Could cities be DeKalb’s path to prosperity?

[Note:] We have decided to post this one blog post purely for the discussion of the cityhood movements as it presents both sides of the issues from prominent people in the discussion. Please keep comments on this topic in this thread.

Cities are DeKalb’s path to prosperity

By Mary Kay Woodworth and Jason Lary
[Received via email from Lakeside City Alliance PR - originally printed in the AJC blogs]

Inappropriate zonings. Lack of sufficient police protection. Pot holes that go unfilled. A need for economic development.

Such are just a few of the complaints we hear from citizens as two non-profit citizens groups explore the potential creation of two new cities — one in north DeKalb County, and the other in south DeKalb — over the next few months.

In the Lakeside community near Emory University, north of Decatur, the Lakeside City Alliance has been hosting community meetings due to a budding desire by area residents to learn if it is feasible to manage their own zoning, police, parks, public works and other issues.

In south DeKalb, the Stonecrest City Alliance has formed for the same purpose: to explore the creation of a city in unincorporated areas of Lithonia, Decatur and Ellenwood near Stonecrest Mall. Residents there express the same concerns with one additional caveat: a need for economic development in south DeKalb to help restore property values.

In each case, homeowners and residents have an overriding theme in mind: local control. Many say DeKalb officials are not doing a good job of tending to the needs of local neighborhoods and would like to understand whether or a city would do a better job of spending taxpayer money.

Their anxieties about the ability of their government to manage the county grew this month when a DeKalb grand jury indicted CEO Burrell Ellis on 15 counts including extortion and conspiracy. This came a few weeks after the County Commission designated almost the entire county a “slum” in a controversial move to generate jobs.

We are hearing from our residents that both of these actions hurt our communities, do not improve property values and are prompting interest in creating city governments closer to the people. It remains to be seen, however, whether a new city is both feasible and desired by a majority of residents.

DeKalb is a county of approximately 707,000 people — larger than several states including Wyoming, North Dakota and Vermont. Each commissioner represents at least 140,000 residents, and many do not live, shop, worship or socialize in our communities. The proposed cities of Lakeside and Stonecrest would have populations of about 65,000 — and city commissioners would be required to live in districts they represent.

To finance local services, each city would retain a small portion of the tax revenue citizens send to county government for services the county would no longer provide. Other recent cities have demonstrated that services can be provided with fewer employees and, in many cases, with better results

For example, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and other newly created cities have operated with minimal staff, hiring only a city manager, a handful of others and a police force. All other tasks are contracted out to private firms or even back to DeKalb County.

In 2010, a Georgia State University audit of DeKalb’s government and found an estimated 5,500 employees on the county payroll. GSU recommended a 16.8 percent reduction in employees, including 33 percent in the CEO’s office and 30 percent in the commissioners’ staffs.

We have heard over and over that this is a huge source of frustration for DeKalb taxpayers, waiting an hour or more for a police officer after their business or home has been burglarized, or waiting years for roads to be replaced. They tell us money could be much better spent addressing the needs of citizens instead of supporting an enormous county workforce.

Lakeside and Stonecrest are listening to their residents’ concerns. They are exploring whether they can create cities that can operate without a tax increase and offer services citizens say the county just cannot get right. A city doesn’t have to provide everything the county does, but if a city can do some things well, our residents tell us it will help create a sense of prosperity, safety and satisfaction where frustration now exists.

Mary Kay Woodworth is chairman of the Lakeside City Alliance. Jason Lary is chairman of the Stonecrest City Alliance.

A new model for cooperation

By Burrell Ellis

Since 2008, DeKalb County has seen a growing interest in cityhood and annexation movements. For some communities, that interest is related to localized control and having more say on how taxes should be spent. For others, it is about obtaining additional revenue to support growing demands for services. Some neighborhoods are even now exploring options to incorporate merely as a defense mechanism from being drawn into other proposed cities where they lack “common interests.”

Meetings on this subject are being held across the county by cityhood alliances and neighborhood associations, without any coordination or full consideration regarding how these individual efforts might impact the quality of life of the county overall. Yet in each of these discussions, one question that is regularly asked is, “What is the position of the county?”

I support the right of citizens to determine how they will be governed. As chief executive officer, my preeminent concern is to ensure that all residents of DeKalb receive the high-quality services they expect and deserve from local government, irrespective of whether those services come from the county or from one of our cities.

Even if the entire county became incorporated, it would not relieve the county from the responsibility to maintain libraries, oversee elections, fund public health, run the judicial system and provide other essential services to all our residents, city and county alike. Our current process, and its resulting political fragmentation, is inefficient and unsustainable and does not enhance economic growth and prosperity. There has to be a better way to meet our collective objectives, as local governments, that is mutually beneficial and addresses the concerns we all share.

