Buckhead Reporter - December 2020

Page 1


DECEMBER 2020• VOL. 14 — NO. 12

Buckhead Reporter


Mapping Biden’s win in local communities P11

A bridge to MARTA art?

Norwood won’t rule out 2021 run for office

Holiday Events P5



A thankful farewell to readers P13


CAC leader’s legacy of helping others


Could the bridge between the Lenox MARTA Station and the Salesforce Tower get a more colorful look? This conceptual illustration for artwork on the concrete bridge over East Paces Ferry Road is among the improvements the tower’s owner is considering. See story, p. 9. ►

Mayor announces ‘top-to-bottom’ review of police department



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The Atlanta Police Department will undergo an 18-month, “top-to-bottom” review for possible reforms, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced in a Nov. 18 press conference. The review of APD’s policies, procedures and training will be conducted by the Police

Executive Research Forum, an advisory organization based in Washington, D.C., that frequently conducts such studies for local police departments. A separate urban planning firm will be involved to ensure citizen engagement in the process, Bottoms said. The cost of the study will be paid by the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a group of corporate leaders who advise the mayor,


Mary Norwood, the former Atlanta City Council member who narrowly lost the 2017 mayoral election to Keisha Lance Bottoms, is not ruling out another run for a city office in 2021. “I am not planning right now to run for any office,” Norwood, who now chairs the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, said in a Nov. 5 phone interview. Asked if she might change her mind, she added, “I think that in the middle of a presidential election that hasn’t been decided, where everybody’s focused on that, that it is premature to even discuss what may happen next year.” Earlier that day, Norwood spoke to the Buckhead Business Association, where she noted the importance of those 2021 elections, when the Mayor’s Office and City Council seats will be on the ballot. She also touted her organization’s recent work on street racing and other public safety issues. At the BBA meeting, Norwood touted her organization’s involvement in the City Council’s recent passage of an ordinance that requires the temporary jailing of defendants accused of street racing and gave more details about a group that is considering enhanced private policing in the neighborhood. Overall crime is down in Buckhead like it is citywide. But a string of gun crimes and other issues like street racing have been on the rise. This year, many Buckhead residents and organizations have complained about young water-sellers on the street, which led to a crackdown over alleged assaults and other crimes. And the neighborhood was shaken by widespread looting on one night in May that spun out of the early

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See NORWOOD on page 14

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2 | Public Safety

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Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta is offering a $5,000 reward for information about the suspect in a Nov. 6 sexual assault near the Lenox MARTA Station. The female victim was sexually assaulted around 7 p.m. while walking from the Lenox Square mall on Peachtree Road to the MARTA station at 955 East Paces Ferry Road, according to Atlanta Police Department spokesperson Officer Steve Avery. The suspect approached the victim just outside the MARTA station, Avery said. The suspect is described as a Black man, mid-30s, around 5-feet-9-inches tall, slim to medium build, with short hair. He was wearing a black jacket and light-colored blue jeans and was carrying a black backpack. Anyone with information about the case can call 911 or contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477 or stopcrimeatl.com.


Three teenagers are accused of punching and robbing a woman Nov. 12 in Buckhead’s central business district, police say. According to an Atlanta Police Department report, two officers were patrolling around 6:30 p.m. in the area of the Skyhouse Buckhead apartments at 3390 Stratford Road when they saw an adult chasing three juveniles. The adult told the officers that the trio had robbed someone in an unnamed parking garage nearby. The officers chased the youths and detained them, according to the report. The officers then spoke with the victim, a 39-year-old woman, who said she was in the garage when three juveniles approached her. She reported that one suspect punched her in the face, after which the trio stole her purse and ran away. The suspects, who are not named because they are juveniles, are aged 13, 14 and 15, according to APD. They were charged with robbery and transported to a youth detention center. The incident came about two weeks after another robbery in Buckhead where teenagers were charged. The victim in that Oct. 27 robbery reported that three youths, one of them with a gun, robbed him in the parking lot of his apartment complex.



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Drive-Thru Parade will be December 6 from 6–8 PM. Sparkle Village, Menorah, Christmas Tree, and Holiday lights will be on display through January 1, 2021.



son F erry

Road Closures

Drive-Thru Parade Route


This area will be affected by road closures. Visit spr.gs/sparkle for more information and times








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4 | Community

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Happy Holidays


Incumbents win most local races; state House seat flips BY JOHN RUCH AND BOB PEPALIS

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Incumbents won most Nov. 3 races local to Buckhead, while a remaining Republican-held state House seat flipped to Democratic representation. Meanwhile, voters face another major election Jan. 5, when runoffs are held for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats. Republican incumbent David Perdue faces Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in one race; Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, a Buckhead resident, faces Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock in the other. In House District 52, which represents parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, Republican incumbent Rep. Deborah Silcox lost to Democratic challenger Shea Roberts Nov. 3 by fewer than 400 votes. Silcox had yet to concede at the Reporter’s press time, while Roberts prepared to take office by meeting with the Democratic House Caucus. The official results show Roberts won the seat, which represents parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, with 17,069 votes (50.56%) to Silcox’s 16,692 (49.44%).

