Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles intended to provide information for those considering becoming part of a newly incorporated City of Lakeside or annexation into the City of Atlanta in west-central DeKalb County. Information presented herein in no way represents an endorsement of either scenario by Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition Inc.
By Darian Bilski
As neighbors consider joining the City of Lakeside or the City of Atlanta, one issue to consider is the level of representation the citizens will have in each jurisdiction and the mechanism through which citizens make their voice heard.
The City of Atlanta has 12 districts each with its own city council member and three members at large. District Six, represented by Alex Wan, is closest to Woodland Hills, Druid Hills, LaVista Park and the other neighborhoods currently investigating cityhood in either Atlanta or Lakeside.
The City of Atlanta has a defined system, the Neighborhood Planning Units (“NPUs,”) through which residents express opinions on a variety of local issues. With respect to zoning and development, developers must start their development discussions at the NPU level prior to moving to the City Zoning stage of the process. While NPUs do not have final say on development and zoning issues, often, many issues are resolved at the NPU level in a manner that is approved by the neighborhoods.
The number of citizens represented per elected official in the City of Lakeside would be drastically reduced from the number of citizens represented per elected official in DeKalb County. This factor brings government closer to the people and results in more local control over city services than within current DeKalb County.
The City of Lakeside is evaluation the NPU system to determine if that system makes sense for its residents. Lakeside has zoning attorneys, city planners and experienced community members who have volunteered to explore options.
Note that because Atlanta is an established city, more information is readily available regarding this topic as well as most topics under consideration.
Additional information follows: CITY OF LAKESIDE
The DeKalb County government oversees approximately 700,000 whereas a local Lakeside board would representing 50-60 thousand people in the area. Currently a DeKalb county commissioner represents approximately 130,000 people and 54 sq. miles. A city of approximately 60,000 residents could potentially have 5-6 commissioners, who live in the community and represent fewer citizens, thus bringing government closer to the people and resulting in more local control over city services.
One few related benefits of cityhood per the Lakeside City Alliance webpage follow:
More control over land use (zoning) and development to decide on things like new subdivisions, teardowns, construction, nightclubs, apartments, strips malls and other uses.
Mechanism to revitalize residential and commercial areas, parks and common areas.
Many incorporated cities have a downtown development authority and economic development professionals on staff. Staff could work for the benefit of the city, including the collection of state and federal grants.
CITY OF ATLANTA
Source: http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=739 What is a Neighborhood Planning Unit?
The City of Atlanta is divided into twenty-five Neighborhood Planning Units or NPUs, which are citizen advisory councils that make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council on zoning, land use, and other planning issues. The NPU system was established in 1974 to provide an opportunity for citizens to participate actively in the Comprehensive Development Plan, which is the city’s vision for the next five, ten, and fifteen years. It is also used as a way for citizens to receive information concerning all functions of city government. The system enables citizens to express ideas and comment on city plans and proposals while assisting the city in developing plans that best meet the needs of their communities.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhood_planning_unit History
The system was established in 1974 by Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Holbrook Jackson. His aim was to ensure that citizens, particularly those who had been historically disenfranchised, would be in a position to comment on the structure of their communities, and to ensure that the citizens would not have this ability stripped of them by politicians who found an involved and engaged public inconvenient. Mayor Jackson had the NPU System placed within the City Charter, which can only be changed by the Georgia Legislature. That same section of the Charter also contains the Office of the Mayor as well as the Atlanta City Council. Structure and Operations
There are 25 NPUs, lettered from A to Z, except U. Each NPU represents the citizens in a specified geographic area. Each NPU meets once a month to review applications for rezoning properties, varying existing zoning ordinances for certain properties, applications for liquor licenses, applications for festivals and parades, any changes to fees charged by the City, any changes to the City’s Comprehensive Development Plan, and any amendments to the City’s Zoning Ordinances. Once an NPU has voted on an item, that vote is then submitted to the relevant body which makes the ultimate determination with regard to that issue as the official view of the community on a topic.
NPUs operate according to a varied set of guidelines. Each NPU is permitted to create its own bylaws and the only requirement is that once a year the bylaws are voted on and every resident and business owner is permitted to vote on those bylaws. Some NPUs permit anyone to vote while other NPUs operate in a representative governmental fashion with only elected representatives voting on the issues at hand. Given the variances of demography within the City of Atlanta, the idea that a one-size fits all system of community governance would successfully reflect each community’s view is unrealistic. Therefore, NPUs are permitted to operate as the citizens see fit.
Each NPU is assigned a City of Atlanta Planner who attends the monthly meetings. Planners are charged with recording official votes, responding to questions about issues of Land Use & Zoning, to present the various items that are sent by the City government for NPU review, and to assure that meetings are reasonably orderly and moderately democratic. The NPUs are staffed entirely by citizen volunteers who receive no compensation for their efforts. NPUs are not given any funding by the City for supplies or other needs.
Each NPU sends a representative to the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board, which is a city-wide entity that was created contemporaneously with the NPU System. The Board addresses issues of city-wide concern and sends its recommendations to the City Council and/or the Mayor depending on the issue being addressed. The Board makes various appointments to City Commissions and Boards on behalf of the citizens.
