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.



HamBurger March 17, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Again, the following is on page two of the Introduction of the Revenue and Expenditure Estimates for a Proposed City of Brookhaven by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “Estimates given in this report are based on tax levies and service levels for a city not yet created; and, thus, they should not be viewed as certainties. While it is our hope that this report assists with the public consideration of a potential municipal incorporation, it should not be construed to constitute a position either for or against the establishment of a City of Brookhaven by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG).” You would have thought that folks serious on creating a new city would ask for a study that was complete and include future city projections. The Brookhaven YES crowd are smart folks, but their study is incomplete and misleading. Their study has no future projections based on the existing infrastructure and future infrastructure needs. Plus, there are other citizen concerns for those that have studied this report in detail. Please do not push incomplete studies for a new city on us. This is serious, important, changes that may affect our personal Real Estate investments. The senate committee meeting was very refreshing and I look forward to inviting folks to review the video. Man that was a very good hamburger . . . What brand of yellow mustard do you use?
Jordan Fox March 17, 2012 at 03:21 PM
@Resident 30319: I am not manufacturing border disputes. Many in the areas you've mentioned have spoken out against the city and will continue to do so. If you don't hear them now you will hear them in July or whenever this goes to referendum. Larry Danese speaks for a lot of people. Many who are for the city are for it because they support the kind of zoning changes Larry wants. Without those, the city is going to lose more support. @HamBurger: I think I can some up your recent posts about the SLOGO meeting with a St. Patrick's Day quote, "The grass is always greener on the other side." I understand the frustrations with DeKalb County, but the grass in the City of Brookhaven will likely not be as green as the pro-city folks would like us to think it will be. I think they realize this as well as evident by how they address concerns with the proposed city: "We don't need more time to look into this. Just let us vote." "Your opinion doesn't matter because you live outside the proposed city limits." "The city charter can be changed." "The city council can figure it out." "All of the other new cities are doing well so Brookhaven will too." ETC. If they were really confident in the proposed city they would take the time to properly address the concerns we have raised, but they apparently have no interest in doing so.
Enuff Govt Already March 17, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Shading crime stories to enhance an argument is a red flag. The crime stories would lose their punch if it was discovered the most frequent recitation was from 6 or 7 years ago. It would also help to know that when someone lives up a hill on a cul de sac in the back of a subdivision where the entrance is off a secondary street that most area residents couldn't find and the object stolen was something of which most people have no use; just doesn’t seem random. Brookhaven is one of the safest areas in the immediate metro and downgrading police service is dangerous.
Larry Danese March 18, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Jordan - Thank you for the support. I want to address the comment 30319 made regarding the 4 district map. Just providing the logic here. The 4 districts came from a concern in Brookhaven Fields that 5 of the 7 members of the House map, would be elected by the "green" area (district 1). This occurs because the Mayor and the at large persons would campaign in the green area because of the high voter participation there. So the at large persons of 2 and 3 would be elected by votes in 1, and would thereby be "owned" by district 1. By the same logic the Mayor would also be elected by district 1. With that then, district 1 would elect the Mayor, District 1, and the at large persons from Districts 1, 2 and 3. What is kind of interesting is that the "right people doing the right thing" argued by Mike for the 4 districts, breaks down here, as the at large persons of districts 2 and 3 are not considered to be able to meet the anticipated standard.
pat thomas March 18, 2012 at 06:11 AM
@John Galt - Your statement, " I trust, however, that you are not suggesting that the estimate of ~$149,000 in franchise phone fees is going to doom the proposed city's budget. Since Rep. Jacobs has adjusted the surplus down to $261,348 from $3.4 million, it would not take much to make a dent...
Eddie E. March 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Amazing how much mayhem someone would wreak over a lawn mower. Think of what could happen if that energy were put to positive use.
