Now what? Proposals for cities of Tucker, LaVista Hills will travel well-worn paths

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 7, 2015
Photo obtained via https://www.facebook.com/BrookhavenGAGov

Photo obtained via https://www.facebook.com/BrookhavenGAGov

Editor’s note: This analysis is based on my own observations working as editor of Decaturish and working at Reporter Newspapers in Sandy Springs. 

New cities are not new in Georgia.

Bills for two new cities await Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature, and it’s expected that he will sign off on both of them.

As supporters of the proposed cities of Tucker and LaVista Hills gear up for a November vote on whether or not to incorporate, they will have several examples of new cities to guide them.

Sandy Springs started the trend by incorporating in 2005, becoming the state’s first new city in half a century. Soon, Dunwoody would begin the trend toward new cities in DeKalb, voting successfully to incorporate in 2008. They were followed by Brookhaven in 2012.

Sandy Springs and Dunwoody won by overwhelming margins, with 94 percent of Sandy Springs voters supporting the idea, and 81 percent of Dunwoody voters doing the same. When it was Brookhaven’s turn in 2012, the idea of new government had lost some of its luster. Brookhaven was approved with 55 percent of the vote. About 1,000 votes determined the outcome of that election, and 1,376 of those votes came from one precinct: Montgomery Elementary School.

Were it not for that precinct, Brookhaven may not be a city today.

The two proposed cities up for consideration have things in common with their predecessors. Tucker, like Sandy Springs in 2008, already has its own community identity. A question on the Tucker 2015 FAQ says, “I thought Tucker was already a city.” That sense of community could resonate with voters as it did in Sandy Springs.

LaVista Hills does not have this advantage. Like Brookhaven, it is a conglomeration of communities united under a map. When the Legislature took up the Brookhaven bill in 2012 it briefly considered changing the name of the proposed city to Ashford to avoid confusion with the Historic Brookhaven neighborhood which was not included in the map for the city of the same name. LaVista Hills actually combines two prior cityhood movements: Briarcliff and Lakeside. They’ve only been one city for about five months.

Both cityhood proposals are emerging from the swamp of the broader debate over annexation and new cities in DeKalb County. LaVista Hills was particularly beset with conflicting annexation proposals, like Atlanta and Brookhaven. Both LaVista Hills and Tucker quarreled over maps until the very last day of the Legislative session. That was after a special House panel “settled” the maps in December.

That fight left both sides with bruises and sowed doubt among potential voters. Both cityhood movements will have to repair the damage, if possible, while making their case for incorporation. The upshot is that they will have to convince voters that their proposed cities would be a safer bet than DeKalb County. Given the recent turmoil in county government, that won’t be a hard sell.

Assuming voters approve the new cities in November, what would the process of starting a new city look like?

As in Brookhaven, the governor will appoint a commission to oversee the community’s transition from unincorporated DeKalb County to a city. The commission in Brookhaven included representation from each of the city’s proposed council districts.

Allen Venet, with LaVista Hills Yes, said this commission will oversee city operations until the first city council elections are over. LaVista Hills has six proposed council districts, and Tucker has three. LaVista Hills would elect one council member from each district, plus a mayor. Tucker would elect two council members from each of its three districts, plus a mayor. Both cities will hold nonpartisan races for elected office.

“After that the new city council hires a city manager and negotiates agreements with the county” for taking over county services, Venet said.

LaVista Hills’ first official day in business would be July 1, 2016, Venet said.

Tucker’s transitional period is slightly more open-ended, according to the bill passed by the Legislature. Unlike LaVista Hills, Tucker’s first day in business will begin on “first day of the second month immediately following the 2016 presidential preference primary.” The date for the primary has not been determined.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Marc

    Hi Dan,
    I had asked this question to you months ago and you kindly responded then, but feel compelled to ask you again. I just looked at a detained map of the proposed LaVista Hills districts and it shows changes in the elementary school districts. At least in my case, our house is moved out of Oak Grove and into Sagamore Hills. I realize this may not be accurate. The LaVista Hills website’s FAQ does not address this issue, so I figured you were the best resource to ask again! Thank you for keeping everyone informed on this ongoing story!

    • Thanks, Marc. All schools in the Tucker and LaVista Hills maps would remain in DeKalb County. The new cities would not have the ability to create their own school systems. I hope this helps to answer your question.

      • Marc

        I mean the specific elementary school districts (regardless of who would control/administer them). Based on your answer above, they would not change. But the map on the LaVista Hills Yes website *definitely* shows changes in the district boundary for at least where I live. I hope this is clarified, and if the map is wrong, that it is adjusted. (ps: I have sent them an email asking, and will let you know when/if I hear back).