Source: http://citycouncil.atlantaga.gov/ccinfo.htm The Atlanta City Council Mission The City Council is the chief policy making body for the City of Atlanta. The Council’s mission is to ensure that Atlanta is led by a groundbreaking, strong, and capable group of leaders that work for the good of all citizens across the city. As a legislative body, the council’s main role is to make laws. In addition, the Council has oversight of multiple agencies, boards, and commissions. The Atlanta City Council is comprised of 15 members and is led by Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell. Each member of the Atlanta City Council tirelessly works to improve the lives of Atlanta’s citizens. Together, they work to ensure safer and cleaner streets, bolster Atlanta’s economy, and institute many community-based programs. Working hand in hand with Atlanta’s mayor and the members of the executive branch, the Council plays a key part in the budget process and financial wellbeing of Atlanta. Making Laws for the City of Atlanta/ How City Council Works As the legislative branch, the Council is responsible for the creation of laws enacted to run the city government. Legislation can be introduced in two ways. The first way is that it be introduced on the floor of Council by a Councilmember. This is known as a personal paper. The other way is that the legislation can come through a committee. Here in the City of Atlanta, legislation takes two forms — ordinances and resolutions. An ordinance establishes a permanent rule of government. Every official act of the Council, operating with force and effect of law, must be an ordinance. Ordinances must be read before full Council at two regular meetings. Resolutions express intent or support of various projects and enterprises or establish legislative policy of a general nature. Resolutions, unlike ordinances, need be read only once and can be introduced and adopted at the same meeting. In some cases, the Council is required by law to hold a public hearing and must notify the public about the hearing. Government Oversight In addition to legislation, the Atlanta City Council works hard to ensure that city government works for its citizens. Through the various Council Committees the council assesses various government programs and agencies. Each year, the Council is in charge of holding budget hearings in which the City’s budget, recommended by the Mayor, is strictly reviewed prior to being voted on by the Council.
Darian Bilski, Woodland Hills Resident Editor’s Note: This article was recently circulated in the Woodland Hills neighborhood. With Darian Bilski’s permission, some of her original text has been edited to reflect the most recent developments in the rapidly changing issue. Current Status
During the 2014 legislative session three groups – Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker – pushed for incorporation of a new city in north DeKalb County. If the Legislature had approved those bills, the cityhood question would’ve been placed on the ballot in 2014. The bills for those cities didn’t pass because of a shorter-than-usual legislative session due to the new elections calendar. The maps for each of the cities overlapped, creating competition among the three groups. It would be easier to pass a bill for the combined cities of Briarcliff and Lakeside in 2015, assuming the two groups decide to stick together.(From http://www.decaturish.com/2014/07/briarclifflakeside-join-forces/)
According to the following Briarcliff and Lakeside Joint Statement issued July 3, 2014, the joint Briarcliff / Lakeside city would respect the compromise map between Tucker and Lakeside as the starting point of this collaboration. Therefore competing interests would be eliminated. Furthermore, if City of Briarcliff and Lakeside join forces, the bills would then have both republican (Representative Jacobs and Senator Millar) and democratic
(Representative Oliver) support. This fact also increases the likelihood that the joint city would pass the legislative hurdles.
There is no name yet for the combined Lakeside / Briarcliff City; however, a name change is possible. For purposes of this summary document, the new city will be called Lakeside / Briarcliff. The final map has not yet been defined as the cityhood initiatives are in the process of soliciting community input. The final city map will likely be larger than Lakeside’s final map, but smaller than Briarcliff’s final map.
While the financial studies conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute of the University of Georgia (“The CVI”) analyzed the prior City of Lakeside and City of Briarcliff plans separately, there is general agreement that the combined city will also be financially viable without a need for an increase in property taxes. The CVI has a track record of reliable, conservative predictions for the studies it has performed for other cities. For example, CVI estimated that revenues for a city of Dunwoody would be $18,777,904. In its first full fiscal year in 2009, Dunwoody’s actual revenues turned out to be$18,394,942, or 2.0% less than CVI estimated. In the same study, CVI also predicted that Dunwoody’s total operating expenditures would be$15,571,573; in 2009, Dunwoody’s actual operating expenditures turned out to be $13,823,811, or 11% less than CVI estimated.
Local Neighborhood Issues and Decisions Residents Must Make The questions that LLCC Residents Must Currently Consider are:
Do LLCC community neighborhoods want to be included in a city? (Note that even if our residents do not currently want to be included in the city options currently on the table, it is likely that we will be pulled into some future city.)
Which city do LLCC neighborhoods want to be a part of? Options for discussion include, Lakeside / Briarcliff, Atlanta / a future unincorporated DeKalb City initiative.If not included in Lakeside / Briarcliff, areas like Woodland Hills and LaVista Park risk being on an “island,” unable to be serviced by DeKalb financially efficiently without cutting through city of Atlanta or Lakeside / Briarcliff. One concerning issue is the length of time it could take DeKalb police to respond to Woodland Hills and LaVista Park calls and the increase in crime that would potentially result.Emory University has advised that they do not want to be a part of City of Briarcliff or City of Lakeside, mainly because they do not want their campus divided between jurisdictions. Emory is interested in a transportation plan that will include the Clifton Corridor Transit Line and they feel that with Atlanta’s recent grant from the Federal Transit Administration for the Atlanta Street Car, financing for the Clifton Corridor Line may come easier and more quickly with the City of Atlanta’s direct federal connections. Emory is currently weighing the possibility of being annexed by Atlanta.
