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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.

Herman Lorenz February 28, 2013 at 02:00 PM
Gaining the ability to control some of the important local activities is reason enough to create a city. There are a lot of "ifs" and "wheres" out there. But the basic point remains. We need to create a city and control as much of our destiny as possible.
Brett February 28, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Agreed Herman.
Tom Doolittle February 28, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Was Wittenstein being "witty"? "An opportunity not to distrust from a distance"--did he really say that? Aside from the double negative, does he mean its better to be able to distrust in close proximity? or Is our bar set so low that we have to articulate our vision as "distrusting less" rather than "trusting more"? Someone at the meeting suggested the Alliance's appeal to the community is devoid of a vision (no statements of aspiration)--that it is remedial--relying on fixing negatives. She suggested that was the primary problem with the county. So what will change?
Ralph February 28, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Sice the bill has to, by law introduced this year won't be voted on by the legislature until next year, then will be vted on by the proposed residents until late in 2014, that in effect is the same as a one year delay. Any further delay, as in not filing a placeholder bill this session of the legislature would delay the final vote for two years, from 2014 until 2016. We don't need a two year delay. Let's work through the details and get a vote up or down in 2014. That shold be plenty of time to make the decision on what the community wants to do.
Tom Doolittle February 28, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Putting any kind of timeline on an actual vote--the placeholder bill effectively forces a go/no go decision to vote--will almost obviate (dominate) discussion of other alternatives, partnerships and processes. We know this from what happened in Brookhaven and P'tree Corners to some degree Dunwoody. The "city/no city" debate is a false choice and unfortuantely a compelling one that won't be able to be changed once a placeholder bill is submitted. I really question how a "city/no city" choice can be offered as state-level legislation after a few weeks of public discussion. Without an equally strong voice for leading the county and state in a sustainabe direction (the current process will run its course rather quickly, in fact a vote will be risky here)--the community will be a "yes/no" place fraught with conflict...and unnecesarily. When we could be building our foundation of organizations for common cause, we'll be a single-issue community. (I already hear the "county in doing this--so what we'll be a city soon" voices).
Jeep Hook March 01, 2013 at 03:45 AM
this a very very silly idea and will be thrown out by the voters! What a waste of energy and talent that could be put to better use helping grow Dekalb county!
Reasonable March 01, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Do we want local officials that are in tune to our areas needs that we can hold accountable or not? That is the question. DeKalb County Government after Manuel Maloof has not been ran well. Vernon Jones especially ran DeKalb into the ground. How long will we allow County government to make our area the laughing stock? 3 School Superintendent is 4 years, former Police Chief using seized vehicles for personal use...out in shame, Former CEO convicted of maintaining a hostile work environment and millions paid to former DeKalb employees who would not be promoted because of the color of their skin. Current CEO's house searched and the family and friends network goes on and on... Can this really be fixed? Or, is it easier to start over? We must control our own destiny. If DeKalb County government will not answer to the people in this area and continues to hire friends and family... and hire and promote based only on skin color then I choose to agree to disagree and move on. The only loser n this is DeKalb County government will lose yet another City and the millions of dollars in revenue. I guess Burrell Ellis will have to release his driver, and security detail to save money.
Brett March 01, 2013 at 07:41 PM
It won't be "fixed" by this administration and it won't be easy to start over, but that's what we're going to have to do. Either that, or move away from the county - leaving those in power to drag what's left of this place into the ground. I want local officials from my area and that's what I'll vote for.
Elijah Wood March 02, 2013 at 06:44 AM
Who the heck wants to grow Dekalb County? Ever hear of Dunwoody? Dekalb County has proven that it's corruption and mismanagement is boundless so there are two options: Succession and formation of an independent city (as Dunwoody did) or flee the county altogether and take the north Dekalb tax base with us.
Tom Doolittle March 02, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Mr. Wood says: "Dekalb County has proven that it's corruption and mismanagement is boundless..." First--I doubt "DeKalb County" would ever prove this. Second, no one else has. Actually, I'm still waiting for someone to chronicle information that tells the complete story of DeKalb County government's curious operations--not since year 2000 (when people think corruption and mismanagment began)--but for the past 50 years. But that's another story--and a bigger one than this temporal excitemant over making new cities. City-makers rely on a toxic mix of sensational headlines (a media hungering for North/South divisiveness) and the conventional wisdom that corruption ends at US 29 and only began in 2000, adding to the "emergent and urgent" aspect of the problem. A perfect example of this "manufactured urgency" is the notion that "Secede from DeKalb County" is really a conflation of county government and school system, even tho the Great City-Making has no official role with schools. That mix only became clear and present with the conveniently timed SACS de-listing (schools) and invasion of Ellis' home (govt)--simulataneous. Note that the home invasion could have been done any time during the year that the grand jury was investigating.