Across the United States, there are models of counties and cities working together to minimize service delivery costs, increase efficiency, identify revenue-sharing opportunities, and partner on issues that are not contained within our political boundaries. That is what I propose for DeKalb. There is no reason for the county and its cities to combat one another based on old arguments as to which form of local government is “better.” That is a scenario where no one, in the long term, ends up the victor. And in the end, we must acknowledge neither form of government is going away.

Last week, I met with the mayors in our county to discuss a process for developing a collaborative, efficient strategy for delivering quality services to all DeKalb residents. Within the next few days, I will convene an intergovernmental task force made up of mayors and appointees from the county commission; state municipal and county organizations; the school district; the county development authority, and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. During a 90- to 120-day period, the task force will be charged with recommending an efficient service delivery strategy, effective policy integration, and a successful economic development strategy for all DeKalb citizens.

Through a series of meetings, interviews and research, a final report will be drafted. It will detail qualitative and quantitative information necessary to develop an intergovernmental plan and, if necessary, “rules of engagement” for future pursuits of incorporation and annexation.

My hope is that our citizens and elected officials will see this as an opportunity to have an informed and necessary discussion on the subject of intergovernmental collaboration and service delivery. Moreover, it should provide us with a new, improved model for achieving our one common goal: improving the quality of life for all citizens.

Burrell Ellis is CEO of DeKalb County.

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42 Responses to Could cities be DeKalb’s path to prosperity?

  1. H.A. Hurley says:

    Burrell Ellis’ letter from jail? What a leader!
    Between the DCS, Superintendents, Golden Parachute$, and CEO Wunderkinder, the county is in Huge Trouble with no change any time soon. Seceding from the Union is the only option or drowning in the DekalbRealityShow of spending, irresponsibility,unethical conduct, lies, illegal activities, and on and on and on…..run or move now!

  2. “… a budding desire by area residents to learn if it is feasible to manage their own zoning, police, parks, public works and other issues.”

    Hmmm…. a budding desire? In other words, no one really had the desire until a group of current, former and want-to-be politicians got together and put this idea in front of a bunch of people and then pitted them against one another so people would feel forced to choose a side.

    And, excuse me, but I happen to know a lot of people and I have never heard anyone discuss their “budding desire” to manage any of those things. Most of us who have children have been far too busy trying to call attention to the failing school system, the under-paid teachers, a corrupt school board. Has anyone considered that we will all end up losing everything if we allow these individuals to distract us – just like the old school board was so good at doing? Why am I not surprised that we have former DeKalb School Board members who are in support of the Lakeside movement?

    Let’s get something very clear – not every part of DeKalb has the potential to become Sandy Springs or Dunwoody. Not every mall in DeKalb brings in the kind of commercial tax base of the Perimeter Center Mall. Not every resident is unhappy with the way things are right now, nor do they believe that you have to control zoning in order to encourage economic development. Our zoning laws have suited us just fine, especially when it comes to the laws currently in place to protect our residential areas from cell phone towers. I don’t want to see residential areas become more densely zoned or a million of these new multi-use zoning permits when others in the county have not yet proven to be successful.

    Lakeside is fine with the way it is and they often enjoy the peacefulness of not being encroached by more commercial projects. And, does anyone recall what happened to our county taxes after Dunwoody incorporated and likely will happen again since Brookhaven? The meetings held in the Tucker community revealed that no city can claim to have reduced anyone’s total tax bill and Dunwoody has had questions on its city council about ethics violations in addition to learning the feasibility study did not come close to estimating the costs correctly for a qualified police force as the voters were promised.

    What happened when we trusted Lakeside’s political choice for the school board? Paul Womack? Well, he supported Crawford Lewis and even defended giving him a pay raise. Here’s a story about that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOknaugiCmw

    And, he disrespected his own neighborhood by plotting to place a cell phone tower at their school without their knowledge. Check out this report: http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/cell-service-towers-over-instructional-space-for-students/
    or this transcript: http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/09/transcript-from-briarcliff-es-pta.html

    I’m sorry, but this argument about “local control” is just not enough. We don’t need smaller or different or more government – we need better quality people to run for elected office and then not sell out once they get there.

    http://www.facebook.com/SaveTuckerFromLakesideCity is a discussion page devoted to finding out the truth and making informed decisions. Nothing personal against anyone who lives near Lakeside or has attended Lakeside, but this isn’t a high school club we are talking about and the goals and reasons that have been put forth to the public so far for these cities are not making sense. They know something they are not telling us and that’s not a good sign coming from folks who want to govern over us and spend our money.

