Axios Atlanta

Picture of the Atlanta skyline.

It's Wednesday. Time to forgive those who have wronged you.

Today's weather: Cloudy, but warmer! High of 58.

Situational awareness: The government's website to order free COVID at-home testing kits is up and running.

Today's newsletter is 891 words — a 3.5-minute read

1 big thing: Dickens' charm offensive

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

The first part of derailing Buckhead cityhood, Mayor Andre Dickens told reporters at his inaugural media roundtable on Tuesday, is to run the city well. The second: educate state lawmakers on 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 different issues, Dickens said, including winter weather preparedness, 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 represent 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?”
— Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens during a Tuesday roundtable with local reporters

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.

Read the full story.

2. 👀 TSA sees all

TSA checkpoint Atlanta airport
Photo: Jeff Martin/AP

TSA stopped more guns at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson than at any other U.S. airport in 2021.

Driving the news: Nationwide, TSA prevented nearly 6,000 firearms from getting through airport security. It's the highest number in TSA's two-decade history.

Details: TSA stopped 507 guns at ATL in 2021, setting a single-airport record that ATL already held (323 weapons in 2019). Second place last year went to Dallas-Fort Worth with 317.

  • TSA reports 86% of the firearms were loaded. A spokesperson tells Axios the vast majority of people say they just forgot about their weapon.

The big picture: That amounts to one firearm per nearly 98,000 passengers in the country. In 2019, the statistic was one firearm per about 197,000 passengers.

  • Atlanta has been the No. 1 airport for guns stopped in eight of the last nine years.

Context: In Georgia, it is legal for someone with a gun license to carry a firearm in such public areas of commercial airports as the waiting area or driveway.

  • It is illegal to carry one past the screening checkpoint.

Of note: While the final version of Gov. Kemp's gun rights expansion remains unclear, proposals currently introduced would not affect the rules at commercial airports.

3. 🦍 Choomba, second-oldest gorilla at Zoo Atlanta, dies

Choomba, the second-oldest gorilla at Zoo Atlanta, has died.
Choomba was the mother of the offspring of Atlanta’s most famous gorilla. Photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

A 59-year-old Western lowland gorilla died last week, Zoo Atlanta said in a news release.

The Animal Care and Veterinary teams made the decision to euthanize Choomba because of her declining quality of life stemming from advanced arthritis and “other age-related complications,” according to the release.

What they’re saying: Jennifer Mickelberg, Ph.D., vice president of collections and conservation at Zoo Atlanta, said in a statement that the facility is grateful for the gorilla and veterinary teams’ efforts to care for Chooma.

  • “Choomba leaves a tremendous legacy at Zoo Atlanta, in the zoological gorilla population in North America, and in the hearts of those who knew her best,” she said.

Flashback: Choomba arrived at Zoo Atlanta in the 1980s and was one of the founding members of its gorilla population. She was the mother of Kudzoo, the offspring of Atlanta’s most famous gorilla, Willie B, who died in February 2000 at the age of 42.

  • She was also the mother of Machi and Sukari, and grandmother of Willie B. Jr., Merry Leigh, Anaka and Mijadala. They all lived at Zoo Atlanta.

Of note: Zoo Atlanta says gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of 40. Choomba had been living with a group of older gorillas at the zoo: 61-year-old Ozzie, the world’s oldest gorilla; daughter Machi, 45; and Kuchi, a 37-year-old female gorilla.

A necropsy will be performed by the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Zoo Atlanta says preliminary results should be available in the next several weeks.

4. Five points: New WABE, who dis?

Illustration of five-ish points animating to form the letters ATL.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

😢 The community is rallying around a Canton police officer whose wife died after giving birth. (WSB-TV)

🏢 The latest high-rise to go up in Midtown will add about 400 rentals along Peachtree Street. (Urbanize Atlanta)

😮 The median bail amount established by immigration courts in Georgia is around $8,000, the highest in the country. (AJC)

🏠 Atlanta's eviction moratorium doesn't protect most renters. (Atlanta Civic Circle)

👀 WABE will undergo rebranding with a new logo, slogan. (Saporta Report)

5. ☕ Have a hot-tail for us

Illustration of a steaming mug of coffee with a cocktail umbrella.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

So this newsletter isn’t a total downer (R.I.P. Choomba), we end on a warm note.

Literally a warm one. Check out some hot cocktails for sale around town:

The Garden Room: Try the Abuelita hot chocolate spiked with Mezcal, plus cayenne and whipped cream.

Kimball House: Their Absinthe Toddy also features cognac, lemon and almond.

Breakfast at Barneys: D-I-Y and add Hennessy, Titos, Kahlua or Baileys to any tea or coffee at brunch.

Holiday Bar: Check out the Davey Jones' Locker — rum, amaro and drip coffee — or opt for the classic Irish coffee.

🔎 Emma wonders if anyone has any leads on at-home tests in Atlanta, while we wait for the White House shipments?

🥰 Kristal loves exploring plant shops around Atlanta. Reply with some suggestions.

😈 Thomas wonders if the blackbirds that are suddenly everywhere in Atlanta have diabolical plans of domination.

🥳 Oh, and a happy 5th birthday to Axios!