On Tuesday evening, August 11, 2015, I attended a LaVista Hills informational meeting at the Avis G. Williams library. It was well attended and was presented by a pro LaVista Hills group. There was no pretense of trying to hide the purpose of the meeting. It was well organized and provided time for anyone who wanted to speak no matter where they stood on cityhood. I observed the meeting and tried to get a feeling of the pros and cons many of the attendees presented. I was struck by a few unmistakable facts. The pro city people generally agree the county is poorly run and your voice as an individual does not garner much attention from your county commissioner. I got the feeling that if we start breaking local government into smaller pieces we would have more direct control over our tax money and the services we receive. Many have arrived at this decision out of the futility of trying to deal with our county bureaucracy.
And the other side … those that oppose the cityhood. I was really shaken that many of the anti city people really did not understand how the county commission even worked. Vague statements about returning to the good old days of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s were uttered. Those were great sentiments but were offered with no substance of fact of how to get those days back. Most, but not all, were senior citizens. Just so you know I am too. I went to DeKalb County Schools in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I remember the “Good Old Days ” in this county. I long for them too. Unfortunately they are long gone and thinking that their return is possible soon is ignoring reality.
Some thought if we just voted the right people in we could fix everything. How long has it been since we voted the right people in? Here is how it works in DeKalb. The south side of the county controls four votes and the CEO job. The North side of the county controls three votes. Have you checked the recent votes in our county commission? A few years ago I did some research when I was on the School board. I found out that the Lakeside, Dunwoody, Druid Hills , Chamblee, Tucker areas paid about two thirds of the taxes supporting schools. Did you get two thirds of the benefits in your schools? Did you get even the same benefits as the rest of the county who was paying considerably less in taxes? I will let you be the judge of that.
What does all this mean? Our county has no resemblance to the county of the ‘Good Old Days’. We must face reality. It is likely that no matter who we elect we will probably lose a vote on the commission for services if we continue as we are. Regarding elections, I can also say that many local elections in DeKalb garner small turnouts by the electorate. That means we are pretty much disengaged, or we are trusting the people who do vote or the local government to do the right thing. How is that working out for us?
LaVista Hills and Tucker have done good studies. They both have done their due diligence. The numbers were not pulled out of thin air. The final numbers were even tempered to the low side to try to include the unforeseen. I do not think we have all the answers, but we are trying. When and if we get our cities, we need to be super diligent. If we do not vote or depend on someone else, or if we do not stay informed it will all happen again just on a smaller level. I want to return to the Good Old Days. It starts with a city that we the community can nurture and grow to suit our local needs.