Atlanta is “one city with one bright future,” Mayor Andre Dicken told the region’s top business leaders, lawmakers, and dignitaries Monday at his first State of the City address.
“The state of our city is strong,” Dickens said at the early morning business breakfast at the Georgia World Congress Center. “We are — and will continue to be — one city with one bright future. Together.”
During his 37-minute speech, Dickens credited state lawmakers with helping keep the city intact — referring to the defeat of the Buckhead city movement — and promised to beef up public safety and steer more dollars to early childhood education.
He recapped his activities over his first three months in office. City services were “experiencing the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic when he took office, DIckens said, with hundreds of city workers out sick and three sanitation services down, while City Hall was not open to the public.
But the public works, watershed, transportation and public safety departments “stayed the course,” he said. “To meet the moment, we hired contractors, raised our vaccination rates, and outsourced services where it made sense.”
I am 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 and we are determined to keep our city safe and clean.”
Shortly after being sworn in, Dickens said he set out to talk to constituents, business owners and residents.
“One thing is consistent. People love this city but the need to supercharge some of our services was apparent,” he told the audience which included his predecessors, former mayors Andrew Young, Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Shirley Franklin. Franklin also is Dickens’ mentor.
In formulating his vision for the city, Dickens told the audience “I draw circles. I don’t draw lines. My vision includes everyone.”
His vision for the city includes “safe, healthy, connected neighborhoods with an expansive culture of equity. empowering upward mobility, and full participation for all residents, embracing youth development, and an innovative, dependable government moving Atlanta forward — together. ”
Here’s how Dickens intends to achieve that vision:
EDUCATION & YOUTH
- First-ever City of Atlanta investment of $5 million for early childhood education. Dickens will ask Atlanta Public Schools and the philanthropic community to match, with a $20 million goal.
- A new Mayor’s Internship Program. “I want our kids to see our government up close and maybe see a future for themselves in it.”
- Plans to put 3,000 teens to work this summer in the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program, in part, as a crime deterrent.
- Dicken reiterated his administration’s goal of creating or preserving 20,000 affordable housing units over the next eight years. It will be overseen by a new Affordable Housing Strike Force, a “one-stop-shop to oversee all our affordable housing needs.”
- JPMorgan Chase has committed $2.5 million over the next three years to the Atlanta neighborhood development partners to create more homeownership among people of color.
- Wells Fargo, with Enterprise Community Partners, is committing $1.3 million to finance at least 1,000 affordable housing units.
- Invest Atlanta has secured financing to support nearly 400 affordable housing units.
- With a private developer, the city broke ground in March for the Skyline apartments which will bring 250 affording housing units to the Peoplestown neighborhood.
- Relaunching the Pothole Posse, which was created during Franklin’s administration, with a daily goal of filling 30 potholes around the city.
- Supports extending the Transportation Special Options Sales Tax. If voters pass what Dickens calls “TSPLOST 2.0” in May to continue the current special city sales tax, it would give the city about $350 million that will be spent exclusively on repairing sidewalks, bridges, and roads, Dickens said.
- An over $400 million Public Improvement Bond is earmarked for police and firefighter capital projects including: three new or renovated fire stations, a police and fire training center in DeKalb County on land already leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation, a new Center for Diversion Services in partnership with Fulton County as an alternative to jail for people with behavioral health issues.
PARKS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
- The $400 million Public Improvement Bond also will be used for park and playground improvements, bicycle and bus lanes, and improved lighting for roads, sidewalks, and trails.
- A $2.3 million grant from Park Pride for capital improvements to parks citywide, with an almost $750,000 match from local charities to benefit low-income communities.
- Creation of a new Greenspace Advisory Council made up of 13 environmentally-focused nonprofits to advise the Dickens administration on parks and greenspace, including land acquisition.
- Launched Phase Zero: Operation Clean Sweep, a keep-the-city-clean initiative.
- The city Department of Parks and Recreation in March acquired nine acres of along the Chattahoochee River to create the city’s first park with direct river access–a land assemblage five years in the making.
- On track to add 250 police officers in 2022
- Atlanta Police Department will establish a new Zone 2 precinct in Buckhead Village, now under construction, which Dickens said will be staffed with 12 officers by the summer.
- Committing $4.5 million to expand the city’s Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative (PAD) services, which will put “the city one step closer to operating [diversionary services] 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
- Created a new Nightlife Division within the Mayor’s Office to provide quarterly training to businesses experiencing high crime on de-escalating violent altercations, security training and first aid.
- Established the Safe Streets Plan to oversee road safety, fire and rescue, and police activities for safer streets. The “Light up the Night” campaign has already installed almost half of the 10,000 street lights that are part of the effort to keep communities well-lit. The additional lights will mean 60,000 lights citywide.
- Launched a Repeat Offenders Unit in March “to throw the full weight of the criminal justice system at them,” with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, Atlanta Police Department, Atlanta Police Foundation, and federal support.
- Has restarted Invest Atlanta’s Resurgence Grant Fund with $10 million to help small businesses with grants and technical assistance. The aim is to increase the fund to $40 million.
- Will open five satellite Invest Atlanta offices on the Southside to make grant assistance and technical support more accessible to small businesses.
Read the mayor’s speech here.
See his speech here.
Happy 404 Day, Atlanta! It’s the fourth day of the fourth month and 404 just happens to be the area code of many Metro Atlantans. Here’s what Hizzoner is listening to today.