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Brand Brookhaven: Selling The New City

A Drew Valley resident urges readers to examine the proposed Brookhaven city charter before making up their minds on the issue of cityhood.


To all of us deliberating the merits of a city of Brookhaven, consider this:

  • A city council with the power to enact ordinances without public notice, to regulate land use and zoning, levy business taxes and fees, condemn property, and issue bonds.
  • A Brookhaven Convention and Visitors Bureau "to promote tourism, conventions and trade shows."
  • A committee already researching marketing and branding, the power of which is promised to lead to higher property values and larger revenue streams for the city.

Brand Brookhaven.

The proposed city charter grants the city council enormous power, easily wielded, with little oversight. I understand the desire for local control of tax money, but by voting "yes" to cityhood, you will grant the city council the power to regulate just about every aspect of your property and the property around you.

In essence, the new city council can enact city ordinances and zoning regulations that will make our streets look like neighborhoods with restrictive covenants, backed up by a local police force.

Just ask anyone in Avondale, which regulates where you put your garbage can. 

At least Avondale requires its council to post hearing notices on its website at least 48 hours beforehand. The Brookhaven charter requires monthly council meetings at a given time and place, but the council can recess and continue its meeting later, and the public notice requirements are not spelled out.

While the model municipal code requires 48 hours' notice to the mayor and councilmembers for special meetings, the Brookhaven charter requires only 24 hours' notice. The model code explicitly provides that all council meeting are public to the extent required by law and a state statute requires that notice to the public of special meetings must be posted at the regular meeting place and provided to the legal newspaper of record 24 hours beforehand, but the Brookhaven charter does not describe the required notice.

How would you feel about living under a new set of city laws that you don't see until after it passes? Avondale requires that proposed ordinances be published at least once in the city newspaper of public record, and the model code prohibits the passage of an ordinance the same day it is introduced, unless it is an emergency ordinance, which lapses in 30 days.

While the Brookhaven charter requires that the title of proposed ordinances be read at two city council meetings before it can be adopted, that requirement is waived for ordinances introduced at the first meeting of the first city council, during the first 90 days of the new city, and at the council's first business meeting in each calendar year, exceptions I found nowhere in the model code.

So the council can adopt a comprehensive set of municipal ordinances immediately, without any public review, and do it again every year.

Do not think that you can wait until the new city begins to speak up about its course of action. If the referendum passes, the governor will appoint a commission of five residents, which will conduct a training seminar for all qualified candidates before the general election. The commission will also present a written report to the new mayor and city council on candidates for city manager, city attorney, city clerk, and city accountant, a plan to privatize as many city services as practicable, and locations and pricing of leased city office facilities.

The leadership of BrookhavenYES has questioned who the people are who oppose the new city, as if the motives of people against the city are questionable. NoCityBrookhaven is a grass-roots organization of folks who support the presentation of an opposing viewpoint.

I'm a lawyer, too, but I'm not a politician, just a civil servant working for the state judiciary. My family has lived in our modest house on Drew Valley for my entire adult life, which is more than 30 years. I live on a quiet street. I like my neighbors and I don't want my property values to go up because I'm not planning to cash out and move. While I agree that county management needs improvement, I don't care that my property taxes might be $10 or $20 more in the county than the city, or even that some of my taxes go to less-developed areas of the county.

My family contributed to NoCityBrookhaven because we know and trust our neighbors who belong, and we have identified ourselves by putting up yard signs. I also spoke publicly about the legislation at the House committee. There's nothing underhanded about not putting our names online, which I generally avoid due to safety concerns. With the flame wars erupting out there, I don't want to debate the issues online either.

The insinuation that those opposing cityhood have unsavory ulterior motives and are aligned with bad old DeKalb County is a stretch, although I would hope our county commissioners and CEO support the county.

Those issues are red herrings anyway. They have nothing to do with whether voting yes and adopting this city charter is a good thing or a bad thing. Don't get bogged down in debating budget details that are subject to change; look at the charter. Figure out how this new city will operate, and decide whether you are willing to trust that whoever is already lined up to run for office will market Brand Brookhaven the way you think they should.

