Window closing on annexation, cityhood legislation

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 19, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County residents spent a great deal of time during the fall trying to make sense of proposals that would expand and create new cities.

Whether those proposals move forward or not is up to the state Legislature. As of today, which is Day 18 of the 40 day legislative session, there are no bills under consideration that would advance any of them. There’s no bill for Decatur’s annexation proposal, or Avondale Estates. There’s no bill for an annexation proposal that would bring Druid Hills, including Emory and the Centers for Disease Control, into the city of Atlanta.

There are no bills for LaVista Hills, or Tucker, or Stonecrest, or Greenhaven. Day 30 of the Legislative session is crossover day, meaning bills that haven’t been introduced in both chambers are dead for the year.

It’s worth noting that annexation actually has a slightly longer legislative shelf life, because it is considered local legislation. Cityhood bills are general legislation, meaning they have to advance by day 30 of the session. The Legislature can pass local bills after crossover day, meaning annexation could move forward even if the cityhood bills do not.

A legislative aide for state Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, spoke to the Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization on Feb. 10 but couldn’t answer a question about where the cityhood and annexation proposals stand.

“It’s way above my pay grade,” the aide said. “From my own personal reading there is a lot of dialogue happening. It has not fallen off the table. It is under consideration. I have not seen anything even drafted yet.”

State Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, has been asked to sponsor the LaVista Hills bill, but is still weighing his options. With crossover day around the corner, something will need to happen soon, he said.

“If you don’t have decisions made within a week or two time will just run out before this Legislative session,” Holcomb said. “If we’re going to see anything, it will be within the next two weeks.”

There’s still some speculation about who the sponsors for the various proposals will be.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver has said she would be introducing Decatur’s proposal, assuming it will be introduced. There’s no word on who Avondale Estates sponsor might be, and no sponsor confirmed for the Together In Atlanta proposal. The most likely candidate for Avondale Estates annexation legislation would be state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, but she has not made a firm commitment to doing so. Her reluctance is understandable. It did kind of blow up in her face the last time she introduced a bill on Avondale’s behalf.

Greenhaven’s sponsor is expected to be state Rep. Pam Stephenson, D-Decatur. Jason Lary, with the city of Stonecrest, said state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, D-Lithonia, and state Rep. Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia, will be the cosponsors of that cityhood bill. State Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, previously sponsored a placeholder bill for Tucker and is expected to sponsor it again.

Negotiations around LaVista Hills appear to be the key sticking point at the moment.

LaVista Hills map overlaps with the Together in Atlanta annexation proposal. Currently there are negotiations going on behind the scenes to resolve those boundary disputes. Decaturish has also learned that legislators are carefully considering whether to move ahead with annexation bills this year and introduce cityhood bills next year, or try to resolve the border disputes this year.

Holcomb said the conflict with the TIA map might be easier to resolve.

“If both are going to move forward then that will need to be resolved,” he said. “I feel a little more encouraged about that possibility than the issues related to what I’ll roughly describe as the southeast border. The southwest border may be a little bit easier to solve than the southeast border.”

He said organized opposition from groups like DeKalb Strong have made him reconsider whether to include residents in the map who have said they don’t want to join a new city. Holcomb said it’s hard to get a good read on what people actually want.

“There have been surveys throughout all those areas. Even the surveys are in flux. Some (people) are saying the surveys took place before they received information about LaVista Hills,” he said. “Some have criticized the methodologies for the surveys. One thing that I can tell you is one of the greatest challenges of all this is to try and get a sense of what the pulse of the people is without there having been any systematic or structured method for acquiring this data through polling or what have you.”

There’s also another little-discussed twist in all of this. While previous cityhood proposals have been driven by Republican politics – State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, introduced the Brookhaven cityhood bill and former Sen. Dan Weber, introduced the Dunwoody bill – the legislators attached to the current DeKalb bills are all Democrats.

The GOP controls both houses of the General Assembly.

Holcomb said in the past cityhood “was very much a partisan issue.”

But he said the seemingly ceaseless dysfunction of DeKalb County has elevated the issue above partisan politics.

