Andre Dickens vows transparency as Atlanta mayor

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at a media roundtable on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.

Credit: Ryon Horne/AJC

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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at a media roundtable on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.

Credit: Ryon Horne/AJC

Atlanta mayor hosts media roundtable at City Hall

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he wants to be transparent and accessible in addressing concerns as he continues to form his new administration.

On Tuesday, Dickens hosted a small invite-only press roundtable in the old Council Chambers at City Hall to discuss his first 15 days in office. Dickens said his administration will be tested from many angles beyond the ongoing issue of gun violence.

ExploreInside City Hall: Our takeaways from the first 2 weeks of Andre Dickens’ tenure

In addition to combating crime, the new administration needs to restore police morale and city services. Those issues have spurred Republican state lawmakers to support a bill that would split Atlanta into two municipalities.

But Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan recently put that bill in a Senate committee controlled by Democrats critical of the cityhood proposal. Dickens said he supports Duncan’s decision.

“They wanted to leave because of crime, they wanted to leave because of services, they wanted to leave because they didn’t feel a certain connection point or constant visibility of the mayor,” Dickens said. “I’m trying to overcome all of those, and I’m working myself to death to do it.”

ExploreDuncan deals a blow to Buckhead cityhood push

Dickens said he’s interacting with police officers to learn how to improve retention. Atlanta is on track to hire 250 more officers, but he said roughly 168 officers left last year due to retirement or new jobs. He wants to cut that attrition level down to less than 125 officers this year.

Excerpts from the roundtable discussion, edited for clarity.

On Buckhead cityhood:

“This Buckhead City bill is bad for the city, bad for the state, bad for [Atlanta Public Schools], bad for bond ratings, bad for bonds in general. It’s not a good idea, so I’m preaching that gospel on a state level.

“This is a local control issue and none of the people that are producing this bill are from Buckhead. They don’t live in the jurisdiction that they’re actually trying to change and it’s a dramatic change.

“When I talk to someone that’s in the state legislative body that I haven’t interacted with before, I’ll say: ‘Hey, if I came to your community and started making changes...How would you feel about it?’”

On crime:

“Building up police morale is why I’ve gone to every single zone for roll calls and stood there and answered every question that they have.

“The presence of officers will help deter crime, but we also know that when we have more cameras on the street to be able to see crime...that’s going to deter crime.

“10,000 streetlights is going to make sure we reduce crime...crimes existed and car crashes and pedestrian crashes existed where those street lights were missing.

“We want to make sure that workers are safe too. They may be coming from Powder Springs to come work at Lenox Mall or to come work in downtown.”

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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New Atlanta Mayor Dickens focuses on safety at roundtable

Credit: WSBTV Videos

On his relationship with state leaders:

“I don’t walk around saying I don’t know the governor and lieutenant governor. We know each other, but we’re getting to know each other better.

“But it’s also not just state officers or resources, it’s the counties. So I met with county leadership, and so that’s helpful because they talk to the state too.

“Even [Atlanta Police] Chief [Rodney] Bryant said: ‘Hey the governor called me the other day and asked about support for inclement weather and Martin Luther King weekend, etc.’ I said, ‘He should. This is what we talked about.’”

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New Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens met with members of the press to talk about a range of issues. Video by Ryon Horne

On affordable housing:

“20,000 units was not something that was just thrown out haphazardly. I see the pathway to it. But of course, it takes time to build a building or preserve a building so you won’t see an equal 2,500 units per year. This year, of course, is the setup year to carry forward from what we’ve already been working on.

“But you can rest assured that there’s gonna be some activity real soon from the former Bowen site [and] with the Civic Center site.

“I got my ear to the ground and I’m really getting close to putting my foot in the Thomasville [housing] situation, Forest Cove and the former Thomasville site.”

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New Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens met with members of the press to talk about a range of issues. Video by Ryon Horne

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