Brookhaven Patch talks about the issue of cityhood with Russell Mitchell of BrookhavenYES, who has been meeting with residents about cityhood every Tuesday evening at :
So you've been meeting people at Verde on Tuesday nights for some weeks now. What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?
Russell: I want to reach out to the young professionals and families that are a strong force in the Drew Valley and Ashford Park neighborhoods. There is typically not a large showing of this demographic at the town hall and civic association meetings so I want to have a forum for information gathering that appeals to them.
Verde is a popular spot for just about everyone in the area and the turnout and support has been great so far.
A new city will positively impact some of the things this area values most – parks, sidewalks, and police protection. Our neighboring cities have improved these services and assets significantly without any tax increases because money is efficiently spent and budgeted by well run governments in a public/private partnership. Private contractors are incentivized to get the job done and are contractually accountable for their quality of work.
What are the most common questions that people have been asking you?
Russell: Most people have been scared into thinking cityhood will create another layer of government or that their taxes will go up. Questions typically revolve around these topics, but both are myths and can be quickly overcome by the facts.
The City of Brookhaven charter includes a mandated tax cut on property taxes. This tax line item is currently going to fund DeKalb County’s bloated budget. These funds will shift to the new City and will be reinvested in it. A City of Brookhaven will be able to provide improved services with less in a more efficient government in which elected officials are held accountable by their neighbors.
In contrast, DeKalb County raised our property taxes 26 percent last year but we didn’t see a proportional impact to the services we receive. Our community did not get to vote on this tax hike, yet we unfairly bore the burden.
Furthermore, a new city will not create another layer of government. Incorporation merely separates some of the services the county provides. Accordingly, the tax dollars you would normally pay to the county for services such as permitting, police, roads, zoning, and code enforcement, are simply shifted to the new city.
What’s even better is that the people making these decisions will be the same people that visit the parks and drive on the roads so they will have firsthand experiences to accompany decisions.
So why should Brookhaven incorporate?
Russell: I believe the choice is very clear on the July 31st ballot:
We are a donor community that unfairly supports the bloated DeKalb government and its special interests. Tax dollars generated by the community are not reinvested in it. I see medal plates on the roads, weeds overtaking parks, and no sidewalks being added.
Taking into account DeKalb’s history of failure and bleak outlook, do you want to continue to allow the county to be the stewards of all of your tax dollars or, do you want to keep some of those dollars local and invest them exclusively in our community?
Also, do you want people in Decatur making decisions for our community or do you want people who live in Brookhaven making the decisions for our community?
The trends and successes of incorporation in the metro Atlanta area are undeniable. Our neighboring cities are successful and their citizens are happy with the better use of their tax dollars.
If the referendum passes, is there a margin of approval that you'd like to see?
Russell: Our sister city, Dunwoody, passed with over 80 percent approval. It would be great to have such an overwhelming victory like that.
The Brookhaven name resonates with everyone and people are proud to say they live here. I think the community is ready to make that name official and to keep our tax dollars local and to commit to improving the place we all call home.
If we become a city, is there a political future for Russell Mitchell?
Russell: I get that question often, but I want to make it very clear to the community that you will not see my name on any campaign signs should the city vote pass favorably.
I became involved with this initiative while working as the Financial Analyst at City Hall in Dunwoody and I saw firsthand the benefits local governance can bring to a community. I am pleased to have been apart of this effort and will continue to do whatever I can to help our community prosper.