“I don’t think ultimately the decisions are going to rest on partisanship,” he said, adding, “In the end it likely will be Democrats who will move these areas proposals forward, or if not directly being lead sponsors or indirectly or being secondary sponsors. I think the ground has really shifted from where we were a few years ago.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story provided incorrect information about the bills affected by crossover day. A reader who is much better acquainted with the rules has informed us that local legislation, like annexation, can be passed after crossover day. So in addition to correcting us, they also helped us better illuminate the issue. Thanks. 

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  • TB70

    Here’s a crazy thought if the politicians want to get the pulse of the people and their thoughts…hold a town meeting, or multiple town meetings across their districts. There has to be some work on their part to reach out to their constituents instead of waiting for the constituents to find time in their schedule to go down to the Capital building to get an audience with them

  • Ned

    Clarkston has annexation plans not reflected on that map, some of which conflict with “Greenhaven”:

    As a resident of proposed northern Greenhaven I’d sure like to see at least one survey or attempt to gather views in my area.

  • Dixie Firefly

    Why would Mary Margaret Oliver sponsor an annexation bill for the City of Decatur knowing that it would increase the population from around 20,000 to 25,000 people. The City of Decatur schools are already overcrowded and not well funded. They have already stated the newly annexed children would probably attend Dekalb County schools for the first three years if the annexation is successful. They have stated they plan to use eminent domain in the newly annexed areas to build schools once they raise the money, if they can raise the money. What shabby, cruel, and unfair treatment that would be for those who now live happily in unincorporated Dekalb! The City of Decatur is seeking 82 million more dollars for the schools, stretching its borrowing limits to the max, and have said that 10% of the children would still not fit into the existing schools even without annexation. They are considering split shifts and year round schools. The City has not promised any more police or fire department growth and yet wants to add an additional 5,000 people? Decatur needs to show it can solve its own problems before adding any more Dekalb citizens to its borders!

  • GJV

    As a Druid Hills resident in support of Atlanta annexation, the success of Greenhaven would be the best thing that could happen. Putting the majority of unincorporated DeKalb’s population base into a single city would force the rest of the county to fall in line. It’s no surpise to me that every “DeKalb Strong” sign I’ve seen in my neighborhood is parked in a lawn belonging to a white-haired couple. Those of us with young families who care more about good schools and quality of services than a tax break know that joining up with Atlanta- warts and all – is the best outcome.

    • Dixie Firefly

      The Atlanta Cheating Scandal trial is not even finished, and Druid Hills wants to join up? Reform Dekalb First! Don’t give up Druid Hills!

      • Jackie

        People seem to forget about Beverly Hall. It might be a while before it can be brought to an end.

    • RAJ

      Scott, nice guy, is in a tough position. He and others realize that he is “Dead Man Walking.” Party with the big butts will take him out in the next election! Guess I should start this with the most important news first….Dekalb Delegation will decide the fate of TIA’s annexation. Atlanta “Delegation” will play little or no role in this issue nor will TIA. In a DeKalb Delegation Policy meeting yesterday afternoon it was voted 4-1 that Atlanta annexation had to go thru the DeKalb Delegation by nine votes to pass to the House floor(to be assigned to committee?)to move as local legislation. Will MMO appeal as threatened? If so, will PS drop Proposed City of Briarcliff bill, w/map,charter & city council districts?? This map is a compromise that gives TIA Emory Campus, Druid Hills residential, FSC & school, but leaves DHS out of the annexation. Monday’s DeKalb Delegation meeting could be important……Be there or be square…as we used to say in HS (circa 1954).

      • DHH

        Did you write this in a different language and then use Google Translator to convert to English?

        • RAJ

          As usual another DeKalb resident focuses on form not the content!

    • steven

      I think some of the ‘Dekalb Strong’ sentiment is a common sense reaction. Our county govt. has been horrible. Why on earth would you try to fix it by creating more government?

      • RAJ

        Like in any democracy, it’s all about the people you elect. If we elect the right people to manage the four P’s….Parks,Public Works,Police & Planning, quality of life issues, you would think we would be somewhat better off than the corrupt county Government providing these important services at the same cost,+10-15% to cover graft.

        • Marjorie Snook

          And why do we think the people who sent us Elaine Boyer are magically going to make better decisions when electing a city government that gets less media scrutiny and voter attention?

          More local control can definitely have some benefits, although when a small coterie of unelected people is drawing the lines, the process is extraordinarily open to corruption.

