As LaVista Hills supporters question outcome of election, opponents move forward

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 9, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

Supporters of creating a new DeKalb City have been gathering up reports of voter irregularities that might have affected the outcome of the Nov. 3 referendum.

Opponents of the new city are moving on.

On Saturday, LaVista Hills supporters announced they had retained legal counsel in anticipation of a battle over the hotly-contested election. The result and allegations of misconduct by DeKalb election officials have prompted an investigation.

The county certified the election results on Nov. 6 one day after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation visited the DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Office and confiscated equipment as part of an investigation into the vote. The investigation was ordered by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Under state law, if there’s evidence of tampering that could’ve changed the outcome, the election would be invalidated. County Commissioner Nancy Jester is already calling for a new election.

Leonard Piazza, the second-highest ranking official at DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Office, has been placed on administrative leave. He alleges it’s because he raised questions about the integrity of the Nov. 3 LaVista Hills referendum, which was defeated by 136 votes. His boss, Maxine Daniels, said he was placed on leave due to an unrelated personnel issue.

DeKalb County is confident the election results will stand. The lead opposition group to Cityhood, DeKalb Strong, is also confident judging by an email to supporters sent over the weekend. The email doesn’t mention the controversy surrounding the vote.

“We did it! This has certainly been a momentous week for DeKalb County residents,” the email says. “When we started DeKalb Strong ten months ago, we did so with a commitment to engage our fellow citizens in an effort to improve local government for everyone in every part of DeKalb. We firmly believe that DeKalb County, despite its current challenges, remains a great place to live, work and raise a family, and that if we all work together, there is nothing wrong with DeKalb that cannot be fixed by what is right with it.”

DeKalb Strong plans to schedule an open meeting in the next few weeks to discuss, ” how we can work together to get DeKalb County back on the right track.”

The group is planning to focus on the following issues:

The following are some of the initiatives we are thinking about:

1) We need to ensure that the terms of the new county ethics ordinance that was overwhelmingly approved by the voters are implemented faithfully and effectively. We also need to ensure that the new Independent Auditor and the new [procurement polices are in place as directed by the bills that enacted them.

2) State Representative Scott Holcomb has already announced his intention to introduce a bill to eliminate the CEO form of government. This proposal could be just a part of many potential changes that could be sought as part of a charter commission, which reviews all aspects of our form of government. This is a job that will be complex and will require citizens to devote a lot of energy.

3) The 2016 election cycle is coming up, and the CEO position, the District Attorney, and multiple commission seats are up for election. Mike Bowers himself said that the single best way to address corruption problems in DeKalb is for voters to get more engaged and elect better people. We have that chance, and DeKalb Strong intends to be engged in seeking and supporting candidates as opportunities arise.

4) Commissioner Kathie Gannon is proposed the formation of a citizen group she’s calling Blueprint II. The first Blueprint group resulted in the reforms that are now law. The kickoff meeting is November 16th, 7 p.m., at the South DeKalb Senior Center, 1931 Candler Road.

The email encourages supporters of LaVista Hills to be a part of DeKalb Strong’s efforts to reform county government.

“Regardless of whether you live inside or outside the boundaries of the proposed City of LaVista Hills, and whether you supported or opposed cityhood, we hope that you will join us, and we respectfully ask for your help in our effort,” the email says.

Here is the full message from DeKalb Strong:

We did it!

This has certainly been a momentous week for DeKalb County residents. When we started DeKalb Strong ten months ago, we did so with a commitment to engage our fellow citizens in an effort to improve local government for everyone in every part of DeKalb. We firmly believe that DeKalb County, despite its current challenges, remains a great place to live, work and raise a family, and that if we all work together, there is nothing wrong with DeKalb that cannot be fixed by what is right with it.

To that end, we decided to oppose the creation of the City of LaVista Hills. We believe that the city that was proposed was not viable in the long term, and would have ended up hurting the quality of life in the proposed city and countywide. We engaged in a vigorous, spirited debate with cityhood proponents, including at an unprecedented 13 community forums in the six weeks before the vote, which had not happened during previous cityhood movements. In the end, the voters decided, narrowly, not to form the new city.