Briarcliff and Lakeside Present Joint Statement to DeKalb County Operations Task ForceAtlanta, GA (PRLog), July 3, 2014 — Two DeKalb County cityhood groups, The City of Briarcliff Initiative, and Lakeside Yes read a joint statement before the DeKalb County Operations Task Force (OTF) on Tuesday, July 2, at the Maloof Auditorium. The Operations Task Force was created by Interim CEO Lee May and is charged with making recommendations that can be forwarded to the Georgia General Assembly by December 2014.The prepared statement from the July 2nd meeting reads:She continues, “Both of our groups presented maps during the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly. However, because our current maps overlap, Lakeside and Briarcliff have agreed to collaborate with the goal of creating a unified map free of overlapping areas and respecting existing city borders and future annexation plans. We respect the compromise map between Tucker and Lakeside as the starting point of this collaboration, and we respect the inclusive approach of the Briarcliff map. We will continue to work with our sponsors, Representative Jacobs and Senator Millar, residents and business owners in our community to reach the goal of local control and governance for this community. We invite the advocates of the city of Tucker to join with us so that we can present two cities with a clear path to cityhood prior to the 2015 session of the General Assembly.”He continues, “We seek to unite, rather than divide, to improve government operations not just in our region of DeKalb but in the entire county. The residents of unincorporated DeKalb deserve, and with respect we demand, the opportunity to form new cities that will become destinations where business and families can flourish. The time has come for us all to cooperate, north and south, inside the perimeter and outside, city advocates and county officials. We all share DeKalb County, and we all know the challenges we face. Cities are an important part of the solution.” He concludes, “We welcome your questions and your suggestions.”
City of Briarcliff Imitative President Allen Venet read, “We are committed to working together because we agree on almost every issue except boundaries, and boundaries can be solved. As we refine our map, we are soliciting neighborhood input, and we will work with state, county and local elected representatives of both major parties and with the existing cities of DeKalb County.”
Lakeside Yes Chairman Mary Kay Woodworth read, “Lakeside YES and The City of Briarcliff Initiative appreciate the invitation to present maps to the Operations Task Force. You have received our individual working maps, but we respectfully present this joint statement in lieu of focusing on a specific map.”
For months both citizens and legislators have urged the two groups to communicate and work together more. Briarcliff and Lakeside have historically shared many overlapping views of cityhood, but have differed on proposed city borders. Both groups view cityhood as an opportunity to lift up the community and improve the strength of DeKalb County.
Because Emory does not want to be included in a new DeKalb city, the Druid Hills neighborhood may also effectively be cut out of Lakeside / Briarcliff because without Emory, their neighborhood is no longer contiguous with the new city boundaries. Many people in Druid Hills have advised the City of Briarcliff initiative that after the DeKalb County Board of Education voted down the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, they are now considering what the City of Atlanta has to offer them. However, many Druid Hills neighbors are still interested in becoming a part of Lakeside / Briarcliff.
There has been discussion of the possibility of Woodland Hills and LaVista Park being annexed into the City of Atlanta. The City of Atlanta is not obligated to annex either neighborhood, even if it is left as an isolated island within DeKalb County. There is also not an active push by our residents to be annexed by Atlanta. Therefore, if this option warrants serious consideration, immediate dialogue should be initiated. See the end of this document for a discussion of this option based on comments and research from Druid Hills’ residents.
Interim CEO Lee May attended a Woodland Hills neighborhood meeting on July 24, 2014 and expressed his opinion that all of DeKalb County will be municipalized (no more unincorporated areas), having all areas flow into a new city, or be annexed into an existing city. He stated that while he was not necessarily an advocate of the cityhood movement, it is a reality and he would want all citizens to have a say in which city they join. There is already discussion of other cities being planned in the southern part of the county, which also has a lot of unincorporated land.
Pros and cons of incorporation (cityhood) (Pros and cons of cityhood are considered herein; however, it is important to keep in mind that remaining unincorporated may only be a short term solution if all unincorporated areas become municipalized in the future.) What are the benefits to becoming a city?
A government closer to people and more responsive to their needs. Currently a DeKalb county commissioner represents approximately 130,000 people and 54 sq. miles. A city of approximately 60,000 residents could potentially have 5-6 commissioners, who live in the community and represent fewer citizens, thus bringing government closer to the people and resulting in more local control over city services.
More control over land use (zoning) and development to decide on things like new subdivisions, teardowns, construction, nightclubs, apartments, strips malls and other uses.
Mechanism to revitalize residential and commercial areas, parks and common areas.
To efficiently manage our tax dollars.
Tax equity. More local dollars spent locally.
Improved community identity and quality of life.
Advocates – elected officials and city staff — to improve quality of life. Many incorporated cities have a downtown development authority and economic development professionals on staff. Staff could work for the benefit of the city, including the collection of state and federal grants.
What are the risks to becoming a city?
Requires a grassroots effort with a tremendous volunteer movement and popular support
Must provide evidence to state legislature of financial feasibility, by funding a professional study, such as one written by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which can cost upwards of $30,000.
No action leaves unincorporated area as is for the short term.
County is currently experienced in providing services and new city would have no experience. Therefore there is risk that the services may not be provided more efficiently or better under a new city government.
Without infrastructure, city would have to hire 3rd party, as Sandy Springs did, to take over services.
