Each year, the Atlanta Press Club invites the city's mayor of Atlanta to speak at a forum of business and media professionals.

This year, Mayor Andre Dickens gave remarks and then sat down for a fireside chat.

Across the hourlong program, Dickens was eager to promote a 21% drop in homicides and a new community with 40 units for unhoused people called The Melody. He also answered questions from journalists about the Atlanta police training facility, restaurant permitting, youth programs and the city hosting eight games in the 2026 World Cup soccer tournament.

The conversation was moderated by Keith Pepper, Chair of the Atlanta Press Club.

Here's what the mayor said about these topics:


On affordable housing

"The goal is to make sure that people can live, work and play in Atlanta. The city is becoming a victim of its own success. We are growing so fast that it is becoming very difficult for people that are working class, that are, you know, our servers, our police, fire, teachers, nurses … to be able to live in the city that they serve in. And we want them to do that.

"We want people to live in the community that they serve in. And so that's why I stated the goal of 20,000 units of affordable housing to be built or preserved in the city. 20,000 units is a lot. And we've already got 3,500 built and people are in them. And then we've got about 8,000 in some form of development, whether that is pre-construction, construction, etc..

"So we are intentional about reaching our goal of 20,000 units, and we're doing it as a scattered site. In terms of homelessness, I don't want it to be one big place where you’ve got 500 folks living in the same spot. That is concentration of poverty, and it brings about certain social challenges. You do it in scattered sites..."


On safety and the 2026 World Cup games 

"We are in the planning stages, and we have been meeting for a year now with FBI, GBI, various safety partners. So that's one thing to make sure about — safety and security — because this is an international event. The Super Bowl is an international event. We didn't know how many games we were going to get. We're going to get eight games. So this is like eight international events — eight Super Bowls — happening in a two-week span. So we are making sure that our firefighters, police officers, all the strategic leadership around safety has been meeting and planning and staying in touch directly with the FIFA organization.

"... we've been having preliminary infrastructure-based calls. We've already made the perimeter of what the “village” would be, if you will. And now we're about to go out and make calls to the business community as well as the cultural community because we don't want the World Cup to be something that happens to Atlanta. We want it to be something that happens with Atlanta. So when they, you know, come to the Atlanta's World Cup events, it needs to feel like Atlanta has our small and medium business and medium-sized businesses and our large businesses represented. We want the commercials that play during our games to be like, ‘Hey, this is Atlanta!’ So folks know that this is an opportunity for you to get to know the city and that the people that are in the city don't feel like the World Cup just dumped on them, you know, millions of people, but not provided them opportunities for business and provided them opportunities to have their culture reflected."


On his biggest surprise as mayor (so far)

"I didn't know how many meetings the mayor has. I did not know that ... You’ve just got to open up another restaurant. I’ve got to go to the grand opening. Like, really? All the time. Like, man, we eat a lot in this city, right? I’ve got a breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve only got one stomach. Everybody wants to have lunch and breakfast. So I did not know that.

"I thought I ran a business called The City and People. So the job is part prince and part president. So president runs things. Prince goes to a third grade class [that got a new] pencil sharpener. ... You know we've got to show up. You know, it's like everything all the time. And I do it. I go."


On concerns that the controversy over the police training facility known as 'Cop City' will affect election-year politics in Washington

"I was just with President Biden last week in the Oval Office talking about the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill … We spent time and he didn't mention the public safety training center. We didn't talk about it. And so I don't think it shows up on the national landscape. It shows up here a little bit because it's proximate to here.

"But I think, you know, we're 65% to 70% done with construction. It will be active by the end of this year. You will be able to have well-trained police, firefighters, EMS right here in the city. And I think that'll die down … some of the folks, it's already started to erode [criticism] because they see that the citizens are more in favor of it than those that aren't.

"...I think that for a presidential election, they'll be fine with it. And when you’ve got the crime stats headed in the right direction and you're working together with your partners to do so, I think people won't have much of an argument against our way of doing things."