On April 4, also known in Atlanta as “404 Day,” Mayor Andre Dickens, CHE ‘98, delivered the 2022 State of the City Address.
Dickens, the 61st mayor of Atlanta began by thanking his supporters, including former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, his cabinet advisors and his family. He then launched into his address by acknowledging the state of Atlanta when he first entered office in January, noting that the city is still seeing the visible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I first took office, City of Atlanta services — like in many other cities — were experiencing the worst of the pandemic,” Dickens said in his address. “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.”
Dickens, who was born in Atlanta and holds degrees from both Tech and Georgia State University, has a personal connection to the city that emanated from his address on Monday morning.
“Atlanta has always been and remains resilient and strong. That is why I am here today to tell you that the state of our city is strong,” Dickens said. “We are – and will continue to be — one city with one bright future.”
Atlanta residents hope to see Dickens’ initiatives to improve Atlanta manifest across the city, including on Tech’s campus, during his term. His team plans to relaunch the Pothole Posse, a sector of the Department of Transportation with the goal of filling 30 potholes daily.
Dickens also intends to improve street safety around the city, particularly after dark. The “Light Up the Night’’ initiative, initially launched in 2021 by Mayor Bottoms’ administration, aims to install 10,000 street lights throughout roughly 3,100 roads and 100 neighborhoods across Atlanta.
Nearly half of these lights have already been installed, and additionally, Dickens is establishing a Nightlife Division within his office to address establishments with “a history of high crime in and around them.”
Dickens praised the Atlanta Police Department as “one of the best police forces in the nation” but emphasized alternative strategies in non-emergency response.
In addition to answering non-crisis challenges with the Policing Alternatives and Diversion Center, he voiced an intention to handle city crime by “attacking its root causes.”
Among engagements for youth who are at-risk for becoming involved with criminal activity, Dickens intends to give young Atlanta residents real-life experience with the government. He wants to employ 3,000 teens through Atlanta’s Summer Youth Employment Program and is launching the Mayor’s Internship Program.
“I want our kids to see our government up close and maybe even see a future for themselves in it,” Dickens said. “By the end of my eight years in office, Atlanta will be the best place in the country to raise a child.”
Beyond city safety, Dickens, his Greenspace Advisory Council and the Department of Parks and Recreation have announced the acquisition of land for Atlanta’s first park with direct access to the Chattahoochee River.
Dickens has also been working towards the introduction of interactive kiosks on sidewalks throughout Atlanta. These kiosks by IKE Smart City will be installed at no cost to the city and will help residents and visitors alike, locate restaurants and businesses, navigate MARTA and find resources for the unsheltered, among other tasks.
Addressing a concern for many Atlanta residents, Dickens voiced his commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing, specifically 20,000 units over the next eight years, overseen by the Affordable Housing Strike Force.
Dickens, however, did not address worries with MARTA and mass transit, a system within the city whose struggles with hiring and operations have escalated since the beginning of the pandemic.
Nonetheless, many of Dickens’ visions for the city will be evident from Tech’s campus where Dickens himself first enrolled in college.
“My vision for Atlanta [is] a city of … connected neighborhoods with an expansive culture of equity, empowering upward mobility … for all residents, embracing youth development and an innovative, dependable government moving Atlanta forward,” Dickens said. “I hope you see yourself and maybe even someone you may not often see in this vision, because, as you know, I draw circles, not lines, and my vision includes everyone.”
Three months into his eight-year term, Dickens has promised an extensive list of grand actions and objectives.
As he moves further into his incumbency, Atlanta will watch with cautious regard to see which of his plans move to fruition for the good of the city.