Inside City Hall: Atlanta’s back in the COVID Red Zone

Masked and unmasked passengers sit with their luggage at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Masked and unmasked passengers sit with their luggage at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

A weekly roundup of the most important things you need to know about Atlanta City Hall

With COVID cases on the rise, the city of Atlanta is back in the Red Zone.

Some background: Last year the city scrapped it’s phased reopening system in favor of a color-coded “zone” system, ranging from green (good!) to red (bad).

It’s important to note the color codes do not have policies attached to them, and Mayor Andre Dickens has not reinstated a public mask mandate. A spokesman for Dickens told us the mayor isn’t considering a new mask mandate “at this time,” but he will “continue to follow science and CDC guidelines, and will act accordingly for the best interests of the people of Atlanta.”

The color-coded system encourages behavior based on the color. Emory University infectious disease expert Dr. Carlos del Rio compared it to weather reports urging people to carry an umbrella when there’s a threat of rain.

We entered the Red Zone when new weekly cases surpassed 200 per 100,000 people. The latest Georgia Department of Public Health data shows new confirmed cases per capita in Fulton County exceed 380. The actual number of cases is certainly larger due to the abundance of at-home testing.

Currently, city facilities are open to the public, but masks are mandated for public meetings, per the latest guidance.

---

Last month, an Inspector General report found that former Mayor Kasim Reed may owe the city nearly $83,000 for expenses paid on his behalf by city officials who misled the council and the public about the nature of payments for his health insurance, a South Africa trip, and a donation to Howard University. The report also said Reed might be owed some salary from a pay increase he declined to accept.

Last week, as Channel 2 Action News’ Richard Belcher first reported, we learned Mayor Dickens is not expected to seek those funds from Reed. A spokesman for Dickens told us any civil remedies in the Reed matter would be time-barred, meaning the statute of limitations has expired.

Combined ShapeCaption
Former Mayor Kasim Reed at his campaign headquarters on during his third bid for City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Former Mayor Kasim Reed at his campaign headquarters on during his third bid for City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Combined ShapeCaption
Former Mayor Kasim Reed at his campaign headquarters on during his third bid for City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The IG report also advised the city to tighten controls around donations the mayor can make to prevent future proprietary claims to funds into the mayor’s distribution account, according to the report.

Longtime Councilman Howard Shook, who served throughout Reed’s tenure, said he plans to work with his colleagues to introduce that legislation.

---

In last week’s Inside City Hall, we said we expected Interim Transportation Commissioner Marsha Anderson Bomar to be in the running to lead the department permanently.

Well, Anderson Bomar told SaportaReport that last week that she is in fact not interested in the permanent post. She spoke about leading the crucial — and relatively new — city department during a period of transition, saying she’s “not a placeholder. … I’m a doer. My nature is to implement.”

It could take up to six more months before a nationwide search is wrapped up for a new transportation czar.

---

Combined ShapeCaption
DeKalb County Commissioner and former Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

DeKalb County Commissioner and former Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Combined ShapeCaption
DeKalb County Commissioner and former Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry wants the team behind Atlanta’s controversial new police and fire training center to conduct more thorough environmental and noise testing before permits are approved by the county. Our colleague Tyler Estep reported Terry wants to pass a resolution for the county’s existing community advisory committee to have a more formal “recommendation vote” on approval of the training center’s site plan.

The county has little say in the project, but its planning department is responsible for granting various permits required for construction to begin.

---

Mayor Dickens is one of 40 mayors from across the world invited to be part of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a yearlong education and professional development program.

Dickens and his fellow mayors met up in New York City last week to hear from Harvard faculty and management experts in a classroom setting.

WILBORN NOBLES III

Wilborn P. Nobles III covers the Atlanta mayor's policies for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wil (not "Willie" or "William") previously covered Baltimore County government at The Baltimore Sun, but he never finished "The Wire." He also covered education for the Times-Picayune in his hometown of New Orleans, so he tries to avoid discussions about football. Wil used to play tuba for his high school marching band, but he eventually put down his horn to intern at The Washington Post. The Louisiana State University graduate enjoys gardening, comedy, and music.

Wilborn.Nobles@ajc.com

J.D. CAPELOUTO

J.D. Capelouto is a local news reporter covering City Hall and all things intown Atlanta for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His work focuses the City Council, neighborhood issues, public safety, housing and transportation. J.D. was born and raised in Atlanta and has lived in the city all his life, except for four years at Boston University, where he studied journalism and learned how to dress for cold weather. He’s been with the AJC since 2018, and has previously written for The Boston Globe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. When he’s not reporting or scrolling through Twitter, J.D. enjoys pop culture podcasts, “Survivor” and visiting various pools around Atlanta.

Joseph.Capelouto@ajc.com