    You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to start a city, but that’s what these folks are wanting us to believe. They strongly insist that these cities have nothing to do with the school system. That’s too bad because if they did, a lot more people would have jumped right on board with them, including me. But, to come out now, when our schools are in crisis, and talk about parks and zoning … it’s a distraction to either chase the rest of us out of here because we are so sick of the constant bickering and unprofessional examples of leadership we have here, or tax us to death.

  3. We’re curious: Is there some reason that Lakeside and Tucker could not join forces and become one city together? Say, Lake Tucker? lol…

    But really — is this not possible?

  4. Betsy Parks says:

    Watch the most recent Save Tucker video or “report” that finally got its way thru your spam folder or my first and probably last blog on Tucker Patch which oddly disappeared for your answer. It is not Lakeside that is stuck on stupid!

  5. As far as Lakeside/Tucker, that’s not a possibility because Lakeside never invited Tucker to discuss any of their plans. They want the commercial base, the Park located in Tucker, and the neighborhoods that are near the schools that are zoned for Lakeside High. Those areas will not have a voice about whether they want in or out because even if they all voted no, they would still be outvoted. The right thing to do would be to leave the Tucker zip code out completely and then allow any areas that might want in to file for annexation the following year. That would allow those communities a fair chance to vote on what they want.

  6. Dr. DeKalb says:

    Some great maps for the various possibilities located here: http://cityoftuckerinitiative.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-tale-of-three-cities.html

  7. Thanks to the Lakeside initiative, we in Tucker are having to spend money to get our own feasibility study done and/or to hire lobbyists to protect our territory. We are having to use precious pesonal time to hold meetings so we can fight back. (Again who benefits? Lawyers and lobbyists! Who loses? Families and friends. )
    As someone living on the “wrong” side of Chamblee Tucker in the “not good enough to be on the Lakeside map area”, I resent all of this. People on my side of CT are just a smart, work just as hard, care just as much, and many are just as prosperous as those on the map. Either include all of Tucker or just leave us alone.
    I am insulted and deeply angry with these selfish Lakeside leeches! All they seem to care about is THEIR own community.
    It is all happening too fast and indeed is taking away from the issue that needs the real focus, the school system. Witness that this blog has addressed this city initiative at least twice this week!

  8. concerned citizen says:

    It’s hard to believe BE is actually writing a pep talk; we should be in the jail house. Wow! DeKalb is suffering!

  9. Sanitys Rest says:

    Isn’t this the real issue: some people in Tucker feel left out — like they weren’t invited by the “cool kids” to come to the party. Really? How old are you people?

  10. PI says:

    @ TeacherTaxpayer: From my stretch of Memorial Drive, everyone in these cityhood debates sound like selfish leeches…but I applaud everyone for trying to make things better for their communities.

  11. Sanity’s Rest: Lakeside cannot stand on its own without taking Tucker’s land, commercial and high end residential – who would be jealous of that? Add to that the fact that Tucker just surpassed every other “traditional” school in graduation rates for the 2012 school year under the new fed. mandated formula and you are calling the wrong community the “cool” one. Sorry!

  12. City does not equate to better.

  13. FWIW, we at the blog completely understand Tucker’s shock and anger at the Lakeside community. It’s akin to having one part of your subdivision suddenly put up a giant fence with coded access gates. How Lakeside could even post this initiative – with no discussion with Tucker leadership – and not expect pushback is mind-boggling. Further, as much as cityhood leadership tries to say otherwise, we are of the belief that the ultimate goal is to gain control of the local schools. The county is not all that horrible to the Lakeside community as to warrant a breakaway. If you all would like to honestly discuss the desire to reign in schools, feel free to discuss that here. Otherwise, the petty, personal arguments need to stop.

    -Mom SchoolWatch

  14. Betsy Parks says:

    It should be noted, that people reference the “GA TECH STUDY” often but there was never a real study done by any university or group of experts. Georgia Tech students studied the feasibility of a possible City of Tucker as a term paper around 2006. The students reported in the conclusion of term paper that Tucker would have to land grab Northlake Mall shopping area and perhaps others to be successful. It was debated if this report should have ever been published at all. To use it as an expert opinion should be done with extreme caution especially if it is used to solicit financial donations.
    The views of any residents outside of the Tucker “loop” or those who did not attend the three short informational meetings question and answer periods before creating their map (many in the audience of the last meeting had not even seen) were not considered in any real way. There was no support or any discussion of amending or listening to the input of say Neighbors’ of Lakeside group as Lakeside had done, I believe twice. With the help of the unnamed consultants and experts the Tucker Together small group used their vast knowledge and opinions to alone in private create, approve and publish a map that included areas North of I85, all of Northlake, pretty big part of Stone Mountain.

