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Thought Leadership Views From Peachtree

Coming Together for the Common Good

By Jim Durrett, President of Buckhead Coalition and Executive Director of Buckhead Community Improvement District

In July I was honored to be asked to serve the Buckhead Coalition as its president and CEO, while continuing to serve the board of the Buckhead Community Improvement District as its executive director. Those that made the decision to offer me the position did so with the belief that there was an opportunity to bring several Buckhead-serving organizations closer together, to speak with a unified voice, and to be mutually supportive. Nobody could take the place of the esteemed Mayor Sam Massell, who was the founding president of the Buckhead Coalition and served in that role for 32 (!) years. So, with the understanding that I was being given the opportunity to work with other leaders to help to shift the civic landscape for the benefit of all, and not just fill Sam’s shoes (impossible), I gratefully accepted the opportunity and challenge.

That’s more than enough about me. What does this shifting of the landscape mean?

First, I want to briefly describe the four organizations that have agreed to associate more closely. Then I would like to describe how we are working together. Finally, I have something to say about an issue on which we are working that has the attention of everyone in our community.

The Buckhead Business Association is a nonprofit membership organization with a mission of promoting a positive and informed business environment for its members to achieve cultural, civic, social, economic, and business goals, and actively contribute to the vitality of the greater Buckhead community.

Livable Buckhead (LBI) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to make this community the kind of place where people want to live and where businesses want to operate – both now and well into the future. The organization also serves as our community’s transportation management association, partnering with Buckhead employers to offer their employees a better way to get to work, one that keeps them out of traffic and keeps pollutants out of the air.

The Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID) is a local government entity (due to its taxing power) with a mission of creating and maintaining a safe, accessible, and livable urban environment. It meets the challenges of growth by investing tax dollars collected from commercial property owners within the district, as well as other funds leveraged from outside the district, to make meaningful improvements in the transportation network and public realm that connect people and places.

The Buckhead Coalition is an invitation-only organization whose members are business decision makers living and working in Buckhead. Building on its decades-long legacy of leadership in the community, the organization adopted an updated mission earlier this year, which is to advocate on behalf of the community within the city of Atlanta and metropolitan region; to support the well-being of Buckhead’s residents, businesses and visitors; to convene public and private sector leaders and partner organizations; and to connect Buckhead to other areas of the city and region. 

Since I became president of the Buckhead Coalition, one subject has dominated my emails and phone calls: lawlessness and its effects on the community. I don’t have the column inches remaining to get into all that has been happening or speculation as to why. But staying true to the Coalition’s mission to advocate, support, convene, and connect, we took responsibility to collaborate with other organizations and institutions to examine the public safety environment in Buckhead and determine what could and should be done in partnership between the public and private sectors to address a situation that has gotten way out of hand.

The result is what we have called the Buckhead Security Plan. In this plan, released last Wednesday, we have offered implementable actions in deterrence and enforcement as well as steps to be taken to address policies and procedures that should increase the safety of all those who have chosen to call Buckhead home and those who work in Buckhead and visit Buckhead for shopping, dining and entertainment.

Near-term actions include strengthening the Operation Shield camera network by creating a strategic grid of cameras in Buckhead, creating a supplementary security patrol for commercial areas using extra-duty law enforcement officers, and creating a coordinated security patrol of residential areas by engaging the private security units already operating in Buckhead neighborhoods. 

The Buckhead Security Plan also includes 20 objectives aimed at increasing support for and coordination with entities responsible for items such as enforcement of noise and “party house” ordinances; controlling street racing; identifying license and permit violations; spot checking overcrowding at problematic establishments; and other actions that ensure public safety. It also aims to increase support for hiring, training and retention of APD officers to achieve a full force, and for the establishment of a new training center for APD and Atlanta Fire Rescue Dept.

In the weeks ahead, several organizations will be collaborating to make progress in funding and implementing the recommendations. One important step has already been taken, with the CID doubling down on its supplementary patrol within the district. The Buckhead Coalition plans to report regularly on the progress we are making and results we hope to achieve, together, for the common good.

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