The Buckhead Coalition’s 34th Annual Lunch convened the pinnacle of Atlanta city and Buckhead community’s politicians, public servants, C-suiters, and other movers and shakers to the St. Regis Hotel’s Grand Ballroom on Jan. 25.
Greeting the powerhouse crowd of 192, Buckhead Coalition President and CEO Jim Durrett touted Buckhead’s advances in unity and safety. Durrett said, “The Buckhead Coalition advocates for our community’s connection to a larger community in a unique public/private partnership in areas like safety, road conditions, new zoning and future growth.”
Coalition Chairman Eric Tanenblatt (featured in the Atlanta Jewish Times, Jan. 25, 2023, “Taneblatt Tapped for Top Buckhead Post”) then began his remarks, noting that Buckhead’s population of 107,000 is larger than some U.S. cities like Seattle, Portland, and Austin, and all but six cities statewide.
He stated, “Coming out of COVID, we had higher crime rates; and the Coalition focused on quantifiable results with things like the new State Patrol post next to the governor’s mansion and a new police precinct in the Buckhead Village. Buckhead now leads in overall crime reduction with a debt of gratitude to ‘the people in blue’ and the new Safety Alliance initiated by Councilwoman Mary Norwood.”
He was particularly pleased with the results of new quarterly meetings with Buckhead neighborhoods. Tanenblatt recognized 11 newly inducted Coalition members.
Real estate magnate and prominent Jewish community leader, Steve Selig, Selig Enterprises, delivered an impactful invocation that started with a joke about a rabbi’s approach to brevity only when forced to. On a more serious note, he expressed his gratitude for being part of the Buckhead community –with an emphasis on “community” vs “city” in deference to the unpopular attempt to establish cityhood. Selig’s pleas were to keep hate out of workplaces and homes, and erase racism and antisemitism.
“Gratitude for just being alive,” he prayed for no senseless violence in Israel, Ukraine, or any country. And concluded, “Let us have the humility to admit our mistakes, with resilience and kindness — what really counts in peoples’ lives.”
After recognizing the legacy of Sam Massell, the late Atlanta mayor and Coalition CEO, Durrett introduced current Mayor Andre Dickens, who received multiple rousing rounds of applause and standing ovations. Durrett praised Dicken’s ability to listen and focus on partnerships in areas like housing and infrastructure. Mayor Dickens then began by recognizing “the world’s best city council, judges, sheriffs, and police.”
He proceeded to share strides on how when he took over coming out of COVID, he had to prioritize public safety where “daily, people hounded him about rapes, homicides, carjackings, street racing, rowdy bars and clubs. Now at the end of 2023, homicides in the city are down 21 percent, 37 percent in Buckhead, rapes down 50 percent. Motor vehicle theft is still elevated. Shoplifting is moving in right direction. We want business owners and mothers alike to not worry about crime or even just going to a city park.”
Dickens then moved onto progress in reducing homelessness by stating that every month 200 new people enter into that system with thinly stretched resources. He announced an immediate allotment of $7.7 million for additional housing. He continued, “I just spoke to Governor Kemp who praised the Buckhead CID’s work in road improvements like paving West Paces Ferry.”
A Georgia Tech graduate, Dickens referred to himself as “a goofy engineer in understanding how things like potholes work, and in the unique upcoming HUB400 park.” Dickens ended, “Know that the Coalition has my support.”
Remarks were made by Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives Jon Burns who has held various public service roles since 2004. He boasted about Georgia being the best state in which to do business for 10 years in a row, with a $16 billion budget surplus.
He stated, “Buckhead has the highest reduction in crime … and we will support the [controversial] police training center, which should not be politicized … I’m used to seeing tall pine trees growing up on a family farm and now seeing these tall Buckhead buildings … the Georgia House will be a steady hand and will not walk away from doing what is right. We are here for future generations.”
The Buckhead Coalition, founded in 1988, is a private nonprofit organization of 125 members with annual dues of $7,500.