Atlanta Mayor Dickens and ACP relieved Buckhead City bill defeated
By Maria Saporta
A relieved Mayor Andre Dickens met with the highly influential Atlanta Committee for Progress Friday morning following the Thursday vote in the Georgia Senate that defeated efforts for Buckhead to split off from the City of Atlanta.
“Today was definitely a victory lap around squashing the de-annexation effort,” Dickens said in a brief interview after the quarterly ACP meeting held at the offices of King & Spalding. “We were all congratulatory about hey, we got it squashed.”
Dickens called it a “team effort” to defeat the creation of a City of Buckhead.
“A lot of these folks from ACP and Metro Atlanta Chamber went out of their way to make phone calls, sent emails and physically went to the state capitol to address their concerns with the de-annexation movement,” Dickens said.
ACP took out full-page newspaper ads earlier this year calling for a united Atlanta and praising the work Dickens had done to improve public safety and run the city government.
Dickens thanked business and civic leaders for their efforts to defeat the de-annexation efforts.
“They wanted to make it clear to these state leaders that this could have implications for commerce, economics, workforce development, and taxation,” the mayor added. “These businesses are here for a reason. If this breakup of the city happens, it will end up costing more in bonds and taxes. Even the ones that have Buckhead addresses, like the largest landowner in Atlanta is Cousins. They have no desire to have two cities.”
Colin Connolly, CEO of Cousins Properties, currently chairs ACP.
In a separate interview, Connolly said there was great attendance at ACP’s private gathering on Friday, describing it as a “terrific meeting” with the mayor.
“The members of ACP have a lot of trust and confidence in our mayor based on the great work that he and his team have taken over the course of his first year in office,” said Connolly, explaining why the behind-the-scenes group took a public posture the ad. “The members of ACP felt it was important to express our support for the mayor and the work he’s done. We believe there’s an exciting future in front for the city with his leadership.”
In fact, at the December 2021 ACP meeting — after the mayor had been elected but not yet taken office, Dickens met with the group when they discussed opening up a second Atlanta police precinct in Buckhead.
“We were advancing an effort that the Buckhead CID [community improvement district] had initiated,” said Connolly, who helped provide a space in a Cousins’ building for the precinct. “It was in that meeting where the concept was discussed and where interests were aligned, and we were able to have immediate and visible action. Mayor Dickens moved it forward.”
In the interview, Dickens also spoke about how his growing relationship with Gov. Brian Kemp played a part in defeating the Buckhead City legislation.
“Even at today’s ACP meeting, we talked about how important that relationship is,” Dickens said. “The governor definitely weighed in on this, raising concerns about the de-annexation movement and how it would destabilize the whole State of Georgia. And he outlined through his attorney a dozen questions that were unable to be answered by the proponents of Buckhead City.”
Dickens also singled out the 10 Republicans who joined the Democratic senators to defeat the legislation. “Ten Republicans came and stood firmly against it,” Dickens said. “It failed 23 to 33. So, that’s a sound result.”
Going forward, Connolly said the “business community remains focused on a united Atlanta.
“There have been real issues and concerns raised, but I do believe that we’re best prepared to tackle those challenges as a unified city,” Connolly said. The mayor, since he’s taken office, has taken some very decisive steps to address public safety and at the same time focused on the underlying causes of crime. He’s also made great strides in improving the public services to residents across the entire city. His leadership has made a tangible difference in the city. Residents have taken note, and certainly there’s enthusiasm and confidence returning to the city as a whole.”
Connolly also said that ACP is only one of several organizations in the city engaged in the community.
“Atlanta is special in that the business and the civic community are so closely connected with the political leadership,” Connolly said. “It’s been very encouraging to see that those organizations work together in a collaborative way to express their voice that a united Atlanta is a stronger Atlanta.”
I find it interesting that we hear a lot of talk about “democracy” but when it comes to allowing a vote on whether a community wants to disassociate from the larger municipality, those same voices don’t want even to allow that vote. If the residents of Buckhead don’t want to split, fine. But what is the argument to deny them that option? There is a strong odor of hypocrisy here.
We also know why those in power do not want to practice “democracy”: money. Tax dollars they want to fund the city of Atlanta and its budget. Don’t get me wrong. I do not mind Mayor Dickens and think he is a vast improvement over Bottoms and maybe the best mayor since Maynard Jackson (still early in his term). But given the city of Atlanta’s politics, that’s a low bar. I am disappointed in Gov. Kemp for not being a champion for the residents of Buckhead.
Maybe the best option for those who do not want to be used as the piggybank for City of Atlanta Democrats is to pull up stakes and move out of the city limits. We have seen that in states where residents no longer find their current living arrangement to be preferable.Report