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Roberts’ victory completes a Democratic flipping of local state House districts that began in the “blue wave” of 2018. Silcox was one of the few local Republican legislators to survive that 2018 election, where she fended off a previous challenge from Roberts. In a Nov. 14 Facebook post, Roberts published a victory speech. “This has been a journey of a lifetime and I feel such gratitude,” she wrote. “I look forward to serving HD52/Georgia and making y’all proud!” But Silcox has not made a concession statement to the public or to Roberts. Silcox said Nov. 6 that she had been advised not to concede. Asked via text message Nov. 14 whether she would concede or attempt a challenge to the results, Silcox said, “No comment at this time.” Roberts’ margin of victory, while slim, is still above the 1% threshold at which candidates can call for a recount under state law. The law allows other grounds for recounts, such as claims of errors. In the 5th Congressional District, which represents some southern parts of Buckhead, Nikema Williams easily defeated Republican Angela Stanton-King to win the open seat. Williams, who also chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, will replace the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died in July in the midst of a re-election campaign. Williams previously held the District 39 state Senate seat, which also includes part of southern Buckhead. She left the seat to run for Congress, triggering a special Democratic primary to replace her. That four-way Senate race headed to a runoff between top vote-getters Sonya Halpern and Linda Pritchett, with Zan Fort and Jo Anna Potts eliminated. The runoff was scheduled for Dec. 1, after the Reporter’s press time. Incumbents won in several other local races: In the 11th Congressional District, Republican Barry Loudermilk drew 60.43% of the vote to defeat Democratic challenger Dana Barrett. In state Senate District 6, representing parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, Democratic incumbent Jen Jordan pulled 61.51% of the vote to beat Republican challenger Harrison Lance. In state House District 40, Democratic incumbent Erick Allen was set to keep the seat over Republican challenger Taryn Chilivis Bowman with 58.37% of the vote. In state House District 54, Democratic incumbent Betsy Holland won 57.98% of the vote in defeating Republican challenger Lyndsey Rudder.



Art & Entertainment | 5


Holiday Events

A float from last year’s edition of the Sparkle Sandy Springs Parade.


The annual display of decorated miniature houses returned to City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, on Thanksgiving and will remain up through New Year’s Day. A drive-thru version of the Sparkle Parade -- with stationary floats and the audience passing through in their vehicles -- is scheduled for Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m. Info: spr.gs/sparkle.


6-8:30 p.m., will showcase a variety of businesses on Peachtree between Lenox and Piedmont roads with hot chocolate, cocktails, carolers and local musicians. For tickets and more information about the events, see livablebuckhead. com/holiday. — John Ruch, Bob Pepalis and Holly R. Price


The annual lighting of a holiday tree and a menorah at Blackburn Park was scheduled to become a virtual event streamed on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at Facebook.com/BrookhavenGAGov. Extending the holiday celebration is a citywide yard decoration contest for residents and businesses. The contest was scheduled to be judged Dec. 7, with winners to be announced Dec. 14. Explore Brookhaven, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, will create driving maps of all entries and publicize it in surrounding towns to bring others to Brookhaven for a socially distanced viewing. To download the map, go to explorebrookhaven.com.


Livable Buckhead is holding a variety of holiday events in the Buckhead Village and Lenox Square areas under the theme “Miracle on Peachtree.” Nearly 40 Christmas trees will be on display at Charlie Loudermilk Park at Roswell and Peachtree roads Dec. 11-14. Drive-in and walk-in -- or “sleigh-in” -- movies will be shown in a parking lot at 309 Buckhead Ave. within the newly renamed Buckhead Village District shopping complex. The movies include “Elf” and “Die Hard” on Dec. 11; “Home Alone” and “A Christmas Story” on Dec. 12; and “An American Tail” and “Love Actually” on Dec. 13. Tickets range from $10 for walkers to $40 for multiple people in a vehicle, and spaces are limited. A “Hot Chocolate Crawl” Dec. 13,

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Community | 7


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As Civic Dinners booms, some question diversity, open meetings issues BY JOHN RUCH


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Civic Dinners is enjoying a boom in the meeting business that has made the Atlanta-based start-up virtually synonymous with post-protest racial dialogues in such local communities as Sandy Springs. Governments and other organizations praise it as an off-the-shelf method for quickly gathering hundreds of people to discuss tough topics and inspire new policies. But some participants question Civic Dinners’ own diversity and expertise, especially on racial issues. And its inherently private structure may run afoul of state open-meetings laws and other government transparency guarantees. Civic Dinners has been a “highly successful” engagement method, especially for millennials, at the Atlanta Regional Commission, according to Malika Reed Wilkins, director of the organization’s Center for Strategic Relations. “It was certainly an innovative way for us, the ARC, to get input on some of the key regional issues,” Wilkins said. One Civic Dinners participant, a Black woman who asked to remain anonymous, said that, especially on racial issues, the method is too “mild and conservative” and fails to challenge preconceptions of those who join. “We live in a racist society, and not everybody agrees on that point whatsoever,” the participant said. “...I think the thing that’s most appealing for governments [about Civic Dinners] is, it’s easy. And easy is not going to solve it.” Jenn Graham, Civic Dinners’ founder and CEO, says she piloted the “structured dialogue” program in 2014 at the ARC while working as a consultant. It uses a dinner-party format, with a volunteer host attempting to gather a small but diverse group, each member of which voices their answer to pre-selected topical questions. The method is rooted in dinners in private homes, but has been expanded to large conference-style meetings. In the pandemic, the business has shifted to a virtual platform that Graham says will remain available long-term. Graham did not invent the dinner-meeting concept. In the mid-1990s, “Chicago Dinners” about race and racism were held by a social-justice nonprofit in that city. The Chicago model has inspired other programs, such as the “Dinners by Design” conducted by Yale University psychologist Dietra Hawkins. Civic Dinners began its own “Inclusive Series” about bias and diversity due to the interest of corporate clients, Graham said. Those topics are helping to drive Civic Dinners’ boom into an international business. Earlier this year, the city of Sandy Springs began an ongoing racial dialogue using Civic Dinners, which drew about 250 participants and is already credited with inspiring a city “inclusion and diversity commission.” For next year, Graham said, the business has been hired to facilitate Atlanta policing meetings involving the Atlanta Police Foundation and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Civic Dinners is also the platform hired by a similar but separate program called Equitable Dinners that began last year in Decatur but is also expanding rapidly to national programming. Equitable Dinners is inspired by Hawkins’ model and is focused on “dismantling racism,” says Adria Kitchens, the program’s manager. An affiliate of Out of Hand Theatre, it incorporates a brief theatrical performance to jumpstart the dialogue. It was set to hold 500 dinners in Atlanta this year before the pandemic postponed the plan. In Sandy Springs and elsewhere, some participants have questioned the diversity of the dinners themselves and the reliance on amateur hosts instead of expert facilitators and note-takers, who can be hired but are not part of the basic package. In Atlanta’s activism scene, some organizers have noted that Civic Dinners is itself a White-led organization whose method may encode biases and assumptions, such as preferring “inclusion” to systemic change. The anonymous participant, who joined a Civic Dinners discussion about White privilege roughly two years ago, said she felt “uncomfortable” with answers given by White participants who appeared to view their mere attendance as a “badge of courage.” The method prohibited participants from questioning or challenging each other on such topics as diversity terminology or claims to have abandoned racist beliefs, she said. “People were just sharing, and that was it,” she said. “There was just not a learning moment.” Graham said that the diversity of her own staff is something she thinks about “all the time” and is “high on my list” to improve. “Right now, we have only two African Americans on our team out of 14,” she said, though that small team also includes three people who are Asian, one who is Latino and four who identify as LGBTQ. Continued on page 8

