An Open Letter to Mayor Dickens

I would like to openly and publicly apologize to the Mayor of Atlanta, Andre Dickens, for the lackluster interaction he had with the board I serve this past Saturday morning. I serve as the Correspondence Secretary of the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board.

I was personally looking forward to you attending the meeting. In fact, I have advocated for you, Council President Doug Shipman, and others to directly interact with APAB since last year. For the past three months, I’ve been anticipating your presence and the opportunity of the group to hear you and just be present at the meeting of so many NPU leaders. 

APAB and NPU meetings have had increased attendance with virtual meetings, but as you probably noticed- your Executive Order decimated that participation

Much to our shared chagrin, we got about 20 minutes of you speaking to us rather than the active dialogue in which you excel. 

This was sort of sad to watch. It did a disservice to both you and the Board. I am sorry. I wish it was different.

This is the second time I’ve been in your company addressing a group. The first instance I wrote about here and the AJC covered it here. We were organized by my broker, Bill Murray, and you took questions from the audience that were neither submitted to you in advance nor were screened. I know this because you answered two of my questions off the cuff. I can speak only for myself, but it left me feeling hopeful and having faith in your leadership. 

I admire anyone who has the gumption to go before unfiltered audience questions. 

As a person who’s worked for a number of elected officials, I get the need to keep things tight and controlled for time management yet I will respectfully say the gatekeepers that be, didn’t allow for active q & a, and as a result, we both suffered for it. 

It’s clear that you aren’t afraid to interact with your city and answer direct questions. You thrive when you have direct contact with those you serve. Most politicos do. We love the thrill of discussion of policy. We’re nerds, and I mean that in the most flattering way! I too leave policy discussions with a charge, not drained. I’m willing to wager you walked away from the APAB meeting feeling just as disappointed as I did on Saturday morning. 

Something else I’ve found to be true about politicos is the willingness to cede control. I find that the most powerful people don’t mind making themselves vulnerable because they are confident in their decisions. We are willing to evolve with new information.

If I may be so bold, I would encourage you to lean into that vulnerability. As I hear of choppers circling the future location of Cop City and of the City of Atlanta taking over People TV, I fear these are not consistent with that confidence you have exhibited in your opportunities for direct q & a. I wonder who is filtering the information coming to your office and seemingly leading you to make decisions with a clear lack of public input. News of your openness to meeting with your citizens in your office and one on one is refreshing. I hope you will return to APAB as well in the future, as I think you’ll find the NPU leaders to be a great testing ground for your ideas. Afterall, if history and the prior two administrations have taught us anything, leaders who try to control too much or shy away from the public follow the road to irrelevance. 

I don’t want that for you. 

You regularly remind Atlantans that you grew up in Adamsville and there’s a number of kids in my neighborhood who play in Adamsville Rec leagues. The kids prefer Adamsville because it builds what I would define as true grit.

Is that what you experienced? 

If so, like them, I think the kid from Adamsville who became Mayor can take whatever the city can throw at him. Open the gates, show your grit and the city will show you its gumption.

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