Atlanta City Councilmember Mary Norwood public accusations this week in a conservative-leaning political website that city government continually neglects Buckhead did not sit well with Mayor Andre Dickens’ office, which said her complaints “lacked context or accuracy.”
The spat spotlights again the movement by some in the North Atlanta community known for its luxury shopping and tony residential neighborhoods to break off from the city to form its own government. The movement was quashed this year by the General Assembly in part to give Dickens time as the new mayor to address crime.
Norwood previously served two terms on the City Council and lost two close mayoral elections — to Kasim Reed in 2009 and to Keisha Lance Bottoms in 2017. She was reelected to the represent District 8 on the council this year and represents much of western Buckhead.
She wrote a Sept. 13 opinion piece for the political news website Insider Advantage that said “Buckhead is not getting what we need and deserve.” The CEO of Insider Advantage is Phil Kent, a noted Republican commentator.
Norwood also said many people think the Buckhead cityhood movement is based solely on crime.
“But there is a great deal more to it than that,” she said. “It boils down to many years of Buckhead’s neglect by the city of Atlanta’s government.”
Norwood ticked off in her column a list of issues she said the city has failed to address over the years, including repairing streets damaged by commuter and truck traffic. She said her request months ago for a five-year capital plan for District 8 has been ignored.
Norwood also said Buckhead’s “traffic is suffocating” and her requests for funding to come up with a traffic plan have been turned down. Norwood also complained about some of the city’s proposed zoning regulations she said threatened single-family neighborhoods.
“If the Atlanta government wants to forestall the creation of a separate city, it should focus on the same thing that I, as a City Council member, am focused on: the delivery of services to my constituents,” Norwood said. “The concerns I have been hearing throughout my district, and that I am expressing here, should be taken very seriously by our Atlanta City Government. Time is of the essence.”
Norwood did not name Dickens or any other government officials in her column. But on the same day Norwood’s column was published, Chief Operating Officer Lisa Gordon, a member of Dickens’ cabinet, sent Norwood a 5-page letter disputing her claims. Atlanta Intown and Reporter Newspapers obtained a copy of the letter. The letter was first published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I read your article, ‘Atlanta’s Buckhead— not getting services it needs,’ … in which you raise concerns about City services in District 8,” Gordon said in the letter. “As the City’s Chief Operating Officer, I oversee the areas you identified in this article and I am taking the opportunity to shed light on several of the specific items you highlighted which lacked context or accuracy.”
Gordon said she met with Norwood on Sept. 7 to discuss traffic concerns in Buckhead and agreed to respond to her by Sept. 16.
“I regret that you did not share these other concerns at that time before publishing this article,” Gordon said.
Norwood’s request for the administration to come up with a District 8 capital plan would be a “formula for inequity, both at Council among members and for residents across the city,” Gordon said, because the city historically develops capital plans for the entire city and not specific neighborhoods or council districts.
Funding is being prioritized to resurface streets in Buckhead, including Blackland and Putnam roads and sections of Tuxedo Park, Weyman Court, Nacoochee Drive and Hawick Drive, Gordon said. A plan to resurface West Paces Ferry Road is underway. Another $3.9 million is going toward PATH400 investments.
Gordon also highlighted the city’s investments in public safety in Buckhead, including opening a mini-precinct in Buckhead Village, and its support of Norwood’s Buckhead Public Safety Task Force. Gordon said crime in Zone 2, which includes Buckhead, is down 10% compared to this time last year.
“The Mayor remains committed to serving the needs of all of Atlanta’s residents, visitors and businesses,” Gordon said.
“He will continue to be the city’s loudest and most forceful champion in ensuring we remain one city, in opposition to efforts to de-annex any part of Atlanta. Breaking up our city would be a travesty for everyone,” Gordon said. “It is far better for us to work together during challenging times. That is what made Atlanta—and the special community of Buckhead—great.”
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