8 | Community

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As more governments employ Civic Dinners, an emerging issue is conflict between the dinner-party concept, with its presumption of privacy and intimacy, and laws that ensure open meetings, open records and other public accountability. Sandy Springs initially denied the Reporter access to its racial dialogue meetings, claiming the media would cause a “chilling effectâ€? on discussion. The city relented only after attorney David Hudson, a board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, advised that denying access violated the state Open Meetings and Open Record acts. The city of Brookhaven also considered using Civic Dinners to host racial dialogue meetings, but instead is using the platform for a still-mysterious series of municipally funded input meetings. The city refused to let the Reporter attend the first such meeting, held by City Manager Christian Sigman in September, and also refused to record it for later viewing. “The purpose of a civic dinner is to create an intimate platform in which a small group can share their unique perspectives,â€? said city spokesperson Burke Brennan in an email. “It is supposed to be a safe atmosphere for people to express themselves openly to their neighbors and their local government.â€? In response to a formal complaint from the Reporter, Georgia Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo said it appeared that Brookhaven’s Civic Dinners meetings might be exempt from the Open Meetings Act, but also that the lack of case law about this new form of gathering made it impossible to say for sure. The Civic Dinners makes for “an uncertain question of law,â€? she said, indicating that litigation would have to resolve it. Graham said she had not thought about possible Open Meetings implications of Civic Dinners, but that the company “highly encouragesâ€? media participation. “We actually encouraged Sandy Springs to invite reporters and allow reporters to come‌,â€? she said. “I think participants especially, when they know media is showing up, they get so excited, because they’re like, ‘Hey, this is what this is all about.’â€? Equitable Dinners and the ARC said they have opened their meetings to the press as well. Graham said she did not know about Brookhaven’s meetings and that the city might be using a free version offered on the website, which would leave the company itself unaware. She said the company discourages free users from using the “Civic Dinnersâ€? term for such meetings. “We also want to be cautious about our brand name,â€? she said.

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Community | 9

DECEMBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Salesforce Tower could see streetscape upgrades, art on MARTA bridge


Located in the dynamic neighborhood of Chamblee and just minutes from Buckhead and Brookhaven, our 55+ active adult community provides all the social perks of a private club membership – at your doorstep.

A plan of the proposed streetscape improvements at the Salesforce Tower. East Paces Ferry Road is at the bottom and Oak Valley Road is to the left.

BY JOHN RUCH A streetscape upgrade for the Salesforce Tower would add trees, benches and just maybe some decorative art on the bridge connecting it to the Lenox MARTA Station. The concepts for the 950 East Paces Ferry Road office tower were presented at a Nov. 4 meeting of the Development Review Committee of Special Public Interest District 12, a zoning area. The main goals are to improve the tower’s entrance at a pull-in driveway on East Paces Ferry and to add street trees on the Oak Valley Road side. Project architect Adam Toal of ASD SKY described timber benches and concrete and granite paving as among the proposed features. The MARTA station footbridge connects with the tower at that driveway, hulking over it. Toal said one consideration for improving the bridge is painting it. He showed a conceptual illustration of an abstract, geometric mural painted on the bridge’s underside. Greg Floyd, a MARTA project manager, attended the virtual meeting and said he would like to hear more about the proposal. He said that at the least, MARTA could consider cleaning the bridge. Toal said he had an initial conversation with another MARTA official about the artwork idea. A concern from the DRC was the width of the sidewalks in the area. The 34-story tower was built in 1986, long before modern concepts of wide sidewalks. With the new street trees, the Oak Valley sidewalk would vary from 6 to 8 feet in width, Toal said. But the sidewalks around the driveway are much narrower -- 4 to 5 feet. DRC members urged Toal to consider widening the driveway’s sidewalk, particularly on the eastern end. Toal said the area is complicated by a slope and street lights, but that he would have an engineer consider it. City officials in the meeting said that no variances are needed for the project. DRC members said they would support the project with or without variances, along with the recommendation for widening the sidewalk. DRC member Nancy Bliwise also chairs Neighborhood Planning Unit B,



which she said had reviewed the proposal on Nov. 3 and supported it as well. Formerly called the Atlanta Plaza, the tower was renamed for technology company Salesforce in 2018 as part of a major expansion of an existing office there. The tower was sold last year for $205 million from one investment partnership to another that goes by Oak Valley Owner LLC, according to Fulton County property records and the proposal’s filing with the city. SpringsDerma-PressAd-DecIssue.pdf


