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Lakeside Alliance: Cityhood Bill Coming 'Very Soon'

Several hundred residents gathered inside Briarlake Baptist Church for the alliance's second public meeting.

A so-called "placeholder bill" that would start the two-year process of creating a new city around the Lakeside High School area will be filed "very soon" with the state legislature, the Lakeside City Alliance said Tuesday.

Speaking before several hundred residents at Briarlake Baptist Church, the alliance's chairman, Mary Kay Woodworth, didn't offer a timeline for the filing of the bill, which would wait until next year to be considered by the legislature.

The alliance is investigating the creation of the newest municipality in northern DeKalb County. Under new proposed boundaries released Monday night, the city of Lakeside would reach south to North Druid Hills Road, including the Toco Hill commercial corridor. It would cross I-285 to include west Tucker and Northlake, north to include Mercer University and its western boundary would be I-85.

The alliance would need to find the support of a local legislator to file the bill. Dunwoody state Sen. Fran Millar said he may do it. Once the bill is filed, it could be altered over the next year before the legislature considers it. If passed, the cityhood issue would go before residents for a vote.

The Briarlake Baptist meeting consisted mostly of a question and answer session with local residents. A number of residents expressed concerns about tax increases if a new city was created, and organizers with the alliance said that ideally would not happen. A state-mandated feasibility study from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia would offer clear answers on that question, however. The alliance is currently raising money to pay for that study, which costs about $30,000.

"There shouldn't need to be an increase in taxes," said Robert Wittenstein, a former Dunwoody city councilman who helped organize the creation of that city in 2008.

If the study reveals that a tax increase would be needed to sustain a city, the issue would likely be dead on arrival, he said. Though he added that he expects the study will suggest cityhood is feasible due to the economic stability of the Lakeside area.

Though the alliance has said repeatedly they are not advocating cityhood and exist only to gauge interest and investigate the issue, several alliance organizers said they believed a city would allow residents in the Lakeside area to better control some services. Steve Schultz, one of the alliance's organizers, said a city of Lakeside could improve police services. Many residents complained about the DeKalb County Police Department's response to frequent, non-violent crimes such as auto break-ins. 

"I think that they're currently overwhelmed," Schultz said.

County District 5 Commissioner Lee May, who watched the meeting with the audience, said the department could use about 500 more officers.

Susan Meyers, another alliance organizer, said outright she wants a new city in the Lakeside area. The county government wastes too much and offers too little, she said.

"People who govern locally govern best," she said.

Some residents expressed skepticism with cityhood, particularly with the idea that another layer of local government could make up for frustrations caused by county, state and federal governments.

"Why in God's name would I want another level [of government]?" one man said.

Alliance organizers have repeatedly said a city government would give residents community-level representatives rather than one or two county commissioners who operate from downtown Decatur.

"It gives you an opportunity not to distrust from a distance," Wittenstein said.

Other residents asked the alliance to slow its pursuit of cityhood. Jim Smith, a Clairmont Heights resident, suggested a 12-month moratorium on the issue so residents could try and work to "fix" the county government.

"It's easier to fix the problem than to change the problem," a woman added.

Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 09:27 PM
There are good parents and concerned citizens who pay taxes all over this county. No one wants to see their money go down the drain. Many of the South DeKalb families have their children in North DeKalb Schools because they have been denied quality instruction in their own neighborhoods and have been led to believe that the only way to get something "better" is by putting their child on a bus so he or she can be carted off to someone else's community. That doesn't help build trust one bit. At the same time, the city of Atlanta did away with public housing and started giving tax incentives to owners of foreclosed homes to rent them out as Section 8 housing. So, we've seen an influx everywhere of low income, non-educated residents who are getting paid to allow their children to be shipped off every day to other schools. The No Child Left Behind Legislation was satisfied in part by DeKalb with the writing of checks to the families of the worst performing students in the failing schools that is supposed to cover their transportation when there is not an available bus route running from the far south to the far north. These people keep the checks and then put their kids on a Marta bus that stops near the school of choice. Oh yes, we give out free Marta cards too. This was all part of Crawford Lewis's girlfriends division of "School Improvement." I know because I have hear these folks talk about not wanting to lose their checks when I have attended school meetings.
Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 09:37 PM
So, my point is ... as I have said many times... the problems many are complaining about can be all traced back to the corruption on the school board. Lakeside's Paul Womack (who represented Lakeside and shunned Tucker even though we were in his district) was a big part of these issues and decisions. He headed up the Budget and Finance Committee the year that $100 million in cuts were not made. He supported a raise for former Super. Crawford Lewis. He flipped his vote at the last minute on the hiring of Dr. Atkinson which led to her hiring. He was a long time Republican lobbyist, so he was used to these dirty politics and paying off legislators for their support. Ironically (or not), Dr. Eugene Walker was a state Senator during the same time frame. Walker has his education from Duke University, the same school that Womack donated a million dollars to for medical research of brain tumors, the same form of cancer that cell phone radiation is thought to cause. I could not possibly make all of this up. I have researched and followed these issues for nearly two years and I can tell you in good faith and all honesty that the biggest problems in DeKalb stem from people not showing up to vote so that small special interest groups are able to control the ballot box and from the false representations that are made of "north" and "south" by the politicians who need conflict in order to justify their own existence to their separate bases of support.
Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 09:43 PM
Fix the schools and we'll fix the majority of the problems. In order to fix the schools, we must stop advocating for one area over another and driving more wedges between each other. Residents need to advocate for what is in the best interest of all the children, collectively. Stop looking at what you can get out of it. That's not the purpose of public school. It is to provide quality education to all children, regardless of what you think about their parents' ability to contribute as much to the tax base. They also do not have the ability to build equity in anything that they can sell off in the future to help with their retirement so it is not exactly like someone with a nice home in a nice part of town is not getting anything out of it. You knew the price of your home when you bought it. Yes, taxes increased, but that also leveled off when property values sunk. If you are still in your home, still have a job and have time to also follow and understand the issues going on in the government then you are doing much better than a lot of people all across the country. If you know a better way, then speak up and try to help those of us who are trying to fix things. Don't assume you know the problem and the solution because some alliance popped up and told you their version of these events. They don't want to talk about schools... then what are they talking about? And how is that helping anyone?
Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 09:55 PM
And, now that we see the Lakeside City Alliance, we finally understand why Briarlake was getting a cell tower... they are already a part of unincorporated Decatur. So, Tucker, Clarkston, Decatur, Stone Mountain, Smoke Rise, Lithonia, Redan and even Atlanta in the North Druid Hills area, Medlock to the South of Lakeside... all these were getting towers for 30 years and not being given a cent of the money from them at the request of Lakeside. Nice, huh?
Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 11:41 PM
Not sure I follow how South DeKalb has destroyed local government. I thought the fact that the north half of the county contributes more in dollars is because they have invested in properties and homes that cost more. It is generally thought that these areas also have the better schools, but that's somewhat debatable. Personally, I care more about whether or not my child is happy to go there. I want teachers who are kind and where kids know there is time to learn and time to play. With the money this county has approved for 15 or more years straight for construction, we have had board members from that industry or with ties to investments who care only about the facade of education, the literal facade of how a school looks on the outside, not what goes on inside its doors. That focus has led to lawsuits and squabbles over who will get what and which kids will get to go where in order to get the newest or best stuff. The lawsuits must be funded out of the general budget, which is the same one that must pay for general upkeep on all the other schools as well as teacher and other salaries. So, we end up with beautiful buildings, but miserable teachers and children without textbooks. Did you vote for E-SPLOST? Then don't blame South DeKalb. Everyone has had a hand in the downfall, so it is only fair that we learn to work together to pick things up and try to put it all back together before we lose the whole toybox and spoil the fun for everyone, especially the kids.

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