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Atlanta City Council Cites Major Plans for 2014

By Hal Lamar | 1/10/2014, 10:39 a.m.
Members of the Atlanta City Council take their oath of office during inauguration ceremonies. Photo by Vincent Christie.

Street improvements, better code enforcements, economic development, better public safety are just part of a long list of goals set for 2014 by the newly sworn-in members of the Atlanta City Council.

The council members are back to work after their inauguration (Jan. 6) at the Atlanta Civic Center. The council includes a first-time office holder and the return of a veteran member.

  Atlanta native and Georgia Tech grad Andre Dickens and former councilmember Mary Norwood are the so-called council “newbies.” Endorsed by former mayor Shirley Franklin, Dickens replaced disgraced incumbent H. Lamar Willis who was supported by Mayor Reed.  Norwood served on council from 2002-2009, then in 2010 dropped out of her Post 2 at-large in an unsuccessful bid to become the city’s second woman mayor.

Commencing his fourth term representing District 3 which includes the west side, Ivory Young said he intends to reverse trends in the district, “spending less on brick and mortar and more money on people.” The district made significant steps in that direction when it added a Walmart super store on Martin Luther King Jr.  Drive which opened last year.

It’s one of the highest performing stores in the city,” Young told The Atlanta Voice. “I’m proud that when the store opened, 60 percent of its employees came from surrounding communities.”

Young, an Alabama native, wants to encourage more residents to start businesses in the district and is looking at establishing a corporate entity to represent them and remove the kudzu vines that often confuses and discourages would-be entrepreneurs. He also said it is  important to not only keep the city’s professional ball teams inside the city  limits, but also make sure that Friendship and Mount Vernon Baptist churches which have  been cornerstones of the neighborhood for decades,  remain somewhere in the district as well.

“I represent one of the most challenged districts in the city,” Young said. “This time around, I won’t be settling for empty promises.”

Another council member vowing to keeping the executive branch’s feet to the fire is Kwanza Hall. The native son said his main priority in this his third term is doing something about the homelessness in District 2.

“We have more homeless in our district than in all the other districts combined,” he said. “It also leads the entire southeast in the number of poverty-stricken residents.”

”The average income of many of our residents, especially along Boulevard, one of the district’s major thoroughfares, is $3000 a year,” he said.

Other challenges facing District 2 include transportation, investment in infrastructure and the much-ballyhooed streetcar project which runs through the heart of the district from King Center on Auburn to Centennial Park downtown, he said.

Hall got his fighting spirit honestly, mostly from his father Leon Hall, who participated in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and later joined SCLC as a volunteer organizer in 1963. “Dad really never wanted me to enter politics,” Hall said.  “But I think what he was really saying was don’t be a politician, be a public servant. In his spirit, that is what I have tried to be.”

Now entering her fourth term, District  12 councilmember Joyce Shepherd has also worked  to make change and especially along Metropolitan Parkway, formerly Stewart  Avenue which was well known for too many years as a haven for prostitution  and strip clubs. Her efforts at improving the city’s economic base is starting pay off. Her efforts have resulted in luring the Porsche company to open a manufacturing plant at the sight of the former Ford Factory near Hartsfield-Jackson airport, getting Screen Gems to locate a film production center at the site of the old Lakewood Fairgrounds, and assisting Atlanta Metropolitan College and Atlanta Technical College (formerly Atlanta Area Tech) with improving their outer façade extending some course offices from two to four years.