Dear Decaturish – LaVista Hills fixes DeKalb’s corruption problem

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 31, 2015

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Dear Decaturish,

DeKalb has become the mess that it is because it is nearly impossible to fire corrupt or incompetent incumbents.

How hard is it to fire them? Not a single DeKalb commissioner has been defeated for reelection since 1992.

And why is it so hard to fire these folks? The size of the county.


Each DeKalb commissioner represents about 140,000 people. It takes a lot of money to reach that many voters, realistically, a hundred grand or more to be truly competitive against an incumbent.

DeKalb Commissioners happily raise money from developers and county vendors who won’t contribute to challengers because doing so would put their business interests at risk. The result? Incumbent Commissioners know the only way they can lose is angering monied interests.

In LaVista Hills, each city council member would represent less than 12,000 people, just two or three neighborhoods and less than 1/10th of a DeKalb Commissioner.

In a district that small, anyone can run competitively and beat a bad council member because it’s relatively easy to knock on such a small number of voters’ doors. You don’t need to raise an impossible amount of money to run for office, creating competition and accountability.

Firing incumbents is the only way to stop corruption. There are some reforms on next week’s ballot I am planning to vote yes on. They are helpful steps, but I doubt they will be enough.

Competitive election are our best bet for reform, and that’s something our community will only get in LaVista Hills.

– Josh Kahn

Josh Kahn is a community activist in the Toco Hills neighborhood.



About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • jo

    “DeKalb Commissioners happily raise money from developers and county vendors who won’t contribute to challengers because doing so would put their business interests at risk. The result? Incumbent Commissioners know the only way they can lose is angering monied interests”

    Two headlines from the Brookhaven Reporter web site today:

    “PAC money, consultants boost Brookhaven mayoral race”

    Same exact behavior and the principle reason we do not need more politicians and more government.

    The other headline; ” Brookhaven police blotter: homicide, auto thefts, more crime reported”

    • Ernest

      As usual, totally irrelevant — but don’t let that get in the way.

      • Russell Carleton

        Rather relevant, wouldn’t you say? The idea that cities are somehow free of developers and vendors trying to influence candidates and elections is kinda silly, isn’t it?

  • decaturmax

    The point of the article is that when you represent a small area connected by social media groups, it is cheap and easy to run for a city council seat.

    Present system……1 county commissioner represents 2 Times population of lavista hills. Incumbants can’t lose. No government vision for the Lavista hills area.

  • Smarter Than You

    You really must think people are stupid, Josh. Your headline… How will DeKalb corruption be fixed by people voting to create an additional layer of government? How is it fixed? All the crooks going to throw up their hands and say, “Joshy got elected as a city councilman over in Lavista HIlls! Let’s clean up our act!” You propose “Firing incumbents is the only way to stop corruption.” You do realize that no incumbents will be fired because of anything LVH does. Your city will fix nothing and will create new opportunities for wasting our taxes and for a new level of corruption.

  • Teed

    People who don’t pay attention currently are not likely to pay attention just because you create another layer of government. 90% of voters in LaVista Hills can’t even name their current politicians. So you propose to solve the problem by adding more.

    Cityhood is nothing more than an employment program for politicians.

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