Inside City Hall: ‘Pavement posse’? How Andre Dickens wants to make the city work better

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

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

When Andre Dickens was campaigning to be mayor, he promised to improve the functionality of Atlanta City Hall and city services that took a hit during the pandemic.

We learned last week he’s making headway by auditing all customer-facing city departments, from public works to the 311 system. Speaking to us by phone Thursday, Dickens said most of his team’s interviews with leaders in each department will likely conclude this week.

Dickens says his “100 day working team” is assessing each department’s performance alongside Jon Keen — the city’s chief operating officer since 2020.

“I said we’ll have it all done in the first 90 days. I believe we’ll hit that target and be able to communicate out to the public some of the operational improvements we’ll make, as well as personnel changes that might need to occur,” Dickens said.

Dickens is still hiring employees, and he told reporters at City Hall last week that he’s working himself “to death” to ensure the city is functioning properly.

At the roundtable, Dickens restated his goal of building or preserving 20,000 affordable housing units in eight years. He wants to meet with faith leaders next month to discuss building on their underutilized land.

“In good church fashion, I’m going to have 10% of that 20,000 come from the faith community. That’s how God works, watch,” Dickens quipped.

Here’s our recap on what else Dickens shared at the roundtable:

- With about 300 city employees infected with COVID, Dickens wants to wait until infections drop to fully reopen City Hall to the public. He said he’d like to get all employees vaccinated first; roughly 73% of them are vaccinated.

- He wants to raise pay for city employees. Dickens said he has ideas on how to increase the city’s revenue to improve salaries, but he didn’t share details.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at the Georgia Chamber’s “Eggs & Issues” breakfast at the Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta, Georgia on January 12th, 2022. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

- Many residents want Dickens to improve cleanliness in the city after he asked for ideas for “quick fixes.” He said he mostly received feedback on transportation and mentioned interest in reviving the “Pothole Posse” program implemented by Mayor Shirley Franklin. Dickens said they might rebrand the initiative to include all street issues. He proposed the name “Pavement Posse,” joking that posse may be a “throwback phrase.”

- Dickens is setting up a private meeting with some of the residents in Peoplestown, located in southeast Atlanta, to discuss the yearslong fight between those residents and the city after Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration used eminent domain to acquire their houses to build flood protections in the area.

- Former city council president and mayoral candidate Felicia Moore is still in talks with Dickens about a possible role in his administration.

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The Buckhead City Committee, the group pushing to carve Atlanta’s Northside into a separate city, sued Atlanta last week alleging the government is using its power to unfairly target the group over signs it installed at its new headquarters on Peachtree Road.

The suit, filed in federal court, claims the city delayed the committee’s sign permits last fall. After the large “Buckhead City” signs were installed, a complaint filed with the city led an inspector to visit the site, according to Saporta Report.

The committee was given sign ordinance violations and told to change the signs, which were allegedly not in conformance with city code. It was also told it needed to have spots for parking and handicap van access parking.

Adam Webb, a lawyer for the pro-cityhood group, said the display has been there for years and was never targeted until the Buckhead cityhood sign was installed. Google Maps shows there was nothing on the sign for years before an art gallery decorated it, followed by the pro-Buckhead City sign.

A spokesman for Dickens said Friday the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

The Buckhead City Committee headquarters and sign on Friday, Jan. 21. (J.D. Capelouto/jdcapelouto@ajc.com)

Credit: J.D. Capelouto/AJC

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Credit: J.D. Capelouto/AJC

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Here’s what else you may have missed in Atlanta city politics last week:

- We found nearly 500 vacancies exist across over 100 boards and commissions created by or affiliated with the city. Folks responsible for the appointments include the mayor, City Council, and outside groups, who have pledged to make a dent in the number of open spots.

- Mayor Dickens named the rest of his 40-member transition team to help advise him on various policies.

- Dickens spent the end of the week “nerding out” (his words) at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, where officials gathered to discuss policy and leadership.

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If you have any feedback, story ideas, tips or City Hall insider info, please reach out! You can email us at wilborn.nobles@ajc.com and jdcapelouto@ajc.com, or find us on Twitter, @jdcapelouto and @WilNobles.