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Reporter’s Notebook: When will Mayor-elect Dickens visit Buckhead?

Atlanta lights up with vibrant colors in the fall, and Piedmont Park is a great place to admire the view. (Photo by Hannah E. Jones)

After a drawn-out and, at times, contentious municipal election cycle, Atlanta’s runoff races have come to a close. Here’s a list of the newly elected candidates:

Mayor: Andre Dickens

City Council President: Doug Shipman

City Council Post 3 At Large: Keisha Sean Waites

City Council District 1: Jason Winston

City Council District 3: Byron Amos

City Council District 4: Jason Dozier

City Council District 5: Liliana Bakhtiari

City Council District 12: Antonio Lewis 

Board of Education Seat 7 At Large: Tamara Jones

Board of Education District 2: Aretta Baldon 

On to more news from the week:

Mayor-elect Andre Dickens answers reporters’ questions following the Atlanta Press Club debate on Nov. 16 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

When will Mayor-elect Dickens visit Buckhead?

Mayor-elect Andre Dickens has made opposition to Buckhead cityhood a key issue, promising to listen to local concerns. But when will he make his first formal post-election appearance in that crucial neighborhood?

Likely no later than Jan. 26, and with a group involved in the cityhood opposition in tow.

That’s the date of the annual luncheon of the Buckhead Coalition, an influential, invitation-only group of civic and business leaders. The luncheon often features a speech from a newly-elected mayor or other political figure. But there’s extra political electricity to the 2022 edition, as the Coalition is one of the top opponents of cityhood. One of its members, attorney Linda Klein, co-chairs the anti-cityhood group the Committee for a United Atlanta (CUA).

Jim Durrett, the Coalition’s president and CEO, says Dickens “will definitely be there” and “has been invited to speak.”

The CUA itself has invited Dickens to a $1,000-per-person fundraiser in Buckhead Dec. 8, though it could not immediately confirm whether he has accepted. The fundraiser’s hosts include a long list of local and citywide power brokers, such as Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United sports teams; Matt Bronfman, principal and CEO of Jamestown, the real estate company behind Ponce City Market and Buckhead Village District; and Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Buckhead-based Atlanta History Center.

The Dickens campaign did not respond to a question about Buckhead event invitations, although he did make a brief stop at Fulton County’s Buckhead Library as part of a post-election thank-you tour.

The pro-cityhood Buckhead City Committee has issued no public invitations to Dickens and seems unlikely to, with CEO and chairman Bill White previously mocking him as soft on crime by saying locals don’t “want the ‘Dickens’ scared out of us.” In an Election Night statement Nov. 30, White said, “We congratulate Mayor-elect Andre Dickens and we look forward to working with him to ensure a smooth transition for Buckhead City as we make our future sister cities safe and prosperous!”

Incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had made few Buckhead appearances during her term, a political miscalculation that helped to fuel the cityhood sentiment. In 2018, she made one of her first major speeches at the Coalition annual luncheon, where political unity was a theme and attendees received glass sculptures of a handshake bearing the phrase “Atlanta Together.” She and her cabinet returned in early 2019 for a town hall at the Atlanta History Center, where they were strongly criticized on crime and other issues. Bottoms rarely made official appearances in Buckhead after that, returning earlier this year for some political farewells as a lame duck.

John Ruch

John Lewis Atlanta 2021

Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams spoke during an event honoring Congressman John Lewis. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Stacey Abrams announces second run for Governor 

Stacey Abrams, a previous candidate for governor and founder of voting rights group Fair Fight Action, has announced a second run for Georgia’s gubernatorial seat. 

Abrams and other qualified candidates will run against Governor Brian Kemp, who announced his bid for re-election over the summer.

She posted a campaign announcement video on Twitter accompanied with the caption, “I’m running for Governor because opportunity in our state shouldn’t be determined by zip code, background or access to power.”

Abrams gained national attention following her unsuccessful campaign for Governor in 2018, losing to Kemp by only 1.4 percentage points, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted was the closest Georgia gubernatorial race in decades. 

Abrams cited voter suppression as a reason for her defeat, and pointed out that Kemp was simultaneously running a campaign and overseeing the election as Secretary of State. Needless to say, many eyes will be on this race.

Election Day for Georgia’s gubernatorial race is Nov. 8, 2022.

Hannah E. Jones

Public subsidies have helped provide 4,255 units of dwellings deemed affordable along and near the Atlanta BeltLine. (image from atlantaga.gov)

Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. reports update on affordable housing

The Atlanta BeltLine’s report Tuesday on affordable housing painted a rosy picture by combining two categories of units.

More than 4,000 units of affordable housing have been built or preserved along and near the BeltLine, according to Clyde Higgs, president and CEO of the city entity created to oversee the project, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. Higgs spoke to the Atlanta City Council’s Community Development and Human Services Committee.

This figure, of 4,000-plus, suggests the BeltLine is well on its way to providing 5,600 affordable dwellings by 2030. The 5,600 units are one of the public benefits city taxpayers are to receive in exchange for agreeing to use all the property taxes generated by new developments along the BeltLine to help pay for the BeltLine’s public amenities.

