Nov 9, 2023 - News

Politic-ATL: Reparations and $40 million for public safety

Illustration for Atlanta City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Tami Chappell/Getty Images

The city of Atlanta will invest more than $40 million into the city's public safety departments.

Why it matters: Atlanta temporarily closed three fire stations last month because more than a third of the city's engines and ladder trucks are out of service, according to WSB-TV.

Driving the news: Lawmakers at Monday's council meeting OK'd plans to spend $18 million on eight new fire engines, one ladder truck, one utility truck, two swift water rescue jet boats, self-contained breathing apparatus, and heart monitors and defibrillators.

  • The council is also seeking $5 million from Invest Atlanta to buy vehicles for three fire stations.

The other $21 million in funding will go to the Atlanta Police Department.

  • Mayor Andre Dickens said the funds will add 336 vehicles to APD's take-home program, including 150 2024 Dodge Durangos and 55 2024 Dodge Chargers.

City forms reparations advisory commission

Atlanta is formally exploring the possibility of reparations.

Details: City Council approved plans to create a 14-member advisory commission tasked with researching the extent of Atlanta's participation in the legal discrimination of Black residents and to provide recommendations for appropriate reparations.

  • The commission will consist of members nominated by the mayor, city council, four local HBCUs, and Georgia State University, as well as four other groups focused on reparations.

Context: According to legislation created by Councilman Michael Julian Bond, Atlanta enacted and implemented segregation policies that discriminated against African Americans, the majority of whom are descendants of victims of the transatlantic slave trade.

Zoom out: More than two dozen other local governments in the United States have authorized commissions to study reparations, including Fulton County.

  • Fulton's Reparations Task Force was formed in 2021 to research slavery reparations for its Black residents. They're planning to give the county recommendations no later than October 2024.
  • Evanston, Illinois was the first city to implement a reparations program.
  • In 2021, the city allocated the first $10 million of a 3% tax on legal marijuana sales to a housing program for Black Evanstonians.
  • Most Evanston residents support the reparations program, Axios Chicago's Carrie Shepherd writes.

What they're saying: Merchuria Williams, an Atlanta alumni of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, told a council committee last month that disparities in public education are just one of the many issues that can be traced back to the "oppressive policies and practices in this city."

  • "People of African descent who are citizens in this city are due restitutions for wrongs done and opportunities blocked," Williams said.

What's next: The commission has to provide quarterly reports on its progress to the City Council. Its final report with recommendations must be submitted by Dec. 31, 2025.

What we're watching: We're still waiting to see who gets nominated to the commission.


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