Without cash in the bank, the new city would have to finance initial operations through startup financing.
Unknown government entity (and officials)
Budget and Revenue estimates are projected, not tested
What’s the process of becoming a city?
Define our community. As some have asked, “who are we?”
Define the boundaries of a proposed city boundary.
Obtain community input and make adjustments to these definitions as necessary.
Request that our elected officials introduce legislation (a placeholder bill in year one) to create a new city since only the General Assembly can provide authorization to create new cities.
Commission a feasibility study of the defined area. Is there a sustainable balance of commercial and residential property to fund a city without raising property taxes?
If it is economically feasible and the community desires to move forward, during legislative year two, legislators will discuss the bill and vote on it. If the legislation passes and is signed into law, hold a vote in our community on whether the new city should be formed.
If voters approve the ballot, hold elections to seat government officials, and a transition committee would be appointed by the Governor to help the local government get up and running.
The initial & ongoing operation of the local government on the date set in the bill creating the new city.There is a list of services mandated by Georgia law, and cities must provide provides at least three of the following services, either directly or by contract – O.C.G.A. § 36-30-7.1 (b)
What are the proposed services, what will it cost?
Fire protection (which may be furnished by a volunteer fire force) and fire safety;
Road and street construction or maintenance;
Solid waste management;
Water supply or distribution or both;
Storm-water collection and disposal;
Electric or gas utility services;
Enforcement of building, housing, plumbing, and electrical codes and other similar codes;
Planning and zoning; and 11. Recreational facilities.
Initially, the City of Lakeside proposed the following services, based on interest and feedback from the community:
Public Safety and Code Enforcement: Includes police services as well as zoning and land use violations (but not zoning or land use policy issues). Items such as creating an accredited police department and providing emergency services, traffic control, criminal investigation and public safety education and outreach are included.
Public works: Includes determining what services can be more efficiently and effectively provided, such as lighting, sidewalks, roadwork, street lights and drainage services.
Planning, Land Use and Zoning: Includes developing and enforcing regulations that govern how the city of Lakeside’s land is used.
Parks and Recreation: Includes inventorying current and potential parks and green spaces and creating a comprehensive development and maintenance plan.
All other services would continue to be provided by DeKalb County.
After incorporation: Can the City pick up additional services from the CountyWouldn’t a new city just be another layer of government? Will my property taxes increase?
Forming a new city does not result in adding new taxes to your property tax bill. In fact, under the proposed city of Lakeside legislation (SB 270), property taxes would decrease for property owners compared with the taxes paid by residents living in unincorporated DeKalb County. The tax money used to provide services in the area of the proposed City of Lakeside comes from the taxes residents already pay to the county. The city of Lakeside proposes to provide services in a more cost-efficient and effective way for its residents with greater local control, using the funds which will be shifted from DeKalb County to the new city. Thus, instead of a new tax, a portion of your county property tax revenue simply is shifted from the county to the city. This shift would be reflected in two of the existing “line items” (or sources of revenue) which appear on your property tax bill. They are:
No, it would be a shift of certain responsibilities from the county government overseeing 700,000 to a local board representing 50-60 thousand people in this area. The resulting representation would be more direct with more accessible officials who live, work and play in our own community.
The city can elect to pick up additional services from the County at any time in the future. A vote from the city residents for additional services is not required except to the extent that providing additional services requires a millage rate increase, which the voters would have to approve. (This is true as of the currently proposed version of Lakeside City Charter.) County consent is not required for the city to provide additional services otherwise authorized by Georgia law.
People want more police officers and quicker response times in our area. They want the assurance that existing ordinances will be enforced in order to preserve neighborhood integrity, encourage community pride and protect the public’s health and well-being. They want greater control over zoning decisions so that development occurs in a thoughtful manner and so that development that does not fit with our community’s vision of itself does not materialize seemingly overnight as some nightclubs have. People also want to have well-developed and wellmaintained public spaces where people can walk, where kids can play and where pets can be outdoor. The goal would be to provide better and more efficient services in a more financially sound manner.
The “Unincorporated Tax District” (listed as “UNIC TAXDIST” on your bill) and
“Police Services” (“POLICE SERVC”). Together, these two items represent the bulk of what are known as “city services” and include activities such as public safety, parks and recreation, zoning, and land use, code enforcement, etc.
The charge for the services listed above (and most others listed on your property tax bill) is determined by multiplying the assessed value of your home (40% of what the county estimates your home to be worth) times a fraction known as a millage rate. A mill equals 1/1000 (or .0001), so, for example, a charge of three mills equals 3/1000 or .003. DeKalb County currently charges 4.96 mills for the Police Services and Unincorporated Tax District line items. For a home valued at $250,000, this would amount to $496:
Home Value = $250,000.00
Assessed Value = $100,000.00 ($250,000 x 40%)
Charge for City Services + Police Services = $ 496.00 ($100,000 Assessed Value x .00496 millage rate)(Brookhaven) is capped at 3.35. On its face, DeKalb County’s rate is 48% higher than Brookhaven’s capped rate. The actual millage rate charged by Brookhaven’s government is even less, however, 2.85 mills, making DeKalb’s rate 74% higher. (In the case of Dunwoody, the County’s millage rate is over 80% greater than the city’s charge for the same services: 2.74 mills. It is worth noting that Dunwoody is running $1-2 million annual surpluses.)
