LaVista Hills Alliance will advocate for cityhood this November

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt July 14, 2015
City of LaVista Hills map with six council districts. Source:

City of LaVista Hills map with six council districts. Source:

A group that describes itself as a “grassroots” organization has formally launched its campaign to incorporate a city of LaVista Hills in DeKalb County.

LaVista Hills Alliance sent out a news release on July 14 saying it will push people to vote yes in the Nov. 3 referendum. If successful, it would incorporate a city of over 60,000 people, bordered by I-85 on the north and I-285 on the east. A proposed city of Tucker will also be on the ballot this November.

“LaVista Hills Alliance will organize and coordinate volunteers to support passage of the incorporation referendum on Nov. 3,” the news release says. “The new organization is separate from LaVista Hills YES! – a group formed to urge the Georgia Legislature to place a cityhood referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot.”

The group does include former LaVista Hills Yes! co-chair Mary Kay Woodworth. She will head up the fundraising effort for the group.

According to the news release, other members are:

– Liz Hanfelt, chair

– Brad Bryant, former State School Superintendent and former DeKalb School Board chair

– Kim Taylor-Cloud, a 30-year DeKalb resident who now lives in Oak Grove

– Tim Oliver, a resident of Mason Mill Woods

– Wanda Walton, a behavioral scientist with the CDC and member of the North Briarcliff Civic Association

“This new city will belong to the people,” Hanfelt said in the press release. “It is up to them to shape and create what this new city will be.  That’s why our focus is on getting every resident engaged now, not just to ensure a successful vote in November, but also to get citizens actively involved in making this city the best that it can be for our community and for the rest of DeKalb County, too.”

While the LaVista Hills movement is kicking into gear, opposition to it and to the city of Tucker has been rolling along since before the end of the 2015 legislative session. DeKalb Strong is the most visible of the groups opposing cityhood in DeKalb County.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • dmforman

    I find this quote disingenuous: ““This new city will belong to the
    people,” Hanfelt said in the press release. “It is up to them to shape
    and create what this new city will be. That’s why our focus is on
    getting every resident engaged now, not just to ensure a successful vote
    in November, but also to get citizens actively involved in making this
    city the best that it can be for our community and for the rest of
    DeKalb County, too.””

    Community surveys weren’t taken into
    consideration in creating Lakeside/Lavista Hills. Communities weren’t
    asked if they wanted to be in a city map or not before being put on it.
    Only those agreeing with the cause of cityhood are being notified about
    meetings to “set the city up,” so in reality not all voices living in
    the city are desired to be heard by those pushing this on the community.
    Transparency is really lacking in this push for control and another
    layer of government.

    • notapunk

      They did announce the institution of task forces on the LaVista Hills Yes Facebook page. The announcement also said to contact them if you were interested in being on a task force. Perhaps you missed it.

      • dmforman

        I missed nothing. I was told that non-supporters weren’t welcomed in these groups and that they had 650 volunteers and didn’t need anyone who disagreed with cityhood helping. People who Lavista Hills feel are in opposition have been removed from the Lavista Hills email list. Their Facebook page was purged of questions and oppositional well. Again opposition has been removed and banned from posting on Facebook. Maybe it’s just me, but this behavior from Lavista Hills doesn’t feel open or transparent.

        • notapunk

          If you disagree with cityhood, why on Earth would you want to help the people who are trying to form a city?

          • Russell Carleton

            Why not? For example, I have experience in juvenile delinquency prevention programs. I don’t believe that this cityhood initiative is a good idea, but if it passes, I will be living in it. I would want to know that my local PD is thinking about issues of juvenile crime (and crime prevention). So, why not?

          • JustVOTENO

            Russell for example is one of the people LVH has banned for asking well thought out questions regarding feasibility. Now I can not say for sure if his math was correct but the fact that LVH had no response to correct him and then banned him from asking more questions did not sit well with me. Why not just answer his question or dispute his line of thinking? Could he actually be right and they not want you to know this thing is not feasible? Could it be they are so intent on winning they don’t care or want to know if he is right? People need to ask themselves if the group pushing transparency/responsive government itself can’t be transparent or responsive what makes you think they city they want to create will be.

          • notapunk

            I didn’t see any of that, so I don’t know what transpired. But I do know from what I’ve seen on Decaturish he tries to compare the proposed city millage rate cap to DeKalb County’s admittedly and temporarily inflated rates for police and unincorporated taxes.