We know some of our friends on the other side are profoundly disappointed, the voters have spoken and it is time to move forward and work together for the betterment of the community we share. We believe it is now time to get to the work we wanted to do in the first place: restoring the health and integrity of DeKalb County government. We need to continue to engage and renew the momentum that helped secure our successes to date.

To that end, we will be scheduling an open meeting in coming weeks about how we can work together to get DeKalb County back on the right track. We encourage everyone to attend. Regardless of whether you live inside or outside the boundaries of the proposed City of LaVista Hills, and whether you supported or opposed cityhood, we hope that you will join us, and we respectfully ask for your help in our effort.

The following are some of the initiatives we are thinking about:

1) We need to ensure that the terms of the new county ethics ordinance that was overwhelmingly approved by the voters are implemented faithfully and effectively. We also need to ensure that the new Independent Auditor and the new [procurement polices are in place as directed by the bills that enacted them.

2) State Representative Scott Holcomb has already announced his intention to introduce a bill to eliminate the CEO form of government. This proposal could be just a part of many potential changes that could be sought as part of a charter commission, which reviews all aspects of our form of government. This is a job that will be complex and will require citizens to devote a lot of energy.

3) The 2016 election cycle is coming up, and the CEO position, the District Attorney, and multiple commission seats are up for election. Mike Bowers himself said that the single best way to address corruption problems in DeKalb is for voters to get more engaged and elect better people. We have that chance, and DeKalb Strong intends to be engged in seeking and supporting candidates as opportunities arise.

4) Commissioner Kathie Gannon is proposed the formation of a citizen group she’s calling Blueprint II. The first Blueprint group resulted in the reforms that are now law. The kickoff meeting is November 16th, 7 p.m., at the South DeKalb Senior Center, 1931 Candler Road.

Thank you to everyone on both sides who was involved in the debate about LaVista Hills. If we can take the commitment to community involvement that we all showed and turn it toward the issues that are ahead, we have no doubt that we can make DeKalb County better than it has ever been.

About Dan Whisenhunt

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

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • MAC

    Gotta give them credit: DS fought an “epic” battle and they sound very much like the high-road winners here wasting no time moving forward with deliberation and direction. Majorie Snook is smart and scrappy. I think her heart is in the right place. DeKalb County needs and deserves this type of advocacy.

    • Stacey

      Har har har! MAC, you are so funny! Did you ever go read any of the uncivil low-road chatter that went on constantly on their FB page? At times it was downright scary. Any resemblance between their tactics and honesty was purely coincidental. DeKalb citizens have been duped again by people trying to build a political name for themselves at the expense of innocent taxpayers. DeKalb does not need more of this.

      • travelingfool

        Marjorie, NEVER, posted any such comments and more than many times she chided those that did.That went both ways and definitely more on the LaVista Yes (at any cost) side.

        • Guest

          Funny, it appears Mrs. Snook now is scrubbing her anti-DeKalb Police ranting from Reddit. Talk about some foul (and foul-mouthed) comments.

          • Stacey

            Don’t worry – I know someone who took screenshots for posterity of her walk on the low-road, for the world to see her potty-mouthed degrading of the DeKalb police.

            travelingfool, unless she’s already scrubbed her cheesy comments on DS page, go back and read again. And since she controlled the page, she could have removed those horrible mean posts — and could have blocked those no-class writers. But she didn’t. It was like running a pit bull fighting ring….

  • Mike

    Let us vote, we want to vote… Well LaVista Hills, whatever that is, you got the vote!! Now, you do not like the outcome? Hey, is that what a sore loser is? Rhetorically, YES, that is the definition of a sore loser. If you were offering anything, the vote would not be close. It would pass overwhelmingly, like Tucker! So, when something goes wrong, or an outcome presents itself that was unexpected, what to do? File suite, accuse someone of cheating, or go back and see why so many people voted AGAINST your proposal!!! Look in the mirror…. And get back to the populace when you understand!!

  • Bernie

    DeKalb Strong advocates eliminating the CEO position, but former Attorney General Mike Bowers told Blueprint DeKalb leaders Patricia Killingsworth, Ted Daniel and Dan Wright to their faces that eliminating the CEO’s position won’t make any difference. It was in that context that Mr. Bowers told them the best solution is to elect better people. So why does Blueprint DeKalb’s ally, DeKalb Strong, continue to promote the idea of eliminating the CEO position?

Receive the Daily Email DIgest

* = required field