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10 | Commentary

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Metro Atlanta’s suburbs hold the future of Georgia politics in their hands Right now, I feel like we’re living in the most interesting state in the world, to adapt a line from a popular beer commercial. Not only does Georgia, with its two Senate runoff elections, hold the fate of the Senate, and hence of the balance of power in Washington, in its hands, but it’s also the only state in the Deep South to have voted for Joe Biden. What’s more, two of the very few bright spots for Democrats at the Congressional level were Lucy McBath’s retention of the local seat she flipped in 2018 and Carolyn Bordeaux’s flipping of another suburban seat. How we got here is, I think, an interesting and illuminating tale. Everyone’s easy answer is to credit Stacey Abrams with the feat of “turning Georgia blue,” as one headline inaccurately put it. She certainly had a hand in it, working to register and mobilize hundreds of thousands of voters. But as one observer recently noted, none of what Abrams accomplished would have been possible without Atlanta, whose economic dynamism attracts people from all over the country. Consider these numbers. More than half the almost 5 million votes cast in the presidential election came from counties in the Atlanta metro area. Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties alone accounted for about 1.7 million votes, giving Joe Biden a 625,000 edge over Donald Trump. Of course, the picture gets a bit more clouded when you factor in all the other metro counties, but it’s clear enough that the Atlanta metro area makes Georgia competitive. No other major Southern city has the same effect on its state’s political complexion. Not Charlotte, not Nashville, and certainly not Birmingham or Columbia. The closest southern analogue to Atlanta’s outsized influence is the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where Joe Biden’s 500,000 vote margin (out of roughly 1.5 million votes cast) overcame Donald Trump’s slight 50,000 vote edge in the rest of the state. Since 2008, Virginia and Georgia have followed similar trajectories. Barack Obama added nearly a half-million voters to the Democratic columns in both states back then. Joe Biden duplicated that feat this year, adding 431,000 votes in Virginia and 594,000 votes in Georgia.

This comparison takes a bit of luster away from Stacey Abrams’s accomplishment. Virginia Democrats were not exactly lost without her in 2020. Also, Georgia Republicans have a much larger margin outside Atlanta than their Virginia counterparts do outside the D.C.

Joseph Knippenberg is a professor of political science at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven.

suburbs. But they shouldn’t rest too comfortably on that cushion, not only because it didn’t produce victory at the

Republicans have to hope that they can retain their appeal to non-metro voters while distancing themselves from the Trump persona in the metro area. presidential level in 2020, but because that’s not where the state’s voting population will grow in the future. Retaining the non-Atlanta base is necessary, but not sufficient, for long-term Republican success in Georgia politics In a word, the Atlanta metropolitan area holds the future of Georgia politics

in its hands. Both parties have strong incentives to improve upon their performances ITP and OTP. For Democrats, the two keys are holding onto the affluent, White voters who moved from splitting their tickets in 2016 to voting “D” in more races in 2020, and increasing turnout among Black and Latino voters. Since Donald Trump will not always be around to help them with the former effort, they will have to find ways to differentiate their candidates from the louder progressive voices that tend to dominate the national party. We can expect to hear more of the intraparty debate that has been evident in the aftermath of the disappointing results below the presidential level. As for the other challenge, I will restrict myself here to saying that claims of voter suppression are a better mobilizing tool than they are a description of facts on the ground. There are lots of votes to be gotten from people of color, but those who aren’t already voting are going to be very difficult to get to the polls. Republicans have to hope that they can retain their appeal to non-metro voters while distancing themselves from the Trump persona in the metro area. In the January special elections, the task is straightforward, for they can argue that the only way that President Biden can be the moderate he claims to be is if there’s a Republican Senate to balance a Democratic House. After that, the test will be whether Georgia Republicans and their national counterparts can articulate a nationalist and populist message that isn’t as abrasive and offensive as that offered by the current occupant of the White House. I take it for granted that there’s no going back to the party of Mitt Romney, however much some of those who would be in the executive suites if they weren’t working from home would want it. That party doesn’t win enough votes outside the metro area to counterbalance its inevitable deficit around the Perimeter. None of us really wants to pay much attention to politics for the next two months, but we can’t avoid it. Democrats and Republicans have a lot at stake, in the short term and in the long term. For Georgians, the question is whether purple is a stop on the way to blue or a condition that we’ll, so to speak, enjoy for the foreseeable future.


Community | 11

DECEMBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net


Local communities were Biden country in Nov. 3 election Buckhead’s Paces neighborhood. Biden and Trump weren’t the only presidential candidates on the ballot. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen drew small numbers of votes in local precincts. The local Libertarian hotspot? Brookhaven’s Cross Keys High precinct, where Jorgensen won about 2.5% of the vote. For an interactive version of the precinct map, showing vote totals and percentages for each candidate, see ReporterNewspapers.net.

Mexican Restaurant This color-coded map shows how strongly precincts in local communities leaned toward either majorparty presidential candidate. The darker the blue, the higher the vote for Democrat Joe Biden, and the dark the red, the higher the vote for Republican Donald Trump. MAGGIE LEE/MAGGIELEE.NET

BY JOHN RUCH AND MAGGIE LEE Local communities of Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs were Biden country in the presidential election, joining other metro Atlanta suburbs in flipping Georgia blue for the first time since 1992. Democrat Joe Biden earned about 61.1% of the total votes in those four communities, while Republican incumbent Donald Trump won only about 37.5%, according to official precinct-by-precinct results mapped and analyzed by the Reporter. (At press time, a recount requested by Trump was pending, but was not expected to significantly change the results following a previous review that combined aspects of an audit and a recount. That previous review did not alter any local results.) Biden handily won each of the communities as well, with the following approximate percentages: Brookhaven



