Rabbi Peter Berg (left) interviewed Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on May 21.

Rabbi Peter Berg (left) interviewed Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on May 21.

Credit: Logan C. Ritchie/Rough Draft Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is set on making Atlanta the best place to raise a family by 2030. That’s his “North Star,” he told the Jewish community on Tuesday at the Jewish Federation in Midtown.

Interviewed by Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple, Dickens said his priorities are investing in youth, public safety, and affordable housing.

Dickens described his job as managing competing interests across the board. While some constituents prioritize small businesses, others want more transportation, less crime, or better housing options. 

“We all want to be connected to good things. You want to be connected to a grocery store and retail, you want to have good schools, you want to be able to get to a good park. You start adding up all these things. You want to be healthy,” he said. “Overall, I want Atlanta to be the best place to raise a family.”

After walking through Dickens’ recent efforts, including expanding MARTA by four stations, dedication to youth programming and workforce, and combatting homelessness with innovative housing, Berg turned to public safety. 

The Jewish community has felt on edge since protests against the Israel-Hamas War began in October 2023.

Opponents of the Public Safety Center operating under the name “Stop Cop City” joined “Free Palestine” protesters in the fall. Protests gained momentum on Emory University’s campus and other campuses around the U.S. in April. 

In March, Atlanta Press Collective reported that protesters approached Dickens’ home. Berg said the crowd threatened that if the mayor didn’t stop the project they would breach his home “the way that Hamas breached Israel on Oct. 7.”

“I’m wondering if you take these threats seriously?” Berg asked.

“When it becomes violent or when they’re hurting property and people, you know, then you start seeing an erosion of civility,” Dickens said. “We don’t want civility to be lost. We are trying to be more connected, safer. We’re trying to be a better society.” 

There are no victimless crimes, Dickens said. He gave examples of acts of vandalism in the city: destroying construction equipment at a hospital expansion, trying to set off a Molotov cocktail at a youth center, spray painting Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

“Somebody has to pay for these repairs,” Dickens said.

Dickens said the pendulum has swung the opposite direction since the murder of George Floyd. In 2020, the public called for deescalation training followed by calls for defunding the police, he said.

“I’ve lived in about seven homes. Five of them were burglarized. Don’t tell me I don’t need police. I’ve had cars broken into, I’ve had friends shot,” he said. “We need police, and we need to support the police.”

Berg ended the interview by thanking the mayor and police officers who are protecting the Jewish community “during a time in which we have never had to have a stronger security presence.” 

“We have Atlanta Police officers in our building at all times, and are truly grateful for the support that you give to our entire community,” Berg said.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Rough Draft Atlanta.