It is no secret that Atlanta is home to millions. In fact, in a March 22 report, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked the city the ninth most populous metropolitan area in the country, with close to six million residents recorded in 2017.
Along with an influx of residents, Atlanta is seeing more traffic than ever before.
To combat the growing issue, Atlanta City Council’s President Pro Tempore, Andre Dickens, wants to do something about it. Last January, he and other councilmembers created the city’s first Department of Transportation committee for the council.
“Atlanta has not had a Department of Transportation ever, and we wonder why we have traffic (problems),” he said.
Dickens, who is now on his second term as city councilmember at-large for the city of Atlanta, said his plan is to use his engineering background to attack the nuisance with a single focus. The fifth generation Atlanta native earned engineering degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University.
After being elected to the Atlanta City Council Post 3 at Large in 2013, Dickens ran unopposed in 2017, and was subsequently re-elected.
Dickens has assumed an extensive list of leadership roles on the council. In addition to serving as President Pro Tempore, Dickens also chairs the council’s transportation, on-council, public safety & legal administration and finance/executive committees.
During Dickens’s first term, he served as chair for the Public Safety & Legal Administration and Community Development & Human Services Committees, and has served on the Code Enforcement & Budget Commissions as well as the Boards of the Atlanta Beltline, Invest Atlanta and the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
“My main initiatives are to make sure that Atlanta grows in a fair and balanced way, that’s respectful of all Atlantans,” Dickens said, as he explained how he wants to give Atlanta citizens the chance to thrive in the town. “I want to make sure that we have housing opportunities for everyone, as well as job opportunities.”
With the Super Bowl on its way to Atlanta in February 2019, the Department of Transportation Committee has its plate full with ensuring the city is prepared for the massive crowd the game is certain to attract.
“We’re excited about the Super Bowl coming to Atlanta,” Dickens said. The councilmember recalled the last time Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 1994: “It was an ice storm and the roads were shut down,” he said. “It made Atlanta look like we weren’t as prepared as we would like to be.”
The committee meets monthly to ensure that the city will be well prepared for the biggest game of the professional football season.
While the 2019 Super Bowl is among the top of his list, Dickens is also busy working on new legislature.
He said he is also committed to keeping housing affordable for all citizens of Atlanta.
“I’ve worked (on passing) a lot of laws that have curbed some of this gentrification and things that we see in Atlanta where people are being forced out, or people not having an opportunity to participate in all this new growth,” he said.
After three years of research and policy development, Dickens led the mandatory inclusionary zoning legislation which, approved unanimously by the council, is Dickens’ most recent legislation on affordable housing.
Enacted on November 7, 2017, the law requires “developers building new residential rental units near the BeltLine or Westside District to set aside 10 percent of those units for households at 60 percent Area Median Income (AMI) or below, or 15 percent of those units for households at 80 percent AMI or below,” according to a statement issued by the council.
Along with addressing Atlanta’s affordable housing and traffic issues, Dickens said he is also dedicated to achieving transparency and proper ethics within the government. One of his biggest concerns is making sure the citizens of Atlanta are able to engage with, and have trust in, the government. “To rebuild trust is important,” he said.
As an extra step towards his promise of transparency, Dickens posts daily on his social media platforms and shares his weekly calendar schedule on the Atlanta City Council webpage.
The calendar provides times and locations of meetings and events that the councilmember will attend during the week.
To Dickens, the importance of sharing his weekly schedule is not only to inform the citizens of Atlanta what he’s doing in office, but to also share what isn’t being done, which allows citizens to give their input on concerns that can be better addressed by the council.
“I’d invite you to give me feedback,” he said, as he expounded on wanting citizens to become more involved in the government. “I think that’s part of having responsible, fair government: where people have input, and they get to see your output.”
Another of Dickens’ more interesting pieces of legislature is what he referred to as the “Brunch Bill.” The State of Georgia recently allowed restaurants the option to serve alcohol on Sundays.
With Dickens’ new bill, the restaurant could choose to sell alcohol as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays, usually around the time many Atlantans choose to partake in Sunday brunch meals.
“Not that I’m trying to get everybody drunk on Sunday, because I’ll be in church,” Dickens said while laughing. “It’s good for business and good for the economy.”
Dickens also plans to enact more ethics laws concerning the hire of contractors for the city, which include working with an “independent procurement review officer,” he said. He would also like to see Freedom Parkway renamed to John Lewis Freedom Parkway.
Besides enacting policy, Dickens said he wants to ensure that every Atlantan gets a chance to enjoy the city as he has.
“I want everybody to have an opportunity to live whatever dream they want to live, as long as it’s fair and decent,” he said.