Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens was invited to speak inside the Georgia House Chambers Monday morning by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. Dickens received a warm reception by the state legislators as he introduced himself as a bi-partisan agent of change.
Dickens disagrees with the notion that division is a key way to move forward and is committed to an inclusive approach to leadership.
“There are only about 400 steps between the state capitol and City Hall,” Dickens said. “I walked in again today. You know that I don’t mind coming across the street to engage with each of you since the election.
Dickens has visited and lobbied inside of the State Capitol four times in three weeks in an effort to defeat the plan for Buckhead cityhood.
“I see this relationship is valuable, Dickens said. “And I have 400 steps in me anytime you should meet me.”
Dickens brought up his remarks from last week’s Eggs and Issues breakfast which he believed Atlanta should remain unified and spoke out against Buckhead seceding from Georgia’s capital city.
“This city plays a critical role in driving our state’s economy and we take that role very seriously,” Dickens said. “That makes it all the more imperative that you help us maintain this position by recognizing that as a city, we are stronger together. One city, one city with one bright future. What is good for Atlanta is good for Georgia.”
According to a poll conducted by North Star Opinion Research, 400 Buckhead residents were asked what was the most important problem within the City of Atlanta. Crime was the overwhelming response, receiving 63% of the vote.
Currently, legislation that would create Buckhead City is stalled in the Senate Urban Affairs Committee. However, similar legislation is pending in the House and chances are it could advance.
Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan is a critic of Buckhead splitting up with Atlanta. In a recent interview, Duncan said the details matter.
“The details matter here. The financing issues. The education issues. The governance issues. These are all issues that must be fixed before — and not after — a referendum is passed,” Duncan said. “My hope is that we’re able to figure out a way to help all of Atlanta significantly cut crime.”
Dickens said he announced the opening of a precinct in Buckhead and is on the path toward signing up 250 officers that were recruited to the Atlanta Police Department.
Above all, Speaker Ralston said Dickens made a positive impression on him because the Mayor called him at 7:30 AM, hours after his win in the November 30th runoff election.
“We chatted and he said, ‘because I wanted you to know how much I want to work with the House of Representatives to move the state in the city forward,’ and that meant a lot to me,” Ralston said. “We’re going to disagree about politics or policies from time to time. But I think that we’re going to be civil and respectful and I’m just honored that he is here with us today.”
Dickens was introduced by state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, the state’s longest-serving lawmaker. Smyre said Dickens was the second person to enter the center doors and walk down the center aisle to deliver a speech to the legislative body. The other person who received that distinct honor was Ray Charles.
“I realized how much of what we do will be enhanced by a strong relationship with each of you,” Dickens said. “We share a common goal to keep this state and its cities moving forward.”