Christina Smith

Stan June 08, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I should also reiterate, I do not represent anyone other then myself. When I write a letter to the editor, it is strictly my point of view.
Eric H June 08, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Re C4ND developer issues Eddie keeps referring to, here is the list of Board Members. http://citizensfornorthdekalb.org/aboutus.htm . Note the geographic diversity. I know several of them and I worked with the 2 from Murphey Candler as board members on the Murphey Candler HoA. Mark G is one of them. I can vouch for both of them. With the completion of the Vinson Study and passage of the bill through the legislature the group has disbanded. I shared the concerns and expressed on the Patch about either excluding Century Center or asking DECA to come in to the city. I asked those complaining here which solution they wanted. I never got a clear answer. But it seemed to me the lines were redrawn to meet the objections regarding Century Center and the airport/plaza fiesta land (btw if you haven't gone to Plaza Fiesta on a Sunday you should do so, its the only place where Suntrust Bank has tellers working on Sunday and immigrants in this corridor do positively contribute to the economy and tax base!) I've read the Vinson Study and the Legislation. The outcome of C4ND's efforts. There is nothing untoward in either. I'm greatly appreciative of the fact that the Council was changed from being at large seats after meeting with local communities on the south side. This protects individual neighborhoods better. While initially I was suspicious of C4ND I'm am not of their product. So now the votes get to speak.
Eddie E. June 08, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Eric, That's nice. However, the 'board' was public. Now for the contributors that bought the CVI study that we are all supposed to accept as infallible despite the many clear and glowing faults. With the substantial carping over the last few days relative to the groups and funding of the massive and growing opposition, I feel it is a fair question to ask. The 'lines' moved repeatedly, as have the revenue projection numbers, tax digest value, etc. Adjusting to reflect reality, it is clear the concept of 'feasibility' is so much vapor and certainly not something people of sound mind should stake their property values on.
Eric H June 08, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Oh, sorry, I thought you were referring to the board member connections when you said"if it was just 2 or 3 of the board members". Yea I think its always a good idea to ask whose paying for it. Truthfully I never thought much about who was funding C4ND it since we all knew the people on the C4ND committee wanted the city of Brookhaven and thus were looking for a financially viable boundary. Though in my mind I don't think that results in the Vinson group manipulating the figures to serve the client. But yes I understand the boundary issue maybe manipulated and I understand you don't like the boundary going past Peachtree, and I don't say you are wrong. I just see the logic in going to I-85 from a geographic, service area and population size point of view. Though I'm of the opinion that starting up a city as small as Peachtree Corners or even Chamblee at this point in time seems a little silly. I would also like to see the donation list to Brookhaven Yes or No Brookhaven. I've heard comments from various folks in the know that there is some serious money behind the No Brookhaven group and the mailout and Billboard are just the Tip of the Iceberg. Understand I don't discount No Brookhaven for that though I would be interested in know everyone with an interest. Same thing for Brookhaven Yes.
Stan June 08, 2012 at 07:10 PM
If the boundaries hadn't moved you would have accused C4ND of being rigid, because C4ND responded to the community you bring in to question the legitimacy of the conclusions. You get to vote your opinion on July 31 in a referendum.
Eddie E. June 08, 2012 at 07:35 PM
One would hope that ALL the necessary FACTUAL information to make an informed decision about such a drastic and unnecessary referendum will become available between now and July 31.
Eric H June 08, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Yea I remember that article from 1 1/2 years ago. Interesting someone would still be advocating for it. "Before a packed audience of business leaders at the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, representatives of the firm outlined four scenarios to repair the time-worn stadium, slated for demolition this year. They ranged from a basic repair option costing up to $2.5 million to a complete overhaul including a permanent roof and costing up to $45 million." Since we didn't get the Tennis Stadium maybe we can get the Soapbox derby "park" moved to Blackburn. We can pave one of the soccer fields for the Truck Parking lot.
Tim Nama June 08, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Eddie, I look forward to talking to you this weekend hopefully and after reading your subsequent posts I believe I know what you have been referring to. While I appreciate your deference I would not be completely forthcoming if I did not openly admit that I unintentionally misspoke yesterday when I said that I had never had a project turned down by the County. In 2006 a former partner of mine (who I still speak to weekly and is still a good friend of mine) purchased 2 lots on Bragg Street in a company that we owned. The 2 adjacent lots were both 100’ wide and zoned R75 which requires 75’ of frontage per lot. We sought a variance from the County to split the two lots into 3 lots which were just over 66’ wide. While this may seem odd, we sought the variance due to the fact that of the 48 parcels that fronted Bragg Street, there were only 3 that met the 75’ width requirement and we owned 2 of them. 41 of the 48 lots on the street have 65’ of width at the front and we were going to provide more frontage on our 3 lots than 85% of the lots on the street had currently so we felt that it was worthy of seeking a variance. My partner was contacted by “neighborhood representatives” who met with him and said that they thought the idea seemed reasonable so he proceeded with seeking the variance.
