Published on June 30th, 2016 |1
Atlanta’s COO tells BBA ‘I feel safe in the city, but we have to do more’
Atlanta’s Chief Operating Officer Dan Gordon makes no bones about it: Public safety is the administration’s number one priority. “I feel safe in the city, but we have to do more,” Gordon told the Buckhead Business Association Thursday morning.
Speaking the morning after a 23-year-old woman was shot in the parking lot of Lenox Square mall—just a couple of blocks north of the breakfast meeting—Gordon told the group of business people, “How to keep you safe and society working well” is our primary focus.
And Gordon told how his commitment to making residents and visitors to the city feel safe is not just talk.
Following the terrorist attack Tuesday at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey—which claimed the lives of 42 people and wounded 239—Gordon was at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to greet passengers flying into Atlanta from Istanbul.
“I was personally there to make sure the passengers on flights from Turkey” felt safe upon arrival in Atlanta, he said. “I was there until late in the evening.”
“Overall, all crimes are down approximately 30 percent since Mayor (Kasim) Reed took office (in January 2010). However, he explained that major crimes such as carjackings and homicides remain a particular challenge. “Summer is a time we see a spike in crimes,” he added.
He pointed to a couple of reasons for an increase in shootings and homicides. “A lot more people are carrying guns today”—criminals, including juveniles are carrying guns and stealing guns from cars and homes.
He said that often when an incident arises, the instinct is to reach for the gun and the situation escalates. “There is not a cooling off period,” he suggested. “This not a spin….but a reality.”
He said another problem is with the judicial system and judges that allow “too many offenders to get out of jail and back on the streets too soon.”
Gordon said of the crime situation, “We have to look at this as a community engagement.” But he quickly added, “We can never lose sight of equity and treating all people fairly.”
(COALITION OFFERS $5,000 REWARD: Meanwhile Thursday, the Buckhead Coalition offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for such occurrences. The offer was prompted by recent Buckhead incidents of armed robbery around shopping centers,
Coalition president Sam Massell makes clear, “It is of paramount importance to the public safety of those who live, visit, work, and play in this Community that such heinous criminal behavior be vigilantly protected against.” Massell thanked Atlanta’s Mayor, Police Chief, and Police Department Zone 2 Commander (Maj. Van Hobbs) for deploying strategic manpower methods within the community to prevent any such further acts of this type and to ensure the safety of our public. )
Gordon, a Lovett School and Emory University graduate, was hired by Reed last August and has 15 years of management experience with a lot of Atlanta companies and working with a number of national business leaders.
“When Mayor Reed took office, we were at $48 million in the budget deficit and had $7 million in reserves,” Gordon said. “I am pleased to tell you Atlanta’s doing exceptionally well compared to other cities. We have over $150 million in reserves.” The financial markets now rate Atlanta as AA+, he added.
The COO said the city needs to address the region’s growing millennial and minority populations by offering more public transit options. “Millenials do not want to be in cars, Gordon said, citing that the number of driver’s licenses being issued is declining.
MARTA plans to bring about $2.6 billion in improvements to metro Atlanta transit systems, if a voter referendum for up to a 1 percent sales tax is approved in November, Gordon said. “It represents part of the solution.”
Turning to another infrastructure issue, Gordon told the group, “Our water system has three to five days of emergency water supplies. We’re working on a really neat project at the Bellwood Quarry (on the city’s west side) to bring it up to 30 days. … It’s really critical for emergency preparedness,” he explained.
Gordon also pointed out that the demographics of the city are changing dramatically. “The Hispanic and African American populations are gaining much faster than the Caucasian population,” he explained, stating the Hispanic population is growing at multiples of any other segment.
“By the year 2027, whites will be in a minority in the city of Atlanta,” he stated. He also pointed out that per capita income in the city today is lower than it was in the year 2000.
A few demographic points Gordon threw out for the audience: Buckhead has the largest population of people 65 and older. Midtown has the highest population density, with 19,000 people per square mile.
Finally, 51 percent of the population is millennials and millennials hold onto a job for an average of 1.4 years. They must like living amongst old people however, because Gordon said millennials gravitate to Buckhead.