        • The map may show that, but as far as I know only the School Board can change the attendance zones. These proposals should have no effect on that.

          • Marc

            Thank you Dan! You had said something similar months ago.I do think this issue could be critical for some parents, especially if they think their districts are changing. It’s irresponsible and sloppy to post an inaccurate map. I hope LaVista Hills yes corrects it soon, or at least explains the discrepancy.

          • Meghan

            Marc – I’ll also add that the legislature maps use census tracts, which are often named after elementary schools, which may or may not actually match the attendance areas for that school. Confusing, huh?

        • notapunk

          Those aren’t school boundaries. They are voting precincts. (Compare with here: http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/Maps/PrecinctsMap.pdf ). School attendance zones are not shown on the LaVista Hills map.

    • RAJ

      I just posted the REAL story about the LVH map a few minutes ago and Dan deleted the post. Anyone who needs to know call 404-633-4954

  • DHer

    The referendum to create LaVista Hills and Tucker will have some speed humps and potholes. There are some questions about the viability of HOST funding which these cities are depending upon to be financially viable and to provide the services described. The Operations Task Force learned that if more cities are created the funding formula for distributing HOST capital funds will collapse for all cities in DeKalb. The General Assembly passed a potential “fix” for HOST, but it requires DeKalb voters to approve an 8th penny sales tax. Essentially the viability of these new cities is dependent upon a tax hike for everyone in DeKalb.
    In addition to the HOST problem, LaVista Hills has some voters in its western portions who are not happy to be included in any city. The referendum will probably be a close vote like it was in Brookhaven.

    • RAJ

      All HOST options were considered at this morning’s Committee of the Whole meeting of the BOC and Cities stand to come out OK under most circumstances. Later in the day at a Brokenhaven City Council Work Session some concern was expressed that if HOST remains as is, new & old cities will be splitting about the same $20M. Don’t think this will be much of a problem for LaVista Hills since much of the money is spent on parks and I don”t see much park land. Roads are another matter entirely!

  • Mike

    Dan:

    Among the problems of LaVista Hills (or is it Lavista Hills?) is the hide and seek game that’s been going on. Maybe you’re in; maybe not. We really want you; actually maybe not: after further thought, we want you. It’s hard to imagine a lot of people caring any more.

    On top of that — making it a lot worse — has been the lack of information that they gave anyone. It’s like “we’ll let you know when we’ve decided — but meanwhile bug off”. I saw a lot of info about what was going on in Tucker and I’m nowhere near there. But I’ve heard nothing from LVH (or is it LH?)

    These people desperately need a management face-lift. So far the surest thing is that you don’t want them running your city.

    • RAJ

      The people you see now won’t be the ones running the city or probably even the referendum and city council campaigns. This creates a great opportunity for anyone with leadership and organizational skills to participate in something special in North Central Dekalb. If you have an interest NOW is your time!

      • HB

        I’m pretty sure we are going to see a rash of LHY-backed religious and social conservative types in the mold of Millar and Mary Kay. Millar was proud of denying medical marijuana for social control reasons, totally ignoring the fact that old school Repubs like me think its more fiscally smart to open and regulate the industry and not worry about controlling peoples private lives. Here’s hoping smart, fiscally minded people step up…not neocon ideologues. We’ll stay tuned. This will inform my overall cityhood vote.

        • RAJ

          I think the center of gravity moved a little farther South to return LVH(nee, Briarcliff)to it’s original roots closer to Oak Grove and Sagamore this week and out of the weeds North of Northlake if that will salve any of your concerns. Monday night conservations at Sprig should prove interesting! Remember(back in the day)this city-hood movement was founded upon a bipartisan, multi-cultural base that hopefully still exists.

          • HB

            Curious as to why you say this, RAJ. Did something transpire that we haven’t heard about?

            I would in fact feel a little better about our prospects if the Oak Grove people take the reins. The Briarcliff people were not partisan-minded, and they were from around here too.

          • RAJ

            I’m sitting quietly tonight(mother’s advice)drinking my special blend of coffee(giving the wine cellar a rest); I won’t bore you with the details but the blending takes me back to my professional trips to Napa Valley. After a full day of under achievement ….this has been going on for about eight years now…I started thinking about City-hood and what comes next for LaVista Hills. Everything is now in the hands of AV and Monday night is an opportunity for he and us to more clearly define our roles. It’s mainly a fundraiser of course, and time to have some much needed fun(please remind me)after a hard fought victory in the Legislature. I can BS with the best of them…It was actually a slam dunk all the way and great political theater. Interested parties should inventory their personal commitment in time, money and professional resources for an intense referendum campaign over the next seven months. Let Allen, and as an alternate myself, know your thoughts Monday night. I am in a position to bring resources to the table. Please keep in mind that I am not an “official” member of LVHY.