  15. dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW
    “The county is not all that horrible to the Lakeside community as to warrant a breakaway.”

    Feel free to delete my comments, but as a taxpayer who lives smack dab in the middle of the proposed City of Northlake, IMHO – there are many issues to make a breakaway welcome, and the LCA hit the most important ones.

    We have the lowest number of parks in the DeKalb County area. Just take a look at the recent study the DeKalb Parks and Recreation group did for corroboration of this fact. Parks and green space are critically important to our quality of life, and we have a dearth of both even as we pay some of the highest taxes in the county.

    We are experiencing a huge surge in crime in my neighborhood. So many cars have been stolen out of the driveways with carports that one has only to stroll through my neighborhood to see many of the carports are being converted to garages. We have many older residents (70s and 80s) and they are particularly vulnerable.

    We have seen “McMansions” and whole subdivisions placed off LaVista, Fairoaks, LaVista and Oak Grove to name a few of the two lane roads with no thought to the traffic problems this creates. Nor are we happy with cell towers at a local elementary school that has a postage stamp sized campus.

    The three areas above that the LCA is addressing – parks, public safety and local zoning – are extremely important to us because we value our quality of life and our homes are by and large our biggest single investment.

  16. Kierstin says:

    A new city brings nothing more than higher taxes…especially if you don’t have the commercial business base you need to support the functions that a city needs (i.e. police, schools, ect.) As a case in point, look at how the projections have changed (i.e. taxes, they can’t pay their bills & they have only been there for 6 months) for the new City of Brookhaven and what those ‘moral crusaders aka: CIty Counsel Members and Mayor are doing to the bars over there closing the commercial businesses at midnight? Really? The meeting and vote was called last minute on a holiday weekend at 10:30am….sound familiar? Remind you of the cell tower fight with the 9 elementary schools Dekalb is trying to put cell towers on…it’s all the same bullsh*t corruption folks…it’s just different packaging. But, what do I know…

  17. Sanitys Rest says:

    @getthehelloutatl
    These are the type of comments I keep seeing that lead me to believe this is simply the green-eyed monster at work:
    “As someone living on the “wrong” side of Chamblee Tucker in the “not good enough to be on the Lakeside map area”, I resent all of this.”
    You’ve authored similar comments yourself.
    Why didn’t you all just ask to be let in, or have a civil discussion with those Lakeside Alliance people, rather than pitch a social media hissy fit that’s done much more damage to the community at large? (Examples: your “Save Tucker” Facebook page and the private group attached to it and the nasty blogs you’ve written for that online newspaper owned by AOL.)
    You actually have to take the high road to claim the high ground.
    And that’s not being disrespectful, petty or too personal. It’s just the truth.

    @blog: I’m not a member of any of the cityhood movements, but my neighborhood will be sucked in by one of them. There are bigger issues in DeKalb than the schools, believe it or not. Have you tried to get a business license in DeKalb County lately? The number of hoops they’ve added and the absolutely galling rudeness of the county employees in charge of giving out licenses are massive barriers to job creation in this county. I personally know two people who wanted to create businesses in DeKalb who are taking their enterprises to other counties instead.
    The troubles here run much deeper than the schools, which themselves do not need to be reigned in. It is the schools’ “leadership,” or rather, the lack of it, that needs to be reigned in — as does the leadership of the entire county.

  18. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – I agree with your earlier post – why can’t Tucker and Lakeside simply work things out? Also, I agree that all of this activity is really about the schools The Vernon Jones administration was far, far more punitive and hostile to both the Lakeside and Tucker communities. In fact, he was very hostile toward all North Dekalb communities. The Vernon Jones administration forced bars and strip clubs down our throats and then he vetoed a majority vote by the Commission that would have prevented an expansion of their operating hours. His priorities and values were very different than mine. There are many other examples of how Vernon Jones simply turned off and alienated our community. Although Burrell Ellis has been indicted, he is a vast improvement over Vernon Jones. Any cityhood movement during the Jones administration would have been perfectly understandable. Let’s face it – the truth is that all of these cityhood movements now are all about the schools. These movements really gained steam after the December 18, 2012, probation announcement.