Tom Doolittle March 02, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Mr. Wood also invokes "Dunwoody": People should go back and take a hard look at the reasons Dunwoody was formed--it had nothing to do with corruption. It was about not receiving proportional return on Dunwoody/Perimiter Center tax revenue. So now, we have the myth that The Great City-Making was necessary because of post-2000 corruption....and that any other area that is willing to believe this should form a city too. There may be good reasons to have a city or live in one (somewhere)--but forming a NEW CITY in a certain location should go through a much more exhaustive review process than has been used and is currently envisioned for this area. One of the things people should try to vet is the sources and reliability of the information (mis-information).
Robert Carlson March 10, 2013 at 04:29 PM
This is about economic and social class. Why should those who live in one half of the country contribute a far greater amount to the tax base have their local government (and school system) destroyed by a majority that is primarily in the other half of the county? Forget the city proposal -- I would rather see two separate counties: North Dekalb and South Dekalb. Ultimately, the state constitution needs to be amended to allow for new school systems as well. In the end though, families with means and education won't tolerate this New Orleans-style government of Dekalb. We'll simply move and take our money with us. This used to be called "white flight" and maybe that term is no longer appropriate because it's not about race -- it's about educational and class level. There are minority families with dad and mom doctors at Emory -- and they have had enough of Dekalb politics and schools, too....
Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Tom, thank you for your rational explanation to many of these questions. We have grave concerns about the hidden agendas of those who are pushing this without any real outcry or support from the residents they are staking claim over. We invite you to please "like" the new group on Facebook called "Save Tucker from Lakeside City." We are not forming this FB page to create a divide, but rather it is an effort to keep Tucker residents informed about exactly what is going on. Much of this process has been secretive and very political. Even suggesting that such a bill would find a sponsor or make it out of committee is premature or wishful thinking on the part o the very aggressive alliance. This does not appear to be in the best interest of either those who would be considered "in" or those who would be ruled a "out."
Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Sorry, Reasonable, but you are not wanting to face the truth about the corruption that you believe you can escape by latching on to this city-idea. The Lakeside area has been one of the largest contributors to the corruption in DeKalb County. It's the Lakeside area that insisted upon Paul Womack's return for a second reign of terror on the school board. Womack was known for his intrusion into the daily activities of schools and intimidation of parents and staff. His first order of business when he was re-elected around 2000 was to fire Lakeside's principal and bring in his own recommendation. He then used the time frame when we had only an Interim Superintendent (Tyson) at the helm to push forth his cell towers idea, even trying to put one at Briarlake Elementary School in his own neighborhood claiming that it was needed for better ATT reception for the Lakeside area. Lakeside's principal (who will retire this year) went around telling everyone how great a cell tower would be and ridiculing any principal who may have thought otherwise. As it turns out, Lakeside was never in any danger of getting one and to date they never received a signed contract. It was a ruse to hide the fact that they wanted the money from the towers to finish their construction amenities like the outdoor pavilion. The intent was for towers to go up at surrounding schools so they would "chase" good parents away from those areas and stimulate home sales in the lagging Lakeside area.
Cheryl Miller March 14, 2013 at 09:17 PM
You hopefully will not have an opportunity to vote on something that will not be feasible. Any study they are conducting will have to take into account the legal battle of trying to break up an already legally designated area (Tucker) in order to stake a claim on the tax base supported by residents they wish to leave out of that same area. Once the businesses learn about this idea, they will join the fight against this bill because it will harm their core patronage dramatically. To continue the point regarding the cell tower battle, the only thing that saved all these schools from getting the towers that Lakeside wanted to saddle them with was the long-standing, well established guidelines of our DeKalb County ordinances and the willingness of the county commissioners to jointly pen a letter to the CEO explaining their position of solidarity that these permits would violate zoning laws. Are these the same zoning laws you want to scrap and allow "Lakeside" to take over for you? Then you might want to read up on what happens to your property value when cell towers go up, especially since American Towers, one of the largest tower companies in existence today is located on Briarcliff Road and AT and T Mobility has its WORLD headquarters in DeKalb. These local folks have big plans but it likely includes lining their own pockets, not protecting the quality of life for homeowners. Don't take the bait. Don't allow this "divide and conquer" mentality to fool you.
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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