Remarks by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens (61st Mayor of Atlanta)
Good afternoon Atlanta.
This is, indeed, the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.[Joking about the rather cold weather in the open-top stadium,] Which one of you city councilmembers is going to make an ordinance to say that no one should ever call us ‘Hotlanta’ again?
I want to first thank Georgia Tech, my alma mater, and President Angel Cabrera for allowing us to have this ceremony here today at Bobby Dodd Stadium. It really means a lot to me, to be back in this arena, to receive this honor on this campus.
I want to congratulate all of the members of our city council and our city council president one more time. I want to congratulate you for stepping up and making this big commitment to continue to serve the people of Atlanta. I know the work of the city council, as a former council member, and the people are counting on you to continue to passionately represent them for the next four years. Again, congratulations and I look forward to working with each and every last one of you.
Congratulations to the judges who were sworn in today, and I thank you for your service, and for you to continue to serve the city well and maintain the sanctity of our justice system.
Thank you to all of the other current and former elected officials here… Thank you all for being here. You represent the city, the state, the metro area, and this nation.
And, of course, I want to thank, with all my heart, my family and my friends. Without you and your constant support, I would not be able to stand here today. So, thank you.
And, to all of my friends and supporters, I thank you during this really long election cycle.
Finally, I want to give all praises to God for blessing me to be able to see this day. God has given me so much, and today I have to simply say, ‘Thank you God for blessing me, with all of my heart.’
I greet you all today, as a native of Atlanta’s Adamsville neighborhood, the son of a hard-working mother, the father of a 16-year-old daughter, a deacon in my church, a public servant, and a graduate of this esteemed university, Georgia Tech.
It’s remarkable to believe that almost 30 years ago, I stood in those stands with my Kappa Alpha Psi brothers as we would usher to make money to go to college during each of the college football games; we would usher in those stands. And, so I stand before you today to usher in a new day in the city of Atlanta.
I greet you in the spirit of my predecessors… Ivan Allen, another Georgia Tech graduate, who is the namesake of the Georgia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts, who boldly testified in favor of the 1964 Civil Rights Act during a turbulent time in this country.
I greet you in the spirit of Maynard Jackson, who became the first Black mayor of Atlanta, and he built the world’s busiest airport in the world and created the Minority and Women Business Enterprise program that has been implemented all over the world.
I greet you in the name of Ambassador and Mayor Andrew Young, who brought us the Olympic Games and whose vision of turning Atlanta into an international city has placed us on the global map.
I greet you in the name of Shirley Franklin, one of my strongest supporters, the first woman Mayor of Atlanta, and who had the temerity and courage to restore the public trust in government, and tackle the neglected issues of improving our infrastructure, and creating new and vibrant Atlanta institutions such as the Atlanta BeltLine.
I believe, as they believed, that, together, there is nothing that we can’t accomplish – starting with redeeming the soul of Atlanta. Our true opponents are not some political competitor or some neighbor that we disagree with. No! Our opponents are poverty, fear, inequality, violence, hopelessness and homelessness.
Each mayor had their burden. Mine is to bring us together in a safe, clean, thriving city and to restore our sense of community.
I also want to recognize the positive contributions of other mayors that came before me.
William B. Hartsfield, who had the vision for the great airport that has become the economic engine of the southeast for the last 50 years.
Sam Massell, who ushered in MARTA and who has been a business leader in Buckhead for several decades.
Bill Campbell, who was the first city councilman in the modern era to become mayor and who presided over the Centennial Olympic Games.
Kasim Reed, who oversaw the building of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Tyler Perry Studios.
And, of course, my friend Keisha Lance Bottoms, our outgoing Mayor, who has had the wherewithal to steer us through the COVID-19 pandemic and defending us against a cybersecurity attack.
This is an awesome list of public servants that have come before me.
And, so it is, with an immense amount of reflection, humility, and honor, I hold out my hand to accept this precious baton of responsibility from these leaders. I accept the responsibility of uplifting the soul of Atlanta.
None of my predecessors accomplished these things they did by themselves – and neither can I.
I want to thank Atlantans from every neighborhood in our city, of every race and ethnicity, of every faith, of every gender and sexual orientation, of every political background, and I want to tell you that this mayor, this council, these judges, we see you. We are here to serve.
