Leaders strike tone of unity in State of DeKalb address in Atlanta

Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 6:12 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 12:04 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - DeKalb County leaders struck an optimistic tone on Wednesday during the 2023 State of DeKalb County address. For the first time, the event was held in the city of Atlanta, a move to highlight the growing partnership between the two neighbors.

“It’s in our best interest to collaborate,” said DeKalb County CEO Michael L. Thurmond. “If we can work together, if we can turn to each other and not away from each other, there is no problem we can’t solve.”

Thurmond and other speakers from both the city and county noted transportation and infrastructure, healthcare, and affordable housing as the greatest needs.

“In a time in which nationally we see so much divisiveness, there are so many good examples of collaboration and efforts to work together that are happening across the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County,” said Doug Shipman, president of the Atlanta City Council. “They will require us to collaborate to bring transit, to bring housing, to bring healthcare, to tackle the challenges we have together.”

Held at historic Pullman Yards, an old train depot that was home to the Pullman Porters – one of the country’s first national recognized mostly-Black labor unions – leaders touted the hard work the city and county have done to get projects completed, even at the site of the event itself.

“This amazing facility would not be here but for investments made by the City of Atlanta in DeKalb to remediate contamination on these grounds,” said Thurmond. “We have to continue to find ways to leverage resources to maximize the investment in infrastructure and addressing the needs of those who are displaced lacking affordable housing. These are all issues that we’ll face every day.”

While the tone of the event was unmistakably optimistic, there was no mention Wednesday of the controversial project the city and county share geographically: Atlanta Police’s Public Safety Training Facility, which opponents refer to as “Cop City.”

The future site of the project is nestled inside a swath of DeKalb County, although Atlanta owns the land itself.

“In this situation, we are regulators. We have to ensure that ordinances and laws are enforced fairly and objectively, which is what we will do,” said Thurmond. “We have to continue to find other ways to fight crime. Crime doesn’t respect corporate limits or county borders, so we have to work to create a safer community for DeKalb, for Atlanta in DeKalb, and for the entire metropolitan area.”

The event also saw the rounding out of fundraising for a project honoring the late John Lewis, a civil rights pioneer and longtime congressman representing downtown Atlanta. The statue of the 17-term lawmaker and famed Civil Rights leader will replace a now-removed Confederate soldier memorial in DeKalb County, the same district Lewis served for decades. Hilton Howell, CEO of Atlanta News First parent company Gray Television, presented a check for over $50,000 to round out the fundraising totals.

“He led our state in Washington D.C., he led the Civil Rights Movement, he did so much for us,” said Howell.