          But whatever the benefits of more local control, it won’t do anything to reduce corruption, on either the county level or on the new government level. Past experience has made that clear–DeKalb County corruption hasn’t decreased, and new, city-level graft has ballooned.

          • RAJ

            You and your friends vote, so it’s up to you. I just draw the maps!

    • Susan In NoMansLand

      Your “good schools” are going to be vastly different when all the Druid Hills, Briar Vista, and Fernbank teachers are gone. Currently, DeKalb CSD is having their annual transfer application process (Teacher Jane Doe can apply to transfer from School A to School B), and the word on the street is, DHHS, Briar Vista, and Fernbank teachers are asking for transfers so they can move to a different school now, by choice, rather than potentially be laid off when their school is no longer part of DeKalb or have a transferred to a less desirable school is forced upon them. If Teacher Jane Doe can request a transfer from DHHS to Lakeside now, why would Ms. Doe wait to be either laid off or transferred to McNair when (if) the annexation occurs? Who will be your students teachers when (if) the annexation goes through? A bunch of random teachers from APS you’ve never met. Except maybe through their court appearances. Good luck with that! (and I get all this from conversations with Druid Hills teachers — something TIA hasn’t done).

      • RAJ

        Susan…I can’t say it out right but from my comments above the chance of an annexation by Atlanta becomes less and less day by day and monday’s DeKalb Delegation meeting should tell much of the remaining story…..hardly justification for teachers to transfer based upon fear of an annexation at this time.

        • Susan In NoMansLand

          Too bad no one involved in all this has bothered to reach out to the teachers. From my conversation today, they feel very left out on something that affects their livelihood. Theyare opting for the better safe than sorry option.

          • RAJ

            Cityhood left the schools AND teachers out of the debate from the very beginning, much to the regret of the city hood folk!

          • Susan In NoMansLand

            I should add that DeKalb teachers only have until Feb. 27 to apply for transfers, and a bull could still drop after that point.

          • Done

            A whole lotta bull could drop after that point.

          • RAJ

            I will let you know the outcome after the meeting on Monday….still plenty of time to transfer….must be all about the kids!

          • Susan In NoMansLand

            It doesn’t matter how much teachers love their students. If they are unemployed, they won’t be teaching ANY students. Layoffs are a very real possibility in the TIA scenario.

          • RAJ

            Susan…please help me help you! TIA annexation is all but dead so teachers are still employed! So now do we turn our attention to cityhood and charter cluster review as an amendment to the Governor”s education reform bill?

          • Susan In NoMansLand

            Is not me you need to help. I’m not a teacher! But no one had bothered to communicate ANYTHING to the teachers, and that is the problem. Go to DHHS, Brair Vista, & Fernbank and tell THEM what’s going on. As it is, the teachers are relying on rumors for their CAREERS.

          • RAJ

            Amen to that one Susan!! Our Bad.

      • flow

        The teachers at SPARK, Mary Lin, and Morningside all seem pretty good. I’m not convinced DeKalb has the market cornered on capable teachers. DeKalb is already losing capable teachers to other districts on a regular basis.

