New DeKalb cities, part two

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Last week DeKalb County interim CEO Lee May wrote that the growing trend of new city incorportations in DeKalb and metro Atlanta unfairly impacted service levels for residents outside “these arbitrarily drawn boundaries.” May also said that proposed cities such as Lakeside were cherry-picking the county’s most valuable assets to ensure their sustainability. He endorses a county lobbying group;s proposal that the state put a moratorium on new cities to examine the potential harm that’s being done. Today, we hear from two other communities — Briarcliff and Tucker — seeking cityhood through the General Assembly.

Commenting is open.

Logical, bipartisan Briarcliff

By Allen Venet

The City of Briarcliff Initiative is guided by the principle that clear borders and clean government will lead to a better city for all. An inclusive, inside-the-perimeter city with logical borders, Briarcliff is the best way to improve local government, promote economic growth and enhance the quality of life in DeKalb County.

Our recent University of Georgia economic study confirms that Briarcliff is not just feasible but financially strong, with a projected multi-million dollar annual surplus. Our projected surplus is far greater than the surplus of any other proposed city. Briarcliff will have funds it can use for better police protection, better maintained parks, better roads, sidewalks, planning and development — with no increase in tax rates.

Briarcliff’s greatest strength is its common-sense approach. Our map is understandable and welcomes everyone in our region. We exclude no neighborhoods, and we do not reach out to grab any commercial property or park without the nearby people. Competing proposals cherry-pick commercial properties, while excluding nearby residents. That is unfair to those left out, and it creates borders that are difficult to govern.

Briarcliff includes Emory and Mercer Universities, DeKalb Medical and the CDC –- institutions that define our community. But more importantly, the Briarcliff map allows residents of the entire area to vote on cityhood. None of us should be denied the right to vote, and we urge all who agree with us to contact members of the Georgia legislature.

The status quo in DeKalb County is unacceptable, and a delay in the creation of new cities only perpetuates the problems. Briarcliff will help all of DeKalb County by bringing local control to police, planning and zoning, and by relieving the county of the cost of providing these services in the Briarcliff area. City council members who live in, and understand, Briarcliff will make better decisions than the current county administration, where each county commissioner represents more than 110,000 people. Our city charter will require an independent auditor, an ethics board, transparency in government and respect for historic neighborhoods – policies that will result in smart economic growth. Most tax revenue will continue to go to the public schools and the county. Some revenue will shift to Briarcliff, but even modest economic growth will result in a net gain for the entire county.

The next step is up to the legislature, where we look forward to explaining Briarcliff’s advantages.

Some have suggested that our proposal is just an effort to block the competing Lakeside proposal. That suggestion is not just insulting, it is completely false.

Our volunteers have invested thousands of hours because we believe that Briarcliff is a better idea. Like the other proposals, we raised more than $30,000 to fund our effort, but unlike the others, we can proudly point out that 99% of our donations came from individuals and neighborhood groups, not from businesses hoping to profit from a future city.

Briarcliff is a bipartisan community, and our initiative is an effort by Democrats and Republicans working together to improve DeKalb County. Briarcliff is the best way to use tax dollars efficiently, and the best way to allow everyone the right to choose. Rather than focus on differences, we want to work with the County, and the other cities, to enhance both the lives of our residents and the functioning of DeKalb County.

Many DeKalb residents, from Decatur to Dunwoody and from Atlanta to Stone Mountain, enjoy the benefits of cityhood. The rest of us must depend on a county administration that is too often inefficient, unresponsive and corrupt. This is simply unfair. Why should city government be denied to the Briarcliff area? New cities can be, should be, and must be part of the reform solution for DeKalb County. The time is now, and the City of Briarcliff is not just better for all, it is the best for all.

Allen Venet is president of the City of Briarcliff Initiative.

Tucker has history on its side

By Sonja Szubski

At 121 years old and going strong, Tucker is one of the oldest communities in metro Atlanta. In fact, many people think it is already a city. It’s not an awkwardly configured “community of interest” designed to create a city with a specific political, demographic or socio-economic representation. Tucker is an inclusive thriving community that attracts young families, working professionals, active retirees, new businesses, and a range of industry.

Tucker neighbors gather on Main Street for long-standing community celebrations like Tucker Day, a lively farmers market, and shopping at locally owned businesses. Generations of children play in our local parks, and lifelong bonds are nurtured across close-knit neighborhoods.

With so much success, why pursue cityhood? The answer is simple – the Tucker community is taking the next step in ensuring its destiny and prosperity. Incorporating the city of Tucker will formally establish Tucker’s borders to maintain existing neighborhoods and will create a local government ensuring residents a voice close to home for decisions impacting their future. In meeting after meeting, Tucker citizens express support for a local government that attracts quality economic development to further enhance financial stability, protects zoning for established neighborhoods, and funds essential services with fiscal responsibility.

