Atlanta mayor creates city’s first DOT; touts successes in speech

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Thursday announced that she is creating the city’s first Department of Transportation to help to address two of the city’s most pressing problems: potholes and traffic.

“Transportation is the lifeblood of our city,” Bottoms said at her annual State of the City speech at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown.

Bottoms second state of the city speech was wide ranging summation of her first 14 months in office.

She spoke about raises her administration had provided to police officers and the city’s open checkbook website that her administration created, which allows the public to comb through city expenses.

She talked about eliminating bail for some low-level criminal offenders at the municipal court.

“Now cities and governments across the country are following our example,” she said.

And the mayor made a passing reference to an ongoing attempt by state lawmakers to establish a state authority to oversee the airport.

"Atlanta has owned and operated the world's busiest airport for 21 consecutive years and the world's most efficient airport for the last 16 years in a row," Bottoms said. She added: "We've enjoyed a strong working relationship with the state and look forward to that continuing."

She touted some measures that were initiated by the City Council, such as laws that prevent city credit card abuse and restrict bonuses. Those issues erupted in the media shortly after former Mayor Kasim Reed left office.

And she cited as an accomplishment the transparency legislation that reforms how the city responds to open records requests. That legislation was created after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News filed a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office alleging a city hall culture of systemic violations of the Georgia Open Records Act.

A settlement between the news organizations and the city was announced in October.

The idea to create a new transportation department was proposed by Councilman Andre Dickens a couple of years ago when Bottoms served as a city councilwoman.

Dickens credited Bottoms for putting some of her top staff members on the issue about six months ago.

"Together we charted a path forward and presented it to the mayor last week," Dickens said. "She has all along agreed that this was good work to do. We were right there together."

At her speech on Thursday, Bottoms said the new department would coordinate with the public works department, which repairs the city’s roads; the planning department, which designs them; and Renew Atlanta, which makes long-term investments in the city’s transportation infrastructure.

"These departments do a good job, but to do a great job they need to operate from the same playbook," Bottoms said.

Dickens said he planned to introduce legislation creating the new department to the city council next week.