Atlanta should consider allowing Neighborhood Planning Units to continue holding virtual meetings after the pandemic emergency is over, a City Councilmember has proposed.

Councilmember Natalyn Archibong of East Atlanta’s District 5 introduced a resolution at the Sept. 21 council meeting calling for the Department of City Planning to conduct the study. The possibility is worth studying “to maintain the increased engagement from the community,” the resolution reads.

The resolution will be discussed in a council committee for a possible recommendation for full council consideration.

The NPU system was established in 1974 by Mayor Maynard Jackson as a way for residents to give input on the city’s long-term development plan, in an era when many American cities created similar neighborhood groups. Today, there are 25 NPUs around the city, each named for a letter of the alphabet, serving a broader purpose of giving and getting information on virtually every city department. Buckhead is covered by parts of NPUs A, B, C and E.

The NPUs have been meeting virtually via the platform Zoom. Some Buckhead NPUs have seen strong virtual attendance at those meetings. However, there have been some access issues as well, such as password requirement and changes for NPU B and abrupt disconnections from NPU C.

The NPU system is undergoing a review by the Center for Civic Innovation and is the subject of some proposed reforms from City Councilmember Antonio Brown. Both efforts have identified general community engagement as an area that could use improvement. NPUs A and B have opposed most of the reform suggestions.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.