Councilman optimistic after arrest: Coleman at town hall about homelessness: ‘You don’t let adversity hinder you’
Marietta District 5 city councilman Anthony Coleman calls on a member of the audience who has a comment about the homeless situation around the city during a town hall on homelessness at Marietta City Hall Thursday night.
MARIETTA — Not once during Councilman Anthony Coleman’s town hall meeting on Thursday did he or the residents who attended reference his arrest earlier this month.
Coleman said after the meeting he received texts, emails and letters from people in the community who let him know they support him despite the charges.
“That lets me know I’ve got a lot of good community support out there,” Coleman said.
Coleman has continued attending public meetings since his Aug. 14 indictment on one charge of violating the Georgia Racketeering Act and three charges of making false statements.
Following the meeting, which he called to address the problem of homelessness, Coleman said he didn’t think the indictment affected his role as a councilman.
“I’m a child of God, and I belong to him,” Coleman said. “I’m a born-again Christian, and I’m a servant and my job is to serve those that need to be served.”
Coleman wouldn’t say whether he was innocent or guilty of the charges, referring those questions to his attorney, Tom Browning. He said he won’t let the charges against him stand in the way of serving the community.
“When you’re a strong leader, a man of God, you don’t let adversity hinder you, you persevere,” Coleman said.
Coleman turned himself in to the Cobb County jail on Aug. 18 and was released on a $1,000 bond. Now he awaits trial on the charges.
Coleman said the charges he faces are unrelated to his official business as a councilman, so he keeps the two separate.
“I always have to think on the positive, you know. The negative is always going to be there,” Coleman said.
Residents who attended Thursday’s meeting to find a solution for homeless people in Marietta said they didn’t think the meeting and the criminal charges against the councilman were related.
Marion Moffitt of Kennesaw, a retiree and political activist, said she didn’t want to mix the two issues.
“This meeting has nothing to do with that. I don’t think that is an issue that needs to be mixed with this city meeting,” Moffit said. “He is innocent until proven guilty. Everything out on the table right now are allegations.”
Kim Kremer, ministry coordinator at Stonebridge Church of Marietta, said she didn’t know about Coleman’s indictment before the meeting, but believes it was still appropriate for Coleman to hold the meeting.
“I’m glad that someone addressed the issue because I think there’s definitely a need for it,” Kremer said. “If he’s awaiting trial, he’s innocent until proven guilty, and I don’t know all the facts of the case so I don’t want to make a judgment, but it doesn’t affect his leadership.”
Debra Hawkins, coordinator of the New Hope Missions at Union Chapel UMC of Marietta, said the problem of homelessness needs someone to promote it.
“I’ve seen him at our church, and we’ve had conversations about homelessness before,” Hawkins said. “Politics is politics, and what I care about is homelessness. Anyone willing to help the homeless is good for the community.”
Just as Coleman is determined to continue his duties as a councilman, he is also intent on finding a local solution about homelessness.
“The purpose of this meeting is to have a general conversation about it and find out how we need to go about, in a collaborative way, addressing the needs of the homeless,” Coleman said. “You’re not going to get a solution overnight, but as long as you’re proactive and our heart is in the right place, God is going to bless us.”
About 20 people attended the meeting, including representatives from local churches, who talked about where they see homeless people gather and what they need.
“I’m going to challenge the faith community, what role are we going to play in stepping up to the plate?” Coleman said. “Spirituality ought to be at the top of the agenda.”
About 10 volunteers signed up during the meeting to be a part of a task force in Marietta to help the homeless. The group will meet in the future to discuss solutions to homelessness in the city.
“This group can come up with solutions,” Coleman said. “They may be short term solutions, but we need to start having some food for thought.”