Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced Monday morning that he plans to create a new “Nightlife Division” within the mayor’s office to focus on bars and clubs with a history of high crime.

In his first State of the City address since taking office, Dickens told business, civic and city leaders that the new office will host programs to educate businesses on de-escalation practices, security tactics, and emergency response.

“I’m proud to report today that City Hall is open, we’ve lifted the indoor mask mandate, all of our city services are up and running again,” said Dickens, whose speech centered on themes of working together to keep the city safe and clean.

“The state of our city is strong.”

Atlanta Councilmember Dustin Hillis (right) and  Mayor of Atlanta Andre Dickens (Center) head for the river with the other volunteers at the start of  Sweep The Hooch day at Proctor Creek at Grove Park Saturday, March 26, 2022. Proctor Creek runs through Atlanta and ultimately empties into the Chattahoochee River.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Dickens laid out some of his major funding priorities ahead of his first city budget cycle since taking office, including $5 million toward early childhood education and $4.5 million to expand the Policing Alternatives and Diversion initiative.

He also said the city is relaunching the “Pothole Posse” program first implemented by former Mayor Shirley Franklin’s administration — an announcement that generated one of the biggest crowd reactions from Dickens’ remarks.

The goal is for the Pothole Posse to fill 30 potholes a day.

Hundreds of current and former city officials, including councilmembers and mayors, schmoozed with business leaders at the Georgia World Congress Center, some reuniting for the first time in person in years. Local leaders in attendance included Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and former mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms, Franklin and Andrew Young.

Dickens, who entered the ballroom to an instrumental of Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy’s song “Put On,” wore a big smile as he embraced his mother and shook hands with Young. He recognized his fellow elected officials, honored the late former mayor Sam Massell and thanked his mother and daughter “for putting up with me.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens leads a press conference Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2022, to announce the formation of a unit targeting repeat offenders. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

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Credit: Ben Gray

In his 35-minute speech, Dickens also discussed his administration’s ongoing public safety efforts, including enhanced recruitment efforts and a new repeat offender unit, and recent affordable housing rollouts.

Dickens took office three months ago after winning a runoff election against former city council president Felicia Moore. The Atlanta native quickly worked to build bonds with Republican state leaders who decided to give Dickens a chance to implement his crime plan before moving forward with the controversial Buckhead cityhood movement.

Dickens directly addressed the cityhood movement Monday, thanking state leaders for taking the proposal “off the table for now.”

“And if I have it my way, it will remain that way forever,” the mayor said.

He continues to face challenges over gun violence — homicides are up compared to this time last year, though crimes like robbery and car theft are down.

Ahead of the mayor’s speech, Coca-Cola Company CEO James Quincey said his company is giving $1 million to the city to help build a fourth new center for at-risk youth in southeast Atlanta.

“As we look to the future, we see more investments in our hometown and across the state,” Quincey said. “Mayor, you are moving Atlanta forward, and we are excited about what the future holds.”

Since ascending to the mayor’s office, Dickens said he has put the city in “overdrive.”

“I have spent the past three months listening to constituents and stakeholders, business owners and residents,” Dickens said,” and one thing is consistent: People love this city.”

Atlanta Mayors including Andrew Young, from left, Andre Dickens, Keisha Lance Bottoms and Shirley Franklin attend the annual State of the City Business Breakfast at the Georgia World Congress Center on Monday, April 4, 2022.   (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman