One Man’s Opinion: A Tale of Two Cities

British author Charles Dickens (1812-1870) published his perhaps best known and most widely and well-received fictional novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” in 1859, 163 years ago.

Andre Dickens, the newly elected Mayor of Atlanta, has been working with all due diligent speed, effort, and sincerity to reunify at least two cities within Georgia’s capital city of Atlanta since being sworn in just over 100 days ago.

Yes, it is early and the landscape of the Dickens novel spanned two countries, their respective capitals of London and Paris, and close to 20 years within three books...but I am increasingly optimistic that Andre Dickens’ and his tenure leading Atlanta is going to have a MUCH happier ending.

From the novel...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair -”

So much of that is true of our Atlanta today...but perhaps not through the lens and staying power of this young, hard-charging, and earnest Mayor. On almost every front, Andre Dickens is simultaneously making progress on a multitude of Atlanta’s seemingly intractable challenges.

From the headlines -

Crime/Public Safety-

Dickens Opens New Mini-Police Precinct in Buckhead

Dickens Creates Repeat Offenders Unit with Fulton D.A. & Sheriff

Dickens Regularly Drops In on APD Morning Meetings, Daily Calls with Chief of Police

Atlanta Chief of Police Rodney Bryant to Retire at End of June 2022

APD Case Clearance Rate Rises to 72%

Housing/Affordable Housing -

Dickens Brokers Truce and Ends Litigation Between City and Atlanta Housing Authority

Dickens Seeks Public-Private Partners for New Units of Affordable Housing

Dickens Meets with Realtor, Development Community, and Invest Atlanta

Proposed City of Buckhead City

Dickens Shortens Distance with Regular Visits from City Hall and State Capitol

Dickens Builds Relationships with House Speaker David Ralston & other state government leaders

Dickens Shuts Down City of Buckhead Referendum, Asking General Assembly for TIME to Address Crime and Other Concerns

City Agency Service Levels -

Dickens Revises Pothole Posse, a program of his mentor, former Mayor Shirley Franklin

Dickens Seeks to Raise City Employee Comp Packages to Recognize and Reward Outstanding Performers

Dickens Expanding Efforts to work with Atlanta Public Schools

Traffic & Transit -

Dickens Holds MARTA Accountable for Earlier Service Enhancement Promises

Dickens Supports and Advocates for T-SPLOST Extension

With concerns about rising violent crime rates and drag racing on public streets in need of immediate attention, the new Mayor, Fulton District Attorney, Fulton County Sheriff, and Atlanta Police Department created a joint repeat offenders unit. Prior arrest data showed roughly 1,000 repeat offenders, several with as many as 30 arrests, and hundreds with at least prior felony convictions, represented nearly 40 percent of the APD caseload and were routinely being arrested, charged, arraigned, and let back out on the streets awaiting trial. Many of these same accused have outstanding warrants for skipping trial dates as well. Combined with a case clearance rate (charge and arrest of a suspect for a crime) approaching 72 percent, if the repeat offenders are simply held with higher bails until trial, the city should quickly begin to experience a drop in crime rates.

The housing affordability challenge will take more time, but during his first month in office, Mayor Dickens ended litigation nearly a decade old between the City of Atlanta and its own Housing Authority, over development rights on land ALREADY OWNED by the city, cleared and available for affordable housing development. This Mayor, like several prior to him, has a goal of 20,000 new units of affordable housing. That is a long hill to climb, but being able to develop parcels that were formerly housing projects, located within the central city is a major step in the right direction. Consideration should be given, and likely will by this Mayor, to placing assisting Atlanta police and other first responders in becoming tenants in some of these new units of affordable housing.

Mayor Dickens is not perfect. However, his current list of accomplishments and new initiatives planned right out of the gate, in less than four months in office is impressive by any measure. Here is to the New Leader of Georgia’s capital city enjoying an extended Season of Light.

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