          • Russell Carleton

            My initial analysis had a flaw, but fixing that, I still have concerns. Here’s the basic idea. When calculating projected revenues, the LaVista Hills feasibility study explicitly makes the assumption that the new city would duplicate the tax structure and rates of the county for 2014. The county system had a millage rate of 7.64 at the time for the relevant services, but gave HOST tax credits to home owners (although not to commercial properties, rental homes, motor vehicles, personal property, or real estate/intangible taxes). The city charter spells out that the millage rate will be capped at 5.00, and there are no HOST credits, although the homestead exemption is more generous under the city than the county. Any fair-minded reading of those facts would say “two different systems.” Maybe you like one better than the other, but certainly two different systems that would produce two different revenue numbers.

            If we’re dealing with two different tax systems, is it reasonable to use a projected revenue figure that relies on numbers based on the county system when the city system would be very different? If not, what happens when you adjust the numbers to account for those differences?

          • notapunk

            All of it is moot with the new property assessments. There’s much more money in the pot for everybody. A city will collect what it needs up to the cap and will provide a matching amount of services. The gloom and doom scenario is way overblown.

          • Russell Carleton

            We don’t have the numbers on how much the property tax digest for the area went up (it probably did go up). If anyone has those numbers, I’d love to see them.

            But if they don’t have enough money, then “providing a matching amount of services” means cutting something.

          • notapunk

            There’s nothing to be cut. Nothing’s been approved and there is no budget. The feasibility study is not a budget. It is merely an analysis of what “could be” based on what some cities of similar size do.

            The 2015 DeKalb County tax digest is available here:


            Real and personal property values alone are up more than $2.5 billion. And according to recent articles in the AJC, residential property assessments are up 17.1% in DeKalb.

          • Russell Carleton

            It’s not a proper budget but it is a decently reasonable estimate and advocates are basing claims such as “104 police officers” on those numbers. So, if they’re going to base their claims on those spending levels, they need to be able to say that they can reasonably expect that much money to come into the treasury.

            Is the 17.1 percent number you quote the number for the whole county? For the unincorporated bits? For the LVH footprint? Did the commercial properties also appreciate at a similar rate?

            An increase of $2.5 billion, as you report above would be an overall property digest valuation increase of 12.1 percent compared to 2014. If that’s the case, then it would seem that the commercial properties probably didn’t do quite as well, and they pay about half the property taxes.

          • notapunk

            The 17.1% is overall.

            Commissioner Rader posted a county-wide map on his web site that you can download:

            Of course, some properties went down, others rose an outrageous 80%. And a 20% increase in one neighborhood could vary wildly in terms of dollars from a 20% increase in another.

            If you want to drill down on the LVH footprint, you could order a map from GIS, which would break it all down for you.

          • Russell Carleton

            I did see Rader’s map. Eyeballing it, there was more red (increase) than blue (decrease), so it’s now a matter of how much. Once we get those numbers, we can plug them in and see what happens.

          • Save Tucker!

            But, a large portion of the tax base will come from franchise fees under the city format being pushed as gospel here. SO, the more people they can squeeze in, the more money for the government without having to worry about people who might be mad about the schools. Renter don’t pay the property tax that funds the schools, but they do get cable, phone, gas, power … the things you can tack franchise fees onto and have the utilities collect it for you. So, are you going to vote for “more people, smaller spaces, longer commutes, more kids for our schools” plan?

          • notapunk

            Franchise fees are not a “large portion of the tax base.”

            First, franchise fees are not a tax. And utilities don’t “collect” franchise fees for governments. It doesn’t work like sales tax. Governments charge utilities for use of their right-of-way. Utilities are ALLOWED to pass that charge along to their customers. They don’t have to, but they can and they do.

            As for renters, I don’t know many who have landline phones and I know several who have basic cable included in their rent. Renters don’t get property tax bills from the county, but you can bet property tax is factored into their rent.

            We’re already getting the “more people, smaller spaces, longer commutes, more kids for our schools” plan from DeKalb County. There’s a whole discussion about all new townhome/condo development on the DeKalb Strong Facebook page right now.

          • Save Tucker!

            Strictly looking at the Tucker 2015 feasibility report: Property Tax $408,865; Franchise Fees $2,536,313. It’s a revenue stream generated from taxes, no matter how you want to sugar coat it. And, it is significant.

          • Save Tucker!

            If everyone appealed last year, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that it probably went down? We heard Sen. Millar say that there was a blanket re-do for the Lakeside neighborhoods.

          • notapunk

            Pro Tip: It’s usually a good idea to read the entire thread and the relevant links before inserting failing assumptions.

            The 2015 real and personal property tax digest is UP for 2015, as DeKalb County advertised:

            “Everybody” did not appeal last year. Some assessments in the area doubled this year. You can see where assessments were up in the map Jeff Rader posted on his web site:

            There was no “blanket re-do” last year. Many properties got a do-over in 2012 when those ridiculously high assessments came out. The freeze on those has expired.