Dunwoody Tax Comparison / Additional Tax Considerations What is the relationship between a city and a county with regards to school districts and zoning? Will a new city have its own school district? What impact will the passage of the proposed City of DeKalb have?
If DeKalb County is incorporated and becomes the “City of DeKalb”, it would prevent any community in the “City of DeKalb” from incorporating.
Currently, there is no relationship. A city’s boundaries have NO effect on the DeKalb County School System’s attendance districts. Attendance districts will change only if DeKalb County School System redistricts. At present, our State Constitution provides that no new school system could be established in a newly created city. It is possible, however, that this could change in the future. It goes without saying, however, that no city school system could be created in our area unless a new city is formed. Note: Decatur and Marietta school systems were created before this was added to the Constitution, and therefore were grandfathered in.
No city should increase property taxes as long as a sustainable mix of commercial and residential property exists. Dunwoody has not raised property taxes and has still created budget surpluses of $2-3 million annually. In the view of the Lakeside Alliance, the city charter would include a provision that property taxes could not be raised without the approval of voters in a referendum. Taxes could decrease if there was a budget surplus, but it could be that taxes will simply remain at current levels. That would be a decision for the local government and voters to decide. Please see the information under “Presentations” for information about the cost of services.
Perhaps the most important fact to note, though, is that DeKalb can raise its millage rate simply through approval by the County Commission. By contrast, under SB 270, raising the city millage rate would require not only a vote of the city council, but also ratification by a majority of voting city residents. Thus, the creation of the City of Lakeside could yield local control over the provision of some services as well as an opportunity to target services locally to residents and business owners. It could also provide an opportunity to cap property tax rates UNLESS city of Lakeside residents vote to change them.
For example, the millage rate for these same services for the most recently incorporated city in DeKalb
Additional Information Primarily from the Druid Hills Association Website: http://druidhills.org/
Atlanta has a very vibrant and diverse tax base—corporate, commercial, and residential.
Atlanta is home to a world-class international airport, and—to date—the busiest in the world.
Atlanta has, and is continuing to develop, a neighborhood feel that is very much in line with Druid Hills. This includes park and the ever-expanding Beltline—places to be outdoors, active and fostering a sense of community.
Druid Hills is an activist community, and taking our role as citizens of Atlanta would give us a chance to influence the emerging development of this vibrant city.
Last year, Atlanta had $1.5 billion in development—mixed use properties, in town housing, and business, commercial and retail. This approached pre-2008 levels, and indicates lots of optimism about the City’s future. It also grows the tax base. It is predicted that by next year, more than $2.1 billion more in investment will occur, which would be a record for the City.
Atlanta has a police force over double the size of DeKalb County’s force—and over a much smaller geographic area.
Atlanta has worked hard on its finances under Mayor Reed, and has positive and stable credit outlooks from the rating agencies.
Atlanta has a very good relationship with the Atlanta business community, and the latter is very involved in the directions the city is taking.
Atlanta and Mayor Reed have a good working relationship with state officials, including the Governor.
Atlanta has been effective in garnering federal dollars to help with its development.
For a discussion of taxes between City of Atlanta and Unincorporated DeKalb, TO CALCULATE HOW YOUR PERSONAL TAXES WOULD COMPARE, and for further discussion regarding the City of Atlanta Option: see this document: http://druidhills.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/annexation-briefing-paper-on-taxes.pdf
Collin Kelley INtown Editor
When officials from the Briarcliff and Lakeside cityhood initiatives announced at the July 2 DeKalb Government Operations Task Force meeting that they were joining forces – “dating” (not married or engaged) in the words of Lakeside Chairwoman Mary Kay Woodworth – there was little detail about how the relationship would unfold. The couple’s first date was an awkward one as representatives from the merged cityhood movements spoke at the July 9 Lindbergh-LaVista Corridor Coalition (LLCC) meeting.
To carry the analogy further, it was basically The Breakfast Club – enemies thrown together in a social setting and warily talking out their differences to find common ground. Whether this will end with someone fist-pumping the air to “Don’t You Forget About Me” remains to be seen, but what is certain is that if the partnership between Briarcliff and Lakeside holds, those names will disappear and a new one will be chosen to represent the merged north DeKalb County territory. It also means going back to the drawing board and creating a new map.
Read more at Atlanta InTown:
Leaders of movements to create cities of Briarcliff and Lakeside announced an alliance Wednesday night that could result in a proposal for a combined city.
The unnamed Briarcliff-Lakeside city would border Tucker, another area that’s seeking to become a city in DeKalb County.
The courtship between Lakeside and Briarcliff is in the early stages, but the two communities will try to draw borders they can then present to the state Legislature for approval next year, said Mary Kay Woodworth, chairwoman of Lakeside Yes.
“We’re dating right now. We’re not married yet. We’re not engaged,” Woodworth told members of the DeKalb Government Operations Task Force.
Allen Venet, president of the City of Briarcliff Initiative, said it would be difficult for either city to become a reality unless they cooperated with each other.
“We seek to unite, rather than divide, to improve government operations not just in our region of DeKalb but in the entire county,” Venet said.
After Briarcliff and Lakeside decide on a map of their city, they could begin negotiations with Tucker over borders, said Frank Auman of Tucker 2015.
