Dear Decaturish – LaVista Hills: Incorporation a key to improving quality of life

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 30, 2015
LaVista Hills supporters addressed a packed house at Briarcliff United Methodist Church on Aug. 24. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

LaVista Hills supporters addressed a packed house at Briarcliff United Methodist Church on Aug. 24. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

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Dear Decaturish,

When voters in north central DeKalb go to the polls Tuesday to decide on the city of LaVista Hills, they will have two simple choices.

Accept the status quo or embrace change.

We can vote for creation of a local government in our own community that will provide more police protection, enhanced parks, repaired roads and greater influence over zoning. That government will have local control and be easy for the residents to monitor.

Or we can stay unincorporated: with all services provided by the broken county bureaucracy – one rife with corruption, waste, fraud and abuse.

If LaVista Hills forms and follows the path of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and other newly-created cities, we will still remain in the county. DeKalb will still provide many services, such as libraries and courts, which they provide to all residents, both unincorporated and city dwellers.

However, we in LaVista Hills will be able to retain about 7 cents out of every property tax dollar to finance local government. We will control our own destiny, with our own police department patrolling our streets and keeping our citizens safe. We will be able to pave roads, enhance parks and offer quality land use by spending taxes more efficiently and effectively.

Most important, critical decisions will be made by our neighbors and friends, who we will elect to a city council in our community. We will not be governed by politicians in downtown Decatur. Not a single DeKalb commissioner lives in or near our community, and none has for many years. LaVista Hills council members will live among us, and they will live with the decisions they make.

At 67,000 residents, LaVista Hills will be Georgia’s 12th largest city. The prestigious University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government concluded that the city will be fiscally sound without a property tax increase, generating an annual surplus. UGA has never been wrong about a new city and we are confident that are right about LaVista Hills.

Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and other new cities have become very desirable places to live since their incorporation. The quality of life in LaVista Hills will improve dramatically if we seize the opportunity for better government by voting Yes on Nov. 3.

– Allen Venet and Mary Kay Woodworth

Venet is chairman of LaVista Hills, Yes! and Woodworth is chairman of the LaVista Hills Alliance.

About Dan Whisenhunt

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

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Kenneth Lippe

    Regardless of one’s view on this matter, lets just be clear that voting “No” to incorporation does not inherently mean “accepting the status quo.” Accepting the status quo would be doing nothing. “Embracing change” can also mean forcing reform within the county. Fortunately, citizens are fired up about county corruption, and we seem to be at a tipping point with the corruption investigations and the State focus on county clean-up and restructuring. No doubt, citizens will need to keep pushing, or momentum could be lost.

    • Typo

      Hear, hear, Kenneth. It’s understandable, though, why AV and MKW define things the way they do. I think no one expects anything different. Vote!

    • Ernest

      Kenneth, I disagree with your assessment. Voting “no” definitely does mean accepting the status quo. Even with all the publicity about DeKalb wrong-doings and citizens’being “fired up”, things will stay the way they are for at least several years, and likely much longer.

      Over the last 20 years, we have been fired up many, many times. We have paid for and participated in task forces, study committees, special reports, ad infinitum. There have been state, federal and local investigations and convictions of criminals in DeKalb government. Then it all settles down again and it’s back to business as usual – shafting taxpayers in this part of the county. Idealism gets us nowhere. We must not be too timid to seize the chance to take control of our own future.

      • Kenneth Lippe

        I hear ya, Ernest. My thoughts though, are, 1. We’ll still be in the county, so a city doesn’t solve the larger problem, and 2. Ultimately, it’s up to the citizens to stay diligent. It goes back to business as usual, because there is insufficient outcry from the citizens. If the citizens in the footprint of the proposed city remain complacent, eventually, the city government will count on this for their own shenanigans. Any government ultimately ends up doing what it figures it can get away with. That’s why there are loopholes written into every piece of legislation, such as the “Ethics Reform” bill HB 597, which holds harmless all county officials who may have committed ethics violations, if complaints are not filed by 12-31-15, and it allows the absurd potential, after that date, for a county official who may receive fines or jail time to continue to stay in office.

        • Ernest

          Kenneth, you are SO on target about the so-called “Ethics Reform” bill we are voting on — nothing more than a get-out-of-jail free card for all the current criminals in DeKalb gov’t. And Ms. Killingsworth (DS ‘s main contributor) is credited with having written HB-597! But at a time like this, voters will blindly vote yes for anything with the word “ethics” attached.

          I agree with you that, no matter how tired we are, we citizens have to stay after the County. But my point is that the wheels of law and justice grind v.e.r.y slowly, and it will take literally years to get anything accomplished there. At best.

          But if we bravely step out and vote “yes” to incorporate, we will vote in February for our new mayor and city council, then have LaVista Hills up and running by this time next year! WE can make change and see actual improvements locally, instead remaining victims of the county-level boondoggle. Give it some thought.