J. Max Davis March 19, 2012 at 01:11 AM
I tried not to respond but the cynicism/conspiracy stuff in which many of you folks engage needs some tonic. Could it be that folks spending dozens of hours away from their family and jobs just want a better life for their family? That is what I see and hear when working on this issue. As with folks who vehemently, adamantly and sometimes viciously opposed Town Brookhaven it seems that it is much easier to snipe and tear down reputation(s) of those people who work tho change things for the better. I was accused of being on the payroll of the developer (Sembler) and wanting to line my pockets through development work. I had never even met or spoken to the developer until I was in a meeting with Elaine Boyer, Kathy Gannon, Chip Douglas ( I guess he changed his name after watching Cable Guy). I was there because I was a member of the Ashford Alliance and was interested in the redevelopment of a 60 year old, unimproved, crime ridden, blighted apartment complex. This was my first big exposure to zoning/community development issues. I had previously worked to help stop the widening of Ashford Dunwoody but nothing prepared me for what I was to experience from folks who seem to want to say "no" to everything. My name was dragged through the mud, my honor and integrity was questioned, I was called a liar. All this because I wanted positive redevelopment in my "backyard". I now see many of these folks at the Costco, Cinebistro, etc., but they forget to call me a liar when they see me.
J. Max Davis March 19, 2012 at 01:35 AM
There seems to be the attitude by some opposed to a referendum on city hood that akin to -" Well I oppose this coming debacle and my motives are altruistic so if you are for it you must be in it for the for your own financial gain". They don't seem to realize that many people are in it to better their community for the present and for posterity. I have lived in Dekalb all of my life. I have tried to change the government. When we experienced unacceptable crime in Brittany I didn't go try and start a city I called and wrote the Dekalb County CEO and carbon copied the commission. I met successively with Dekalb Police hierarchy. I was finally told by a police offcial that the problem wasn't going to be fixed because they were never going to be able allocate the resources necessary to solve it. When Murphey Candler park became a shadow of what it was when I played there as a child , we tried going through the county. Same result -so friends of Murphey Candler Park was founded. I voted against Vernon Jones twice and things kept getting worse. Now Mr. Ellis has raised my taxes 26% in a recession. I just can't sit around while things keep sliding and 10 years from now explain to my kids why I didn't try to help change things. I was for hesitantly for annexation when I was with C4ND. I would never have imagined a city could be a solution to our problems 5 years ago. But after seeing firsthand how Dunwoody is operating in a recession I know we can apply the same methods here.
J. Max Davis March 19, 2012 at 01:54 AM
My cell will be on the website when it is relaunched in the coming days, and it was on the C4ND site so I will clarify that statement with the committee members. Don't worry you will all be able to leave obscene messages on my voicemail real soon. As for bringing up my wife being a teacher it was so the committee can understand the lack of protection and the circumstance for one of our break ins. My wife gets up extremely early to exercise and in order to get to school by 7:15. That particular morning she was heading down our sidewalk to the car when she heard a crash through the window ( her car was locked) and looked the crook in the eyes and screamed for me. He didn't run until I came put with my pistol. We had had 3 prior incidents with differing degrees of severity - one in which the crook left his stench and cigarette in her car. When your wife sobs in your arms that she can't take it anymore and teaching isn't worth it because of the early dark hours, when the police don't show until far too late and tell you " I am sorry Mr. Davis it took us so long but we had never been in your neighborhood and got confused with Breton ct. and Breton Circle", when your police tell you nothing is going to change on their end but lock your doors ( so they can break your windows), it starts to feel a little silly to work within the system we have. I am no development attorney. I do consumer debt defense for folks being sued by the credit card companies. Nobody stole my lawnmower.
J. Max Davis March 19, 2012 at 02:04 AM
It is so easy to be an "anonymous " cynic.
Stan March 19, 2012 at 03:03 AM
First, I can't believe that anyone would ever use the phrase 'forced to vote'. Our forefathers would turn over in their graves. Using that perverse logic I wonder why I'm being 'forced to vote' when I'm perfectly happy with my current elected official. Oh yea, 'voting is a privilege'. Look, I understand you want to be asked, and that's what a referendum is all about. Certainly you don't want a referendum to see if we want to have a referendum. So it's okay that there are opposing sides, it's a way for the issue to be vetted. The counting needs to be done at the ballot box.