Proposals for the cities fell apart in the Legislature earlier this year following negotiations over overlapping maps, but Auman said he hopes lawmakers will approve the cities if they agree on boundaries.
Below is a report from our DeKalb Transportation Coordinator, Barbara Wheeler, following her conversation with Dave Pelton, Supervising Engineer at DeKalb County Transportation.
The current proposal for Briarcliff and LaVista is at a standstill, the county is working on a concept to improve the intersection, but there are some objections by the commissioners to making the intersection any bigger.
Among the constraints, the church on the corner, Peachtree Baptist Church, is historic and cannot be altered, and the Whole Foods retaining wall is also immovable.
The commissioners inquired if the intersection could be converted to a roundabout, but the available space is not adequate for a large roundabout.
GDOT has set aside some money to improve the intersection, but the commissioners are not supportive of this current concept, so it is not moving forward.
The county would welcome any creative ideas for improvements that make the intersection flow better AND be more pedestrian friendly which Mr. Pelton believes is the commissioners’ point of view (hence the roundabout idea).
Jeff Rader, DeKalb County District 2 Commissioner
With the indictment of Burrell Ellis, new calls have come for a shift to
a Commission/Manager form of government in DeKalb County. As with the CEO
form, there is no standard structure in Georgia enabling legislation, so the
“devil is in the details” on exactly what this means. To make a
judgement, it is important to look at all the mechanics of the “Organizational
Act” or Charter, identifying deficiencies and options for improvement.
Neither form is invulnerable to manipulation by elected or appointed officials,
so the real test is what’s in a Charter that informs the public on government
operations and makes it accountable to voters and taxpayers.
Governmental operations are complex, and they can affect your freedom, property
and welfare. Therefore you should be able to know in advance how you will
be treated by government, and be treated the same as others.
Unfortunately, many governmental processes are not formalized, and are subject
to the whims of individuals. The most egregious example of this is the
alleged manipulation of purchasing procedures for political gain, but it can
happen in the award of permits, employment, and the enforcement of laws and
regulations. DeKalb County needs an Administrative Procedures mandate
that will require County departments to formalize and document how they conduct
business and implement laws, and to adhere to those procedures. The
Charter restriction against adopting a purchasing code should be removed.
Elected and appointed officials are fond of touting their accomplishments, and
as in Lake Woebegon, everyone seems to see their accomplishments as above
average. What’s lacking is an objective third party with the skills and
resources to systematically evaluate DeKalb operations against best practices and
makes a public report of findings and recommendations for
improvement. Surprisingly, the current Charter provides that option
in the form of an Internal Auditor, but the Board of Commissioners has never
filled the position or funded operations. DeKalb County needs an
independent and mandatory Internal Auditor with a guaranteed budget.
Likewise, the ethical conduct of elected office is the foundation of
governmental legitimacy. DeKalb County has a state-mandated Board of
Ethics, but it has been neglected and underfunded by the County
government. DeKalb’s Ethics Board should be strengthened by shifting the
power of appointment away from the officials who the Ethics Board oversees, and
by giving the Ethics Board a guaranteed budget equal to at least twenty-five
cents for each of DeKalb’s 700,000 persons. A quarter per capita is a small
price to pay for an effective ethics watchdog.
County governments are too small and too important to operate on a partisan
basis. Partisan alignment disenfranchises large minorities in
jurisdictions where elections are determined in the primary. The election
of all County offices should be non-partisan.
Commission district boundaries, like those of the General Assembly and Congress
are the object of increasingly effective gerrymandering. As in these
other bodies, the result is entrenched incumbency, political polarization and a
general disaffection with government as representative of the common
interest. DeKalb should have an objective redistricting protocol that creates
compact districts with common communities of interest.
As mentioned at the start, the details of an improved Charter are important and
complex. In many other states (and increasingly in new DeKalb
cities) charter review is accomplished by a “Charter Commission”, an
independent group of leading citizens with expert staff, but in Georgia, such
changes are often accomplished by local legislative delegations in the course
of the 40-day legislative session. The DeKalb delegation should empanel and
fund (using County tax dollars) a Charter Commission to work for a year to
draft a revised DeKalb County Organizational Act for legislative approval in
All these suggestions, and not a word about CEO vs. Commission/Manager!
That’s because the improvement of government is not so much about how
politicians divide power between themselves, but is instead about how
accountable those politicians are to the public that elects them. If
voters don’t insist that accountability be strengthened, the CEO/Commission
Manager debate won’t matter much at all.
As Detroit – beset by violence, debt and social woes – prepares to undergo a historic takeover by the Michigan state government, the city of Atlanta could be sliding toward a similar fate.
Some are quietly wondering whether Atlanta is in danger of becoming “the Detroit of the South.”
The city has experienced an ongoing succession of government scandals, ranging from a massive cheating racket to corruption, bribery, school-board incompetence and now the potential loss of accreditation for the local DeKalb County school system.
For several years, problems of this sort have fueled political reforms, including the creation of new cities in northern Atlanta suburbs. Due to the intensification of corruption scandals in DeKalb, some state-level reform proposals could become national news very soon. ‘Super-white majority’ cities
As a result of the unsavory politics in urban Atlanta, northern suburban communities acted to distance themselves. Beginning in 2005, many communities began the process of incorporating into cities.
Thus far, Milton, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Chattahoochee Hills and Johns Creek have done so.
