Buckhead City Supporters Fueled by Mayoral Election in Atlanta (UPDATE 1)
Voters elected Councilman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) over Council President Felicia A. Moore, in a vote of 64 percent to 36 percent.
“When the last day of voting for the Mayor of Atlanta was primarily focused on which candidate was going to be the stronger supporter of strip clubs, it was clear to the families of Buckhead that our priorities of safety, education, infrastructure and zoning are no longer aligned with those in Atlanta’s City Hall,” Bill White, CEO of Buckhead City, said in a statement after the Run-off Election.
“Voter turnout in Buckhead was at an all-time low which tells us one thing; Buckhead is ready to and will vote YES for its independence on November 8, 2022,” White said in the statement.
“We heard an awful lot of stuff in the last week, the stuff about the strip clubs,” White told Atlanta Progressive News.
On Nov. 15, 2021, record producer Isaac Hayes, III, posted in a video on the social medium Instagram, “Those of you who are in the music business in Atlanta, all right, when it comes to this election, Felicia Moore was the only City Councilmember to try to produce legislation that would ban recording studios in the City of Atlanta, limit their ability to function… She tried to take down the music industry in the City.”
In fact, Moore did introduce an ordinance related to recording studios, but the ordinance did not propose a ban.
The 2016 ordinance, then-proposed City of Atlanta Ordinance 16-O-1454, which the Council rejected in a Jan. 17, 2017 vote of fourteen to one, with Moore being the one, would have required recording studios to be housed within soundproof buildings at least five hundred feet from any residential area, and to have a minimum of one off-street parking space for every three hundred square feet of floor area.
Rapper, T.I., reiterated Hayes’s false claim in his own Instagram post on Nov. 26, 2021.
In a press conference, Moore responded that she had spent plenty of time in Atlanta night clubs in her earlier years, noting, “I had my time in the nightclubs, I don’t have much time now, but I can dance.”
By this time, the social media rumor had evolved to claim that Moore now wanted to shut down all nightclubs in Atlanta.
“I am not shutting down any clubs! No! As a matter of fact, invite me to your nightclub! I’ll shut it down by ‘shutting it down’! No! I am so sick of that rumor,” Moore said.
“I have nothing against strip clubs,” White told APN.
“But I think when we have a mayoral candidate [Moore] who… ends up saying, I’m not going to shut down strip clubs, I’d like to go to a strip club, I’ll be the last one partying, I don’t think it was a wonderful message for the folks in Buckhead,” White told APN.
The lower than usual turnout in Buckhead was due to “the lack of inspiration these candidates provided them,” White told APN.
Notwithstanding Moore’s comments, “I think most people in Buckhead were supporting Felicia, I voted for her,” White said.
LEGISLATION FILED IN GEORGIA HOUSE AND SENATE
As proposed, if approved by the General Assembly, the referendum would occur among Buckhead voters on Nov. 08, 2022.
The bill is co-sponsored by State Sens. Burt Jones (R-Jackson), Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), and Randy Robertson (R-Cataula).
Previously, on March 31, 2021, State Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) introduced HB 854, a similar bill, in the State House.
Now that the required feasibility study has been completed regarding whether Buckhead City would be financial feasible, the General Assembly is expected to be considering SB 324 and HB 854 when legislators reconvene in January 2022.
The current proposed map of Buckhead City would include all of current Council Districts 7 and 8, along with parts of Council Districts 6 and 9.
The results of the feasibility study were very favorable, in favor of incorporation.
“The proposed Buckhead City should expect annual revenue of approximately $203,521,892 and annual expenses of approximately $89,921,825, the feasibility study states, reflecting “conservative estimates for revenue and a high estimate for expenditures.”
“Based on budget projections, Buckhead City would realize a surplus of $113,600,067 under current property valuations and applicable millage rates,” the study states.
“Subsequently, Buckhead City could offer property owners a significant reduction in property taxes, enhanced and/or new services for city residents, or a combination thereof,” the study states.
IMPACT ON ATLANTA
Peter Aman, the former Chief Operating Officer of the City of Atlanta and 2017 Mayoral candidate, authored a sponsored, or paid, op-ed appearing in the Saporta Report online news service, saying that the secession of Buckhead from Atlanta “would cripple the city.”
Aman represents Committee for a United Atlanta, a lobbying firm campaigning to keep the current geographic footprint of Atlanta intact.
Aman estimates that the net revenue loss to the City of Atlanta’s General Operating Fund would be between eighty million dollars and 110 million dollars annually, arguing this would devastate the City.
This net loss is estimated because it is challenging to estimate how much the City would save on not having to provide services to Buckhead if they secede.
White tells APN he agrees with this range, though.
“So that’s true,” he said.
“Part of what I’ve been looking at, when we send the money to Atlanta we get eighty cops. When we’re in control of the money, we’re able to hire 250 cops, which is three times the amount of police, and we show a surplus of over a hundred million dollars,” White said.
“When you look at it from a business perspective, if I send the money to Atlanta, I get eighty cops. If I keep the money, I get 250 cops, and I get an extra hundred million dollars,” White said.
“So, where is all the money going? I do think Atlanta is going to have to do something that’s going to be hard: Atlanta will have to look at balancing their budget,” White said.
Currently, the City of Atlanta is in ongoing litigation with Atlanta Progressive News and with APN’s News Editor, fighting against open meetings and open records, having spent over 307,000 dollars since June 2020 on outside counsel to take positions against transparency and against the public interest.
Projected spending at the current rate, as the eight lawsuits make their way through the superior courts and appellate courts over the next two to three years, is over a million dollars.
After over a decade of issues, the City of Atlanta’s ongoing commitment to fighting against transparency is clearly endemic.
If the City of Atlanta is in such dire straits financially such that a loss of net Buckhead revenue of eighty million dollars would devastate the City, it is not immediately clear why the City also believes it has hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, to defend opacity and undermine the Georgia Open Meetings Act and Georgia Open Records Act.
White agrees this spending is outrageous; and that starting a new city is the only way for the people of Buckhead to have transparency in government.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)
UPDATE 1 and CORRECTION: A previous version of this article contained a quote from Bill White referring to a net revenue of one hundred thousand dollars; the article has been corrected to reflect the estimate of one hundred million, not thousand, dollars.