LCA's Levitas: Let Officials Know Your Cityhood Views

Co-chair cites "illusion of confusion" among some state legislators on the issue.

The Lakeside City Alliance urged an audience Thursday night to practice the three Cs on the cityhood issue -- converse with neighbors to spread the word, contribute to cover the group's costs and contact elected officials to let them know where the community stands.

Co-chair Kevin Levitas, who led the community meeting at Lakeside High School, repeatedly emphasized the third C -- the political fight over cityhood. An LCA email prior to the meeting set the tone: "Let the politicians know if you support the efforts of the Lakeside City Alliance, the only viable plan with any realistic chance of making it through the Legislature next session."

Levitas spent some time going over the feasibility study results, which found Lakeside's plan fiscally sound, creating a surplus without a property tax increase. He then responded to audience questions.

Levitas suggested that the three cityhood groups -- Lakeside, Briarcliff and Tucker -- should "stop fighting against ourselves" because it "plays right into the hands of legislators" who don't want a new city. He referred to an "illusion of confusion" where certain legislators say the issue needs more study but the endgame is "that you don't have the right to vote."

Later in the meeting, he specifically named state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, sponsor of a cityhood bill for the City of Briarcliff Initiative, as one legislator falling into that category. Levitas also said DeKalb Commissioner Elaine Boyer has already been lobbying against the Lakeside plan at the Capitol.

"Anti-city forces (including those backing other plans that overlap with Lakeside) are hoping to muddy the waters with “competing” plans, so if you favor the opportunity to make this decision yourself locally and not leave it to politicians to decide for you, then let them know your views on Lakeside, whether you want them to change the map or to proceed with the current map without further changes," LCA's statement said. "You have a right to demand your representatives’ specific position regarding Lakeside and cityhood.  You may also want to contact the office of Acting CEO Lee May who is pushing to kill all cityhood movements."

Levitas answered questions from Tucker area residents and people who appeared to support the Briarcliff plan. Some quick summaries of his answers to their questions:

1. Why Lakeside over Briarcliff? Levitas said Briarcliff "isn't going anywhere" in the Legislature. Its two sponsors -- state Sen. Jason Carter, who is now running for governor, and Rep. Oliver have little chance of getting anything done in the Republican-dominated Capitol. Other problems with tbe Briarcliff plan include, according to Levitas:
  • 15 percent of the territory is untaxable.
  • It goes up against the borders of four cities, and those cities are not happy that areas of possible annexation would be lost.
  • The boundaries include Emory University, and Levitas said school officials "like being Atlanta."
  • The Briarciff territory -- from Spaghetti Junction to the East Lake MARTA station --  is a stretch.
2. Working with Briarcliff and Tucker. When asked specifically about working with COBI, Levitas said, "Absolutely." "Why not start with areas that we share?" he said, pointing out that Druid Hills could be lost to Atlanta and that other cities are not happy about Briarcliff's boundaries. While he said he didn't anticipate major changes in the final cityhood map, he said Lakeside's overlap with Tucker might be tweaked. Regarding Tucker, Levitas said residents outside I-285 have very different positions on cityhood. "I'd much rather be working with Tucker," he said.

Meanwhile, in other cityhood developments:
  • COBI is still awaiting the final results of its feasibility study from UGA's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The COBI board will schedule a press conference once it has been reviewed.
  • Tucker 2014 met with residents this week in the Smoke Rise area. They reported on their Tucker Patch blog that they will meet again Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. at First Christian Church of Atlanta, 4532 Lavista Road in Tucker.