These cities, after breaking away politically from urban Atlanta, have become so successful that a libertarian think tank, the Reason Foundation, has featured Sandy Springs as a model of effective government. The Economist has also applauded the northern Atlanta cities for solving the problem of unfunded government pension liability and avoiding the bankruptcy that looms over some urban areas. The new cities may soon be able to create their own school districts, which would free them even further from the issues besetting Atlanta.
While incorporation has been popular with residents of the new cities, not all of Atlanta is as satisfied. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit in 2011 to dissolve the new cities, claiming they were a “super-white majority” and diluting the voting power of minorities.
A key leader in the black community and a driving force in support of the lawsuit, who wishes to remain anonymous, bemoaned the “disturbing tendency of black electorates to not elect the smartest and brightest, or even the cleverest.”
Nonetheless, he believes that there is a social contract between the northern and southern parts of the county.
“So when you allow powerful groups of citizens to opt out of a social contract, and form their own, it may benefit the group opting out, but it hurts the larger collective,” he said.
The lawsuit would have canceled incorporation and tied the cities back into the very county that they purposefully left.
State Rep. Lynne Riley, a Republican who represents one of the new cities, called the lawsuit “frivilous” and “disrespectful to the citizens of these cities who are most satisfied with their government.”
The federal trial court rejected the lawsuit, and the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal. However, an attorney for the Black Caucus plans to file an amended lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the same concerns that spurred incorporation continue to mount. Failing schools DeKalb County contributed to what the New York Times called “the biggest standardized test cheating scandal in the country’s history” in 2011.
Now, the county is faced with losing its regional accreditation. Losing regional accreditation is, by any objective measure, a devastating indictment of a school board, with severe consequences for students and families within the district.
When nearby Clayton County, Ga., lost its regional accreditation in 2008, it was the first school system in the country to do so in 40 years.
The result in Clayton, according to the Pew Foundation, was that thousands of students left county schools, the district lost millions of dollars and hundreds of teachers were fired.
In response to the Clayton County crisis, after witnessing the fallout and the harm to the state’s reputation, the legislature acted to prevent a repeat. In 2011, the Georgia legislature essentially gave the governor authority to remove board of education members when a district was placed on probation by the accreditation agency.
Last December, DeKalb was placed on probation. Then, in January, the governor of Georgia used his new authority and removed six members of the nine-member DeKalb Board of Education.
This year, well after the accreditation issue broke open, DeKalb school board elections were held. Four of nine board members were up for reelection. Voters in one of the four districts returned their incumbent board member for another term, despite knowing that accreditation was at risk.
This week, a federal judge sided with the governor and agreed that the six suspended board members can be replaced. The decision places the dispute into the Georgia Supreme Court’s purview.
As the issue looms, the mere mention of losing accreditation has impacted the housing market in DeKalb, with at least one potential buyer directing his realtor not to search for homes in the county. School leadership
Recently, at the helm of the DeKalb school system stood Crawford Lewis. The former superintendent has been indicted on racketeering charges.
Along with several of his associates, Lewis is accused by the DeKalb DA of fraud, theft by a government employee, bribery and a web of racketeering. The charges arose out of Lewis’ practice of steering lucrative government contracts toward favored companies. According to the indictment, Lewis also used government funds to pay for a hotel room, which he used as the venue for an affair. Lewis had this affair with a person who held the position of “Executive Director of the Office of School Improvement.”
One of the numerous complaints about the DeKalb school board was that it voted to pay for Lewis’ legal defense. There had been a $100,000 cap on the costs allowed for legal defense, but the school board waived it for Lewis’ benefit. The CEO in charge
At the very top, the head of DeKalb’s government is the position of CEO. The current CEO, Burrell Ellis, is being investigated for a list of concerns, including alleged bid rigging. Police searched Ellis’s home and office recently, and local news outlets report that while no charges have been filed, search warrants are reportedly aimed toward potential extortion, bribery, theft, conspiracy, and wire fraud in connection with private vendors who contract with the county.
Most recently, Ellis sought approval from the county ethics board to establish a legal defense fund to benefit himself. The board rebuffed the request. A corrupt school board becomes a civil rights issue
Instead of being treated as a story about rampant, inexcusable corruption, the school board fiasco has morphed into a civil rights issue. Atlanta’s NBC affiliate reports that the Georgia NAACP “accused Republican Governor Nathan Deal of being part of an alleged conspiracy to get rid of black office holders and deprive black voters of their rights.”
State Rep. Tyrone Books pointed out that criticism of the governor needed to include a word about black politicians who supported the governor’s removal authority.
“How can we complain about him when we have black folks standing there embracing the removal of black officials?” asked Brooks, D-Atlanta.
The state legislature is trying to prevent public funds from being used in the legal defense of the ousted board members. Because the ousted board members see their positions as a civil rights entitlement, the attorney’s fees required for their defense will quickly rise, unless legislation puts an end to the entitlement.
One of the suspended board members, Eugene Walker, responded to the judge’s ruling with a familiar appeal: “Minorities should not feel secure if contrived allegations from anonymous sources with hidden agendas can go to private agencies and to have their civil rights stolen away.”