Tim Nama June 08, 2012 at 07:42 PM
(Continued) However when the case went before the ZBA there was opposition to the splitting of the lots by residents and the "neighborhood representatives" so the variance was denied. We did not pursue any further action after the denial and sold the lots to individuals at that point. If this is in fact the ill-conceived plan you were referring to then I’ll own up to it but I’m not ashamed of it. In my mind this is one of the reasons that the ZBA is in place. We thought that our project conformed with the majority of the parcels already on the street and it also would have added around $600,000 to the County tax digest but that was not the same thinking as the residents who opposed the variance so it was denied. Had the residents agreed with our plan then it would have passed but the ZBA worked and did so the way you wanted it to. I don’t harbor any resentment against the County in regards to the denial and it has nothing to do with why I want a City of Brookhaven especially since I had forgotten about this case until today. If this wasn’t what you were referring to then I still feel that I needed to disclose it since I made an inaccurate statement yesterday for which I apologize.
Danny Marshall June 08, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Without being privvy to any conversation in 1996 - I was worried about finding a date to the Homecoming dance at the time - this comment seems slightly embarrassing. I live down the street from Blackburn. Do you expect me to believe a nearby HOA president held pull with Billy Payne and Co? C'mon neighbor.
Danny Marshall June 08, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Lisa, sorry, I meant to reply earlier. I can't speak for your experiences...would be frustrated as well if I felt shunned. I don't know all of the Yes folks, but the few I have encountered seem genuinely eager and passionate about making our community better. I'm not voting YES based entirely on a certain group of people (BY) as much as I am on the idea of the city and everything it entails. I should also say that goes the same way for certain folks on the NO side. They appear very insightful about certain aspects of our community, and I would hope they take initiative with a new gov't also.
Eric H June 08, 2012 at 09:32 PM
"I should also say that goes the same way for certain folks on the NO side. They appear very insightful about certain aspects of our community, and I would hope they take initiative with a new gov't also." Danny well said! I know the No folks want the vote for a city to come out as No, but I hope some of you are thinking about a Plan B in case it passes and thinking about qualifying by the beginning of August for the November Mayor or Council Person races. Wouldn't it be great if we set a record for the number of candidates qualifying to run for each position. And IMHO great if we elected people from all sides of the debate.
Greg Trinkle June 08, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Christina, I want to thank you for a well thought out/documented point. Many postings on this decisive subject are blatantly skewed. If the city passes, my question, and I do not know the answer, is there anything (in the city charter, maybe state law) that would prevent the Council Member/Mayor with contracting the city services to a company that they themselves have a vested interest in? Sure seems like, especially at the beginning, huge loopholes that could allow for corruption. Would it be possible to contract out park maintenance to a private company owned by someone’s cousin/wife/husband? Yes I understand there are 4 reps and a mayor, but with such a small group, it wouldn’t take much to have some collusion. Not One please don’t post on this. I am not asking about Dekalb, and quite frankly, you are not credible.
HamBurger June 08, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Mr. Eric, It appears as if the Brookhaven Yes crowd bought the politicians and the various No Brookhaven folks are focusing their efforts on the voters. Mr. Eric, you make up your mind? Special hamburgers or pink slime?
HamBurger June 08, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Mr. Stan, rigged is a strong word. However, all I know is one day a bunch of folks woke up and they were in your proposed city. No questions, no nothing. Just some crisp lines drawn on a map. Please pass the yellow mustard!
William June 09, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Greg- O.C.G.A. 36-30-6 makes it illegal in this state for any city councilperson to vote on a matter in which the councilperson has an personal interest in. All of the scenarios you list are certainly illegal and without loophole under state law. Obviously, if someone is interested in breaking the law, they can certainly conspire to do so. I don't know about you, but I feel much more comfortable with the accountability and oversight that you, I, and the other folks that are involved in this discussion (either for or against) would be able to have over 5 elected officials from our 12 sq mile area rather than the 7 commissioners and 1 CEO (plus staff and staff and staff) that are spread out over the 271 square mile area of the county. Hope that helps.