Sandy Springs

Biden 64.5% Trump 34%

Biden 60.7% Trump 38.1%

Biden 59% Trump 39.6%

Biden 60.8% Trump 37.5%

As the Reporter’s map shows, Trump lost every precinct in Brookhaven and polled no higher than the 50% range in Dunwoody. (Numbers for Brookhaven are approximate because precinct lines capture some voters outside of the southern city limits.) Sandy Springs had only two precincts that leaned Trump: one in the eastern panhandle above Dunwoody and another in southern High Point around Windsor Parkway. Buckhead won the distinction of both the bluest and the reddest voting precincts among local communities. Biden took 93.1% of the vote in 06Q, a precinct in the Armour and southern Lindbergh neighborhoods. Trump’s best performance -- 58.2% -- came in the Kingswood and Randall Mill neighborhoods in western Buckhead. Trump also prevailed in some precincts in North Buckhead and in neighborhoods along West Paces Ferry Road. Among those was Tuxedo Park, whose residents include Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican who faces Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock in one of Georgia’s two nationally spotlighted runoff elections for U.S. Senate seats coming Jan. 5. In a handful of local precincts, neither Biden nor Trump won a majority of the votes, including some areas in northern Dunwoody, southern and western Sandy Springs, and BH

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12 | Commentary

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After Trump, the blue deluge hits suburban Republicans

Around Town

The way Fran Millar sees it, the big change shouldn’t surprise anyone. You could watch it coming. It showed right there in the numbers as election followed election. The much-talked-about “blue waves” that swept away Republican red ground in north DeKalb, Sandy Springs and Buckhead has been building for the past couple of elections. “The wakeup call was in 2016,” Millar said recently as he surveyed the local political landscape after the 2020 election. Support for Republicans eroded that year, he said, and continued to disappear in 2018. This year, once the big wave washed through, only Democrats were left standing. The surprise isn’t necessarily that more Democrats won local elections, but where they won them. Although Republicans still control the state Legislature, candidates with a “D” after their names

ta suburbs that once elected big-name Republicans such as former U.S. Congressman Newt Gingrich, former state Sen. Tom Price and former state Rep. Wendell Willard. And, of course, Millar himself. “The Democrats have taken the hill,” said former state Rep. Ed Lindsey, a Republican who represented a chunk of Buckhead for about a decade. “Whether Republicans can have a resurgence is yet to be seen.” Millar served in the state Legislature for 20 years. He was a state rep. for a dozen years and a state senator for eight more. He said he won 10 of 11 elections he ran. In his Senate elections, he regularly claimed more than 60% of the vote. Then, in 2016, “the Democrat who ran against me did nothing but a Facebook campaign” and still collected 44% of the vote. “I knew that wasn’t good.” Two years ago, he lost to Sen. Sally

have claimed districts once considered safe harbors for Republicans. Democrats now represent parts of the north Atlan-

Harrell. “I went from 62% [of the vote in 2016] to 45% in ’18,” he said. “That pretty well says it.”

What changed? Demographics, he said. Dunwoody’s just not the same place it was when he moved there 40 years ago. Back then, it was part of the “Republican Suburbs,” mostly White communities filled with cul-de-sacs surrounded by single-family houses lined up like guards. No more. Nowadays, he said, Atlanta is like Chicago or New York or other big cities scattered around the country where the suburbs politically have become an extension of the city and “most of the area is blue.” “What I didn’t see was the population shifting so quickly, the demographics shifting so quickly,” he said. Millar’s quick to say that by “demographics,” he doesn’t mean exclusively race. That’s part of it, but not all. Other factors he cited include the changing politics of some suburban women, including blowback against President Don-

and the groundswell of new voters organized by former gubernatorial candidate and Georgia voting rights champion Stacey Abrams. But Lindsey, a lawyer who’s 61 and who spent nearly a decade in the state House and was the Republican whip, believes local Republicans’ problem in his old Buckhead district was simply Trump. “In large part it is, quite frankly, President Trump,” he said. “It’s a matter of turning off from the president, to be candid,” he said. “He simply wasn’t well-regarded in this area. I don’t see a shift in people’s attitudes about policy so much as a shift in attitudes about leadership style.” At age 70, Millar, who runs a small marketing firm, misses doing the kind of work he did in the Legislature and working with other lawmakers. “I do miss doing legislation on things that matter,” he

ald Trump; the rise of the tech industry and the younger people who work in tech; the spread of multifamily homes;

said. “You just don’t turn it off after 20 years.” But he has no plans to try to try for elected office again. After all, it might not be as much fun as it used to be. DeKalb is very divided, he said, and local politics sometimes devolve into the kinds of divisions that now regularly split the country. “I’m old-school,” Millar said. “I can sit down and do a deal with Michael Thurmond [DeKalb’s Democratic CEO].” After the 2020 elections, Republicans appear likely to do a little soul-searching both nationally and locally. Lindsey argues the challenge facing both parties in Buckhead will be to nominate candidates who can appeal to conservative voters. “The question is now that we’ll be living in a post-Trump era, will those folks migrate back to Republican candidates who are right of center, or are they in the Democratic camp?” he said. “That’s going to be the challenge for the Democrats and that’s the challenge for Republicans.” Millar argues that for Republicans, a change needs to come. “I think you have to appeal to people with things that matter -- find issues that matter to people. I’m pro-life, but I don’t think abortion and guns are the way… Traditionally, people vote their paychecks. They didn’t this time because of the pandemic and the personal issues of the president. … You’ve got to adapt. You can’t do the same-old, same-old.”

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DECEMBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

A resolution kept, and a seasonal farewell While negotiating this surreal season of masked Santas and mugs of eggnog clinked 6 feet apart and stockings

with ourselves: “Don’t eat the cake!” “But I want the cake!” “Go run three miles.” “But

stuffed with hand sani-

it’s cold outside.”

tizer, I’m looking ahead

Reporter. So perhaps there’s a seven-

■ During a trip to Disney World,

year itch response built in here. But it’s

my 8-year-old son ordered alligator,

not them, it’s me. To them, to my edi-

which blew my mind because I couldn’t

tors, my publisher, to all the staff and

get him to eat broccoli.

board of the Reporter, I offer my ut-

■ Have you ever watched a movie

to 2021 and the reso-

“Time to write the col-

lutions that may come

umn!” “Be quiet. I’m texting.”

