Proposed Cities of South DeKalb, Stonecrest Submitted Maps to Legislature
(APN) ATLANTA — The cityhood efforts that would incorporate the proposed City of South DeKalb and City of Stonecrest, both in unincorporated DeKalb County, took huge steps forward recently.
The groups submitted their signed proposed maps November 17, 2014 to the office of State Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta), Chair of the Georgia State House Governmental Affairs Committee. They had previously submitted their maps to State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) on October 16, 2014.
“If approved, the city of South DeKalb will represent a historic step in DeKalb county’s history. The population of South DeKalb (294,398) will render it the second largest city in the state of Georgia. If South DeKalb is approved along with Stonecrest (population of approximately 50,000) and the… cities in the north, it would essentially mark the municipalization of DeKalb County,” the Concerned Citizens for Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCCSD) said in a press release.
At this time, there are two groups seeking cityhood in north DeKalb, as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News: LaVista Hills and Tucker. LaVista Hills is the union of the former Briarcliff and Lakeside efforts from the 2014 legislative session. In addition, there are annexation efforts, including the City of Atlanta’s attempted annexation of Druid Hills and Brookhaven’s attempted annexation of Executive Park.
Dr. Kathryn Rice of CCCSD has been writing about municipal incorporations for a few years. A published writer in the field and South DeKalb resident, her reasons for incorporating South DeKalb to form its own city were simple: strategic and financial.
“I’ve been writing on municipal incorporations in academia. I am very familiar with this arena, across the United States. Sandy Springs cityhood is what started my interest in the subject. I’m not pro-incorporation, but I began to see that some of the cities that were annexing properties were either in or close to South DeKalb. That’s when I paid attention,” Rice told APN.
“South DeKalb compared to North is underdeveloped. By far, the development is on the north side. The result is there will be less to incorporate. Incorporating should never be a defensive. You should always do something so there is benefit to all. The way the county is structured right now, it is not beneficial to the south side,” Rice said.
“By partitioning itself, South DeKalb has a shot at the benefits [that North DeKalb has]; we can begin to draw economic development into South DeKalb. This is the primary reason for incorporating. When these annexations [in the North] occur, they are taking the few assets that South DeKalb had,” Rice said.
“We want to protect ourselves financially,” Rice stated as the second reason for incorporating. “There is a 50 million dollar annual pension payment that South DeKalb would have to bear the brunt of, if we remained unincorporated, while the rest of the County incorporated. Right now, each person in South DeKalb is paying 91 dollars. If South DeKalb was responsible for that payment after North DeKalb incorporated, that number would increase to about 141 dollars per person, approximately 56.4 percent. I am working on what the burden would mean to the medium income, four-person family,” she said.
Oddly enough, when APN asked each cityhood effort what the reasons were for incorporating, the sentiment was a distaste for County Government and a general lack of trust for County officials.
Pension funding is not a new issue in Metro Atlanta, with the City of Atlanta having recently amended its pension plan for new employees, while requiring existing employees to increase their contributions.
Whether or not paying for DeKalb’s annual pension obligation was an an issue for the Northside efforts is unknown. Many of the new cities in Fulton County that have incorporated over the last ten years have privatized most city services, leading to less pension obligations, and less retirement security for city employees.
Rice’s research shows that municipalization is not just a local trend; however, Metro Atlanta is leading the country by far.
Rice found a few prevailing commonalities from areas around the country that have sought incorporation: well-educated residents with higher incomes; as well as concerns regarding quality of life issues, control over zoning, control over growth, and a consolidation of wealth. The predominant race among communities that incorporates is White.
While Georgia leads the way in cityhood and annexation efforts, parts of Texas and Missouri, as well as California, are also in the game.
Most of Rice’s research is compiled here in the 2014 peer-reviewed article “Why New Cities Form: An Examination into Municipal Incorporation in the United States 1950−2010,” in the Journal of Planning Literature:
Rice also told APN that a feasibility study has been initiated with the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute. The question of ‘Will the area generate enough revenue?” is the main question of the study.