          • Jan Atlanta

            Lord help us if that ragged band of Herman, Don and Rhea are in charge. The joke’s going to be on you and the poor supporters of cityood.

          • RAJ

            Thank’s for your support Jan! Us high toot guys always appreciate accolades from a woman of the world with a sense of humor! No; H,D &R will not be in any responsible capacity on the good ship LVH. The leaky, old, rudderless vessel ,will be captained by bit coin mogul AV drifting on an uncertain journey in choppy seas toward an unknown destination. H,D and I will be in the mid 50’s art-deco appointed lounge below decks, drinking beer, eating Mo’s pizza, and reminiscing about a Prom Queen we met in our last port of call!

          • Jan Atlanta

            Sorry, RAJ, you’ve got the wrong Jan. Understandably, since the good old boy’s club perceives women in charge as an abomination (or so you’ve been overheard saying). Jan is in “Yon”. Fortunately, my mother encouraged her sons to respect and admire women in leadership. Now, back to the matter at hand. Phase II post legislation is a political campaign. Who in the rudderless vessel (your words) is experienced at one?

          • RAJ

            Sorry…most know I can’t resist taking a shot, but I was raised by my mother and like to think i’m the better for it! Having known many women in leadership positions I think I can say it’s a mixed bag(as it is with men)and MKW was no exception. It’s a team effort and you take the team as far as you can with the skills you have and give credit where credit is due. We all hope to be better players as well as hope to find better coaches! AV was the expansion team coach and failed, he’s back with a gift contender and the same skillset, It’s up to the stakeholders(US)if we want to go into the playoffs with this coach. I e-mailed the Head Coach and ask if MKW left him a plan,do you have a plan?, do you want a plan? Answer….we will meet Monday night, ask for volunteers and make a plan…..hence the rudderless ship LVH. “Yon” an opportunity to talk Monday night…..still plenty of time!

          • Jan Atlanta

            Odd. Based on 20+ years of community/school involvement with MKW as a participant and leader – if she didn’t leave a plan with AV, that’s completely out of character for her.

          • RAJ

            The type of planning and leadership required in this situation has very little to do with Community/School involvement in the case of MKW or Estate Banking as in the case of AV something MKW probably realized and AV will come to realize. Hence; no plan was left and no plan is at hand! I have a background in project planning and organizational development in the corporate realm but not in the volunteer arena. We all come with a different skill set based upon previous experience.

          • Jan Atlanta

            RAJ, this is where you are really off base. Labeling MKW and Venet by why they do for a living (actually, you don’t even bring into play MKW career) as their “experience” is short sighted. MKW has political, legislative experience, don’t know about LV. MKW also has access and knowledge about fundraising, campaign strategy. The windmill chasers left in LVH are running in circles.

          • RAJ

            I’m not labeling anyone, nor am I off base(I’m usually in the outfield!)just saying that as stated that we can all bring different skills to the table to make a contribution to a common cause, not popular in the “selfie” society in which we live, but have you noticed how we like to watch team play by OTHERS. I know AV and MKW well and I think they have tried hard under the circumstances; just not good circumstances. I would have dearly liked to have worked with MKW but I’m an old guy and that line will always be too long!

        • Jan Atlanta

          HB (or it it HL or DB). Religious and social conservative? Woodworth? It’s clear that you don’t know her very well – if at all.

          • HB

            Who is HL? No, I dont know Mary Kay at all. As for Millar I base my assessment on his record and follow up statements. Are you saying MKW is not a social or religious conservative? If so, huzzah, thats great news. It’s those types that dumbed down and took hostage a once great political ideology, and now make the most dangerous leaders because they are about control, not fiscal responsibility. Wont be voting for anyone like that to run a city.

          • Jan Atlanta

            HB – just because she/LVH utilized the resource of Millar to get their bill through – doesn’t mean that she or they are cut of the same cross. I’ve known MKW 20+ years, and while she’s not on the left, she’s certainly not far from center. Libertarian leaning, if it were not a losing proposition, I would venture.

          • HB

            I’m glad to know this. Thank you for clearing this up for me Jan.

          • Marc

            This whole thread is basically speaking in code. I am glad you are all having a nice conversation amongst yourselves, but it does nothing to educate the uniformed (like myself) about who is who, what is really going on and why any of the above talk is relevant to the cityhood vote. Hopefully others will provide a better explanation in the coming months.

