The 2014 legislative session ended, and Lakeside failed to get their referendum on the ballot. What does the landscape look like now for future cities?
Why Lakeside failed
Lakeside board members thought that since they had the support of a powerful Republican in the legislature, they could get their way regardless of what the public thought.
However, an avalanche of calls and emails came in from a public that did NOT want to be railroaded in a low turn-out election into a ill-conceived ego-trip for local wannabe politicians. The strongest voice came from Tucker, a 100-year old community that did not want to get gutted by a land grab. And the legislature listened (it didn’t hurt that a former DeKalb GOP Chairman with a kick-ass rolodex was a Tucker booster).
The first response of the chairman of the board of Lakeside, Mary Kay Woodworth, was to say that they were throwing in the towel.
“We’re done and we won’t be back,” the AJC quoted her as saying on March 18th. “[T]hese people don’t listen,” she also said.
[An aside: in my experience, those complaining about others 'not listening' are in fact very upset that anyone has the nerve to disagree. It the most common grievance of the children in my house]
Bill sponsor Sen. Fran Millar, also, seemed inclined to throw in the towel in the face of adversity. “I don’t think the Senate has any appetite for any cities anymore, nor I do,” Millar said. He was adamant before the House Committee that he would not sponsor any city bills in the future.
A change of heart – for some, maybe
LCA, at least, appears to have changed it’s tune. Days after saying they were giving up, they announced that they were in fact going to try to come back next year. Lakeside claims they have managed to get Rep. Mike Jacobs, who last year spent half his time supporting Lakeside and half his time claiming he wanted nothing to do with Lakeside. Time will tell whether I-love-you, I-love-you-not Jacobs will actually put some energy into an issue that affects NONE of his own constituents, even as his vanity project, Brookhaven, crumbles into corruption, infighting, incompetence , and wasteful litigation with businesses, neighbors and itself.
There is significant question as to whether Jacobs will make it through his primary, as he is facing stiff competition and an influential Republican Web site has painted a target on him.
Meanwhile, former board member Kevin Levitas posted a slightly unhinged, angry rant on neighborhood listservs in which he claimed he was ‘formerly’ on the board. He is still on their Web site; it is uncertain who may still be on their board, or if they are finally just wrapping up their 501(c)(3) and reorganizing under a legally appropriate structure.
Can’t we all just get along?
Both Lakeside and Tucker claim any compromise from last session is completely off the table, and they plan to continue slugging it out anew. Who can say who will win? My bets are on Tucker, since they managed to rout Lakeside, even though Lakeside had a headstart and one of the Senate’s battering rams on their side. They have a better justification for cityhood, and they definitely were able to bring some power of their own to bear.
Briarcliff is ever the decent, friendly kid who for some reason no one will be nice to (they are the Butters to LCA’s Cartman). Briarcliff was the target of Levitas’ recent rant, which had a long bulleted list (complete with subdivisions and subparts, a good lawyerly rant) about why everyone should show up to Briarcliff meetings and yell at them.
Briarcliff appears to making genuine, good faith efforts to learn from their mistakes, build consensus, and try to be better and stronger and create a jurisdiction that lifts all boats and doesn’t screw outside communities. Time will tell whether their reasonable, non-partisan effort will bear any fruit; given the nature of the GA Assembly, I am not optimistic about their chances.
And at the end of the day, they have some huge hurdles that I don’t see how they overcome. While LCA wants to make a big deal of their lack of a sponsor, I am confused by that–Lakeside lost their sponsor, not Briarcliff, as Mary Margaret Oliver hasn’t gone anywhere. She is a Democrat, though, in a legislature that won’t give anything to Democrats.
The bigger problem is that they envision a city centered around the Emory area, which sounds lovely, but Emory wants none of it. And Emory, as the largest employment center in DeKalb County, has a heck of a lot of clout. I don’t see how Briarcliff ever gets done when Emory makes it clear they are opposed. Druid Hills and Emory know they would likely be better off annexing into Atlanta.
LCA refuses to participate in any event or meeting that they cannot organize and control themselves. They refused to come to a forum sponsored last week sponsored by Briarcliff, because they might have to answer questions they could not vet in advance. They did not show up at the Civic Association Network’s forum this Sunday. The are, however, going to show up at the Oak Groove Festival Sunday, May 4th from 1to 8 p.m. It’s a rare chance to talk with them in a unscripted moment.
There are some in DeKalb County who understand that this issue is going to keep resurfacing, and that maybe they can get ahead of it by municipalizing the whole county–choosing a way to divide up the entire county so every citizen has certain services provided on a more local basis.
One would think that those say that all cities are good would think this is a GREAT idea! Of course, they don’t, because they don’t support cities unless they are tailored to suit specific political agendas.
That said, the county may give us all reason to howl, if they create a city map that looks like their the infamous proposed new School Board Map.
And then we get to the nut of the problem, and why I am skeptical of new city processes, especially ones based around arbitrary lines. Who draws the lines? Whoever is drawing them is probably going to be drawing them in such a way as to push their own agendas and power plays. It is possible to analyze data in such a way that political lines can be drawn that don’t serve personal agendas (such as how california revolutionized their house district lines by taking out gerrymandering, and kicking out 25% of their incumbents in the process.
Anyone who would support that kind of agendaless process for drawing municipal lines would get my vote. Until then, the smartest thing is to say no.