The community’s enthusiasm was demonstrated loud and clear when donations from area residents poured in to fund the $30,000 feasibility study in just over a month. And again, when more than 100 people gathered in downtown Tucker to celebrate the results of the feasibility study that confirmed Tucker will thrive as a city with no property tax increase and a surplus to protect citizens from increases in the future. Community input shaped the decision on the initial city service offerings, and the community can determine if there are additional services to be added such as public works and public safety that make sense both fiscally and effectively as the city advances. The full study is available at www.tucker2014.com.

The feasibility study confirmed what has been true for more than a century. Tucker has all the key ingredients for city viability:

• A well-established brand that attracts a cross-section of residents, business, and industry

• An existing city center in Tucker’s thriving Main Street

• A mix of residential, commercial, and industrial properties critical for a sustainable tax base that protects homeowners

• Local parks that have been nurtured for years through the “sweat equity” of Tucker citizens

• Active civic and business groups that have experience working in partnership with DeKalb County to benefit Tucker

Tucker is positioned for even greater success with full-time city officials immediately able to leverage the solid foundation already in place.

The proposed city of Tucker boundaries follow naturally defined areas traditionally recognized as a part of the Tucker community — including the Northlake Commercial District. Tucker and Northlake business and community leaders have been working in partnership to strengthen this area and Tucker welcomes the opportunity to harness the benefits of local control for targeted economic development.

The Tucker community is confident the State Legislature will put partisanship aside and grant Tucker citizens the right to vote to take the next logical step in our community’s history. Many state legislators come from small towns across Georgia, and they understand that building a city from a successful, long-standing community like Tucker, makes the most sense.

Tucker is more than a destination on every map, a federally recognized community, or a collection of zip codes – it’s our home. The cityhood initiative grew out of a passion for preserving what is special about Tucker today, while ensuring success well into the future as DeKalb County’s next city.

Sonja Szubski is president of Tucker 2014.

2 comments Add your comment

Maureen Middlebrooks

January 10th, 2014
5:29 pm

I concur with Ms. Gregg. In little over a year, following Lakeside City Alliance, placeholder bills for Briarlake and Tucker have been dropped, feasibility studies have been done, and numerous meetings have been held. What was the rush? I wonder if all the people who became involved and participated in big and small ways had focused those resources and that energy on bettering our county, what would have resulted. I agree that DeKalb Co. has so many problems with a history of mismanagement and corruption. There would have to be major changes made, So, I guess the consensus is that that is futile and the only alternative is to form a new city? This contentious issue has led to a great deal of negativity. Many people feel excluded by the proposed maps. Places like Henderson Park, which residents of Tucker, of which I am one, have always thought of as being in their neighborhood, is now on Lakeside’s map?? Tucker residents, volunteer groups, boy and girl scout troops, have always cared for that park, but now the LCA needs to claim it to fulfill the Parks and Recreation service they would provide. In the LCA map, Chamblee Tucker Rd is divided right down the middle. I would call that divisive and I don’t think it is a coincidence that the less affluent side was excluded from their map. I have read the comments on many sites, and the overwhelming majority (since this all began) never address the negative effects of cityhood on the rest of the county. The poorer areas of the county will be impacted. Why isn’t there more concern about that? Last time I looked, they were our neighbors. With such desire for local control, if House Resolution 486, which allows newly formed cities in Georgia to also create their own school systems, were to pass, what would happen to the rest of the schools in the county? I feel that racism underlies at least part of the impetus for the initial LCA movement. If you think that’s not the case, talk to some black people, because what I have heard over and over is this, ” they don’t want people like me.” Have a conversation about the schools in any of the neighborhoods and tell me that race doesn’t come into the picture. Of course, people have the right to pursue cityhood, but shouldn’t that be done in the most responsible way possible and not in the rush that has ensued. I would rather that the focus be on improving DeKalb Co..Despite all its problems, I like living in a county with such diversity in so many areas, and I believe it is not a hopeless cause. I think that makes it a very special place to live.

Patricia Gregg

January 10th, 2014
3:00 pm

If city incorporation is such a great idea, won’t it still be a great idea next year and the year after that? A moratorium to get a better understanding of all the issues seems like the most logical (perhaps only logical) course of action. Sandy Springs and Dunwoody had years of planning behind them, overwhelming citizen support, and a thriving commercial tax base. There aren’t many more of those “perfect storms” to go around. The City of Brookhaven came into being by the slimmest possible majority, and thus far none of its promises have been realized. Maybe it will be a stunning success; maybe an epic failure. Why not wait and see how it plays out before we completely decimate the rich cultural, social, environmental and economic diversity that makes DeKalb County such a desirable place to live, work and play? The Georgia Legislature will be addressing a wide range of challenges in the 2014 session. Debating the relative merits of competing cityhood proposals, or even the relative merits of city incorporation at all, is not the most urgent priority for the coming year.