          • HB

            Marc, we are weighing the option of voting in another layer of government over ourselves , for an idealized goal getting “better local control of our tax dollars” from a govt (Dekalb) who is proven to have a culture of graft and theft. It matters very much whether the persons and organizations who are looking to step into this power structure are in it for US, or in it for THEM. This is no light matter. Our fiscal future depends on knowing who we’ll be working with.

            Granted, this process is just getting underway now that the referendum is certai. Ms. Woodworth will almost certainly be running for office, so knowing her background and vision is going to be very important.

            Those who say “Code” often use that as code for bigotry. Hoping you aren’t playing that card. This is 100% about money and honest governance.

          • guest2

            You must truly be an insider! Not understanding that all the initials and terminology is what Marc is talking about as “code.”
            There is no established power base, so I don’t think knowing Ms. Woodworth is that important. I would think her work has made it really difficult for her to get elected. She has name recognition, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The residents will elect the leaders.

          • HB

            My, we do love to jump to conclusions. (I’m guilty of my share, but I always appreciate to be corrected if so.) I believe the only initials I’ve ever used is LVH (LaVista Hills) and MKW (Mary Kay Woodworth), ones that the most casual readers here have seen countless times. The names that RAJ uses are above my head too. I’m about as far from an “insider” as you can get, except for that I live pretty smack “inside” the LVH map, and I’m “inside” the perimeter.

          • Marc

            LOL HB! That is a pretty big (and utterly wrong) presumption to make about me! I’d say that someone who would offer even the possibility of attributing my comment to race has their own issues to work out on that subject! All I was saying, or trying to say, was that I read through the entire thread and learned nothing about the pros and cons of cityhood. My comment had *nothing* to do with anyone’s initials, race or whether someone is an “insider”! And I’m still waiting to read the pros-and-cons spelled out in comprehensible English!

          • RAJ

            Hope you(and others)have the patience to listen to all I have to say about the four P’s(or is it five?)in the case of LVH. Parks,Police,Planning & Public Works. The BS of course won’t ever stop but these are the actual services to be provided by LVH. Just for the record an estimate of revenue, expenses & surplus have already been conducted from an “Official” LVH map(with tax data)obtained from the DeKalb County GIS Department in advance of a request for a revised CVI study. The “Surplus” is substantial but not spectacular. Some fine tuning is required of the map and will be published soon. The data may be available later after review and appropriate clearance.

          • HB

            Oh, Marc, coming into the middle of an ongoing thread on a blog and accusing someone falsely of talking in ‘code’, and then taking umbrage at the natural reply is hardly adding depth to the conversation. (Notice my reply didnt have a direct accusation, but a request for clarity. The better tack to take, yes?) We are discussing a few finer points in this (old) thread. In all seriousness, if you really want a cityhood primer or an overview, may I suggest you post your questions directly on the Lavista Hills facebook or website. You are certain to get a concise list of pro-city aspects from supporters, and anti city aspects from Dekalb Strong.

          • Marc

            Oh, HB, this will be my last reply to you about anything:
            You are SO overly sensitive about your OWN remark to me about “Code”, it reveals your own insecurities far more than my own, admitted ignorance. I will take your advice and look at the FB page, but as a rule, I never “out” myself there on anything but my own news feed. I am sure you understand that. My guess is there is a lot of bluster there and not much substance, but we’ll see.

          • HB

            Funny, because all one needs to do is scroll up to see it was your curious accusation, to me, which you have yet to clarify, that was presented first, and is the only only reason I replied back. Regardless, I hope you find the answers you seek.

          • RAJ

            At this very early stage if you become part of the process you are more likely to end up influencing who the people will be that you will be working with!

          • RAJ

            Yes they will….and it will come out soon. The purpose of Monday night was to raise funds,yes, but to also collect business cards of interested individuals and for the record LVHY will probably be looking for people aggressive enough to pick up the phone and call one of the key players.

  • notapunk

    Dan, would you consider adding a Cityhood FAQ to the top of your set of articles on Annexation and Incorporation and include some of the info you’ve posted here? There are people looking for this kind of info, but they can’t easily find it from an unbiased, knowledgeable source. A FAQ could be added to as more questions come up that you can answer. I know I’d send people your way for real, factual answers.

    • I’d like to do something like that. I attempted to do that with the database page.

      • notapunk

        Thanks, Dan! The simpler, more straight-forward the better. There are a lot of people new to this discussion and judging by some of the stuff posted on the Facebook groups, most people don’t understand even the basics.

  • RAJ

    Thanks Dan!

  • Jan Atlanta

    Interesting group at LVH fundraiser last night. Looked to be primarily former COBI’ites. Venet’s LONG speech well received, appealing to COBI’s base. Didn’t look like many checks were being written.

    • RAJ

      Best part came AFTER the meeting!

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