Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens called for collaboration between city and state officials and advocated for keeping Atlanta intact during comments made to state lawmakers Monday. Here Dickens is pictured with Speaker David Ralston. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
Atlanta’s new mayor, Andre Dickens, brought his campaign to keep Georgia’s capital city intact to the lawmakers who have backed the Buckhead secession movement.
Dickens spoke to both legislative chambers at the state Capitol Monday, including the state Senate where a GOP-led bill letting Buckhead residents vote this November on seceding from Atlanta has likely stalled for now. It is tradition for new Atlanta mayors to address state lawmakers.
“I want Atlanta to stay one city with one bright future, and I’ll say that as often as it takes for us all to hear: one city with one bright future,” Dickens said to state senators Monday.
Alpharetta Republican Sen. Brandon Beach has filed a bill creating a new city of Buckhead, but GOP Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has assigned it to the Democratic-controlled Urban Affairs Committee, all but dooming its chances of passage. The Buckhead cityhood language, though, could be added to another bill later in the session.
Even if the measure ultimately clears the Senate, the proposal would face an uncertain future in the House. Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, has not said whether he supports the measure.
After Dickens’ speech, a group of mostly Democratic House lawmakers lined up for a photo with the new mayor. Among them was also state Rep. Dave Belton, a Buckhead Republican who says he represents the “real Buckhead” – a small town more than an hour east of Atlanta’s affluent Buckhead neighborhood.
An internal poll obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also shows declining support for breaking Buckhead off into a new city since Dickens was elected. The poll showed Buckhead voters now opposing the split, 51% to 40%.
But the push to split Buckhead off from Atlanta isn’t the only GOP-led cityhood bill on the move. A House committee has already pushed forward a bill carving out the city of East Cobb from unincorporated Cobb County.
Dickens, who was sworn in this month, steps into the role as violent crime has spiked in Atlanta and other American cities. The former city councilman succeeded former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who chose not to seek another term and whose relationship with state officials – particularly the governor – had become strained over disagreements on how best to handle the pandemic.
“I see this relationship as valuable, and I have 400 steps in me anytime you should need me,” Dickens said Monday, referring to the short walk from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. “My invitation remains open to you to do the same, to come over to City Hall … Collaboration will make us stronger.”
The new mayor has announced a new police precinct in Buckhead and says he is working on hiring more police officers.
“We’re already on our way. I’ve been to every single police zone and gone to those roll calls to look those men and women in the eye and tell them they have my full support as we go out here to do the good work of providing safety and justice in Atlanta,” Dickens said, drawing applause from House lawmakers.
And he asked for patience as he said his administration begins to work on homelessness in Atlanta.
“Don’t ‘tsk tsk’ Atlanta. Look at us as a community that’s trying to help some people get to where they need to be,” Dickens said.
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