Truly, writing this column has been

Simply put, resolutions

a privilege, as has been working with

■ I waited all day for my kids to get

all of you. For my part, even though I

home to change the TV channel. And

didn’t make it a full decade, this seems

then I didn’t know whether to be disap-

like the right time for me to close the

pointed or relieved when they couldn’t


do it, either.

with it. Most of us proba-

are commitments to a goal.

bly figure that the trials

Here I come to the real pur-

of 2020 granted us a 10-

pose for focusing on this topic: writing this column has

year pass to forget res-

been the realization of a goal

olutions and indulge in whatever vices we might possess, just to even the score. But as it is typical at the end of a year or the beginning of a new one to revolt against our

Robin’s Nest

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.

bad habits, we might still find ourselves entertaining the idea of resolutions. And what are resolutions, after all, but our own personal battles? We have constant little skirmishes

that I have held for years, one that I am ever grateful to have had the opportunity to meet. But as this year ends, so will this column. I’ve decided to embark on other goals. Maybe I’ll finally learn to stand up straight. Maybe I’ll

be a nicer person. Maybe I’ll learn to belly dance (and pick up with the lessons I started 20 years ago). It occurred to me that it has been seven years since I was taken on by the

most respect and gratitude.

and then had to go to Wikipedia to figure out what happened?

And since I’ve got about 150 words to

■ Someone called me “precious”

go, I’m going to leave with a few mus-

once, which I believe she meant as a

ings that might have once been fleshed-

compliment. I didn’t take it that way,

out into fully formed columns, but for

though. “Precious” is an adjective re-

now will be bones on the page:

served for cats and old people. And I’m

■ People say that your true personality shows when you’re drunk. I disagree.

I think it shows when you’re

driving in traffic.

not a cat. And here I will deftly transition from “old” to “auld” to “auld lang syne,” and use that phrase to offer my farewell

■ Do you ever wonder why you’ll

and best wishes to all of you who have

spend 15 minutes rearranging the

read and enjoyed (or not!), for the sake

plates in the dishwasher rather than

of seven years gone by.

stopping and washing the dish?

And most of all, thank you.

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14 | Community

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Norwood won’t rule out 2021 run for office Continued from page 1

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ing comments at the council meeting as stages of protests about racism and police “rhetoric that was inappropriate, that was brutality after the police killing of George offensive” and in some cases “disinformaFloyd in Minnesota. tion.” At the BBA meeting, member Lynda “We’ve had people killed. We’ve had peoMartin said her out-of-town friends are ple terrified,” she said in defense of the “vioafraid to visit Buckhead because of “the lence” terminology, though there have been water boys and the riots and the mobs… no recent cases of anyone dying in a local What do I tell them?” street race crash. Shootings have happened “We are all terribly distressed, every one at some street racing events around the of us,” Norwood replied. “We have a long city, but those would be separate crimes. way to go.” But, she said, since August the Norwood is involved in a multi-organeighborhood is “light years ahead of getnization effort to coordinate Buckhead’s ting this [crime] under control.” various residential and commercial priNorwood pointed to the passage of the vate security panew street-racing trols using off-dulaw — which has ty officers. Those yet to go to into efdiscussions began fect and could be in September with vetoed by Mayor talk of a major new Keisha Lance Botprivate police force toms — as an “inalready dubbed credible event” “Buckhead Blue,” and “something but the result may the country could be a more modest emulate.” She said program. The disit originated in a cussions also have BCN “street safeSPECIAL been entirely prity task force” and Mary Norwood. vate, so details noted it had heavy have been scant. support from Buckhead residents in public The effort has been led by the Buckhead comments. Coalition and the Buckhead Community In an era of police reform movements Improvement District — whose staffs are and Bottoms’ own criminal justice reboth led by Jim Durrett — and the Atlanta forms, the ordinance also has been conPolice Foundation. Norwood described the troversial and drew roughly seven hours effort as a “task force” that also includes of public comment at the council meeting the BCN, Livable Buckhead, the BBA, the Atwhere it passed. Current law allows people lanta Police Department and the chairs of accused of street racing, reckless driving or Buckhead’s Neighborhood Planning Units. use of all-terrain vehicles on public streets “We are working on a comprehensive to be released on their own recognizance, safety plan,” she said. About 90% of Buckwhile the new ordinance would keep them head’s sub-neighborhoods already have in custody until an arraignment before a private security patrols and camera sysjudge. To enable that, the ordinance had to tems, she said, so the effort is largely about declare street racing and reckless driving coordinating them with commercial paas more serious forms of crime and specifitrols and making them more visible. cally describes them as a type of “violence.” Norwood dismissed most of the oppos-

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16 | Food & Drink

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BY JOHN RUCH A new restaurant called The Chastain has opened adjacent to Chastain Park in a remake of the former Horseradish Grill spot.

Located at 4320 Powers Ferry Road, The Chastain opened Nov. 9 with morning counter service and dinner service, with additional hours and to-go options coming shortly, according to a press release.



New restaurant opens alongside Chastain Park

Publicity photos of the exterior and interior of The Chastain restaurant.