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Mr. J. Max Davis, no cynicism/conspiracy stuff here. Amazingly, most of the comments on this forum are of a serious nature. A fair number remaining have value as comic relief, and admittedly, if I was the butt of the humor I would not be happy. For the uninitiated, life in the fast lane has a price, just be aware of your exposure and adjust accordingly. With regard to a new city in the Brookhaven area, the mistake made by you, C4ND, Brookhaven Yes, Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Taylor, and Sen. Fran Millar, is that you should have taken care of the existing structure of government first. You, your pro city associates, and all of our DeKalb County elected officials should have made a concentrated effort to change county government before you sought to form a new city. A track record of attention to DeKalb County government without success would have attracted many more pro new city advocates and assist you in your endeavor to launch a new city. Unfortunately, you, your various pro-city organizations, and Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Taylor, and Sen. Fran Millar took no consistent, strong and regular action in this direction. Instead, you have an incomplete study for a new city from Vinson that you folks have tried to sell us on. Fast-tracking such a radical change with limited research has put off a lot of property owners. We are not stupid. Please, review video #5 at www.northdekalbcounty.org for Sen. Stoner and Sen. James response to Mr Byrd and let me know your thoughts.
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Mr. J. Max Davis, I do not doubt your intentions, however, I am calling BS on this. If you felt a sense of duty and loyalty to the citizens of North DeKalb, why did you not start with organizing changes to our existing county government? First off, I live in a much higher crime area of the proposed city area and DCPD is extremely responsive through the years. Additionally, Murphey Candler has done nothing but improved over the years. If improvements did not accelerate as fast as your parents and immediate park neighbors thought it should, shame on you for your inaction. I witnessed changes in recent years. Yes, they could have been faster, so could have community support been stronger. I drove past the fields the other day and they are beautiful compared to years past. Where were you when we needed you? Where was Rep. Jacobs? The community makes a difference. Who are the folks on the north side, along with their elected representatives and senators that have tried to change DeKalb County government? Organized, with the assistance of Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Taylor and Sen. Millar we could have accomplished much more in changing DeKalb government. Your zeal and desire for change has been missed placed and should have been collectively applied to county government first.
Carl Childers March 19, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Stan, you missed the point. I think what Chip meant was that you all spoke on our behalf and you are proposing a vote to fight your non-sense - thus we're forced to vote in order to fight it. Otherwise we will have no say. And to continue to say our concerns or skepticism is petty - is very insulting. YOU have had your hand in putting us into a situation we have to fight our way out of. The issue should have been vetted way way way way before now. It should have been vetted BEFORE the bill was introduced in the first place. J. Max - Glad you are on the forum finally. It would be interesting to see how you would comment on Larry Denese resigning. Better hurry up and get that cell number added to the Yes website so you don't look like you lied about your number being there to a State Senator. Video 5 - 11:45 minute mark.
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Mr. J. Max Davis, don’t waste your time with your cell phone. Interested parties know how to reach you and you just do not need the excitement. As for your crime problems, these are not problems that will be solved with a new city police department. Previously mentioned, I live in a crime conflicted area. A personal stake-out, firing well placed warning shots, and using accessory barrels for your pistol get the message across and insulate you from any possible liability. We are talking about criminals here; something to consider from an article I once read. Sometimes, you just have to protect yourself and your family. Let law enforcement pick up the pieces.
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Mr. Stan, if there is a “NO” vote on Tuesday or if the vote for a new city fails in the summer or fall, will you be down at future BOC meetings in Decatur? Mr. Stan, regardless of what happens on Tuesday, this summer or fall, will you be at the DCSS meetings and with citizen groups to make changes to our county school system?
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Mr. Stan, forgot to add . . . Our ForeFathers have been spinning in their graves at a high rate of speed for some time now. Look around. We have not been very good caretakers of the wonderful government system that they set up and left us with. Hillsdale College has some excellent on-line free programs for citizens to reacquaint themselves with the real America.
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Folks, just a very silly thought . . . If we are a nation of laws . . . And we have specific Georgia laws for the formation of new cities . . . And the Georgia Legislature allowed the future cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody to circumvent the laws for the formation of new cities . . . (refer to www.northdekalbcounty.org video #5 at the 14.30 Mark) What does this speak to the decisions of our elected lawmaker with their circumventing these laws? Are you happy with their disregard for the established process for new city formation? Attorneys and elected officials Mr. J. Max Davis, Rep. Jacobs, Rep Taylor, Sen. Millar, citizen Stan Segal and other Brookhaven Yes folks, any thoughts?