Together we will write a new chapter for Atlanta, for this beautiful city in a forest. This city that W.E.B Dubois, 125 years ago, called the ‘Breathless City of a Hundred Hills.’ This city that Mayor Ivan Allen said, 55 years ago, was ‘Too Busy to Hate.’ This city that all my friends say ‘Influences Everything.’
I stand here today as living proof that a little kid from Adamsville could dare to dream to be the mayor and grow up to fulfill that dream by becoming the 61st Mayor of Atlanta.
My visions for Atlanta are filled with optimism. Oh, Atlanta… I’m a positive person. I always see the good in a situation, when others see the bad.
I’m strong in my faith, and I truly believe that together we can conquer insurmountable odds and huge challenges, and you have my full commitment that I will work hard each and every day, from can’t-see morning to can’t-see evening, to ensure that this city is safe, is clean and equitable for all of its citizens.
First of all, as your mayor and with your help, I want to make sure our city is safe from Bankhead to Buckhead. I want our city to be a place where little kids can play without being afraid of getting shot by a random bullet. Where women can stop at a gas station and pump a few gallons of gas without fear of physical intimidation. Where elderly people feel empowered to come out of their homes and can enjoy a walk in the park on a sunny day.
As such, the first 100 days of my administration will be laser-focused on reducing crime with a particular emphasis on balancing our safety and justice.
We will beat back the scourge of crime through my four-step SAFE Streets Atlanta Plan. We will hire 250 police officers in 2022. And, starting this quarter, we will train all new and existing officers in conflict resolution, de-escalation tactics and community policing. And, I will direct my police chief to remind our police officers that they are here to serve and protect.
We will also focus on other technologies like additional streetlights, cameras, and shot spotter technology. We will add 10,000 streetlights in every quadrant of this city to see an Atlanta that is lit up like a Christmas tree from the Airport to Phipps Plaza.
We will professionalize, stabilize, and enhance the technology within our 911 operations because an emergency is the wrong time to be put on hold.
But we know that crime does not happen in a vacuum. We must attack the root causes of crime and that’s why there needs to be a balance between safety and justice.
I will begin to hire and deploy specialists to address such things as mental health challenges and homelessness so that our officers can really focus on preventing violent crimes.
It is important to note that roughly 60% of crimes were conducted by youth between the ages of 13 and 24. So, we will partner with the Atlanta Public School System, the faith community, and community organizations across the region to expand and enhance our recreation, job training, and apprenticeship programs aimed specifically at our youth.
It is going to take all of the community to chip in, and we must be diligent, strategic, and committed in our efforts to make Atlanta a place where we can all feel safe again and where hope is yet alive.
Next, I am going to ensure that we have a clean, honest and efficient city government, where roads, sidewalks, sewers, and parks equipment are maintained… where green space is abundant and families, residents and visitors can work, live and play in peace… a city where people are engaged and excited about participating in their communities. We will give additional resources to Keep Atlanta Beautiful, along with the Department of Public Works to launch Operation Clean Sweep starting later this month to Clean Up our City.
I promise that I will do all that I can every day to improve city operations and to improve the work environment for all city employees. I’ll ride with city workers to understand their challenges and tour the city with city council members to learn what the neighborhood needs first and what they need most. We depend on city workers and they depend on the city. I will be asking our employees to follow my lead and to redouble their efforts to treat all residents like the most valuable customers that they are.
Atlanta, you should expect a clean and well-run city.
In case you haven’t heard, Atlanta is growing. But not everyone has been able to take part of this growth, and that’s why we need to focus on economic inclusion. I want to see our city live up to its promises of equity. Those with dreams and talent should know that this city will make a way for them to have success. I will create a new Atlanta Department of Labor to work with the private sector, labor unions, higher educational institutions, philanthropic groups, Invest Atlanta, and our workforce development agencies to tackle the obstacles keeping us from full employment.
We are going to work to offer students a personal development program that provides either a track for a college degree or to a high paying job. There are high paying jobs in technical fields that don’t require a four-year college degree, so I want to get more young people the certifications and the soft skills to thrive in the workforce.
A full workforce with great paying jobs will help us overcome another major issue in Atlanta: the lack of affordable housing.
