Inside City Hall: What’s the fate of Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant?

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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens discusses his plans for Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant. Video by Ryon Horne and Tyson Horne/AJC

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

We’re coming up on the 100th day of Mayor Andre Dickens’ term — the traditional benchmark for new elected leaders to trumpet their early accomplishments, partnerships and policies. For the media, it’s a chance to check in on the promises candidates made while running for office.

You may remember that on the campaign trail, Dickens said he would keep police Chief Rodney Bryant — who came out of retirement to lead the department in 2020 after Erika Shields stepped down — on a 100-day contract to assess his performance.

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March 15, 2022 Atlanta: Atlanta police chief Rodney Bryant speaks at the podium as police command staff (left to right) Lt. Ralph Woolfolk, commander of Atlanta police's homicide unit, Deputy Chief Charles Hampton and Mayor Andre Dickens spoke about how Atlanta’s homicide detectives have made arrests in 72% of this year’s killings on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

March 15, 2022 Atlanta: Atlanta police chief Rodney Bryant speaks at the podium as police command staff (left to right) Lt. Ralph Woolfolk, commander of Atlanta police's homicide unit, Deputy Chief Charles Hampton and Mayor Andre Dickens spoke about how Atlanta’s homicide detectives have made arrests in 72% of this year’s killings on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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March 15, 2022 Atlanta: Atlanta police chief Rodney Bryant speaks at the podium as police command staff (left to right) Lt. Ralph Woolfolk, commander of Atlanta police's homicide unit, Deputy Chief Charles Hampton and Mayor Andre Dickens spoke about how Atlanta’s homicide detectives have made arrests in 72% of this year’s killings on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

We asked Dickens last week if he plans to keep Bryant on long-term, with the contract running out soon. Here’s what he said:

“I'm an engineer, so I'm data driven, and so I see some places where crime has been reduced in some areas. Some instances of crime we're making good progress, and some areas of concerns are still our homicides and acute areas around the city where I think we need to do more enforcement and crack down on some things. We talk about those each morning. I've been very forthright with him about where we are in the process. Next week is the 100th day, so you guys come talk to me on that day and you'll see where we are."

- - Mayor Andre Dickens on police Chief Rodney Bryant

While Bryant’s fate is still up in the air, we got more concrete details on Dickens’ philosophy on crime-fighting, and how the newly announced “nightlife division” will work. More on that to come this week.

Dickens’ 100th day is Tuesday — we’ll have a story looking back on these past three months in city politics, based on over 20 interviews with officials and stakeholders across the city. Look out for a video of our interview with Mayor Dickens. You can also hear our entire conversation on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Politically Georgia podcast starting Tuesday. Subscribe to our podcast for free today at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher so you don’t miss it!

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In case you missed it: We have a recap of Mayor Dickens’ first State of the City address last week, which included an announcement that the “Pothole Posse” is back.

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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

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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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

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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The city of Atlanta’s IT department plays a crucial role in the city’s technology infrastructure, but is currently stuck in a kind of “firefighter mentality,” Atlanta’s city’s chief information officer said recently. We reported last week how the department, technically known as “Information Management,” has seen a nearly $8 million drop in its budget since 2019. It’s now dealing with a $3.1 million budget deficit since the start of the latest fiscal year.

Mayor Dickens, who has an engineering background, has said he wants the city to be on top of technological advances. The city has a chance to increase the IT budget during the upcoming budget season.

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A new state law adds more hurdles to any future proactive rezoning efforts the city undertakes to allow for multifamily uses on single-family properties. House Bill 1405, passed last Monday on the last day of the legislative session, requires cities to hold two public hearings, pass the rezoning over two meetings and post details of the proposed change on any impacted properties.

Here’s the context: Last year, Councilman Amir Farokhi, with support from then Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration, unveiled a proposal that would in part allow hundreds of single-family homes near MARTA stations to become small apartment buildings. It was met with pushback from neighborhood groups across the city but cheered by progressive housing advocates who pointed out that the city needs to densify to keep up with its growth.

The proposal didn’t go anywhere at City Council and was fuel for the Buckhead cityhood movement; we haven’t gotten any indication that Dickens plans to propose something similar anytime soon.

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You can reach out to us with feedback, story ideas, tips or City Hall insider info any time at wilborn.nobles@ajc.com and jdcapelouto@ajc.com, or find us on Twitter, @jdcapelouto and @WilNobles. We’ll be playing the mayor’s 404 Day Pandora playlist on repeat in the meantime.

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