The restaurant building has a long history dating back to origins as a country store. Several restaurants have occupied the space since the 1940s. The Horseradish Grill operated there for over 25 years before closing early this year. The Chastain is an American restaurant whose executive chef is Christopher Grossman, who formerly worked at Atlas, a restaurant in Buckhead’s St. Regis hotel. The restaurant is owned by the investment firm ASH Ventures. For more about the restaurant, see thechastainatl.com.



| 17


Communities of Faith A Night of Christmas Worship Wednesday, December 23rd, 7 pm in the Sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs

A Christmas Worship Celebration featuring the music of Casting Crowns, Faith Hill, MercyMe, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and many of your favorite Christmas Carols. The evening will also feature dramatic Scripture reading and a powerful Christmas message by Rev. Stephen Streett First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs & Misty Creek Community Church 650 Mt. Vernon Hwy NE | Sandy Springs For More Information Visit: www.mistycreekchurch.org | Call 770-364-7882

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December 20 - 3:00pm


Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio

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18 | Community

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Spirit of unity, suburban impacts are lingering questions after presidential election BY JOHN RUCH Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory over Republican incumbent Donald Trump is being greeted with different emotions among some local political observers — but also with common hopes of Georgia and America moving forward in a spirit of unity. It remains to be seen whether such a spirit can emerge from a contentious election that Trump refused to concede amid lengthy audits. And activists in both par-



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ties were bracing for two momentous runoff elections Jan. 5 for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats that could decide that chamber’s partisan control. Another outstanding question: How the presidential election and the Senate battles may trickle down

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into local politics in the Atlanta suburbs that appeared to drive Biden’s victory. “You can’t be expecting me to think with words in a moment of such intense emotion,” said Valerie Habif of Sandy Springs, a co-founder of a grassroots political group called the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, on Nov. 7, the day media organizations projected Biden as the winner. “…In the midst of the nightmare that we were living, could we ever have dreamed that Georgia would do this? And now what’s ahead of us is greater than what was behind us,” she said, referring to the Senate battle. J. Max Davis, a Republican who was Brookhaven’s founding mayor and whose father long served in the Georgia House of Representatives, voted for Trump. But he purchase of $25 or more

also once met Biden in person and likes him. Davis spoke on the phone from Florida, where his family went on vacation after tiring of the grueling anxiety of watch-

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ing day after day of election counts. “I know people that are upset. I’m slightly upset,” said Davis. “But when it comes down to it, we’re all Americans. We just all need to understand that withdrawing from a friend or castigating your neighbor because of their politics is really a little bit infantile.” Davis said he is reminded “the world is not coming to an end tomorrow” and that “we all have to row this boat together.”

Division and unity For activists like Habif, Biden’s victory is a triumph over the Trump’s insulting manners and approving comments of White supremacists and neo-Nazis in a time that saw an increase in reports of anti-Semitic incidents and violence. She said she wishes election numbers had a bigger margin and “had been a more resounding re-




pudiation of Trump.” But it will do. “Look at us. We have the first Black vice president, and the first female Black vice president, and the first Indian American vice president,” Habif said, referring to Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. “There’s a Yiddish word… kvell. It’s when you’re filled with pride, filled with joyous pride. What we’re doing is, we’re kvelling.” Davis said he understands why Trump turned off many voters as a person.

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“I voted for Trump. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he said or did,” said Davis. “I know he’s crass. I know he’s bombastic like the salesman that he is.” But, Davis said, Trump had many good policies and successes on the economy, China trade and remaking of international free trade agreements. On the other hand, “I think Biden has a little of that in him as well,” Davis added. “I don’t dislike Joe Biden at all. … He’s a good person. I think he wants what’s best for the country,” though his advisors and Democratic Party officials might be a different story. Davis’s perception comes from a visit he made to the Obama White House for a U.S. Conference of Mayors event while he was leader of Brookhaven. Davis said he

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support when he stood on a chair to give a speech — and spent 25 minutes speaking one-on-one with him.


Community | 19


“I came away thinking, ‘This guy — I could almost vote for this guy,’” Davis said

other side of the aisle, whether you agree with it or not. … There’s always somebody

with a laugh. Among the topics was Biden’s own brief past as a Republican. “He was

who has an intelligent counterpoint… and when you don’t have that check in there,

so engaging. He’s a natural politician.”

I just think that leads to corruption and it leads to bubble thinking, and we do not need that in DeKalb County.”

Local political fallout

For Habif and her 1,500-member Democratic group, the election showed the pow-

Trump’s divisive manner, on the other hand, likely cost him votes in Atlanta’s

er to sway local voters in longtime Republic strongholds. Democrats did not flip

increasing blue northern suburbs, and that can be bad for political diversity, Da-

many seats this time — but they already did two years ago in local Congressional

vis said.

and General Assembly races and retained them this time. But in Buckhead and San-

“There are a lot of people in Brookhaven who aren’t necessarily blue, but Trump,

dy Springs’ House District 52, Republican incumbent Deborah Silcox lost by under

his personality may have turned them off… They just couldn’t conscience voting for

400 votes to Democratic challenger Shea Roberts. Habif said that race shows San-

Trump,” he said. “It was a personality referendum, in my mind, not necessarily an

dy Springs politics continue to change and that it could affect the city’s municipal

ideological referendum.”

elections in 2021.

He believes one of the casualties was Nancy Jester, a Dunwoody Republican who

“This organization was always about local change,” Habif said of her Democratic

lost her District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners to Democrat

women’s group. “But at no point did we ever believe that what we did locally would

Robert Patrick. The board will be all Democrats. “That fact that Nancy Jester lost,

have a national impact. And when we look at not what happened in the country but

to me, is a tragedy. … That hurts me just about more than anything else,” said Davis,

what happened in Georgia … think about the power of one. When the vote gets that

calling her a “watchdog.”

close, it’s the power of one. And when many ones come together, that’s about the

“I wouldn’t think the Georgia Legislature would be good if it was… all one party.

power of us.

