Don't shoot the messenger

Atlanta Empowerment Zone Interim Executive Director Ron Diamond wants to make one thing clear: He does not want to forgive a belly-up company's debt to the city by buying the firm's office building for more than $2 million.

The building, which is located in a rundown English Avenue neighborhood in northwest Atlanta, belongs to Light & Energy Management Inc., as reported in last week's Creative Loafing ("A terminal case"). The zone gave the company a $3.25 million loan in November 1998, but LEM closed its doors months before the loan came due in October 2001. With little means to generate money, the company's idea is for the city to buy the building that it originally purchased for $250,000 for $2.65 million, which would wipe out most of LEM's debt to Atlanta.

Diamond wrote a letter to state Department of Community Affairs' Business and Financial Assistance Division head Chantal Matthews to ask about the legality of such a maneuver. Diamond, though, says he has been opposed to the deal from the moment it was proposed by LEM management. He says he wrote to Matthews to get her opinion at the behest of the Empowerment Zone Corporation's Community Empowerment Advisory Board, though, he has personally fought against the plan.

Atlanta's Empowerment Zone soon will be folded into a new "renewal community" program and cease to exist. An audit by Mayor Shirley Franklin's administration of the zone's management is reportedly in the works.??

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