Eddie E. June 09, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Mr. Hamburger, Delicious! May I use that?
HamBurger June 09, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Mr. Eddie, why you certainly may! Naturally, at your own risk. Mr. William, whom I think may be a major AOL stock holder based on his previous comments, may have both of us banned from his forum! Special hamburgers to you, sir! Mr. William, if you made a mistake, let me know. I have made an unacceptable special hamburger or three over the years. I am generally gracious to folks that admit their mistake.
Grieg Ericsson June 09, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Eric, Apparently you did not comprehend the 12.2% poverty rate, 265% higher than your model Dunwoody.
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 04:52 AM
"Brookhaven as a city is because of the local representation..." "Local representation" to be "trained to run for office" by the Governor's panel. Thus the candidates to be, whether they realize it or not, strawmen for the Governor's pick. "...--meaning that if things were to get out of hand on the ordinance side, change would be easier." Things have already been "out of hand" and effectively unchangeable since the cadre in the state legislature and senate approved, and their Governor signed, their decree. Some local opposition thought petitioning the Governor prior on the matter could even then effect "change." It was even then obviously futile. You are pandering to their naivety. And that is fearsome.
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 05:22 AM
"One other mostly overlooked point.It is clear that many of the residents of district 4 are not registered voters (as many of them probably do not qualify as voters). This clever ruse was apparent from the beginning and is yet another item papered over by the proponents." ---Eddie E. "Clever ruse"? You're on the right track but barking up the wrong tree. "Apparent from the beginning"? "Papered over"? The Mexican Government has, and continues to be allowed to have, U.S. Voter Registration forms. That can be an awful lot of paper.
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 05:23 AM
"Mr. Peanut the governor doesn't appoint the next Mayor." "Mr. Peanut"? Eric, I had asked you just what planet you lived on. Obviously no where near Georgia, Planet Earth.
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 05:25 AM
"Eric, one of the problems I have with the current process (in addition to the July vote as opposed to a more well-attended November vote), is that the city referendum is July 31, and the deadline for qualification to run for the initial offices is August 6. That includes the time to think about running, qualifying, and getting a campaign infrastructure in place." ---Deborah Anthony Those anointed to win, I'm sure, have had their "campaign infrastructure in place" long prior to the public being informed of their so-called proposal. For whatever issue, the cadre's "campaign infrastructure" is, in fact, always in place.
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 05:29 AM
"Or am I reading that incorrectly?" ---Eric I don't know what you're reading. DeKalb Tech's Political Science in the State of Georgia 101?
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 05:32 AM
"You mentioned DEMOCRATS! I don't think that is allowed in the context of the Opposed City!" ---Eddie E. Why not? Thereabouts it just another label.
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Per Eric's 'Citizensfornorthdekalb.org" cite: "Committee": "Rep. Mike Jacobs Harts Mill" "I've read the Vinson Study and the Legislation. The outcome of C4ND's efforts. There is nothing untoward in either." ---Eric "Nothing untoward in either"!?! "With the completion of the Vinson Study and passage of the bill through the legislature the group has disbanded." ---Eric Morphed. And not for the blatant "conflict of interest of Jacobs," a State Congressman, being also a "Committee Member"? What you proclaim "nothing untoward"?
don Gabacho June 09, 2012 at 06:34 AM
"Obviously, if someone is interested in breaking the law, they can certainly conspire to do so." ---William They already have. Haven't they? "LINE 45 (b) The powers of this city shall be construed liberally in favor of the city. The specific mention or failure to mention particular powers shall not be construed as limiting in any way the powers of this city."
Eric H June 09, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Anyone meeting the residency, age and such similar generic requirements can qualify to run for office and attend the training classes.
don Gabacho June 11, 2012 at 07:21 PM
"Training classes" to run for office as conducted by the Governor's panel. Are you out of your mind?
don Gabacho June 11, 2012 at 07:56 PM
"If you think that people with the yes movement are interested in regulating homeowners..." ---J. Max Davis "Sorely mistaken"? "On balance, there have been many more personal attacks from the "No City" , anonymous, Hamburger, Childers, I-Steve, etc..." ---J. Max Davis What arrogance! You and your committee have opted not to pursue and remedy the MxGov having and using our voter registration forms prior to any referendum to instead pursue a referendum. Mike, you, Stan, Dean, "etc.," are in fact assaulting the very sovereignty of "We the People" in our own elections and referendums as much as the MxGov. And for that you demand respect!

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