Atlanta’s Mayor hits the ground running

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens with The Signals own Tyrik Winn. Photo by Tyrik Wynn | The Signal

Last year Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced she would not run again after her first and final tumultuous term as Mayor of Atlanta. 

This departure left her seat open for Atlanta-native, Georgia State alum and City Councilmember Andre Dickens to run for her seat in the 2021 runoff election last November. 

64% of the voters supported Dickens, and on Jan. 3, he was sworn in as the 61st mayor of Atlanta. 

Going into his second month in office, supporters and critics alike are keeping a close eye on how he is handling the challenges of the job. Citizens want to know how closely he’s following his campaign promises, what he’s accomplished so far and what long-term goals he has set in place.

During his campaign, Dickens promised to “restore the soul of Atlanta.” His focus narrowed to two core issues: transportation and affordable housing. He said he believed these were the tools for Atlanta’s future economic growth.

“Improvements and expansion of MARTA are going to be huge and necessary,” Dickens said during his campaign. “Being able to explore and actually deliver transportation on the Beltline. Right now, we have the Beltline as a sidewalk. It’s [fun], and people can walk places, but the intent was to have transit on the Beltline. I intend to move that ball forward significantly as mayor.”

As a city council member, he established Beltline Inclusionary Zoning for affordable housing and a Beltline senior housing rehab program. As mayor, he planned to continue this movement to build more affordable housing. 

He intends to build 20,000 units of affordable housing in conjunction with a workforce plan, geared to get young people to the point of making $70,000 per year within four to five years and then to allow the affordable housing to go to the next person in need.

Dickens is in the thick of the issues that plagued his predecessor. Crime and murder are at an all-time high, and thousands remain unsheltered. A little more than a month into his first term, he is heavily focused on fulfilling his 100-day plan to move Atlanta in the right direction.

He addressed those previously living in tents outside the capitol building, which authorities ordered to move this week.

“My administration is helping those individuals that are currently unsheltered, getting them into a safe place,” Dickens said in an interview with CBS46 anchor Karyn Greer. 

“The ones that were outside the capitol, about 30 of them, we already have hotels for some, and then we have shelters and places that can help those that are experiencing severe mental illness, some of those social, special services for those individuals.”

And he will begin hiring specialists whose sole focus is homelessness and mental health.

Dickens addressed the crime affecting students and the rest of the city.

“We have already started working on issues of crime and youth engagement,” said Dickens. 

“Studies show that a disproportionate amount of the crime [can be] attributed to young people, even school-age youth. 60% of our crime in 2021 occurred by individuals  [under] the age of 24. Between 16 and 24, 60% of the crime occurred. So, we’re prioritizing youth engagement and education in this administration.”

He said he’s also planning on hiring 250 officers this year. He will train all officers in de-escalation tactics, conflict resolution and steps to effectively patrol and provide service at bars and nightclubs. 

He hired a nightclub manager to address the string of shootings at lounges recently. He is cracking down on the nightlife leaders, setting the stage to allow violence and misconduct to happen.

“I stand here today as living proof that a little kid from Adamsville could dare to dream to be the mayor,” Dickens said. “This is a dream come true, [and] I’m in a dream job. I get to go around this city solving problems that I know we all need but I also get to see the beauty of our city every day.”

He has a long way to go, and he is a long way from where he started, but his goals remain clear and focused.

“Each mayor had their burden, and mine is to bring us together, ” Dickens said. “To form a safe, clean, thriving city and to restore our sense of community.”