    In its upcoming session beginning in January, 2014, the Georgia Legislature will most likely vote to modify the Amendment restricting the creation of new school districts. And I also hope that the people of Georgia will support such a change. I strongly support such a move because the Dekalb School System is much larger than 98% of all the other districts. Moreover, we don’t need SACS to tell us that the Dekalb School System has been in decline for years, that it has been dysfunctional, and that it has been out of control for years. It is on the verge of collapse and this is a real threat to the hopes and dreams of our children. It has become very clear that there exists an ocean of difference in the priorities that South Dekalb has voted to set for its schools as compared to those that residents of North Dekalb wants to set for theirs. That has not changed and is not likely to change. It’s not a matter of who is right and who is wrong. Community values differ as one moves from one geographical setting to another.

    I’ve lived in Tucker for almost 40 years and know many people in both Tucker and Lakeside. Our values, hopes, and dreams for our children are very similar if not identical. The adults of Tucker and the adults of Lakeside should not be fighting each other but rather uniting our efforts to form a city of North Dekalb to enhance the prospects of having better schools for our children. Tucker could then remain an unincorporated entity within that City of North Dekalb much as it is today within Dekalb County. Together, I think that we could easily satisfy any feasibility study and minimize or at least limit any change in tax burdens on our people. The benefit of this to all of us would be increased local control of our schools and enhanced property values. Unless we can find common ground, why would the Legislature or Governor have any desire to choose among three competing alternatives? It just seems to me like we can succeed together or fail separately.

    From my perspective, this is all about schools.

  19. Completely agree, Howdy & Sanity. A city that included all of Tucker and all of the Lakeside community would be a force to be reckoned with. As you say, Sanity, too bad they can’t get past their hissy fits.

    And yes, the original wording added to the state Constitution was done in the 50s and was a change to the original Constitution. So, obviously, changes can be made, and old changes can be deemed out of date and irrelevant and removed. We have never believed that changing the state Constitution to allow the break up of big school systems would be a terribly difficult thing to do. And in our opinion, breaking up the DeKalb school system is the only way to remove the corruption, graft, waste and incompetence.

  20. dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW
    “The county is not all that horrible to the Lakeside community as to warrant a breakaway”

    The Carl Vinson study should show if Lakeside City is viable. IMO – there is much viability in the proposed services. For older citizens and taxpayers with no children in the school system (and there are many of them), it’s really not about the schools. It’s about quality of life issues like the desire to keep property crime low, having parks to walk in during the day, and zoning laws that will keep our roads from becoming too congested.

    @DSW
    “And yes, the original wording added to the state Constitution was done in the 50s and was a change to the original Constitution”

    Just to ensure DSW has accurate and verifiable and credible information, the Georgia Constitution amendment forbidding the establishment of new independent school systems was passed in the mid 40s not the 50s. Economies of scale was the primary reason for its passage. If you want to read the history of the amendment, I can give you a link to a scholarly article on the amendment’s purpose..

    Here is a link to the 1945 Georgia Constitution. Please note Section VII:
    http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/con1945h.htm

  21. Thanks dekalbite2! I wasn’t sure about the 50s and I usually write “I think” after I say it. Appreciate the link!!

    Just to let you all know how the Constitution read in 1945 – here’s the nonsense:

    Paragraph I. System of Common Schools; Free Tuition, Separation of Races. The provision of an adequate education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia, the expense of which shall be provided for by taxation. Separate schools shall be provided for the white and colored races.

    As I understand it, Georgia was the 4th state and the last of the original Thirteen Colonies, but has the youngest and most amended state Constitution of all the states. Probably due to the state’s history of discrimination in the laws and the decades-long journey to correct it.

  22. dekalbmom says:

    I don’t post much here, but I must point out what I hope was an accidental slip by Howdy. You wrote “It has become very clear that there exists an ocean of difference in the priorities that South Dekalb has voted to set for its schools as compared to those that residents of North Dekalb wants to set for theirs.” This is simply not true. Over the years, I’ve worked with many parents from S. DeKalb and they want the exact same thing in their schools, particularly the high schools. They are very concerned about the low achievement and lack of discipline and some have moved their children to Catholic or Christian schools as a result. They would sell their homes but they are trapped by the still rotten market in S. Dekalb.

    I agree that the cityhood movement is 90% about the schools but the indictment of the CEO is going to give it momentum. However, I also think it is VERY naive to think that the Ga Constitution is going to be changed.

    The better path for schools might be to concentrate on establishing some very, very strong charter clusters that truly have autonomy from the DC school system. I think the state DOE would be supportive of this.

