4 takeaways from Atlanta's 2023 State of the City address
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens had a lot to brag about in his 2023 State of the City address. Dickens highlighted the city’s accomplishments in his first year in office and made it clear that his priorities lie in housing, public safety, infrastructure and Atlanta’s youth.
Here are four takeaways from Tuesday’s speech, which can be found in full here.
The proposed training center known as “Cop City”
The first topic Mayor Dickens spoke about was public safety and crime. He spoke passionately, but briefly, about the importance of the proposed public safety training center that’s planned to be built within the South River Forest.
“We need training facilities for our police and our firefighters … the training facilities we’ve had have been long condemned,” he said. “That’s why we are building the state-of-the-art Atlanta public safety center.”
He didn’t devote much time talking about the training center but did mention it will have a vehicle course for firefighters and a training course for police to practice active shooter scenarios and domestic violence scenarios.
Dickens went on to highlight the installation of 11,000 street lights and 28,000 cameras around Atlanta that he said have helped solve crimes.
Infrastructure, clean energy and parks
Infrastructure updates are coming to Atlanta, and those updates will be made with the goal of using 100% clean energy in the city.
Dickens announced that the city will begin the Moving Atlanta Forward infrastructure project this week, and it will dedicate $750 million to rebuild roads, fire stations, sidewalks, and bike paths. He also said the city has attracted $100 million in federal investments for roads, airports and transit.
“All of these investments must be done with an eye toward building a clean city,” Dickens said.
Developing more green spaces was also a point of pride for Dickens, who said the city acquired over 268 new acres of parkland during his first year in office.
He gave a shoutout to the Chattahoochee Brick Company’s Descendants Coalition for their work in revitalizing the area, which he called “ecologically and historically important land.” He also noted future plans to memorialize the lives lost there.
“As we build for the future y’all, we also must remember our past,” he said. “This isn’t just a park. This is a place where people were forced into labor. Too many of them to their death.”
Housing and Forest Cove
Affordable housing is a big focus for Dickens as well as the City of Atlanta. Last year, he set a goal of building 20,000 affordable housing units by 2030. In this speech, he announced that 1,900 units had been delivered and 5,000 more were under development.
Dickens mentioned the purchase of a skyscraper (located at 2 Peachtree) that the city plans to convert into a residential building with hundreds of affordable housing units.
The mayor talked about Forest Cove, a condemned apartment complex brought to the city’s attention through reporting by WABE’s housing reporter Stephannie Stokes. According to Dickens, over 800 residents have been moved into safe, affordable housing.
“This was not our fault, but it was our problem. And I was not going to let people continue to languish in those conditions,” he said.
Ms. Peaches, a former Forest Cove resident who was a central figure in the fight for better conditions, was recognized by Dickens and announced to be a recipient of the Phoenix Award, a high honor in Atlanta.
2023 is the Year of the Youth
At the end of his address, Mayor Dickens spoke with pride about the city’s efforts to invest in Atlanta’s youth.
“We want to eliminate barriers that prevent young people from reaching their potential,” he said. “And invest in youth programs and services that open doors.”
Last year, the city directly invested $5 million in early education. Since then, he says they’ve secured $20 million in commitments to go along with it.
Dickens said last year’s Summer Youth Employment Program found jobs for over 3,000 young people. This year, the city has given $1 million to 23 organizations to serve over 6,000 young people.
The mayor boasted a new city partnership with Helping Empower Youth that, so far, has helped 25 “water boys” sell water in an official capacity at kiosks downtown.
“Our legacy must be more than credit ratings and reserve fund balances,” Dickens said. “It’s about how we use the strength of this city to those who need our help the most.”
- The City of Atlanta partnered with Tyler Perry to pay off back property taxes for 700 low-income seniors. And they’re establishing a pilot program to freeze property taxes for low-income seniors for the next 20 years.
- Dickens said Atlanta has the highest credit ratings and the highest fund reserves it has ever had.
- A new Center for Diversion will address quality of life issues for individuals living in poverty. It will provide laundry services, behavioral health screenings, showers and food.
- Thanks to the “Pothole Posse,” 3,600 potholes were filled last year. (More work to be done!)