Dickens and Berg: State of the City

Dickens and Berg: State of the City

Mayor Andre Dickens explained his focus for a unified, safe, and prosperous city.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Rabbi Peter Berg engaged Mayor Andre Dickens by examining many of the city’s goals.
Rabbi Peter Berg engaged Mayor Andre Dickens by examining many of the city’s goals.

On May 21, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta Business and Professionals Breakfast Series featured Temple Rabbi Peter Berg in conversation with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens. The lively interview, entitled “The State of the City,’ examined Atlanta’s past, present, and future.

While introducing Mayor Dickens, Atlanta real estate mogul Norman Radow said, “Dickens grew up here as a poor little boy with the sole mission of wanting to help. I would say ‘the greatest mayor of all’ … and here we are in a city that’s robust, dynamic, and fluid.”

Radow also glowed about Rabbi Berg serving as “Atlanta’s rabbi in the largest synagogue of all.” Radow made note of Berg’s leadership shortly after Oct. 7 in a speech to the Rotary Club where “there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

Jerry Draluck and Howard Wertheimer networked with Michael Kogon.

Prior to Radow, Federation Campaign Chair Seth Greenberg explained why Federation was so pivotal to the Jewish community as “a collective, central hub that makes us all stronger … even when things happen in D.C. or Europe, we stand up!”

Ever cordial, Berg warmed the crowd by commenting how so many people got up at 7 a.m. to have lox “just to see the rabbi.”

Stacey Fisher, Campaign Vice Chair, chatted with Lindy Radow.

Mayor Dickens began by explaining his relationship with the Jewish community, though it was the first time he visited this building on Spring Street. He said that he was introduced to Judaism from Old Testament Sunday school experiences which became more real when he formed bonds [with Jewish students] while attending Georgia Tech. He recognized his eight years on the Atlanta City Council and his relationship with A.J. Robinson, President of Central Atlanta Progress. In 2015 he traveled to Israel with AIPAC for a 10-day trip.

Dialoguing with Berg, Dickens explained that he went to public school and was raised by a single mother as a “child of the village, taking karate, playing sports, and introducing himself as ‘future mayor of Atlanta’. Now at 48, here I am,” to which Berg replied, “At 16, I was not going around saying that I was going to be a rabbi.”

During the Q and A, Berg and Dickens talked about focus. Dickens relayed, “In 2021, our conversation was about crime, then onto affordable housing. My job is to manage competing interests and 50 opinions on what to do this very moment.” To which Berg replied, “I too have crises even while in the car,” followed by Dickens quipping, “Yes, but you can say ‘Bless you’ and exit the room.”

Real estate developer Norman Radow introduced Rabbi Berg and Mayor Dickens.

Dickens’ vision by 2030 is to have the city serve as a North Star and be “the best place for raising a family” … building upon Money Market’s 2022 selection of Atlanta as the Best Place to Live. Dickens has made known his passion for alleviating homelessness with projects like The Melody downtown where 40 self-sufficient units were constructed from old shipping containers and more to come.

Dickens also surprised some with the fact that the Beltline has changed the economy “around Ponce de Leon where the cost of living has increased.” He stated that the city, too, is buying up land there for “inclusive zoning” where affordable housing must comprise 10 percent in any new development with those units mixed in with the same amenities.

Berg asked a general question about anything new that might affect the Jewish community.  Dickens listed the four new proposed MARTA stations and urged nearby Gwinnett and Cobb counties to vote on rapid transit.

Dickens painted no gray area when condemning the “Defund the Police” and “Stop Cop City” movements by stating, “Anarchists want to destroy … there are no victimless crimes. The pendulum has swung too far after George Floyd. Make no mistake, we need the police. I have lived in seven houses, and five of them have been burglarized.”

Campaign chair Seth Greenberg extolled the benefits of the Federation being strong as a collective force.

The mayor then shared that the new police training facility downtown will have parks and jogging trails open to the public.

When asked about the City of Atlanta’s participation in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, which facilitates leadership training between Georgia law enforcement executive agencies and Israeli police counterparts, Mayor Dickens said he fully supports the educational exchange.

Berg closed by saying, “We have the right mayor at the right time.”

Kenny Silverboard, Senior Director, Federation’s Business & Professionals, closed the program by contrasting the mayor and himself as “both having a public-school education and wearing a dark blue suit — one of us works at the Federation, and the other is Mayor.”

Before the program, Board Secretary Michael Kogon told the AJT, “the Business & Professionals group broadens the Jewish community along with the community-at-large, all focused on Jewish ethics.”

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