Dear Decaturish – Why I am saying ‘yes’ to LaVista Hills

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 27, 2015
A map of the proposed city of LaVista Hills

A map of the proposed city of LaVista Hills

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Dear Decaturish,

I have been asked by friends and neighbors in the Briarcliff Woods community why I will be voting YES for the city of LaVista Hills on Nov 3.  It is a straightforward decision for me.  I believe that the new city will improve our community’s quality of life by addressing the erosion of services and security issues we currently face.

My family moved to this area almost 35 years ago because of the schools, location, and quality of life.  We have been very happy with our choice.  However, in recent years we have seen troubling changes to the services provided by DeKalb County:

– We have roads and sidewalks that have long needed repair or have been inadequately repaired.  There are dangerous high-traffic areas that badly need sidewalks.  School walk routes have newly installed electric crossing signs that don’t work, and some routes have hazardous sidewalks that are addressed by long-term placement of orange cones.  Overgrown right-of-ways are obstructing traffic and drivers’ vision.

– We have increasing security concerns.  My wife has served as a block captain for the Neighborhood Watch for a number of years.  We have noted more and more Neighborhood Watch messages about burglaries, vehicles broken into, and children trailed by suspicious individuals.  Several neighborhoods in our community have felt compelled to hire their own security guards.  Despite these safety issues, this year the County reduced the millage rate for Police Services by 24 percent while it increased the millage rate for County Operations by 26 percent.  This is a perplexing action when many areas across the County perceive that the DeKalb Police are overworked, understaffed, and underfunded.

– We have little support for development of our parks.  We have attended several planning meetings with County parks personnel for a new neighborhood park on land that had been purchased by the County.  During the planning sessions, we were told that the County had no funds for development of the park; any development would have to be funded by the community through grants or donations.  Within days of the last meeting, the County announced a multimillion dollar agreement with Atlanta United that would support the development of a soccer complex behind the County Jail with County funds and tax incentives.  Yet the continued message to our community is that there are no funds for park development.

– We see little evidence of smart planning and development or responsive zoning and enforcement.   We have watched as nearby areas in the city of Brookhaven, such as the old Loehmann’s Plaza on North Druid Hills, have been remodeled and reinvigorated.  In contrast, commercial areas in our community are declining.  Whereas the revitalized Loehmann’s Plaza gets a Fresh Market, we get another gas station/convenience store where a grocery store once stood.  The old shopping centers at Clairmont and Briarcliff now have bars and nightclubs that are making efforts to expand their hours of operations.   The Northlake Mall area has declined.  The Northlake business community is so concerned that they have joined a Community Improvement District and are seeking funds to implement a plan that would improve the infrastructure, security, and appearance of the area.

We must reverse the decline in services and address the security issues.  It is also critical that we fix the corruption, waste, and inefficiency in the County government.  However, I am not convinced that fixing these problems will address the core issue: as evidenced by all of the above actions or inactions, the needs of our community’s 67,000 residents are not a priority for the County’s government.  I am not confident that our future tax dollars will be used to address our needs. The current government structure does not provide us effective representation or accountability to make these needs a priority.  I am optimistic that a new city, with the primary functions of providing these services, would be more effective and efficient.  The city leaders would live in our area and they would be accountable to us.  I will vote YES on Nov. 3 because I believe that the city of LaVista Hills offers us the best chance to maintain and enhance the long-term quality of life in our community. This quality of life, in addition to the schools and location, will lead families to make this community their home, just as it did for us 35 years ago.

– Mitchell L. Cohen, M.D.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Russell Carleton

    The reason that the millage rate was reduced for the police this year was that the fund had built up a reserve and it was no longer necessary to collect as much to fund operations.

    • RAJ

      Probably in response to reduced crime in DeKalb county!

  • DecaturMax

    Paving- $0 Park maintenance/improvements- $0 Sidewalks- $0 Billionaires $12+ million. I have a feeling the $12m is way low when factoring in all facilities being relocated and the free rent. Next up….. Dekalb will have pay more to Arthur Blanks for overruns on the environmental.

    Isn’t it counterproductive to simultaneously build reserves for roads and drainage to appease the bond rating agencies (want 1.2 months operating expenses in savings) and to fall further behind on repaving that will have to be done. That is like not paying monthly utility bills to build up your long term savings account.
    yes, Russell, Dekalb has built reserves(see article below). Just driver around and look at the pavement and you will see where much of the money came from…. deferred maintenance.

    I guess we can’t afford Downtown Dekalb and regular road maintenance.
    Hmmmm……maybe another 1% sales tax could allow us to pay for maintenance and Downtown Dekalb? Sound familiar.

  • notapunk

    Crime in Dunwoody has not “spiked considerably.” When your numbers are already low, it only takes a small change in number to produce a big jump in percentage. Talk about fear-mongering.
    2014 2015 % change
    Homicide 0 0 0%
    Rape 5 8 60.0%
    Armed Robbery 15 33 120.0%
    Aggravated Assault 26 31 19.2%
    Total Violent Crime 46 72 56.5%
    Burglary 215 20 -5.6%
    Larceny 1366 1247 -8.7%
    Motor Veh Theft 95 70 -26.3%
    Total Property Crime 1676 152 -9.3%
    Total Part 1 Crime 1722 1592 -7.5%

    Now, compare those numbers to the statewide crime rate per the GBI:

    • MediateIt

      On September 15th, Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan wrote a memo to the City Council stating that crimes against people were up two-thirds, and said his 51-officer department is “woefully understaffed.” He is seeking a 10 percent increase in the department’s budget, to $8.2 million from $7.4 million to add three new patrol officers and a detective. The chief saidc he wants to add the patrol officers to increase visibility in the community and add a detective to help with the heavy investigative workload.

      “Compared to some of our neighboring cities, our [major] crime rate is unacceptably high,” police Chief Billy Grogan wrote. A statistical comparison of the cities is in the article.××××××××××××××

      Comparing the crime statistics of the entire 12 months of 2014 to 9 months in 2015 is incomprehensible. The comparison of the crime statistics of a single city to the entire state, or to a county of 730,000, or to an entirely separate district than the one in which the city is located, is ludicrous. It seems to me that the report of the chief of police of one of the two cities that the Carl Vinson Institute used to compare to a possible city of La Vista Hills would be the most accurate source of information when determining how many police officers per person might be needed in the new city, and how much money it might cost to achieve that goal.

      Using the numbers provided in the flawed CVI study as if it were correct, it still doesn’t appear that there will be enough funds for the appropriate number of patrol officers plus detectives per person in LaVista Hills without a significant increase in the budget. What is the City Council going to do? Are they going to fund sufficient police at the cost of parks or roads, or are they going to start with a smaller force and see what happens? You can’t have it all, so what will it be – police or potholes?

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