While federal incompetency and state controversy has dominated headlines for months, an ongoing city election will determine the direction of Atlanta for at least the next four years as several mayoral candidates duke it out for the highest office in city hall. Atlanta’s next mayor will have plenty of issues to address, including an uptick in crime, an undersupply of affordable housing, clogged transportation routes and the possible secession of the Buckhead neighborhood from the city. The best candidate is City Councilmember Andre Dickens.
Emory students should vote for Dickens. His platform provides nuanced and sustainable fixes to Atlanta’s pressing public safety issues and tackles systemic problems like gentrification and racism that derive from the city’s lack of affordable housing. Most importantly, he values ethical character more than his contenders do.
On the issue of crime and public safety, Dickens wants to implement a balanced four-step plan known as S.A.F.E. Streets Atlanta (Surge, Arrest, Force, Empower). It includes racial sensitivity measures and comprehensive training in de-escalation techniques and provides officers with resources to engage in community policing. Such a push would be combined with 250 more police officers to counter the city’s elevated crime rate, as well as deploying specialists to handle nonviolent situations, such as mental health crises or to aid the homeless. This would hopefully reroute nonviolent prisoners from prisons to other support systems, allowing Atlanta to allocate more tax dollars to other pressing problems, such as the affordable housing crisis.
Inspired by his partnership with the Atlanta Housing Authority, Dickens has several refined ideas to combat the city’s affordable housing shortage. He aims to ramp up development of mixed-income and mixed-use housing, which would increase access to transit in underdeveloped parts of town. His transportation platform also would offer free MARTA passes to those who can’t afford it, increase bike infrastructure and expand the BeltLine to unify more parts of the city. This would also benefit students without cars or those who do not want to spend money on parking, allowing them to explore the city without spending so much on rideshares.
Most importantly, Dickens is pushing to streamline the city’s rigid building codes and zoning rules, which date from the 1920s and have slowed the development of mixed-use housing. Emory students, in particular off-campus students and graduates looking to stay in the city, would be permitted to remain in the metropolitan area while maintaining access to campus. By revamping zoning regulations to increase density, Atlanta would better retain its human capital and bolster the labor market.
Unlike former mayor Kasim Reed, Dickens has not faced an ethics investigation that could harm the credibility of his administration. Rather, Dickens will prioritize the city’s ethics code and improve resources for the ethics investigator to prevent public corruption and future Kasim Reeds in Atlanta.
However, all that isn’t to say, Dickens, relative to other leading contenders such as Reed and City Council President Felicia Moore, is a star-studded pick for mayor. Dickens fails not only to fully justify the necessity of increasing police presence to reduce crime, especially when many studies argue against this, but also does not address large-scale issues to unite different groups within the Atlanta community. Dickens is also somewhat inexperienced compared to the race’s frontrunners and lacks the name recognition of some of his contenders.
Nevertheless, we believe Dickens’ track record as a city councilmember who aided the development of the BeltLine Inclusionary Zoning for affordable housing, and his program to raise police officer salaries demonstrates great potential to get the job done. Perhaps most vitally, Dickens’ platform touches on every facet of the Metro Atlanta area — from reducing crime to expanding business and increasing diversity and unifying the city, he offers convincing strategies and feasible solutions. Such commitment distinguishes Dickens from Moore, whose tunnel focus on crime and disregard for other issues makes her insincere.
Dickens’ policies focus on the key issues facing everyday Atlantans. We need Dickens’ resolve, character and vision to carve out a renovated and united Atlanta, and for that, he should have our votes.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Kyle Chan-Shue, Sara Khan, Martin Li, Sophia Ling, Demetrios Mammas, Daniel Matin, Sara Perez, Sophia Peyser, Ben Thomas, Chaya Tong and Leah Woldai.