Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ transition team unveiled an 88-page report Monday with dozens of policy recommendations for the administration in regards to public safety, ethics, neighborhoods and the city’s youth.
The report offers several concrete policy proposals to improve public safety and guard against corruption, such as restricting on campaign contributions from city contractors; enhanced crime-prevention strategies in hotspots; an assessment of public safety operations; fast-tracked procurement for public safety initiatives; and creation of an Office of Neighborhoods.
Ohio River South CEO Howard Franklin, the team’s co-chair and Dickens’ top campaign strategist, said the committee gathered feedback from nearly 300 residents for nearly 11,000 hours. The 40-member team formed in January.
Franklin said he was pleasantly surprised to see their report align so well with Dickens’ priorities because the team worked separately from the mayor’s office over the last 100 days.
“I’m glad to see so much is already happening. We were kind of on parallel tracks,” Franklin said.
One proposal is for the city to create a “fast-track procurement program” within the city’s Department of Procurement to expedite the use of public safety initiatives within the first two years of Dickens’ first term. They also want to build a dedicated public safety unit within the procurement department to ensure requests align with the mayor’s public safety plans.
The report also suggests that police invest in more technology to fight crime, such as video surveillance, artificial intelligence, and the creation of a “gun violence metric” to gain a more precise understanding of where violent crimes are taking place.
Franklin said the city’s focus on employment will also help prevent young people from being enticed into criminal activities. The report lays out several opportunities for the city to enhance or create partnerships with existing programs designed to support young people.
One proposal aimed at corruption would restrict campaign contributions from existing and prospective city contractors after businesses submitted a bid for work on contracts with the city or Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The rule would also apply to contractors for a period of time after the city contract is executed.
According to the report, the team listened to several members of the Atlanta business community and policy advocates who expressed “concernsthat donations to political campaigns are perceived to be a prerequisite to future success in city procurement or airport contracting processes.”
The pay-to-play recommendation also comes amid the federal investigation into the Atlanta City Hall bribery scheme. Although the probe and the prosecutions date back to officials in then-Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, Dickens recently put two employees on leave after the women were name-checked in Mitzi Bickers’ March bribery trial.
Another proposal is the creation of an Office of Neighborhoods. It would be a central hub for the city to coordinate with community groups designed to ensure residents are being heard.
English Avenue Neighborhood Association President Nicholas Stewart said the proposal’s details closely mirror the intent of the city’s existing neighborhood planning units.
But Stewart said he supports the addition of more neighborhood engagement staffing if Dickens can fund those positions. He said residents in his area often feel like they’re ignored, such as when the city recently approved a restaurant’s liquor license despite the NPU-L’s vote against the alcohol permit.
“The voices of the neighborhood sometimes get overturned when the particular item gets down to the city,” Stewart said.
Dickens lauded his transition team for helping him by obtaining feedback from people “to forge one Atlanta where everyone thrives.”
Team co-chair Sharon Gay, a former Managing Partner of Dentons and a former mayoral candidate, said in a statement that residents will continue to get opportunities to let their voices be heard.
“These recommendations are only the beginning,” she said.
Highlights from the report:
* Develop place-based crime prevention strategies for hotspots.
* Develop fast-track procurement for public safety initiatives.
* Create an Office of Neighborhoods.
* Limit campaign contributions from contractors.
* Support the independence of the city’s Office of Inspector General and Ethics Office.
Wilborn P. Nobles III covers Atlanta City Hall for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He began covering DeKalb County Schools for The AJC in November 2020. He previously covered Baltimore County for The Baltimore Sun and education for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. He interned at the Washington Post. He graduated from Louisiana State University.