      • guest

        Scare Tactic Susan^ – first, if annexation occurs it would not be effective for school purposes until the 2016/17 school year, at the earliest and if cool heads prevail (e.g. DeKalb County Schools is even the slightest bit cooperative), then there will be a transition period to the benefit of both teachers and students – nobody, except maybe DeKalb Schools central office – is interested in disrupting education. Annexation (remember) is about City services. Teachers are on year to year contracts so there is no reason to look to move for the 2015/2016 school year for a change at the earliest in 2016/2017 – nothing will change if annexation goes through until at least a year and a half from now, likely longer; and nothing will change if it doesn’t go through. Second, the APS salary schedule is significantly more generous than DeKalb and contrary to what the ‘anti everything’ group likes to say (and you need to watch that group for misinformation) Georgia law provides year for year creditable service for salary purposes as well as Teacher Retirement System benefits (notably DeKalb does not pay into its 403 pension, anymore, has not fore years; APS, not the case). There are teachers who have left DeKalb and joined Atlanta and other districts for years for good reason. Everyone is entitled to their own decision regarding employment, and they are all on year to year contracts at any rate (and last year wonderful DeKalb inserted a penalty clause making teachers pay if they left early, like cancelling your cell phone service . . . way to go DeKalb!). If the teachers are in the dark on any of this, there is one primary reason: except for saying it will litigate, the DeKalb school system has no plan, refuses to engage with the community even to consider the possibility of what might need to be done if annexation goes forward, and of course the District will not even engage the parents and business community regarding their next leader, the Superintendent search. DeKalb employees are frightened to talk to anyone involved in annexation, and it should not be that way. God forbid what you and others would do if an Atlanta annexation supporter actually showed up at a school and discussed any of this . . . So if teachers are feeling uninformed, look to the chilling effect of their employer and the oppressive atmosphere they have experienced from the central office for a long time. If they are looking for a new job now (and I question your ‘facts’ – name one . . .) when there would be no change, at all, until the next contract cycle, then they are at least a year and probably longer in advance of any change and their new contract would expire before any annexation change were effective. If you and the rest of the anti-everything group would work for positive results here, and avoid the scare tactics everything is going to heck approach (and have YOU talked with Atlanta annexation supporters . . . I mean talked, not yelled at them or called them names or, as was posted recently by the anti-everything group they would ‘intimidate’ Atlanta annexation supporters at the schools – in front of the teachers and students no less), then everyone would be able to make a calm, reasoned decision. This is a time for thoughtful, reasoned, fact based debate. Not conjecture, not rumor, and certainly not misinformation regarding the schools, teachers, transfer tenure, or annexation.

        • RAJ

          Positive result for everyone is probably NO annexation which is probably the outcome for the reasons stated above. I have much more info about this subject but cannot post for public consumption.

        • Marjorie Snook

          That was not posted by DeKalb Strong. That was posted by a commenter on the site and promptly removed by us. Please do not make false accusations.

          • notapunk

            It’s hard to tell the difference when you have to JOIN the group in order to post a comment. Too bad DeKalb Strong doesn’t allow truly open discussion. All of the cityhood groups do. So does TiA.

          • Marjorie Snook

            We have not said no to any requests.

          • notapunk

            You should not have to join to engage. It implies membership, support or endorsement. Guess that’s one way to keep from having to deal with those who don’t agree with you though. But I find it to be very closed-minded and a total turnoff. And I’m seeking a strong opposition that can provide a logical, factual argument against cityhood. So far, your group is not providing it.

          • Blist

            Your strongest and most vocal supporter and member stated publicly on Facebook and I quote they should ‘intimidate’ supporters’ of citihood ‘at the schools.’ Three individuals were specifically targeted by name. I should note the three named are long term violunteers and all moms who have been home room moms, chaperones, served on PTAs assisted teachers and staff far more than anyone I have seen associated with DeKalb strong. This violates school bullying policy ans is cnetbullying and if carried out is possibly assault under Georgia law with a conspiratorial element through urging others to violate the law: The author by the way is a PTA co president and should be recalled or resign. I have a copy and will produce it to you if necessary. It was removed only after repeated complaints but gives great insight into tactics by some who are against a vote for self determination. It was disgraceful but indicative of the approach of some who wiould deny others their right to a choice about their lives families and property.

          • Let’s keep our arguments on point and civil please. People on both sides of this argument are passionate and have valid points to make.

          • RAJ

            WOW!! I’m no match for the Central Office OR PTA Mom’s!

          • Marjorie Snook

            One of the 165 members of our Facebook group posted a message that was inappropriate. It was removed as soon as I became aware of it–in about 10 minutes–and did not require repeated complaints.

            I think all people on all sides of this issue should make sure to keep their behavior appropriate in the schools. I am a committee chair on my PTA, and I would not bring my political advocacy into the school environment.

        • Susan In NoMansLand

          APS has had a penalty clause for years, with a higher penalty than DeKalb’s. DeKalb got the idea from APS.

          Again, APS may have higher salaries, but rise Sahuarita come at a higher cost to staff. Again, teachers in other districts refer to APS’s higher daisy as “combat pay.”

          And yes, the teachers realize that this would not go into effect until 2017, but they want to transfer NOW while they will still have some CHOICE in the matter.

          If DeKalb’s leaders (school board) talk to teachers directly about what may or may not happen, they will be crossing a very clear line that SACS had in place. School board members would be *perceived* as trying to influence the teachers. Remember: school board members interfering with day to day operations is one of the reasons DCSD got in trouble with SACS a few years ago.