The figure of 4,000-plus includes units that count toward the goal of 5,600 units, plus those built near the BeltLine that don’t count toward the goal. 

Higgs said more than 2,500 units of affordable housing have been built in the BeltLine Tax Allocation District. These units count toward the goal of 5,600 affordable dwellings. Higgs said 1,700 affordable units were “created generally near the BeltLine but not necessarily in the specific tax allocation district.”

David Pendered

The Atlanta Botanical Gardens after dark. (Photo by Hannah E. Jones)

Wake up and smell the hot chocolate

For real-deal holiday enthusiasts, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the festivities — like playing “Elf” on repeat, stringing lights all over the house and baking too many cookies. 

If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit, look no further. And if you’re not, well, we all need a little extra cheer after nearly two years in a pandemic. 

See the lights

IllumiNights at Zoo Atlanta: Chinese Lantern Festival

Atlanta Botanical Gardens’ Garden Lights, Holiday Nights

Holiday Road

Family fun

Visit the Menorah Lighting in downtown Decatur

License to Chill Snow Island in Lake Lanier’s Margaritaville 

Celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and Las Posadas at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Watch it live

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Fox Theatre

Nutcracker with the Atlanta Ballet

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: A Musical with Broadway in Atlanta

Happy holidays, y’all!

Hannah E. Jones

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Police Chief Rodney Bryant, Ambassador Andrew Young, Atlanta Police Foundation President & CEO Dave Wilkinson and other leaders attended the ribbon cutting event. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Atlanta Police Foundation open third At-Promise Center

On Thursday, Dec. 2, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, city officials and community partners joined a ribbon-cutting of the Atlanta Police Foundation’s third At-Promise Center in Southwest Atlanta. 

The Truist Andrew & Walter Young Family At-Promise Center offers services to address residents’ needs related to many aspects of life, including education, recreation, mental wellbeing and workforce training.

“Our At-Promise Centers are a safe place where families and at-risk youth are able to have positive interactions with our officers while also receiving the resources and support that they need to have better life outcomes,” Mayor Bottoms said in a press release.

— Hannah E. Jones

City of Refuge celebrates first graduating class after $5.4 million grant

City of Refuge’s first web development class for the Tech Transformation Academy is graduating on Dec. 7. 

City of Refuge, stationed in the city’s Westside where nearly 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line, provides programs to help people in crisis, cover basic needs and offer financial literacy and job training.

The organization received a $5.4 million grant from the Department of Labor for the Academy, which jump started a tech program focused on web development and cybersecurity. 

The 19 web development graduates, the program’s first graduating class, are now on the job hunt, and one student landed a full-time job during the program.

City of Refuge plans to use the grant to train 280 people over the next four years.

Hannah E. Jones

Cherie Kloss

Ernst & Young names founder of disruptor in nurse staffing a national Entrepreneur Of The Year

The founder of an Atlanta staffing company that has disrupted the business of providing short-term nursing placements has been named an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2021 National Award Winner, by Ernst & Young.

Cherie Kloss, founder and CEO of SnapNurse, was recognized for building a company that fills short-term nursing vacancies in less than 48 hours rather than the two-week norm, according to an EY statement. In accepting the award, Kloss cited SnapNurse’s work with healthcare facilities during the pandemic, and noted that age is not a barrier to a good idea:

“I would like to use this moment of recognition to take the spotlight off myself and put it on the 25,000 nurses we deployed during the pandemic who cared for critically ill patients…” Kloss said. “I started this company when I was 49. It’s never too late if you have an idea and the courage to start. We grew this company from a tiny startup to the largest healthcare staffing platform in less than three years.”

David Pendered

Atlanta nonprofits Ser Familia and Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative receiving their $200,000 grant from Bank of America. (Photos courtesy of Bank of America)

Atlanta nonprofits awarded $200,000 grant from Bank of America 

Bank of America has selected two Atlanta nonprofits for its Neighborhood Builders program. The Bank chose Ser Familia, an organization geared toward supporting Latino residents, and economic prosperity group Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI) for their work addressing the region’s basic needs and economic mobility.

The program pledges $22.1 million to 142 awardees nationwide, with each nonprofit receiving a $200,000 grant over two years and leadership training for the executive director.

“The Neighborhood Builders award provides an incredible opportunity to expand AWBI’s efforts to address the intersectionality of our work and the ways wealth, or the lack thereof, intersects with one’s ability to be free across all systems,” AWBI’s Executive Director Latresa McLawhorn Ryan said in a press release. “This leadership development experience and opportunity to develop a deeper partnership with Bank of America will help us broaden our capacity to better serve the Black-owned businesses and organizations that are the lifeline of our small business ecosystem.”

Thirty-six Atlanta nonprofits have participated in the program, receiving investments totaling $7.2 million.

 Hannah E. Jones

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native who recently graduated from Georgia State University, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah is excited about the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its people. Hannah can be reached at hannah@atlantaciviccircle.org.

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