“This is a lot to wrap your head around,” Rice said. “With 294,000 people in the proposed area, reaching every person will be difficult, but there’s been meetings, both formal and informal, occurring all over the area since July . At the meetings I’ve attended, most people don’t want to be left unincorporated, but are not sure of being incorporated. We will be doing our best to reach as many people as possible to communicate the benefits of incorporating.”
“I’m more concerned with the sprawling nature of this city and especially encroaching ITP north of I-20 where disputes with Atlanta, Decatur, and Avondale Estates will easily occur… I’d be anxious to see the moods of the people inside the proposed boundaries and how this would fix the school system,” Brian Walker, a Facebook member who showed interest in CCCSD’s efforts, said.
Developing an internal structure, determining final boundaries, and an outreach tour are CCCSD’s priorities that will carry the group into next year’s legislative session.
At this time, there is no legislation drawn up for South DeKalb. State Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur) sponsored the feasibility study, but has not introduced any legislation. The results of the feasibility study are due December 2014.
We as residents are being held with a gun barrel pointed at our head. The tactic is fear. We are being told that we will have to pay more taxes than the others in the county if we do not form a city. I say take the issue to court.
What are the options in south DeKalb? Create a city, create multiple small cities, or maintain the status quo. The new south DeKalb city as proposed by the Concerned Citizens for Cityhood in South DeKalb would be smaller in land size than the city of Atlanta, and would include approximately 300,000 residents. The city would be approximately 90% African American. It would be largest in DeKalb by far, and it would be the second largest city in the State of Georgia.
The largest city in DeKalb is Dunwoody and Brookhaven which has 46,000 and 49,000 residents, Both Brookhaven and Dunwoody already had significant economic development in their communities prior to their becoming cities in their own right.
I do believe that south DeKalb could exist as a city or cities, but it will not be as the CCCSD portray it. The annexation laws should be made stricter, alternative forms of quasi-governmental communities should be considered, private residential associations communities and special districts could also be alternatives to cityhood.
The CCCSD main rational is economic development, avoiding higher taxes and protecting assets. How is the CCCSD defining economic development, is it tax reduction? How will it achieve the economic development that it is portraying in their vision? The elephant in the room that some people want to ignore is that business investments tend not to be significant in areas that have a population of color over 65 percent. New municipalities can impact taxes, school districts, land-use, growth control, environmental regulations, elected representation and public utility services. New municipalities can lead to fragmentation and competition for financial resources between local governments.
The process of forming cities should require a petition before an organization or person can represent themselves as speaking for the community or in the name of the citizens.
There are a lot of unanswered questions that citizens in South DeKalb do not know about in terms of the form of government the new proposed city will have. What kind of mayor or city manager will this new proposed city have? Will the city council be strong? What kind ethnics review will be in the charter?
There should be a way for citizens in South DeKalb opt out of the new city if it does not want to be a part of the shot gun city.
I think the citizens of DeKalb would be better served if the CCCSD would file a court case against the county and the other cities in regards to the tax liabilities and pension obligations that are not being shared by all the property owners of the county. How can a new city such as the city of Dunwoody or Brookhaven not be equally responsible for pension and bonds that were already obligated prior to their cityhood make no sense.
It would be equally appropriate if our political leaders in DeKalb ask the State Legislators to amend the annexations and consolidation laws to prohibit hostile takeovers, without the consent of the governed. Some states have laws that require the cities to make up for the lose revenue of the county.
It seems that shotgun cities are appearing all over the DeKalb County. Who will pay the county bills once all the local communities become cities? I would suggest that the state Legislature stop this cityhood movement in the county. The county needs leadership on this issue. The citizens should not remain silent on this issue.
Ed Williams lives in Decatur
Why does the Greenhaven sky line logo look like the New York sky line. The new city of South DeKalb want ever look like New. However came up with that logo is hallucinating or psychotic. The logos for Dunwoody, Brookhaven and the other cities are more realistic.
Why does the Greenhaven skyline logo look like the New York skyline. The new city of South DeKalb want ever look like New York City. There are no skycrapers in South DeKalb. The logos for Dunwoody, Brookhaven and the other cities are more realistic.
