As Atlanta lawmakers oppose Buckhead cityhood, advocates decry ‘drivel’ and Chamber warns of ‘crippling blow’
By John Ruch
The Atlanta state legislative delegations’ full-throated denouncement of Buckhead cityhood is being blasted as “hyperbolic drivel” by advocates, but it has now been reinforced by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which says secession would be a “crippling blow” to the region’s economy.
The statements came as critics of the cityhood movement attempt to play catch-up with the rapidly moving effort, which could receive a hearing at a special legislative session in November called for redistricting.
At an Oct. 18 State Capitol press conference, members of the Atlanta joint House and Senate delegations issued more focused versions of their recent rejections of “Buckhead City” that they discussed at an Oct. 15 planning meeting. These included concerns over impacts on bond ratings, Atlanta Public Schools budget and attendance, and a hit to the City of Atlanta’s policing budget.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber previously avoided taking a stance in the argument, with its president and CEO earlier this year cautiously calling for “diligent study.” That has changed. The Chamber confirmed Oct. 17 to SaportaReport that it is joining the opposition, as delegation members previously mentioned.
“Seceding from the City of Atlanta will not make Buckhead safer nor will it solve the legitimate concerns from residents and businesses,” said a written statement from Marshall Guest, the Chamber’s senior vice president of public policy. “Instead, secession would create complex new problems for Buckhead, the City of Atlanta and the entire state. It would set a very dangerous precedent statewide and deal a crippling blow to the tremendous economic momentum we have achieved. Atlanta is known for coming together to address its challenges and we must do the same now to improve public safety with realistic solutions for a stronger city, region and state.”
The pro-cityhood Buckhead City Committee is not impressed. In a written statement attributed to BCC leader Bill White, the group said the delegations’ criticisms were “the same hyperbolic drivel and scaremongering” that other opponents have made.
“Surprise, surprise. Atlanta’s delegation in the Georgia General Assembly doesn’t like the idea of Buckhead residents deciding for themselves if they should be under the thumb of the City of Atlanta or gain more influence over their own future,” White said in the statement.
White repeated the BCC’s previous claims that local students would still be able to attend APS, that crime would be reduced by a new local police force, and that the City of Atlanta would gain a net boost in its budget.
He also contradicted broader concerns of breaking up Atlanta and said waiting for a new mayor to be elected would do nothing. “Just as a dangerous and dying Buckhead signals the end of Atlanta’s reputation as a great city, a safe, strong, and prosperous Buckhead is essential to the perception of Atlanta as a great city,” he said, claiming cityhood would actually benefit Atlanta. As for this fall’s city election, “A new mayor will solve nothing. The City of Atlanta is poorly managed, unresponsive and incapable of addressing the concerns of Buckhead,” he wrote.
The Committee for a United Atlanta, an anti-cityhood group, is the source of much of the opposition statistics. The CUA says it is communicating its concerns with legislators through its co-chair and lobbyist, Edward Lindsey, who previously held a Buckhead-area House of Representatives seat. State Rep. Betsy Holland (D-Atlanta), a Buckhead resident who now holds that seat, said that delegation members are “in touch with the CUA folks to share information and ideas” but work “completely independently.” CUA head Billy Linville, who operates the public relations firm Lexicon Strategies, sent out a press release about the delegations’ press conference, but just as a one-time favor to Holland, she said.