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High Number of Cityhood Opposition Turn Out to Senate Committee Hearing

The meeting was standing room only.

Opponents of the proposal to incorporate Brookhaven displayed one of the strongest public oppositions since the start of cityhood talks in the General Assembly during Monday's hearing of the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee at the Capitol.

The committee allowed the opposition to speak first during the hearing following the presentation by the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Jacbos. They argued that working together to advocate for a stronger DeKalb county versus creating a new government, would be more beneficial over the long term. Some neighbors were not so adverse to the idea of cityhood, but pleaded with the committee to allow more time to study the concept's overall affect on DeKalb County for another year. Some asked that the referendum be pushed back to the November general election where more people would turn out to vote, rather than sanction a July referendum.

Among the most prolific arguments opposing cityhood came from DeKalb County lobbyist Bruce Bowers who argued the inequity in representation of proponents of cityhood and those who spearheaded the study, to those who oppose it.  Bowers pointed out that most of the Board Members of the group to fund the study and those who serve on the advocacy board come from the northern portion of the study area and were among the 227 of registered voters polled. Residents in the southern half of the study area were never polled, he said. Additionally, he said, while proponents tout lower taxes, franchise fees for residents both inside and outside the boundaries of the proposed city, would be higher.

Other officials present who spoke to oppose cityhood included:

  • Commissioners Kathie Gannon
  • Jeff Rader
  • Lawrence Schall, President of Oglethorpe University

Historic Brookhaven resident Bob Hill said he never wanted to live in a city and purposely chose his area.

"I do not want to live in a city of Brookhaven or Ashford or whatever you call it. I do not believe that if you have a problem with your local government, than forming two local governments will solve the problem," Hill said.

Additionally, Lynwood Park resident Kathy Wells said her community is still adjusting to gentrification and many of her African-American neighbors were left in the dark about the cityhood discussion.

"Somehow, and I don't know why, but our mailboxes were skipped," Wells said. "We are the last to be informed."

J. Max Davis, president of the cityhood advocacy group Brookhaven YES, said the process was as transparent as possible and noted that he posted signs at all the local schools and spoke at homeowners association meetings, but never stuffed any mailboxes with notices due to budget constraints.

"It seems like there is a fear that we might have a city and [elected officials] don't want to let go of that control," Davis said. "To me, if you look at this map, three-quarters of the population are from the southern area, that's the way the population is. You're not going to create a city by passing this bill out of committee, you're just going to give us a chance to vote. I think that's what democracy is about."

Rep. Tom Taylor, the bill's co-sponsor said the opponents of the bill are operating on fear, uncertainty and doubt. He reiterated the figures highlighted in the Carl Vinson Institute study, which highlights a more than $3 million surplus, lower millage rates and more more control over parks and zoning. Also speaking favorably for the bill was State Sen. Fran Millar.

In addition to public testimony, Jacobs announced the that he submitted a proposal to change the name back from Ashford to Brookhaven, and that the map now is representative of four councilmatic districts. 

Monday's meeting was the only day scheduled for public testimony on the measure. The committee could decide on whether to pass the bill as early as next week.

 

 

Thomas Porter March 19, 2012 at 02:31 PM
@J. Max Davis - such piety from a person who publicly proclaims their favorite quote to be "Let us drink to the confusion of our enemies". Many of us especially in the southern portions of the proposed city are confused by the rush to legislation without vetted research, and, how we ended up as the enemy. I presume the proponents of a city, which seems to center in the northern portions are therefore drunk. That could explain many things.
Max March 19, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Up to three plus comments, folks, keep up the commentary! To the person that posted this comment,"is that you should have taken care of the existing structure of government first..." speaking to improving DeKalb County governance. YOU ARE RIGHT! BUT, that is not going to happen. Believe me, I want your point to be true, but I cannot see how the State legislature can change a local government. The local populace has to do that. And guess what? NOPE, not going to happen. Incorporating Brookhaven may not be the a perfect solution, but improving DeKalb is impossible without broad public will.
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Mr. Max, the intent was that the local members of the legislature would be working as private citizens utilizing their political and social connections to assist a strong citizens group. One can dream . . . Please pass the yellow mustard . . .
Tommy S March 19, 2012 at 08:08 PM
@William: Yes, the facts as you can see do show that there has been a population stagnation in the last 10 years, but as you can see there were many people who still chose to move into the county and they still do. If you look at the time between ~2008 - 2010 there was a sharp decline, mostly likely because of the lack of funds to own houses and employment loses, including many other factors. But as a whole people still choose to live here and MOVE here. Those are FACTS. @Dean Matthews: The conversation HAS been around Dekalb county as a WHOLE, not just unincorporated Dekalb. Quoted from City Yes: Doubt that people are beating down the doors saying, "I've got to live in Dekalb County. Just have to be governed by such a fine group of law abiding, constituent concerned government officials. Sign me up!"
SayWhat? March 20, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Cannot help but respond to Mr. Davis's transition here from defender of home and hearth, of which I strongly aprove, to advocate of development against those "folks who vehemently, adamantly and sometimes viciously opposed Town Brookhaven." Just to clarify something because I can, my son lived in Peachtree Gardens at the time, and it was not crime ridden nor blighted, it was merely low income housing. Mr. Davis is incorrect when he asserts that he was a member of the Ashford Alaince. He was not. The AA was set up with membership of HOA's, with typically the President of the HOA, or their designee, representing the HOA. When the President of Brittany was not there, Mr. Davis would announce that he was representing them, when she was, he announced he was representing the Brittany Club, which was not an HOA and not a member. Mr. Davis did not meet with "Chip Douglas." He did meet with Jeff Fuqua to get the $5,000 Sembler donation to the nearly destitute Brittany Club. Mr. Davis, I know you are really important, but spare us. AA has fallen on hard times because of disagreements between HOA's on direction and priorities. It is a mirror of the problems with "selling" Brookhaven. We are not Dunwoody, we actually have differences across our area which work to divide us.

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