Atlanta City Council returns to its chambers for the first time in 2 years

Council President Doug Shipman presides over Monday's City Council meeting, the first in-person meeting in over two years. (Courtesy/Atlanta City Council)

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Council President Doug Shipman presides over Monday's City Council meeting, the first in-person meeting in over two years. (Courtesy/Atlanta City Council)

Over a dozen masked city of Atlanta officials sat behind their daïs, listened to comments from the public and cast votes in person for the first time in over two years Monday.

The Atlanta City Council meeting followed weeks of planning for the return to in-person gatherings after the council voted and communicated via a virtual and audio system throughout the pandemic.

Masks were required for councilmembers and residents who attended the meeting.

Council President Doug Shipman, who presided over the meeting, marked the occasion by thanking staff for preparing the return to in-person work.

ExploreInside City Hall: It’s finally time to go ... inside City Hall

The technical difficulties that sometimes held up the virtual meetings were mostly absent Monday, speeding up the voting and discussion process. It otherwise had the feel of an average pre-pandemic meeting, with councilmembers dashing back and forth to huddle amid votes.

Some members of the public who regularly appeared at council meetings before COVID used their time at the microphone to reintroduce themselves to the officials in person.

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Councilmemembers Byron Amos (left) and Jason Dozier (right) during Monday's Atlanta City Council meeting. (Courtesy/Atlanta City Council)

Credit: Courtesy/Atlanta City Council

Councilmemembers Byron Amos (left) and Jason Dozier (right) during Monday's Atlanta City Council meeting. (Courtesy/Atlanta City Council)

Credit: Courtesy/Atlanta City Council

Combined ShapeCaption
Councilmemembers Byron Amos (left) and Jason Dozier (right) during Monday's Atlanta City Council meeting. (Courtesy/Atlanta City Council)

Credit: Courtesy/Atlanta City Council

Credit: Courtesy/Atlanta City Council

“You guys miss me?” said Gina Pagnotta, the president of a union representing city employees. “The ones that know me, I missed you.”

Councilman Alex Wan, who previously served on council from 2010 to 2018 and returned for another term this year, recited the lyrics to Adele’s song “Hello”: “Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.”

During the two-hour-long meeting, the council voted to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to an emergency contract for yard trimmings collection services. The city is picking up yard trimmings every other week this month, further challenging an already burdened department.

Due to staffing shortages and attendance concerns during the pandemic, the city has contracted with several private staffing and solid waste collection agencies in the last year.

Expenses for the city’s solid waste fund are now projected to exceed budget by $8.1 million for the current fiscal year.

The council also urged the Georgia General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow cities to install audio devices to help enforce laws prohibiting loud exhaust from cars. Officials approved a 180-day moratorium on new rezoning applications in the “Upper Westside” area, and a resolution asking Atlanta police and other agencies to tackle the issue of burglaries at local film production companies.