          • notapunk

            Are you part of an active campaign to defeat cityhood? And couldn’t you just volunteer with or talk to your local PD about those issues once you see whether cityhood passes? The direction of any police department is up to the chief, not a bunch of cityhood proponents who have no standing.

          • Russell Carleton

            The committees were billed as a way for residents of the proposed city to have input into the services that the city wishes to provide so that they could “hit the ground running on day one.” You are correct that the police chief would eventually have discretion to set the agenda for a new police department, but if these committees are what they say they are, I applaud the LaVista Hills Yes leadership for thinking ahead. Someone might have a really good idea, and if they do and the referendum passes, why not present that idea to the police chief or whoever the relevant official is. (The police chief might ignore it, but that’s on her/him.)

            I live in the city area. I have relevant experience. It’s true that I would encourage people to vote no in the referendum, but if it passes, then that will be the government I live under, and I would want that government to be the best it could be.

          • notapunk

            They can bill it however they want. All they can do is make recommendations, none of them binding. They do not have the power of the purse. That isn’t part of the referendum.

          • Russell Carleton

            If what they’d like to do is have a supporters-only committee, then they have a right to do that, but let’s call things what they really are. It’s worth pointing out that it was LaVista Hills, Yes! who started the study committees, and the Alliance is a different organization. I don’t know if the Alliance has a position on the study committees or not.

            But if the new city really belongs “to the people”, and goal is to get “every resident engaged now, not just to ensure a successful vote in November, but also to get citizens actively involved in making this city the best that it can be for our community and for the rest of DeKalb County, too”, well, I happen to be a person and resident.

            So, if I had an idea — maybe even one that would help them — would it be welcomed or ignored? Isn’t the point of the exercise to get away from the mentality that you had to be in the special club to have a voice?

          • factivist

            EXACTLY, n/p. Sadly,dishonesty and half-truths are the capitol of most of the DeKalb Strong bunch, false and misleading is the game. The answer to your question is,of course, that she (D/S admin) does not want to help LVH – she wants to hurt and be disruptive to their efforts, but not honest enough to admit that to the public she is trying to mislead. Come into my den, said the spider to the fly.

          • Save Tucker!

            If you favor it, why are you defending the folks who could very well be blowing it for you? A purging of public comments is not a very good way to kick off a “better” or “more transparent” or “more accountable” government. What are the objections that were purged and what does the newly re- named advocacy group have to say in defense of this behavior? They should really shut down their FB page and start a new one if they are really wanting people to believe they are a newly formed group.

          • notapunk

            Where do I say I favor it? And where am I defending anyone? Unless you have something factual to add to the discussion, knock it off.
            There are two groups, Save Tucker. And LaVista Hills Yes is not a government. Where are all the posts and discussions DeKalb Strong has purged? And what about those “Save Tucker from Lakeside city” (might want to update that name) has purged on Facebook? What about your “closed” Facebook group? You might want to examine your own behavior before attacking that of others.

          • Save Tucker!

            Haven’t purged anything unless it was a personal attack against a private citizen. We have not had that issue since we banned those individuals and that was back in early 2013. You can scroll to the beginning of our FB page and read the comments from then until now and get a good understanding of the history of this entire issue. We did shorten our name to Save Tucker! but we didn’t feel the need to be reactionary to the name changes of Lakeside Alliance leaders. They are the same folks, regardless of what they choose to call themselves. Their mission remains the same as does ours. So, our blog site and Facebook page may still refer to them as “Lakeside City Alliance,” but that’s because we feel it is important that no one forgets that this effort for cities was divisive from the onset. And, cities should be about bringing people together for the greater good, not tearing them apart.

          • Guest2

            That’s one strange rant about Section 8 housing and refugees on your Facebook page, Save Tucker. (BTW, Clarkston is already a city so your 2nd map is nothing short of fear mongering for the uninformed). Exactly how would refugees and Section 8 renters and their children going to harm Tucker financially with its three planned services — planning & zoning, parks & rec and code enforcement?

          • Save Tucker!

            Guest2, No, you are incorrect. That’s the zip code known as Clarkston. Not the same thing as Clarkston city limits. We were comparing that zip 30083 to the Tucker zip 30084 to show the differences in public housing available. It is important because the areas considered unincorporated Clarkston were added to the city of Tucker map without logical explanation. If you know why the city advocates for Tucker would be doing the exact opposite of what every other new city that has ever been formed before us did, please explain it. We asked them. They claimed to not only not know, but to not even know who drew the map for them in the first place. THAT is our concern. It might not be a big deal to you, but if you lived in Tucker, bought a home in Tucker, and were going to be asked to vote on a city of Tucker, you would probably want to know if the Tucker on your ballot was drastically different that what has been called Tucker on maps and road signs for the past 100 or more years. That’s all.