  23. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Kirk Nooks is smart, but that is about all. He had only lived in the community for a year or so, he didn’t have any grass roots support, he didn’t attend school events and was unknown. In other words, he didn’t situate himself to win.
    Add to that, Cunningham’s impassioned support of choice programs and the associated transportation and it made it hard for anyone to have a chance.

  24. dekalbmom says:

    DeKalb Inside Out: Cunningham was elected largely because he 1) was the incumbuent and 2) I heard that he really got out and worked the community very hard. Personally I would not have voted for him but I have often been dismayed at the choices I am presented with on the ballot.

    Your overly broad generalizations about S. Dekalb voters and parents have little constructive value and only serve to inflame the situation.

  25. ps – DeKalbite2: We would love to see the link to a scholarly article on the amendment’s purpose…

  26. howdy1942 says:

    @dekalbmom – I respectfully disagree. If what you said is true, how on earth could you elect people such as Sarah Copelin-Wood, Eugene Walker, Jay Cunningham, Zepora Roberts, et. al? Property values are low not only in South Dekalb, but in many other places in Dekalb as well largely because of the school situation. Perhaps your solution of clusters could work, but I think the bigger risk that we all face is the election of school board members just like the ones on the previous board that collectively drove our school system into the ditch. Years ago, many argued that Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, etc. would never become cities. Many of those same people are now saying that we’ll never be able to change the Georgia Constitution. I believe that committed people in our communities determined to change things can do just that. For now, I support cityhood and the prospect that it offers for just the opportunity to gain local control of our school system. It is a small price to pay to study the feasibility of becoming a city and to get the vote on the ballot for November of 2014. We will vote on a new school board in July 2014 and the people will know the results of that election going into the November election.

  27. DSW, to call the situation that has occurred between Tucker and Lakeside a “hissy fit” is insulting, disrespectful, dismissive and rude. If you do not want to have a city discussion here, then don’t have one. I am trying to remain respectful of the declaration that the subject was off limits, yet here we are, responding to more insults and personal digs on a subject that you continue to flip-flop over. Does this subject relate to the schools or not? If so, let’s talk. If not, move on.

    I have continuously tried to bring the topic back to the potential effect of city formation on the school system as it exists TODAY, not how it exists in someone’s mind if they can get all the dominoes to line up. Today there is no such thing as smaller school systems for DeKalb. But, there is such a thing as a SACS report. And that report calls for unity among the entire county and points to divisive behavior among board members, representing their constituents, as being the biggest detriment to quality education. Tucker is not trying to stand in the way of a better tomorrow for our children. We are working with the system the best we can as it exists today. We have not “checked out” mentally and are not trying to “check out” physically. If everyone else here has decided to give up, then stop blogging and wait for that day when you can have all your money to yourselves and not have to worry about anyone else. But, as soon as you have it, you will have “separate but not equal,” and we will be back to square one.

    Sanity’s: ““As someone living on the “wrong” side of Chamblee Tucker in the “not good enough to be on the Lakeside map area”, I resent all of this.” You’ve authored similar comments yourself.”

    What the ???? are you talking about??? First of all, the person who wrote that was not saying that he/she was upset about not being in. He/she resented the fact that they were having to deal with yet another crisis on top of what we have all just been through. And, secondly, are you off your rocker? I have not made ANY comments about where I live personally so you must have imagined that. Plus, your suggestion of asking to be added doesn’t even make sense. it doesn’t matter if anyone were to “ask to be let in” because at this point no one is in control of the final boarders except the politicians. In fact, they’ve likely been the only ones in control the entire time. But, let me be very clear … I have never authored any comment like that nor have I ever disclosed where I live. I have absolutely taken the moral high ground and have attended meetings for both LCA and Tucker and have not stated any personal opinion on the subject other than “undecided.”

    The Save Tucker Facebook page is a discussion page for citizens in Tucker who are concerned about this issue. Everyone should have a right to be heard and to hold their own discussions. There have been no such blogs as you have described written by anyone associated with Get the Cell Out.

  28. howdy, you may be forgetting the fact that the people who live in a particular district do not necessarily send their kids to school in that district. The problem has not been one of people voting for a particular person over another. It has been the low turnout at the polls in general and the low desire for anyone to run for office. If my child goes to school in Dunwoody and I’m happy with the job that Ms. Jester is doing with securing excellent teachers and proper equipment and quality buildings and good test scores, why would I even care about who is elected in my own district? In fact, if someone decent were to get elected, they might force me to bring my child back home to our “less than stellar” neighborhood school and that would not be in my child’s best interest. If the schools were fixed, then my community might actually start to improve and my taxes might go up a a result of my home value going up. If I can get all the benefits of living in a wealthy community, without having to actually pay the price to live there, what incentive is there for me to vote? Add to that the fact that voting lines could be hours long in South DeKalb at times and I might have a job… there are many, many factors to go into why things have happened the way they have happened, but it does not have to always be that way. Smaller might be better, but not for the reasons you are stating and everyone from all corners are to blame for the demise,not just the few who had the most obvious problems on the board. Others were just as bad, just better at disguising it in your eyes as Cunningham may have been able to do in the eyes of those in his community. And, please do not forget, Walker was elected in large part due to District 2, Marshall Orson’s district. That’s not clearly north or south, is it?