J. Max Davis March 19, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Murphey Candler has been improved by the softball, baseball, and football leagues and that is why the fields look great. The County does little. Try raising money for a specific project at the park and see how quick the county demands you give it to them so they can decide how to spend it from the general fund (this actually happened). Now after the county sees how the private groups have improved the facilities it sees a way to soak the taxpayers again by proposing that each team pay a fee to use the fields for which the taxpayers already pay for. Loving Dekalb county government and the status quo is easy for "anonymous" snipers on the sidelines. I have no illusions about how folks like some of you will act and continue to act if we get a referendum and wouldn't be involved if I couldn't take it. Regular folks don't follow folks like y'all anyway, that is where those of us trying to make things better for our community get our energy to continue pressing on. I like my burgers medium with Lee & Perrins, pepper, garlic and an egg mixed in before jumping with it into the fire.
J. Max Davis March 19, 2012 at 04:58 AM
I am glad you have met my lawnmower but have never met me.
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Mr. J. Max Davis, I realize you cannot be everywhere and folks contributing to the community do so as their abilities, children, etc. lead them. We missed you at Murphey Candler, but DeKalb County did a lot at the ball fields and surrounding areas a while back. It may have been later than we would have liked, but they did it. Late credit where it is due or you just may tarnish yourself a bit. Again, why did you not spearhead a citizen attack on DeKalb County government with your unhappiness instead of this new city nonsense? Regardless of where your children go to school, will you be involved with the DCSS at some point in the near future? They could use a real BullDog, but you will have to bone up on the system and the recent history. Are you up to the task? Regarding your hamburger recipe, I know it well. However, we need to wait for this new city nonsense to pass before I give you the custom cook. And then you will only be served if you specify thin sliced onions and pickles and yellow mustard . . .
HamBurger March 19, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Well . . . It is late. I am going to cook me a wonderful hamburger with thin sliced onions and pickles and yellow mustard. And I am going to savor every morsel of it. There is a Senate committee vote on Tuesday regarding HB 636. The Atlanta media is not paying very much attention to this important vote that will affect many in the Brookhaven area. Kevin Riley, Mr. AJC, thanks a pant load, buddy . . . Hope the few remaining subscribers to your paper in my area remember this come renewal time. I realize this is just a two bit neighborhood forum for folks to yank a chain or two. However, when I check this forum tomorrow it certainly would be entertaining to see a few C4ND folks, The Brookhaven Yes Lunch and Bus Bunch crowd, Rep. Jacobs, Rep Taylor, and Sen. Millar respond to my serious questions above. I really would like to see their responses to Sen. Stoner and Sen. James conversation to Mr. Byrd, however, sometimes the absence of a reply speaks much louder than a comment. No?
Stan March 19, 2012 at 11:25 AM
@Burger Yes, regardless of whether we incorporate I will be involved, as I have been for thirty years, in helping to improve our community.
HDM March 19, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Not laws Burgermeister, customary practices in the past kept Sandy Springs (for example) from incorporating for 30 years for political reasons until things changed in State politics and a those who think local control has its place came into power.
Jordan Fox March 19, 2012 at 02:22 PM
@J. Max Davis, I am sorry to hear about what you and your wife have gone through. Nobody should have to go through that and feel unsafe in their neighborhood. Had I been through what you went through, I'd work hard to change things as well. As I have mentioned several times in this forum, I am not opposed to a City of Brookhaven, but I am not happy with how Rep Jacobs, C4ND and BrookhavenYES have gone about creating a city. Had you gone about things differently, many of us who are against it would be for it and you wouldn't have to worry about the bill possibly failing or barely squeaking by if it makes it to referendum. Since it sounds like one of your biggest reasons for supporting the city is increased policy protection and safety. If that is the case, what is your response to the comments posted by many, including me, expressing concern that the new city will not have enough officers and the level of police service could get worse? Furthermore, what is your response to our concern that if the city needs more officers or police protection it will not be able to get it because of the millage cap? Are you prepared to make changes to the bill to alleviate these concerns before it goes to referendum? Eagerly awaiting your response...
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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