Keith Hanks December 13, 2013 at 09:58 AM
Briarcliff has been created by your neighbors, free of blurred interests that upset the public. When people are asked if they support cityhood, many say "yes," but they also state that Lakeside is not the city they want. When Briarcliff announces its financial feasibility results it will be done in the city limits of the proposed city, not at the State Capitol like Lakeside did.
Tom Doolittle December 13, 2013 at 01:10 PM
I can understand why LCA proponents attempt to narrow the debate in a lawyerly fashion. Its one of the rules of sales. However, since we are the ones who are supposedly being represented, it behooves us (the Subjects) to understand how our presumed representatives are representing our positions. The issue isn't one issue, it is several and the "confusion" is not an "illusion". Things would be a little clearer (but only a little) if LCA (not the advocacy group that will form after it) would focus on forming a city, rather than a specific city. Secondly, the process as delivered and implemented by the legislature is abbreviated, contrived and lacking specifics, such as standards for a local group's representation of an entire community which the group defined arbitrarily--this aspect IS the reason we have "confusion"--change the law, the confusion goes away. Sooo, one can certainly see someone who has legitimate gripes about the basic process as voting "no" in a referendum--and not being a part of some obstructionist cabal of legislators and county commissioners. Third--there are other reasons one might vote yes or no that have nothing to do with a "any city will do" mentality. A referendum is a false choice by definition, just as a lawyer says, Just answer the question "yes/or no" in court.
Tom Doolittle December 13, 2013 at 01:19 PM
Fourth and most importantly, as quoted above :"if you favor the opportunity to make this decision yourself locally AND not leave it to politicians to decide for you"; this presumes that anyone who doesn't want a vote to occur (that's different than giving up the right to vote) for WHATEVER reason--is the BECAUSE he/she wants legislators "deciding" for us. He may literally wish the issue didn't EXIST in the first place--THAT's the reason he doesn't want a vote (or anyone else). He feels the vote itself is illegitimate--so why would he want anyone voting? That's a legitimate opinion and don't let forceful and imaginative politicians insinuate otherwise.
Longerthanu December 13, 2013 at 02:23 PM
So, now that the feasibility studies are coming in, it's time for all of these groups to look past their maps and give us some nitty gritty on what they envision for their respective cities. Otherwise, this is little more than a beauty pageant -- and one without a talent competition at that. I'm not calling any of my representatives at any level until I get some specifics.
Roberto December 13, 2013 at 03:00 PM
It will be very interesting to see how the LCA and Levitas can continue the claim on how fantastic and ultra-feasible Lakeside City is per the CVI study [the only one with a chance!] once the COBI results are made public. What if the CVI study for COBI shows a even greater potential revenue surplus? Stay tuned folks!
newsydon December 13, 2013 at 03:07 PM
the only way lakeside would come out looking better than briarcliff is if cvi changes the rules. it's clear that briarcliff has a better tax base in every respect.
Bruce T December 13, 2013 at 03:13 PM
I wasn't there, so I can't comment about the context; but I'm really tired of the over and over "nothing can work but us" statements. He's just not willing to discuss any other options. That usually means someone can't defend their own opinions. He may be right that other legislators have failed to stand up for what's clearly a better idea; but it doesn't make Lakeside a good choice.
Roberto December 13, 2013 at 03:22 PM
List some of the expected talking points LCA will use to state that Lakeside is the "better city" when Briarcliff is shown by CVI to be more financially diverse and stable.
Tom Doolittle December 13, 2013 at 03:41 PM
You guys really need to start considering whether the decision will be which is a "better city". The legislators would be foolish to go that way. What they want is "a city". They will be defining it, mapping it and naming it. If there is a referendum, the name Lakeside or Briarcliff will not be named. It will be a map of currently unknown boundaries and you will be asked whether you want a city or not. Are you folks saying you won't vote for a city with boundaries you can live with, just simply because LCA is leading the referendum campaign? What you may want to start considering is what types of things you are satisfied having LCA control. That's the issue now, not the choice of previously defined maps. Again, where Levitas is fundamentally wrong (and perhaps manipulative) is this is obviously "confusion"--its not an "illusion"--and you don't have to be a dirty rotten bastard to describe it that way or be one of the "confused".
Keith Hanks December 13, 2013 at 04:28 PM
We're over complicating this. High level, identify anything outside of 285 as Tucker and anything inside of 285 as Briarcliff. Current maps and associated feasibility studies essentially do this already. Briarcliff has leaked they are healthy and feasible and are working on presenting some of the meat and specifics that residents want, especially the ones that overlap in Briarcliff and Lakeside. No reason to believe Tucker wont be financially possible as well. Both Tucker and Briarcliff have a nice blend of commercial + residential and both could be voted on among residents of the area to form two cities and providing coverage without leaving people behind. Lakeside is like the guy at the mall diagonally double parking across two spots -- great for his car but no one else can park.
Jim Tackett December 13, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Exactly, Keith. Too many reasons why the LCA group lost my trust along the way. It's their way or the highway. Good for a few but deaf to suggestions from others. If they were confident their plan was better in substance, they'd accept COBI's offer to meet for a public forum. But since it's almost certain to be shown that Briarcliff has a more wide-ranging tax base to help take some burden off homeowners' wallets--and then there's their unpopular, controversial map--it might be a difficult sell for LCA if put face-to-face with Briarcliff.
Rhea A Johnson Jr December 13, 2013 at 06:04 PM
"Compromise" map is in the works, just takes time. Call it "tri-cities if you will, but it includes elements of Lakeside, Briarcliff, Tucker and Doraville.....yes Doraville!
Enuff Govt Already December 13, 2013 at 06:05 PM
This is not about representing you or me. Its about political power and who controls DeKalb. The Dunwoody area politicians (I'm thinking Fran, Mikey and Tom) want to control the destiny of the county. They created Dunwoody and Brookhaven and now are trying to create Lakeside and on the other side of the ring are the Decatur area politicans. We are their pawns and that is why nothing but their view is discussed or deemed viable. We don't need more govt or politicians. Fix what's here! I'd consider Levitas for a commission seat; it's time for new faces there not another layer of govt!.
Jim Tackett December 13, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Rhea, I don't want to be in a city that takes takes parts of Tucker and Doraville. We've got established communities already, and with a few tweaks, two compatible city groups in Briarcliff and Tucker that define them pretty well.
Rhea A Johnson Jr December 13, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Jim...don't pre-judge, think you may like this map. Doraville is in play because for cities to be possible unincorporated "islands " have to be accounted for. Doraville proposes annexing the "islands".
Peggy Jacksonm December 13, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Hi Jim! Don't you live in Brookhaven? Or are you a nom de plume? I know a Jim Tackett on Drew Valley. There aren't any others who own property in DeKalb, unless you've moved and I missed it.
Tom Doolittle December 13, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Enuf Guv--you're onto something with the Dunwoody pols. However, they really do think their "control" is for the good of the county. This is called "regime change"--also called a coup--just not a violent one. Its either going to be regime change their way (which BTW if they would just tell people that's what their doing, most people would say "Hell Yeah--you go brothers!")--or the cities just marginalize the existing regime into irrelevance. Works either way. Note: even tho a few of the cities will still get most services from the county, the combined heft of ALL cities north of US78 is enough to "control" county politics (ie: media, law, business, institutions, bonds, legislative relevance)--even if not its elected leaders. If the unincorporated part of the county is all south of US 78, the area will cease to exist in the metro Atlanta eyes just as everything South of Covington Hwy in DeKalb does today.
Tom Doolittle December 14, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Hat tip to Jay Scott for this article--its a very good summary of the high points of the meeting--I attended. One thing that I didn't know that's in this article is the mention of a group of Tucker residents that were there.


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