  29. We need to have generally elected boards, where the entire county can have a vote on the elected board member for each district since they are all supposed to represent all the children.

  30. “Ms Jester… securing excellent teachers and proper equipment and quality buildings and good test scores”

    To be clear: in no way does an individual board member have anything to do with excellent teachers, proper equipment and good test scores. In fact, they are not allowed to micromanage in such details. This is strictly an administrative duty — look to the superintendent to fix these things. The Board can only vote the super’s initiatives up or down.

    And FWIW, I personally waited over 2 hours to vote in the Presidential election in Chamblee.

    Please don’t add fuel to the north/south argument by using inflammatory words like “wealthy” communities and “proper” equipment and “quality” buildings — as if these things only exist on the north end of the county. That is not true in the least. These are very misleading and inflammatory statements and we will call them out every time.

  31. dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW
    “ps – DeKalbite2: We would love to see the link to a scholarly article on the amendment’s purpose…”

    Well certainly, here it is:
    http://ayspsprodweb.gsu.edu/drupal/sites/default/files/documents/frc/report16.pdf

  32. howdy1942 says:

    First, @DSW thank you for publishing our Declaration of Independence in a clear, readable format. I read it once again and just get goosebumps thinking about the courage of our forefathers..

    @GETtheCELLoutATL, I appreciate your point of view and your perspective. As I recall, Eugene Walker was elected to represent District 9 and would appreciate your helping me understand how Marshall Olson’s District 2 helped him (Walker) be elected. Since the Dekalb County School System was once in the top 5% nationwide, Dekalb schools throughout the County must have been pretty good regardless of their wealth. I cannot imagine someone fearing higher taxes if his/her school system could be in the top 5% nationally. Speaking for myself, I would happily pay higher taxes if that would increase the quality of education available to our children, attract new businesses, and enhance our property values. That’s a problem I would much rather have than the one we now have.

    We have what we have in office because we elected them. For my part, I’ve voted in every election since I became eligible to vote and will admit to making some bad choices. However, I did not vote to re-elect them. Over the past several years, I’ve attended many meetings of the Dekalb School Board and concluded long ago that it was dysfunctional and knew that a shipwreck lay just ahead. The voters did remove Redovian, Womack, and McChesney – all steps in the right direction. But the majority of this board remained in place and formed the majority. Walker, Cunningham, Copelin-Wood were re-elected and Edler and Johnson joined them to maintain the status quo. Even today, Walker is standing before the Georgia Supreme Court telling us how his voters elected and want him. Cunningham has also told us how much his voters want him. The risk of this “old board” being elected in July 2014 is just too great. And to think that the Dekalb County School Board will ever release even a slither of its control on schools in Dekalb County is wishful thinking. My view is that only by getting completely out from under the control of the Dekalb County school board, can we ever hope to restore the greatness that was the Dekalb County School System. I hope that the Legislature agrees that it makes no sense for the cities of Decatur and Atlanta to have their own school systems and yet deny this same opportunity to Dunwoody, Brookhaven, or Lakeside or Tucker or any other city because of some arbitrary amendment that was passed 70 years ago. As the U.S. Supreme Court recently pointed out in its decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, things have changed a lot. Over those years, Dekalb County has grown to become too large a district for one entity to effectively control and, as the third largest county in the State of Georgia, that alone merits attention and change. Think about the economic impact on the State of Georgia if the school system in its 3rd largest county cannot get out from under probation or, worse yet, even lose its accreditation. Clearly, the legislature and Governor must take action to insure that does not happen.

    Maybe I’ll be surprised next July – I hope so! Every citizen has a responsibility to vote – no excuse! Moreover, we have a responsibility to be informed and to vote not necessarily for a friend, but for the best candidate. Standing in line for 3 or 4 hours is nothing compared to the consequences we face as a result of electing poor governing officials – they last for years! My youngest daughter recently visited Normandy and brought me a jar full of sand taken from Omaha Beach. Compared to what those guys went through on June 6, 1944, please tell me again about how it is so inconvenient for one to vote.

