by T.A. DeFeo
Georgia senators rejected a move to de-annex the Buckhead community from Atlanta and create a new city.
The Senate voted 33-23 against Senate Bill 114, which would have incorporated Buckhead City.
“All of us here today recognize that Atlanta has its problems just like every other city across the state, including yours,” state Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta, told fellow lawmakers, urging them to vote against the measure.
“…Atlanta is the capital city of the South. It’s not in Alabama. It’s not in North Carolina. It’s not in Texas. It’s not in Tennessee. It’s here in Georgia,” Halpern added. “And here in Georgia, we build things up; we don’t tear them down. So the world is watching, and how we react, how we vote and how we lead will define this body and its members.”
The topic has picked up steam in the past few years, with residents raising concerns about public safety. A similar measure failed during the last session.
“I truly believe that we have reached the point where we are today because [of] city leaders and elected officials who felt that they could ignore the concerns of their taxpayers without being watched because that group of taxpayers only represented a small portion of their population,” state Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, said in presenting the bill. “The problem with this theory is that these leaders fail to remember that Georgia has a strong history of disgruntled citizens who break away from counties and form cities in order to establish their own identity when they feel their voices are not heard, nor do their opinions matter.
“…What I’m representing [is] a piece of legislation that gives Georgia citizens the opportunity to express their opinion on whether they want to form their own communities or not,” Robertson added.
The move took a hit this week when the governor’s office selectively released a memo from David Dove, Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive counsel. It outlined several concerns about the measure, including how the cities would share bonded indebtedness, and said that if passed, it would have far-reaching ripple effects.
“This makes no sense politically, operationally or financially,” state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, said on the Senate floor. “So, what are the next steps; how do we really fix the problem? It’s time to drop the angst and the egos and start working together.
“And this goes for both sides: There is no winner or loser after this vote is taken today. There’s not,” Albers added. “But it’s a chance to start working together, and working together isn’t calling people names and attacking them and saying, ‘how come you didn’t meet with me?’”
After the vote, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens vowed to work with residents.
“To my fellow Atlantans: whether you support or oppose deannexation, I will continue working with you to improve our services, to invest in our communities and ensure a safe city for all,” Dickens said in a statement. “Atlanta is a group project, and we will work every day of the week with you, on your behalf, and hearing your voices.”
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T.A. DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Buckhead” by Kburkha2. CC BY-SA 4.0.