Jan 19, 2022 - News

Dickens builds a bridge to block Buckhead cityhood

Mayor Andre Dickens, wearing a gray suit, sits in a white chair in front of blue backdrop that says "City of Atlanta"
Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

The first part of derailing the Buckhead cityhood push, Mayor Andre Dickens told reporters at his inaugural media roundtable on Tuesday, is to run the city well.

  • The second: educate state lawmakers about how Buckhead cityhood could, among other things, ripple to their hometowns.

Why it matters: Dickens’ ability to follow through on any of his campaign promises and vision — housing affordability, public safety, transportation — depends partly on squelching the secessionist movement that would wallop City Hall’s budget.

Details: Dickens says he’s regularly checking in with state lawmakers and leaders including Gov. Brian Kemp. The two text about a range of issues, Dickens said, including public safety, and have held a breakfast meeting at the governor’s mansion.

  • His pitch includes Buckhead cityhood’s potential effect on Atlanta’s finances, other municipalities’ and the state’s bond ratings, and how lawmakers would like to see him try to help parts of their cities split off (none of the sponsors of the Gold Dome legislation represents Buckhead).
“You wouldn’t want this happening in your city, your neighborhood. This is a local control issue, and none of the people who are producing this bill are from Buckhead. They don’t live in the jurisdiction that they’re actually trying to change… How would you feel if I made a bill about that?”
— Mayor Andre Dickens

Yes, but: Dickens says some lawmakers appear supportive, but later say they’re in limbo until the GOP caucus takes a stand. He plans to return to those one-on-one conversations in the coming weeks.

Rapid fire: Other topics during Tuesday’s roundtable included:

Housing: Dickens says he’s met with Atlanta Housing and Invest Atlanta leaders and to expect news soon about the long-simmering redevelopment of the shuttered Atlanta Civic Center in Old Fourth Ward and the 77-acre former Bowen Homes public housing site off Donald L. Hollowell Parkway.

  • He’s also talking with faith leaders interested in developing unused land, including parking lots that sit empty six days a week, for housing.

Police: APD is on track to meet a goal to hire 250 new officers by the end of 2022, the mayor says, and he’s trying to reduce attrition by shoring up morale.

  • He’s showing up to roll calls and asking officers what they need in terms of equipment, resources, and likely down the line, salaries.

Homelessness: Dickens says he wants to help people get an ID to receive services, find a rapid COVID test to be allowed into a shelter and fix other hurdles that homeless people experience daily.

  • In the next few weeks, he says, his administration will announce the purchase of a property aimed at providing people transitional housing to get off the street.

What we're watching: The third part of fighting Buckhead, Dickens said Tuesday, is a strong opposition campaign. Expect more on that front.

  • Dickens says he'd also like some help coming up with an alternative name for "pothole posse." Infrastructure entourage, maybe?
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