In an April 12 speech to the Buckhead Rotary Club, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms blasted Buckhead cityhood as a non-solution to crime.
“In creating a new city, you’re not building a wall around the city,” Bottoms told club members in a virtual appearance. “You’re not locking residents in and keeping everyone out. It doesn’t address crime. The way that we address crime is to continue to work together as we have done for decades, as a city, as one city.”
Bottoms placed Buckhead and Atlanta crime in the national context and attributed it to mental and social pressures of the pandemic.
“We are experiencing what I call a COVID crime wave,” she said. “… I’ve heard some say it’s an excuse when you say it’s happening everywhere. It’s not an excuse. It’s a fact.”
Citing her own crime-fighting plan, Bottoms said she has spoken directly with President Joe Biden about crime and that he agrees about the pandemic being a factor. She said she expects the city to receive about $178 million in money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and that the Biden administration will allow it to be spent with “flexibility,” including on public safety.
Questioned by a concerned resident, Bottoms acknowledged that she is delaying a search for a permanent police chief, while pushing back on the effect on policing and crime.
“The short answer is no. I cannot say when a new police chief will be named,” Bottoms said when asked whether a search process is underway. One reason for the delay, she said, is that many cities nationwide are searching for chiefs, so recruitment is more difficult than usual. “And secondly, this is an election year…. I don’t want it to become political fodder,” Bottoms added of the search process.
She said she is “very pleased” with interim Chief Rodney Bryant’s work and that he has agreed to remain in the job as long as she wants, including the possibility of being the permanent chief. “Let me clear, Rodney Bryant serving as the interim police chief is not the reason we are having an uptick in crime in the city,” Bottoms said.
Bottoms acknowledged the effect of crime concerns, as well as pandemic-related pressures, in spawning the effort to make Buckhead its own city. “It has caused us in many ways to be very uncomfortable as a city because we’ve endured many challenges as a city. But I can tell you that the solution to this is not to create a city of Buckhead,” she said, adding that such an effort is a “very expensive proposition” with such questions as the establishment of a new school system.
“I can tell you that the city of Atlanta very much values Buckhead,” Bottoms said. “We very much consider Buckhead a part of the city of Atlanta, and an important part of the city of Atlanta. And it has never been any intention from me personally or from our administration not to provide Buckhead with the services and the protection that it needs, just as we do across the city of Atlanta.”
Legislation was introduced at the end of the the just-concluded General Assembly session to create “Buckhead City.” Since a new city requires approval over two legislative sessions, it will be 2022 before voters would see it on a ballot.
To read more about Bottoms’ comments on issues including affordable housing, accessory dwelling units, and the pandemic, read a longer version of this story at Reporter Newspapers.