          • Save Tucker!

            btw, the comment about defending someone was directed at facitivist, not you, notapunk. If you sort comments by “Oldest” instead of “best” they come up in a logical order. That might be the source of the misunderstanding here.

          • notapunk

            Then you should have replied to factivist instead of me, Save Tucker. The way you posted it, your comment was clearly directed at me:
            “Save Tucker! notapunk • 2 hours ago
            If you favor it, why are you defending the folks who could very well be blowing it for you?”

          • Save Tucker!

            I thought I hit reply under the comment by factivist who was replying to notapunk. A misunderstanding based on a technical glitch or human error. Either way, the comment was not intended to be taken as offensive.

        • JustVOTENO

          I agree. Something dirty is going on. They know need a separate group to push this???? Just other organization I suppose for their secret large donors to pour money into. WHERE IS THE TRANSPARENCY? I to noticed only certain questions being answered on their facebook page and the tough but fair questions they apparently did not like deleted. In addition those people who asked them were banned from the page. Ironically the initial idea of a city interested me but watching these people operate in the exact opposite way they say the new city would operate has turned me against the idea.

        • notapunk

          Also, you should probably disclose that you’re an administrator of the DeKalb Strong Facebook page, not just some simple non-supporter of the LaVista Hills effort. Otherwise, this complaint from you doesn’t feel very open or transparent.

    • travelingfool

      It would be interesting to see an independent 3rd party do a survey of both potential cities. Maybe closer to November.

  • HB

    Dmforman, the LVH page was far more open and accepting of debate than the opposition websites ever were, or are. They attempted rational answers to the nonstop vitriolic questions from Dekalb Strong folks–But Dekalb Strong never allowed similar debate on their site. DS was so unbalanced in their tactics, and so controlling and overly fear mongering, that they single handedly served served to sway me against them, and toward cityhood. Truth.

    Many of you might recall I was NOT a cityhood proponent at first, and I challenged posts from both sides if anyone got disingenuous, because facts are the most important thing right now.

    LVH had to disable the rabble rousers after a while for good reason. Too much misinformation being posted and no chance to rebut on the opposing site. DS and its supporters made their own bed here with bad strategy. Cityhood and govt in general, is not evil if WE the citizens guide our own course. Get involved and lets make it what we want.

    • Save Tucker!

      If there was a clear problem that cityhood would solve, then it should have been an easy sell to the community at large. There wouldn’t be any opposition worth discussing if the self appointed leaders were actually able to answer legitimate questions raised by reasonable people.

    • Save Tucker!

      Can you give an example of a “vitriolic question,” please?

  • Save Tucker!

    On a side note, isn’t it a little disturbing that the reporter for this article calls certain groups “the most visible” (thus lending them credibility) when it is the media that has the power to provide that visibility. Hopefully voters will be wise enough to make up their own minds based on whether they believe more / different / new / additional government will help or hurt them personally based on the track record of the other cities that have recently formed around them and not based on what some random people on a Facebook page said or did not say. FB is great for hosting conversations but everyone needs to consider the source of the information they are reading and understand that nothing in politics should be taken at face value. It’s all campaign promises and hidden agendas at this point. This article and its declaration of 285 as an “eastern border” is just another example of the confusing statements made by groups that change their names often, but not their players.

    • Guest

      Uh-oh. Sounds like somebody had a falling out with DeKalb Strong.

      • Save Tucker!

        Not at all. The comment was about this website’s refusal to post information submitted by Save Tucker! because our proposed map, the zip code boundary of 30084, would not be added to their original all inclusive map without a feasibility study. Then, other groups come along, like Greenhaven / South DeKalb, without any such study and they are accepted without question. Save Tucker! has been around since the first public announcement of Lakeside City and we have made significant efforts at visibility but there are some people with connections and power who have the ability to have their press releases reprinted verbatim as legitimate news. Since we are actually “normal” people trying to look out for ourselves and don’t have a hidden agenda backed by big money, we’re less “visible” but still effective, nonetheless. At least we hope so. People talking to one another and using their own common sense here will hopefully carry the day. There is no ill will against DeKalb Strong. Marjorie, especially, has been very effective in her choice of words on behalf of those in opposition to higher taxes and bigger government. We appreciate her work.

  • Save Tucker!

    The community’s input is welcomed regarding the city sponsored and championed by Dunwoody’s state representative and senator? Interesting.

  • Save Tucker!

    Responding to Guest2: One should not look only at the expenses a proposed city says it will take on as a means to start up. It is wise to look at all the potential services a city might wish to take on in the future as that is truly the allure of self government, isn’t it? In looking at the big picture, then, you have police, fire, education, economic development, unemployment, health services, transportation… the costs could be managed with a smaller, more cohesive known community. The costs are unknown when you don’t even understand who you are including when you draw your lines.

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