          • Kenneth Lippe

            For what its worth, I have thought hard about it, and as disappointing as the way this bill was written is, I have decided to vote for it, anyway, since with the existing code, the DeKalb governing authority appoints the Board of Ethics members, so the power to remove from office will likely never be used. Therefore what improvements are in the bill are better than nothing, however unfortunate. Perhaps it can be revised to reinstate that power, at the next go around. I suspect that it will need to be, when you consider the new bill seems to allow for absurd situations like a jailed official who still holds office.

        • Ward H. Silver

          Kenneth, is this the ethics legislation we are voting on? If so, are you suggesting a vote against, or simply pointing out that it’s tough to pass meaningful legislation (i.e. sans the inevitable loopholes)?

          • Kenneth Lippe

            The HB 597 strips the Board of Ethics’ ability to remove an ethics violating official from office. The excuse is, it has a potential conflict with the State Constitution, which states that removal from office should happen under general law, which is the method the new bill relies on. The problem is, the General Law provisions in the Georgia Code make it so difficult to remove an official from office, that it is unlikely that the use of the prescribed procedures could ever achieve it.* I would think, rather than neuter the Code of Ethics, the State legislature could have opted to amend the Georgia Code to prescribe the right for the Board of Ethics to remove an official, thus making it reasonably possible to achieve.
            The other excuse for doing this is that the Board of Ethics has never removed anyone from office, so it doesn’t matter. Of course with the BOE being appointed by the officials, this is no surprise. Now, I don’t know the stats, but I do not believe that General Law has ever been used to remove an official from office, anywhere in the State. The new bill does add fines and possible jail time to ethics violators. Now, consider this, who would want an official to remain in office who has been proven to be unethical or criminal, and worse yet, is in jail? The new code doesn’t appear to fix the problem and it seems to allow serious ethical or criminal violations to become absurd situations. Since the “Ethics Reform” bill wipes the slate clean after December 31, the bill truly is, as other awake citizens have called it, a “get out of jail free card,” and I don’t see how anyone could say it isn’t. It is not my purpose to tell anyone how to vote on this, but I do believe that promotion of the bill is misleading. This is not about “perfect being the enemy of good,” it is about the dumbfounding way this legislation was written and the damage it may do to justice, under the label of reform. Perhaps, it should be voted down and resubmitted when it is written in a sensible way. That is for the mostly uninformed voters to decide.

            * http://ga.elaws.us/law/21-4 “No recall may commence during the first or last 180 days in office. Grounds for recall are conduct which relates to and adversely affects the administration of his or her office and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public; and act(s) of malfeasance, violation of oath of office, failure to perform duties prescribed by law willful misuse, conversion or misappropriation of public property or funds.
            Time for gathering signatures is 45 days for a petition requiring 5,000 signatures or more; 30 days for a petition requiring fewer than 5,000 signatures.
            Signature requirement is number equal to 30% of the electors registered and qualified to vote at the last regular election.”

          • Kenneth Lippe

            Someone didn’t like my reply, as it disappeared. I suggest reading the bill, the existing DeKalb County Code of Ethics it will replace, and the provisions in the General Law for removing an official from office, and reach your own conclusions.

            http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20152016/HB/597

            http://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/ethics/pdf/law1990.pdf

            http://ga.elaws.us/law/21-4

            “No recall may commence during the first or last 180 days in office. Grounds for recall are conduct which relates to and adversely affects the administration of his or her office and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public; and act(s) of malfeasance, violation of oath of office, failure to perform duties prescribed by law willful misuse, conversion or misappropriation of public property or funds.
            Time for gathering signatures is 45 days for a petition requiring 5,000 signatures or more; 30 days for a petition requiring fewer than 5,000 signatures.
            Signature requirement is number equal to 30% of the electors registered and qualified to vote at the last regular election.”

        • notapunk

          It’s worse than that. The Ethics Board has to RULE by December 31 on complaints already filed. It’s a get out of trouble free card. Bad legislation for the citizens of DeKalb.

  • jo

    “with our own police department patrolling our streets and keeping our citizens safe”

    But the Dunwoody police chief says he is woefully understaffed and crime is out of control so he needs another couple of million dollars and a year or so ago he told council that there are police services that his department should be providing but doesnt.

    Lavista Hills will have the same problems. I think they want to money from the police tax to fund other operations of the proposed city which will result a cut in police service.

    Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Dunwoody were desirable locations before they added extra layers of government. Municipalization didn’t make them desirable and there are plenty of folks who feel that the extra government has harmed these areas.

    “Accepting the status quo” of DeKalb was what Sen Millar the benefactor of Lavista Hills did for years. Never lifted a finger for reforms and even tried to block reforms for Dekalb government from coming up for a vote unless he got his city vote. I feel comfortable voting NO because I want a better DeKalb and not another layer of governemnt and politicians.

  • Cities Are Bad

    I am really looking forward to the city defeat tomorrow so everyone can go back to work at the county and Dekalb can be stronger than ever. Once the smart people vote this down we will need to remind and train the less intelligent others who is in control and who pays for all the parties and fun forever and ever. Dekalb Strong is slaughtering the enemy and the weapons are the smart people of the county!

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