Some Reasons Why the Cityhood in south DeKalb want fly
Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood of South DeKalb
1. Business Closing (Stonecrest Mall in bankruptcy) (Theater closed in South DeKalb Mall)
2. School closing and consolidation that took place in the last couple years in South DeKalb
3. Home property values dropped in the since 2008
4. Capital flight
7. Education outcomes several elemental school on the fail list in South DeKalb
Concerned Citizens for Effective Government (DeKalb Georgia)
Reasons why the new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) should not be created.
1. The ruff on fire fear tactic approach is not a good way to make public policy. At the very least, citizens should be given time to consider the options and evaluate what another layer government would mean for the region. The rationale that proponents use for the justification for a new city in south DeKalb to leverage resources and focus efforts on economic development and annexation are not the only factors to be considered when creating a new city. There are many other factors that residents should consider in order to evaluate rather forming a city would be a good idea. Alternatives have not been presented to residents in the affected area. For example, smaller cities, opting out of the city, change the annexation laws, court action. Alternative forms of quasi-governmental communities should be considered, private residential associations or communities and special districts could also be alternatives to cityhood. In addition, the impact on the County has not been evaluated and presented as to what would likely happen if all the unincorporated areas became cities. The objectives, goals, and benefits have not been explained in any detail that could be evaluated. The Citizens Against Cityhood in south DeKalb believe that we can leverage resources and assets at the County level, particularly since the majority of the County commissioners and interim CEO are from south DeKalb.
2. The fact that assets may be acquired by another city is not simple process. The community or property owner has to agree to the annexation. Annexation is being used as a scare tactic.
3. There is no historical evidence that forming a city will provide significant private investment in a community that has 65% or greater African American population.
4. The latest two cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven taxes are expected to increase.
5. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) will only provide the following services initially Parks and Recreation, Zoning, and code enforcement. The County will continue to provide Water, Sanitation, Police and Fire, Library, 911, Ambulance, Marta, Hospital, Court services, Road, and many others.
6. The name of the new city Greenhaven should be changed. The reason given for the name is suspect. The name will not change the region’s image, and the name has no relevance to the historical legacy or the future of the region. The name lacks appeal, it sounds like a funeral home or cemetery name. Instead of being a haven for people, the new city it will likely be where people come to parish.
7. The creation of a new city will likely create the condition for the formation a new school district. This would likely split the DeKalb school district along North and South boundaries. This will impact property taxes, and will likely cause property taxes to dramatically increase. Ninety percent of the students in the DeKalb School System are African American and less than 10% are White.
8. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) will likely create the need to generate more revenue through code enforcement and ordinance. This would likely result in increase citations from the county and the new city.
9. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) should probably be smaller and residents should consider the formation of more than one city if there is a real need. Instead of a mega city.
10. The residents in the affected areas have not been made aware of the issues of cityhood and its impact on their community and the county. Many residents would likely want to remain living in unincorporated DeKalb.
11. The rationale for the new city is not valid. A new city being created in another part of DeKalb County is not a valid reason for south DeKalb citizens to do the same. The demographics are different. The majority of the DeKalb commissioners are citizens from south DeKalb, including the interim CEO. Central and south DeKalb already control the county legislative and executive body of DeKalb government. South DeKalb already is in the position to set the agenda. South DeKalb has to elect the right leaders.
12, Cities cannot create private jobs. A city can create a friendly business climate, if the right people are elected. The new jobs that the new proposed city would create will likely come at the expense of lost revenue of DeKalb county. The County would likely experience a work force reduction, as a consequence of the formation of new cities.
13. The Carl Vinson Institute report was a feasibility study and it only evaluated that financial viability of a new city. The report was based on a minimum city services: Parks and recreation, zoning, and code enforcement. The report did not include and qualitative data or resident interviews. The study did not use similar city demographics to compare costs, and the report did not consider the impact of the new city impact on the DeKalb County as a government. The report does not valid the necessity or efficacy of forming a new city. The report does not consider the views of the residents of the affected area.
Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood
in South DeKalb
Prosperity preaching is not what we need in DeKalb. Don’t Believe the Hype. The city of East Saint Louis is what South DeKalb “Greenhaven” could look like if the cityhood bill is passed for South DeKalb. Crime and corruption on steroids. Quality of life and small town values will be lost if the cityhood is promoted in DeKalb. City of East Saint Louis Ranked the country’s 100 most dangerous cities
We are a suburb of Atlanta. We live here in unincorporated DeKalb because we do not want to be in an urban center. There are disputes over which neighborhoods should be included in the boundaries with Decatur, Lithonia and Stonecrest and other communities. There should be a timeout in order to keep this frenzy from becoming a nightmare for everyone.
The Communities and Neighborhoods do not have opportunities to opt in or out of any of the boundaries of the proposed cities. We are being told we only have the ability to say Yes or No at the end of process during the referendum. This does not make any sense. We should have some say so in the front end of the process, to rather communities are included in the new city boundaries. What if where you lived this was done to you. A group of people that have not been elected by anyone drafts up a city proposal ,creates a boundary map, and creates a charter and then ask the state to sanction it. You would be outraged, like I am.
The Carl Vinson Institute report was a feasibility study and it only evaluated the financial viability of the proposed new city. The report was based on
minimum city services: Parks and recreation, zoning, and code
enforcement. The report did not include and qualitative data or resident
interviews. The study did not use similar city demographics to compare
costs, and the report did not consider the impact of the new city impact on the DeKalb County as a government. The report does not validate the necessity or efficacy of forming a new city. The report did not consider the views of the residents of the affected area.
Facts About the Pension Costs and New Cities
According to the county budget department, the new cities are contributing to the county pension plan, though not to the same extent as if they had not become a city. The typical portion that new cities may not be equally contributing to are police and designated services if new cities are providing their own services in those areas. All the other county funds contribute to the pension.
Repeat it enough times they will believe it and then it will become fact. Even the political leaders at the state and county government levels are repeating the facts incorrectly.
Kathryn Rice back tracks on her statement that South DeKalb will be left paying pension. First, Rice and her group said there was a law that permitted the new cities to avoid paying or sharing in the cost of DeKalb pension plan; almost everyone was repeating it, even State lawmakers and DeKalb commissioners.
Now Kathryn Rice and her group admits there is no law. They now use the words “fair”, “shoulder” and “burden” of the pension costs, a play on words. The group Concerned Citizens for Cityhood in South DeKalb has repeated so many times that “South DeKalb would be the only area paying the pension” that everyone believes what they have been saying is true. The factoid meter indicates that this is not true, and that the statement is a stretch of the facts. It is being used as a fear or scare tactic to get residents to support cityhood. Rice continues to say if the city of South DeKalb is created that it is her position that the city should make pension payments. It seems that there is some double talk going on.
Cityhood does not mean economic development or growth, if so, all the cities close to the Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport would be booming. Residents should say no to more government, crime and corruption. The school problems need to be dealt with by the school board, the crime in South DeKalb needs to be addressed, and the residents need to get more involved in their communities and schools. Big businesses and good jobs will not stay or come in an environment where there is high crime and bad schools, unless these problems are addressed.
Yes, we need to do something, but we do not want to make our situation worse. It is the job of the chamber of commerce and private citizens to create jobs. The government can help create a business friendly environment. However, if the government becomes the primary business then we will look like Cuba or North Korea. Some of the proponents of cityhood should be running for a position in the chamber of commerce, not in government.
Alternatives have not been presented to residents in the affected area. For example, smaller cities, opting out of the city, change the annexation laws, court action. Alternative forms of quasi-cities should be considered, private residential associations or communities and special districts could also be alternatives to cityhood.
What cityhood will likely bring is more government with rules and regulations, more jails and courts, more crime, more corruption, more traffic tickets, more code enforcement, less businesses, and bad customer service
South DeKalb could look like Clayton County, Miami Gardens, Tuskegee, Alabama, East Saint Louis, Liberty City, Gary Indiana, Detroit, Washington, DC, or Ferguson, Missouri if the cityhood bill is passed by the state assembly and the referendum is passed by the voters. Ask the proponents of cityhood which city they plan to use as a model for South DeKalb or Stonecrest. I do not mean what the feasibility study used. I mean which city do proponents believe South DeKalb will look like with similar demographics and population
Ed Williams. Chair
Citizens Against Cityhood in DeKalb