Editor's Note: Last week, Patch reported that J. Max Davis, chairman of , on the merit of Brookhaven incorporation. On Tuesday, May 22, Davis reported that he received this response from Laurenthia Mesh of the organization, on Thursday, May 17:
"My position, and the position of many others on the issues, is clearly presented in the information found at www.ashfordneighbors.org.
Now, Five Questions With ... J. Max Davis
Do you consider this statement to be a refusal to debate?
J. Max: Yes, I do. Mrs. Mesh responded to my request for a public debate by referring me to her opposition website. I understand why she did't respond with a yes to the proposal. If I were tasked with defending Dekalb's 26 percent tax increase, lack of police protection, lack of park maintenance and continued fiscal mismanagement I wouldn't want a public debate, either.
The irony is that the opposition has been making spurious claims about tax increases, low police numbers, and "precarious financials" in their opposition to the positive change a city of Brookhaven will bring to our community. I can see why Ashford Neighbors wouldn't want to be held accountable for these scare tactic claims in a taxpayers public forum.
Would you be willing to debate another organization that is opposed to cityhood?
J. Max: Yes, I am. The challenge has been that, besides Mrs. Mesh, much of the opposition is anonymous or at least not very public with their names.
We only learned last week through the Patch that Jodi Cobb, a longtime Dekalb county political activist is a co-chair of No city Brookhaven. She named Chuck Konas, an executive for a large apartment developer, as co-chair.
Strangely, a few days after Mrs. Cobb's interview, Mr. Konas sent in a letter to the Patch as if he was ignorant of this fact. He didn't list himself as co-chair and the implication was that he had no prior affiliation with the group. There is no email address listed to submit a debate proposal on their site; there is only one to volunteer for the opposition.
BrookhavenYES lists our board and their biographies on BrookhavenYES.org. My cell and Jeff Kellar's cell number is on our site. It is telling that so much of the opposition (some of whom post here on the Patch) is anonymous. Trying to find an actual citizen's name on some of the opposition sites is like trying to find the truth behind some of their claims, very difficult.
What sorts of meetings does BrookhavenYES have planned for the remainder of the summer?
J. Max: We have several neighborhood meetings coming up: June 2 at Ashford Park, June 3 at my home in Brittany, and June 7 at Byrnwyck swim and tennis. Details are at BrookhavenYES.org.
We will have many more in addition to these and we are willing to come to any neighborhood civic association or neighborhood meeting. These meetings have been extremely successful at bringing folks who are yes, no or undecided to talk about things in a calm, comfortable, and civil manner.
We have had mayors and council members from Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Sandy Springs, Chamblee, etc., and people really appreciate the chance to be able to find out how we can have lower taxes, less bureaucracy and better services through this newer form of a small and efficient city.
It is always interesting when someone inevitably says, "I have heard from some opposition that your city is in financial trouble or you will be in financial trouble." The Dunwoody Chief Financial Officer, Chris Pike, smiles and tells them that Dunwoody has the lowest tax burden in the county and a $16 million cash reserve. There is so much back and forth on the blogs and newspapers, it is nice to be able to meet folks one on one for clarity's sake.
If the cityhood referendum passes, is there a Brookhaven political career for J. Max Davis?
J. Max: My focus and that of the entire board of BrookhavenYES is totally and completely on getting this referendum for local control and better services passed on July 31.
We have a rule that personal politicking results in your removal from our board. The opposition tried to have the city referendum held in November with mayor and council elections to have been held around Christmas time. We are thankful that, once the city is incorporated, the most important elections for Mayor and city council will be held when there will be the highest turnout in the November general election. That way the largest group of voters will have the most sway over who will run this city.
If the cityhood referendum does not pass, do you plan to advocate for some neighborhoods to be annexed into Dunwoody and/or Chamblee?
J. Max: When I first began investigating the incorporation proposal I was initially a skeptic. But when I discovered that we would have hard limits on the size and scope of government I began to get more convinced.
The millage cap in the charter starts the city off with a property tax cut and keeps it there, the homestead exemption is doubled from $10,000 to $20,000, and we are able to opt out of any future bond referendum (tax increase) the county tries to impose on us.
Many of us who were on the board of Citizens for North Dekalb (the CVI study group) actually warmed to the idea of being annexed. The problem was that we had no neighboring city with a plan or desire to take anything but our commercial areas or bordering parks.
That is what is a little frightening about the prospect of not incorporating.
Chamblee has an annexation proposal on the November ballot that will hem us in, in the south. There is already a group formed in Druid Hills to study incorporation. Our $200 million commercial area of Perimeter Summit just below I-285 wants to be a part of Dunwoody if we don't incorporate. All that takes is the commercial business property owners ( a small handful) signing a petition to have the Dunwoody city council vote them in without any adjacent residential areas.
We would be a true unincorporated outpost in North Dekalb without enough commercial areas to sustain a city. We would forever be completely subject to the will and whim of Dekalb county government. That would leave us with constant tax increases, services continually on the decline and plunging property values.
Right now, we are a strong community with the prospect of a viable and healthy city with a charter that keeps us that way. Imagine a city where the taxes are lower, the parks are clean and beautiful, and where you actually know your police officer. Our future prospects are in the hands of the voters of this proposed local government and those prospects look bright.