          Similarly, APS cannot approach DeKalb teachers because it will be construed as poaching.

          Ergo, the people who SHOULD be talking to the Druid Hills cluster teachers is TIA. But they are not talking to teachers. That’s a problem. Y’all need to talk to the teachers.

          And no, I won’t name the teacher at DHHS who have me this information, as she is worried it would impact her job.

          • Done

            “If DeKalb’s leaders (school board) talk to teachers directly about what may or may not happen, they will be crossing a very clear line that SACS had in place.”

            Why would the school board members be having this discussion? It SHOULD be the administrations of DCSD and APS holding the discussions. There is absolutely no reason for them not to hold discussions except for recalcitrance on the part of DCSD.

        • Susan In NoMansLand

          Also, Teachers Retirement & 403 (b) are not the same. You may know that, but your post kind of implies they are one & the same. True: DeKalb stopped paying their matching share into the 403 (b) several years ago. There is litigation pending on that. But most teachers in DeKalb have additional 403 (b) accounts.

  • Ned

    The area to the east of Clarkston in the map is already annexed and part of Clarkston.

  • RAJ

    No news from the Capitol this morning. Two hour session from 10 to 12, saw Pam and Howard heading to lunch at the “Sloppy Floyd” building but no news on annexation or city hood from Scott…think that guy has a day job and probably a life! Froze my butt off +$10 for parking. I’m working from home today(I normally don’t work at all)on-line with DeKalb GIS Dept on City Council Districts for Proposed City of Briarcliff which will preview LaVista Hills City Council Districts if they ever get around to producing a map. Problem is I can’t e-mail it as a comment, but the data is cool with the racial breakdown and all that stuff. Sorry…time for my afternoon nap!

  • Smarter Than You

    Dear Friends and Neighbors, please CALM THE F#%K DOWN. Pray tell why is there such a fevered rush to hurry up and make these important decisions? If your answer is that you don’t want to miss out by another group forming their little jurisdiction first – that is NOT a reason to proceed. This is too important. Personally, I’m ready to just say NO to any changes, and I am willing to contribute time and money to that end. GJV, you think you’ve seen “DeKalb Strong” signs now? Wait until you see the push back from regular folks like myself once they see what the pandering elitists are trying to pull over on us. And when I say elitists, I mean racists. I realize that is inflammatory but I honestly have not gleaned any logical arguments for making any of these changes other than you want your own new white corrupt politicians to steal your money rather than the black ones. Granted, the Decatur Desperation Land Grab and the Druid Hills Side Step is a bit more nuanced – but I can PROMISE that every sponsor of legislation forwarding cityhood or annexation will have to face the most difficult challenge of their career – taxpayers questioning their logic.

    • RAJ

      Are you smarter for being the LAST one to crawl out from under the rock? I for one don’t think so. As I have pointed out before, 2/3 of the people in North Central DeKalb have Masters Degrees or PHd’s or multiples there of yet lack the common sense to be able to make rational decisions in life. City-hood is not new, it has been with us for thousands of years, it is just a means of organizing our society so we can live together…..not difficult. We need something better than “regular folks” like yourself who are not worth a s*** to guide us into the future. City-hood folks are only proposing that we do a better job of the four P’s…Parks, Police, Planning,& Public Works….Quality of life issues. No need to change the world, reset the clock of time, just make some constructive improvements that benefit us all….once again, not difficult!

      • RAJ

        I hate it when I reply to my own stuff, but I almost forgot about the DeKalb Delegation meeting at the Capitol today. Dan will give a full report, but NO news on city-hood OR annexation! It was GREAT, high level, thinly sliced, compacted BS like I have never seen since Grad School in 1964. !864 all over again! MMO vs the ?? TIA and Emory took the big hit today. DeKalb County Schools cannot afford to lose 200M-300M in School assets to Atlanta Schools AND lose the school taxes from the 1B General Motors redevelopment in a Tax Allocation District deal similar to the Atlanta Beltline deal. Doraville is hitting up Nancy Jester and her husband for this deal and in my meetings with DeKalb School Finance Director MB he says…NO WAY. This has long term impact on financial viability of DCCS with the school millage rate near max. MMO has a steep hill to climb on Atlanta annexation….more tomorrow!

  • whodean

    The audio is not synced.

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