Jeff Bragg, a 25-year Leafmore resident and COBI board
member wants to turn the current conversation about Northlake on its head. The
pivotal position of the Northlake business area has captured media attention as
a way to frame the phenomenon of cityhood contention in “North Central DeKalb”.
Pivotal because Northlake’s commercial zone is included on each of three
cityhood maps (Lakeside, Briarcliff and Tucker) and the division of its ITP and
OTP areas have proven to be insoluble in discussions among at least two of the
groups. Note: “Northlake” has always been hard to define (mall, place or area) but
the emergence of a possible cityhood referendum now requires at least some
acceptable description of an entire “community of interest”. That agreement is
elusive, as any honest person would say the North Central Corridor “Battle of
the Boundaries” codifies and the proof is in the lengths that the legislature
is forced to go to justify and author a referendum this year.
Bragg’s idea is to pull people together to “solve” Northlake and he says the effort is worthwhile regardless of the direction the legislature takes. As mapped today, the commercial/industrial “district” and a small number of homes represents an overlap between the Tucker and Briarcliff proposals and lies near center of Lakeside. This conception of Northlake symbolizes the difficulty in bringing groups together on any aspect of future of governance along the entire corridor between Atlanta and Gwinnett County. The former Cross Keyes High School teacher sees a solution for Northlake also potentially providing architecture for broadening community involvement and not relying on self-styled representatives. Bragg, who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist with experience in mass movements, said he became driven to devise the plan after spending a lot of time in mapping a shared allocation of Northlake during fruitless discussions between the Briarcliff and Tucker groups.
Says Bragg, “In January I prepared "planning maps" for the team COBI appointed in case we were able to arrange formal negotiations again with Tucker. For reasons attributable to both sides, no such formal negotiations occurred.” He proposed defining various Northlake zones, six of them to be the subject of a general conversation that would be a model for an effort later to define one or several larger communities of interest. Defining communities of interest might result in discussing various forms of governance, from CIDs and overlay districts to townships and annexation areas—and new cities, depending on the legislature’s decision and/or July referendum result.
In Bragg’s view, too much of the cityhood attention has been placed on the few people that formed advocacy groups to define cities. He points to dysfunction as having been recognized and frustrated many people, but thinks it really is a lack of broader public ownership—ironically caused by the groups’ existence. Frustrated, he says he and others he has worked with “want to go outside the political process we’re forced to work with. The more we do it this way, the more realize it isn’t appropriate to the idea of community-based city formation.” He says there may be a clear chance to make a difference: “cityhood may or may not pass this year and bills may pass that change the conversation.”
Bragg’s initial memo to COBI and Tucker 2014 stated, "The map sets were
created for discussions about alternatives available in any compromises over
the area around Northlake Mall. The labeled segments are outlines of
areas that can be treated separately. They reflect differences in geography,
function, value, and accessibility. The letters used to label the segments do
not indicate anything about their relative value. There are other logical and
subjective ways to divide this area, so we all should be open to
variations." Examples of Bragg’s
Northlake maps are attached to this blog entry.
Self-Disclaimer: "Jeff Bragg is a supporter of the Briarcliff Initiative. However, in offering these planning maps for community discussions, he is acting as an individual who wants to see the community engaged in a 'bottoms-up' conversation not mediated by, or dominated by, any of the cityhood or anti-city groups. This is NOT a 'project' of COBI."
All parties interested in a group discussion at Blue Ribbon Grille and/or looking at Northlake Zone maps are directed to Jeff Bragg’s e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and his Facebook page.