I wouldn’t want that if I could,” said Davis. “You always learn something from the

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20 | Commentary

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Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

CAC leader leaves a legacy of helping others Carol is a marketing consultant who on thethe DunwoodyAfter 23 years as CEO ofNiemi the Community Inlives 2012, Community Action Center Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire Assistance Center, Tamara Carrera has anbecame the Community Assistance Cenothers. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. nounced her intention to retire. Her legacy ter (still CAC) to facilitate fundraising and will be hard to equal. more accurately reflect its CAC was founded in Sanmission. dy Springs in 1987 by 10 lo“‘Action Center’ was a cal congregations to adterm from the 1960s for social dress growing poverty in the work organizations funded community. For the next six by public money, not 501(c)3’s years, it operated out of the like us,” she said. “When I scout hut at one of the memwent to foundations for monber churches. Then in 1993 ey, they said, ‘We don’t fund along came Carrera, a bilinfederal organizations.’” gual native of Ecuador new CAC has changed in the era to Atlanta, with an MBA of COVID-19. Its main buildin nonprofit management ing is temporarily closed, and a desire to get involved. its thrift store and food panSPECIAL Her family joined Holy Intries are open only on certain Tamara Carrera. nocents’ Episcopal Church, days, and interviews are conwhere on Mission Sunday ducted by phone and email. she encountered CAC and signed up. The people served have changed, too. In “It was basically all volunteers then,” the beginning, they were mainly families she said. “Neighbors helping neighbors.” in extreme poverty with no savings. Now She soon went from volunteering once many are families that had savings but a week to joining the board of directors. By have used them up. 1997, she was CAC’s fourth CEO. “People we would have never seen be“I started part-time, for basically no fore,” she said. money,” she said of the organization that This year, for Thanksgiving and Christprovided food and clothing to 280 families mas, instead of baskets of food, which rea year with an annual budget of $24,000. quire over 100 volunteers to pack, CAC is She soon realized it wasn’t really a partgiving gift cards from grocery stores and time job but believed in the mission and stores that sell toys. told the board she would work as many Since becoming CEO, Carrera has seen a hours as necessary for the part-time salary. multitude of changes. After the 1996 Olympics, many of the “Early on, we were just trying to orgathousands of people who had come here to nize and define ourselves,” she said. “We work were left jobless but stayed. The comknew the need was there and we were a munity was growing rapidly. So was the Band-Aid, but we had no idea if we were need. Carrera became a fundraiser. having an impact because we didn’t have “That’s when we started strategic planthe resources to do follow-up.” ning,” she said. In 2005, after moving to Hightower Today CAC is the local community Trail, they began creating individual plans emergency assistance agency, every year for each family and following up. serving more than 6,500 individuals in “Now we follow families at 30, 90 and 3,000 households. It has an annual budget 180 days to see if we’re making a differof over $5 million, 18 staff members, three ence,” she said. “We know we’re essential. locations and more than 500 regular volIf we disappeared, it would be devastating unteers supported by 28 religious congreto a lot of people.” gations and numerous individual, corpoCAC is all of this and more. It’s a place rate and foundation donors. where people in need, who are often emCAC prevents homelessness and probarrassed to receive assistance, are treated motes self-sufficiency by providing needwith dignity and respect. ed food, clothing and emergency financial Anyone who has ever been involved assistance. To qualify for assistance, people with CAC, as I was when I served on the must live in one of six ZIP codes in Sandy board, knows that the astonishing success Springs, Dunwoody and part of Doraville. of the organization is the result of dediSince its founding, it has helped more than cated teamwork but ultimately due to the 20,000 households cope with financial commitment and leadership of one person hardship. -- Tamara Carrera. CAC operates out of three buildings: its Dedicated as always, she has promised headquarters at 1130 Hightower Trail, its to stay until the board finds her replacefood pantry and thrift store at 8607 Roment. swell Road and a part-time food pantry at “CAC has been my life for a long time,” 5 Dunwoody Park South in Dunwoody. A she said. “It’s what I was meant to do.” second Sandy Springs location inside 285 For more about CAC, see ourcac.org. is currently closed for renovation.

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22 | Public Safety

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Bottoms said. She initially hesitated to identify the group paying for the study and consulted with an unnamed person on her phone about whether she could. Bottoms indicated the review will begin shortly, and while it will last 18 months, some reforms could be implemented as they are suggested. Bottoms also announced a new city webpage dedicated to “transparency” about the administration’s efforts to reform policing, the Municipal Court and the city Detention Center. Its address is justicereform.atlantaga.gov. Bottoms said that reports of violent crimes continue trending downward citywide, but acknowledged that shootings remain a concern. She specifically attributed recent shootings in or around nightclubs in part to looser COVID-19 restrictions drawing violent visitors from such out-of-state locations as Chicago. “Obviously, the governor has made the decision to keep the state open, but that seems to be contributing to what we see around bars and nightclubs in our city,” Bottoms said. Bottoms and Kemp have been at odds over pandemic regulations and crime responses this year. Kemp’s administration at one point sued Bottoms over a mask requirement and has authorized the Georgia National SPECIAL Guard to be deployed in Atlanta with law enforcement Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms powers in the wake of shootings. Another nightclub-related concern is the possibility of restaurants and bars acting as illicit after-hours spots. Officials and neighborhood leaders in Buckhead have pushed for a review of licenses and permits of certain businesses to crack down on any trouble. In the press conference, Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant said APD recently conducted more than 316 inspections at businesses to check their “status.” Bottoms also addressed street racing, which has plagued city streets with bigger and more frequent gatherings during the pandemic. Bottoms reported that between January and Nov. 15, APD had issued 560 citations related to street racing. The weekend of Nov. 13, she said, that included 190 traffic stops, 173 citations, 14 arrests and seven vehicles impounded. However, despite unenforceable language in a recently adopted city ordinance, APD has a limited ability to impound street-racing vehicles. The Atlanta City Council earlier this week approved a resolution calling on state lawmakers to grant them the power to seize such vehicles for longer periods and even permanently. “I don’t have any plan to veto it,” Bottoms said when asked about that resolution, but also indicated she was not aware of its full details. “I do think there needs to be enhanced penalties,” she added, calling street racing “a nuisance, but it’s also extremely dangerous.” In other crime-related announcements, Bottoms said APD officers would rejoin federal task forces after a policy change that allows them to wear body cameras in some instances, and that the department will begin circulating a list of “most wanted” offenders on social media on Wednesdays.

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