrote Michael W. Giles in an evaluation of the project released in January.
Carter's original vision of an army of 100,000 volunteers linking the ''two Atlantas'' - black city, white suburbs - failed to materialize, according to Giles, a Carter Center fellow and senior adviser for evaluation of the project.
Giles' assessment found low participation in the program among inner-city residents; neighborhood initiatives that were more event-oriented than aimed at long-range solutions; and an overall fuzzy perception of what The Atlanta Project is, even among its key players.
His report resulted in several changes in the project, including the sacking of some neighborhood ''cluster'' coordinators accused of creating their own little fiefdoms.
''We knew there were some problems and those problems were addressed,'' said Creel McCormack, project spokeswoman.
Dan Sweat, tapped by Carter to head the project in 1991, said that The Atlanta Project has achieved its goal of improving the lives of the city's poorest people.
''We created it to give poor people a better shake and change the system. That's what we've done,'' said Sweat, who now heads The America Project, an effort to transplant The Atlanta Project's successes in other cities, including Orlando.
Sweat said the project's major successes were a citywide child immunization drive; a door-to-door anti-crime campaign; and the consolidation of 64 pages of government forms into a simplified eight-page application for social services.
Others credit Carter's project with cutting through federal red tape and forming alliances that might not have otherwise taken place. The Decatur cluster has formed a community development corporation with help from the city. A supermarket chain may open a grocery store in the Archer area as the result of its partnership with the cluster.
''Overall, the basic thing we've been able to do is get people working together for a common goal,'' said Sandra Avent, Archer's cluster coordinator.
The main criticism of The Atlanta Project is that it is big on health fairs, forums and field trips but hasn't addressed the systemic problems that keep people impoverished.
''It didn't affect poverty. We still have a serious affordable housing crisis,'' said Duane Stewart, co-director of a church-based poverty rights organization. ''It didn't do anything about a transportation strategy to get people out to the suburbs where the jobs are.''
The immunization drive was a great one-day event, but it didn't tackle the problems of health-care access for the poor, said Anita Beatty, executive director of the Task Force for the Homeless.
''With that array of power and influence, there could have been major, positive changes,'' Beatty said. ''But it's mostly business as usual in those communities.''