  33. In Walker’s last election, Walker won the precincts south of Memorial Drive while Ella Smith one the precincts north of Memorial Drive. The big exception is the Fernbank/Emory area where Walker won big in those 4 precincts. Precinct voting numbers

  34. Glad you appreciated re-reading the Declaration Howdy! Every once in a while we like to post famous documents and writings. Look for more – it’s great reading and helps us focus our discussion.

    Just one point of clarity for everyone on the election: Gene Walker represents one of two super districts. Pam Speaks represented the other one. These districts overlay the other 7 and voters in all districts vote for their own district rep, as well as a super district rep. These super districts pretty much divide the county east and west and span all the way north and south. They will not exist at all in the 2014 election, as the legislature passed a law limiting our board to seven members at most. So, in July of 2014, EVERYONE in the county will be voting for one school board rep. PLEASE – start the process now! Find highly qualified, reasonable people and support them in their run for school board.

  35. Fantastic Dekalbite! Thanks so much for the report – I’ll get some coffee and start reading!

  36. These are both very good reads as well:

    (Atlanta Magazine, Land Rush Continues for Proposed New DeKalb Cities)
    http://www.atlantamagazine.com/agenda/2013/06/24/land-rush-continues-for-proposed-new-dekalb-cities

    (Crossroads: Tucker residents skeptical about proposed Lakeside city)
    http://crossroadsnews.com/news/2013/mar/29/tucker-residents-skeptical-about-proposed/

  37. From Sanity’s: “Rather than pitch a social media hissy fit that’s done much more damage to the community at large? (Examples: your “Save Tucker” Facebook page and the private group attached to it and the nasty blogs you’ve written for that online newspaper owned by AOL.)”

    How does establishing a Facebook Page harm the community at large?

    When LCA folks started coming onto the “Save Tucker” page and insulting the people who were trying to hold conversations, then the “private group” as you call it became necessary. The page is still visible as are the names of the people who are in it, but the conversation is only visible to those in the group. Again, this was reactionary only as every attempt was being made by LCA to discredit, bully and intimidate anyone from even trying to hold a conversation. I’m quite sure they have had their share of private meetings before we ever learned what their plan involved.

    As for my not having an opinion, let me clarify that I meant I have remained “undecided” on the subject of a city of Tucker. I clearly have an opinion about the LCA, but there was nothing “nasty” about anything I stated. And, anything I said I directed at a nameless, faceless group that did not even have the support of their own community. Someone needed to call attention to the serious nature of the problem. I’m not alone in how the actions of the LCA have been perceived. It’s probably actually much worse than I have even attempted to describe.

    I was offended not on behalf of myself as you suggest. It isn’t about being “in” or “out.” I was offended for the children of DeKalb who, for one brief moment, had all the adults in DeKalb County on their side, working together, straightening out the school system and coming together over shared concerns. So many people worked so hard to see a better, brighter day for our children. It felt so great, like a weight had been lifted and we were all going to be okay. We could go back to our “normal” lives.

    And then it was over.

  38. DSW, You’re still not getting me … you might want to reread as I was stating “IF I were a parent in South Dekalb…. ” My comments were not my attempt to describe the system as it truly exists. I was trying to show how another interpretation could be possible for why “South DeKalb” would vote or not vote for a particular board member. Sorry if that wasn’t clear…

    Maybe I have unique perspective because Tucker is quite literally caught in the middle. I know what it is like to attend the neighborhood school and I know what it is like to have to drive your child elsewhere. Neither has been ideal and parents are truly just trying to figure out what is best for their own child. You cannot fault anyone for that.

    I was not trying to claim that a board member could secure schools or take care of test scores … I was trying to give an example of how things might seem to someone in another part of the county who doesn’t follow the system as closely as we do. We have supported a system of special “favors” and people who are being given a favor usually do not want to rock the boat.

    Just think of how much money must have been spent on that campaign to convince us all to vote for SPLOST IV by the Friends of DeKalb County and how much money the school system receives as a result. Now think about how much better results we would all have in our communities if we could have used an advertising and direct mail budget like that to encourage people to register to vote and to show up on election day!

  39. The latest on another cityhood movement:

    Stonecrest ‘cityhood’ gains momentum, organizers push for feasibility study
    The Stonecrest City Alliance is close to raising the $30,000 needed for the state-required feasibility study that would help determine if the Stonecrest area should become its own municipality.

    Read More >> http://www.ocgnews.com/index.php/home/2154-stonecrest-cityhood-gains-momentum-organizers-push-for-feasibility-study

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