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Riverdale hosts gala inauguration at Galaxy FunPlex

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Television personalities, dignitaries, movies, jazz, singing, and dancing. It's not the Grammy Awards, but rather the City of Riverdale's Mayoral and Council Inauguration, which dozens of public officials and hundreds of citizens of the Southern Crescent are expected to attend.

The inauguration ceremony for newly-elected Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, as well as the swearing-in ceremony for council members, Kenny Ruffin and Wayne Hall, will take place on Monday, Jan. 14 at the Galaxy FunPlex movie theater, located at 274 Highway 138 in Riverdale.

On the same evening, starting at 6 p.m., the city will hold its regularly scheduled work session at Galaxy FunPlex in one of its smaller theaters. The city's regularly scheduled business session will start at 7 p.m., in an adjacent theater, and the inauguration ceremony will start at 7:30 p.m.

The event will be a festive reception, with jazz provided throughout the evening by the Atlanta-based Showtyme Jazz Duo. WSB-TV Sports Anchor Bill Hartman will introduce the new mayor. There will also be performances by the Riverdale High School Jazz Band and other dance and vocal groups.

Immediately following the ceremony, attendees will be invited to a free screening of the new movie "The Great Debaters," with Denzel Washington.

Lonnie Ballard, assistant to the city manager of Riverdale and one of the evening's organizers, said the event is an interesting way to partner with and promote one of Riverdale's newest businesses.

"Before Dr. Dixon was the mayor, she was very involved in the Riverdale Business Association, so we thought that this would be a good match," said Ballard. "It's a win-win because Galaxy [FunPlex] has just renovated its theater. It's a good partnership between us and the city.

"We lost Buster's [Fun] Factory, so it's a chance to let our residents know that there are some other entertainment venues available," Ballard said.

Wynn-Dixon, who plans to use the event to kick off the city's "100 days of healing" campaign, said it is a way to usher in a new administration with a new start.

"The one reason I am looking forward to the inauguration is that I will have the chance to celebrate with my family, as well as other constituents, for a new beginning," said Wynn-Dixon. "We want to exhibit some excellence and show them that Riverdale is on the move."

Ruffin, who was re-elected as councilman in Ward 4, said the celebration is a way for the city to put the past election -- one filled with lawsuits and controversy -- behind it.

"It was a really tough election, where a lot of misinformation was spread and I think that [Wynn-Dixon] wants to bring everybody together," said Ruffin. "This is her way to do that ... this is a way to show that we have moved forward."

Hall, who, as of Jan. 1, replaced Michelle Bruce as councilperson in Ward 2, has called repeatedly for a forensic audit of the city's budget to determine whether funds were misspent during the previous administration. He said the new year would be a "great time" to do an investigation into the city's finances.

"Goals can only be obtained from you knowing what has been going on," said Hall. "I think that we should come in with a forensic audit, so we can know what's going on and what's been going on.

"I'm very optimistic about 2008," he continued. "I trust that we can represent the city of Riverdale with the highest level of credibility and accountability."

"[Hall] needs to prove why he feels that is necessary," said Ruffin. "There is nothing preventing anybody from looking into these records. If there was anything going wrong, the state wouldn't give out these grants," such as the $25,000 LCI (Livable Centers Initiative) grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission to go toward the civil engineering of the city's Town Center project.

"We're in the black, so I don't know the need for an audit," said Wynn-Dixon. "Our books have been balanced for the last few years ... why waste the taxpayer's money?