Voters narrowly reject LaVista Hills, approve Tucker in DeKalb cityhood votes
This story has been updated.
By Dyana Bagby, contributor
Voters rejected a proposal make LaVista Hills a city on Tuesday in a photo finish with just less than 200 votes deciding the race.
But the proposed city of Tucker cruised to an easy victory.
Unofficial results from the DeKalb County Election Office show 6,925 voted against the cityhood measure while 6,789 voted in favor — a difference of 136 votes.
“We ran a very grassroots campaign against a political machine and won,” said Marjorie Snook with DeKalb Strong, the volunteer group opposing LaVista Hills cityhood.
Allen Venet, with the LaVista Hills YES group, said he and other supporters were disappointed with the final result.
“We are very disappointed, but we are also proud that our efforts contributed to a vigorous debate about critical issues for DeKalb County,” he said in a statement to Decaturish.
LaVista Hills would have had over 65,000 people and would have been bordered on the north and west sides by I-85 and bisected by I-285.
Snook said the LaVista Hills campaign did turn “very ugly” in the last few days, which, she believed, turned off voters and resulted in some of them voting against the cityhood referendum.
On Tuesday, for example, news broke that a mailer offered a new reason for incorporating: protecting the proposed new city from being annexed by Atlanta.
The mailer featured a picture of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and stated, “Atlanta Wants to Annex You.”
“Your senior property tax exemption is in danger,” the mailer stated.
“I think what [Tuesday’s] vote says is the community is more interested in working together with all of DeKalb rather than trying to split off into some kind of enclave,” Snook said.
Snook said she and others with DeKalb Strong want to work with those in favor of the cityhood movement in the future and heal differences.
“We know there were very well intentioned people working in the cityhood movement,” she said.
Next steps include going to the Georgia legislature in the next session to call for DeKalb County reforms, including a close look at the county’s charter and finding places where it can be restructured, Snook added.
Those seeking cityhood, such as the LaVista Hills Alliance and LaVista Hills YES, cited DeKalb County corruption as a reason to incorporate. DeKalb Strong agrees there is plenty wrong with DeKalb County. LaVista Hills supporters and DeKalb Strong have publicly urged DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May to resign following an investigation revealing numerous government wrongdoings.
Questions about who could vote in the LaVista Hills race were raised Tuesday after several people voting on the issue were turned away at some DeKalb County precincts.
The issue appeared to be related to split precincts, according to Maxine Daniels, director of Voter Registration and Elections for DeKalb.
According to 11 Alive, some voters were accidentally excluded from voting on LaVista Hills – about 45 voters – but were later added to the list of people who could vote for or against the new city.
In contrast to the LaVista Hills election, voters easily approved making Tucker a city with nearly 74 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State.
“The people of Tucker have spoken. Tomorrow, after three years of hard work, we will get some rest and then the next step is looking at city set up,” said Anne Lerner, a member of the Tucker 2015 Volunteer Council.
Tucker will have a population of over 30,000 people. Its western border will run along I-285 and its southern boundary will include portions of Stone Mountain Freeway and East Ponce de Leon Avenue. Tucker will elect two council members from each of its three proposed districts, plus a mayor, in nonpartisan races.
Hundreds of people were celebrating in the rain on Main Street in Tucker on Tuesday night, symbolic of the positive campaign supporters ran to achieve cityhood—unlike the fierce battle that took place in LaVista Hills—Lerner added.
“We had a positive campaign, this was about staying together. I think the people spoke loud and clear and the vote sends a strong message of who we are,” she said.
“This is a community win. It’s not about politics; it’s not about personalities. It’s about community. Tucker is an amazing, amazing community,” she added tearfully. “I’m so proud of everyone.”
Here are more photos from Tuesday’s historic cityhood vote …
Correction: This story has been updated to identify which specific groups called for CEO Lee May’s resignation. Tucker supporters have not issued a statement regarding May’s status as CEO.