DeKalb has changed from majority white to majority black over the last several decades. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution gingerly put it: “The county’s transition from majority white to majority minority was politically rocky .”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/suburbs-secede-from-atlanta/#a2GLrG5Hub4sDTJG.99
Plans for Lakeside cityhood are crossing the line, says a local resident.
By Michelle Penkava for North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch
You may have heard that some neighborhoods to our west are trying to form a city. This city, now designated as Lakeside City, began in Oak Grove. One of the three services they plan to provide is parks and recreation. Being in need of green space, they have included a very large portion of Tucker in their proposed city map in order to acquire Henderson Park. This would also give them access to some long-established Tucker neighborhoods and additional commercial properties.
The Lakeside City Alliance would have you believe that they are moving slowly. In fact, they were expected to “drop a bill” at the Capitol on Thursday, March 7, sponsored by Dunwoody state Sen. Fran Millar.
This bill is a “placeholder” designed to allow a public vote on the issue by the fall of 2014 even though they are just now in the beginning legal stages of forming their city. The map is not set in stone. But once it is, we outside their boundaries will have no vote on whether or not they become a city and incorporate parts of Tucker. Our local politicians and civic leaders have spoken out, asking them to use I-285 as their boundary. Instead, they are land grabbing large areas of Tucker in their initial attempt, stating that there are no obvious boundaries of Tucker.
The state of Georgia district maps, including Millar’s district map, clearly designate Tucker as a “census place,” and show our boundaries beginning at 285 with just a slight dip inside the perimeter to Henderson Mill Road.
As you know, the climate in DeKalb is tenuous at best. We are all frustrated with the state of the county school system and exhausted by the antics of the now-suspended DeKalb County Board of Education members. Many citizens are further frustrated by the DeKalb government as a whole. It is in this climate that the Lakeside city proponents are able to accelerate what should be a well thought out plan that considers long-term implications to all communities. Instead, they are considering only their needs and are dissecting Tucker with no regard and little communication with our communities.
While the Georgia constitution prevents the formation of new school districts, the City of Dunwoody is seeking an amendment to the constitution that would allow them to pull out of the DeKalb County School System. Most consider it a long shot at best as it requires support from the entire state. The Lakeside city planners state that their plan has nothing to do with schools. However, if by chance Dunwoody is successful, Lakeside city could follow. Their proposed Lakeside City map selects Midvale and Livsey (not the neighborhoods on our side of Chamblee-Tucker Road) but specifically excludes Pleasantdale Elementary, which is currently a feeder school to Lakeside High School and is north of the Tucker boundary.
Millar’s email address is listed below along with contact information for our local legislators. Please share your thoughts with all of them. It is important for Tucker residents to be “on the record.” Also below are the links to the proposed Lakeside city map and Millar’s district map.
Two groups investigating the creation of a new city in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area will hold a joint meeting later this month.
The Lakeside City Alliance and the North Druid Hills Study Group will answer questions from residents of the Sagamore Hills and Briarcliff Woods civic associations regarding their proposed city plans.
From the Briarcliff Woods Civic Association:
The Briarcliff Woods Civic Association is joining with Sagamore Hills Civic Association to hold a joint information session where residents may address their questions to the two separate groups who are working toward a city in North DeKalb County.
Both the Lakeside Alliance Group and the North Druid Hills Study Group will be present to answer questions on their proposals for cityhood.
Prior to the meeting, please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will compile them for the meeting. The Board of Directors has formed a sub-committee to collect questions and focus on this important topic.
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis said this week the county has reached a point where incorporations could harm essential county services.
by Jonathan Cribbs for North Druid Hills / Briarcliff Patch
DeKalb County has reached a “tipping point” where continued incorporations of unincorporated county land could harm the county’s ability to fund essential services such as courts, elections and libraries, county CEO Burrell Ellis said this week. – services all county residents use regardless of whether they live in a city.
Ellis’ remarks were released in a statement to Patch, but, speaking at a community meeting in Tucker on Tuesday, he also said he understands the desire for cityhood but that historically, new cities often encounter difficulties meeting their fiscal goals, and end up having to raise taxes just to meet basic needs.
“You’ll still be DeKalb citizens,” he said, emphasizing that new cities cannot isolate themselves from their counties.
Proponents of cityhood in the Lakeside area have said they believe they can improve police services and local representation by erecting a city government closer to its residents. District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader, who represents part of the area that would be incorporated under several proposed maps from various cityhood groups, said he believes he’s been responsive to constituents.
“You can’t speak in general, but I am not running across constients who feel that our office hasn’t been responsive to them,” he said. “I don’t know that you’re always gong to get what you want from another government.”
Super District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson said he would like to see a meeting between residents and elected representatives of northern and southern DeKalb County to hash out issues that have lead to serious cityhood discussions in the Lakeside High School area.
“The citizens don’t talk to each other,” Watson said. “We have to get rid of the barriers that separate and find the commonalities that bring us closer together.”
He said he supports the idea of cityhood but hasn’t appreciated the legislature’s efforts to squash a city of DeKalb that would incorporate all remaining unincorporated county land from north to south.
“I’m for cityhood but allow all the citizens to vote on cityhood,” he said. “But just don’t give it to a respectful few.”
But the county government doesn’t have much control over what happens in the Lakeside area. If the legislature approves a cityhood bill for that area next year, it will go to a vote before residents of that proposed cit as early as fall 2014.
“If we don’t control the legislature, there’s nothing we can do,” he said.