The cost of housing in the city has increased by 65% since 2010, and it is a moral imperative to address this crisis. To get this right, we will consolidate and coordinate our efforts to build or preserve 20,000 units of affordable housing in the next eight years, without displacing folks in Atlanta.
Relatedly, my administration will strengthen its efforts to address the city’s growing number of those experiencing homelessness.
We will implement a Housing First model to rehouse individuals immediately when they experience homelessness through a network of motels, hotels, shelters, and apartments. We will coordinate with the Fulton and DeKalb County Health Departments to provide mental and physical healthcare to homeless residents in need of services. Finally, we will ensure that all unsheltered Atlantans who indicate readiness to work will be trained in the technical areas of need and receive help in job placement.
Once again, we will increase our efforts to reduce homelessness in Atlanta.
Additionally, we will create a more equitable transportation network in our city. We will add bike lanes, sidewalks, complete streets, and, yes, rail on the BeltLine.
Atlanta is known as a place for diversity and inclusion, and nowhere else in this country can you find so many strong, competent, experienced, diverse leaders who are ready, willing, and able to do business.
That’s why big companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are making their way here from the West Coast, but we must ensure that these companies are using the untapped talent that is right here in our city. Because we have a diverse talent pool here in Atlanta that starts with our great universities like Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State, Emory, and, yes, of course, Georgia Tech.
As I’ve told many CEOs, I love that you are building buildings in Atlanta, but I want to make sure Atlantans are in your buildings. Inclusion and equity will be the bedrock of this economic growth.
Now let’s talk more about the future.
As you know, I’m a Georgia Tech engineer with plenty of respect for technology, and I want our city to be a shining light for what technology can mean for equity, inclusion and democracy.
Toward that end, I am calling on the technology and telecommunication industries to join the city in stamping out the digital divide and bringing the advantages of the connected city to each and every resident.
Our technological future is bright. UPS and Amazon are studying innovations like autonomous vehicles, air taxis, and personal delivery robots. I want Atlanta to be the beta test site for the nation’s future in transportation, logistics, and digital equity.
We will be at the table for blockchain and clean energy, for baby bonds and early childhood education, for FinTech, Health IT, and NFTs. Innovation is the future, and we will show that Atlanta has something to say.
Finally, I believe our reputation as an arts and cultural center can and should rival our reputation as a commercial, sports and business center. To be a true international city, we will make deeper and smarter investments in arts, artists and our cultural centers.
As you have all seen, my currency is trust and energy. I have already begun to travel to all parts of this city to listen to you, the people, and I have discovered that we all want many of the same things.
We want to be safe. We want to be heard. We want to be respected. And we want action on the things that will enhance the quality of lives for our neighborhoods.
This time, in our city’s life reminds me of the story from the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was heart-broken to see that the infrastructure, the walls and gates around the city of Jerusalem had been lain in ruins. Nehemiah was so determined that he inspired all of the people to work together to fix the gates and walls in front of their homes, and they did so, in just 52 days, the entire wall was fully rebuilt.
They chose to work together to accomplish a difficult task. They chose to unify and not to divide. And we need to choose the same.
We don’t need separate cities. We must be one city with one bright future.
We have survived hard times before. We’ve survived crime waves. We survived the missing and murdered children when I was growing up. We survived Lester Maddox and his axe handle. We survived the Olympic Park bombing, and we will survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
And as great as our city’s past has been, our future will be even greater.
We are a city with great neighborhoods, great people and great institutions. From the C.T. Martin Recreation Center to the Grant Park Farmers Market. From the Peachtree Hills to the rolling hills of Cascade Heights. From Little Five Points to Summerhill. And from Inman Park to Collier Heights. We are a City of perseverance, hope, love, and passion. And we are determined to show the world and ourselves what a great, caring and collaborative city we can be.
I’ve told you before that I draw circles, I don’t draw lines to divide us. And I’ll tell you now that I don’t want any lines dividing this great city. We need to believe in the power of drawing circles and coming together to move Atlanta, ALL of Atlanta, to a brighter future.
Let’s come together, let’s stay together and meet these challenges, together.
God bless you all, and God bless Atlanta, Georgia.
Last updated on January 6, 2022