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As Atlanta lawmakers oppose Buckhead cityhood, advocates decry ‘drivel’ and Chamber warns of ‘crippling blow’

Buckhead's business district, as seen from Ga. 400. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Samuel Lenaeus October 21, 2021 8:04 am

    City of Atlanta is only 7% of the Metro a 20% smaller COA will not be a “crippling blow” to the economic engine of the Atlanta Metro. Under COA’s miss management and lack of police protection Buckhead is dying. A dead Buckhead is a dead Atlanta. Supersized cities are a thing of the past, there too big to care and filled with corruption. Buckhead head will represent her people better with transparency. Also a smaller Atlanta should be easier to manage, we will keep less than 10% of our Tax contribution into the Multi Billion City of Atlanta Budget and still be able to have a 113 Million surplus. Atlanta can learn a lot form us as Buckhead will be a leader for our Metro.Report

    Reply
    1. Walter October 24, 2021 12:44 pm

      Why should everyone in Georgia pay for a few separatists to have a Manhattan here in Georgia? Bond rating agencies have already signaled that Georgia’s credit rating is at stake. Who is this Bill White? A New York transplant, that is a Trumper, and pro-storming of the Capital. Do your homework, this man is no one I would follow as a leader of my movement. Asserting the mayor’s race means nothing, why doesn’t he run!? Seriously, this man was on the plane with President Trump on the 4th of July, he is connected, he might have a shot! Thankfully for Bill White, this Berkeley Laker Republican cannot vote this movement down, but I will use my influence and capital to oppose this division and scaremongering being imported to this state. Crime across the country has spiked, Bill White apparently believes that the FBI only meant this happened in Atlanta when they reported this. I could go on, but I don’t think this separation will happen. It would harm the state’s bond borrowing costs, Buckhead businesses are likely unhappy because I am sure a boycott will follow the separation from Atlantans and other sympathetic people from the suburbs (most people polled outside of Atlanta are anti-separation according to the AJC), and the press from any successful split is bad PR for the state as a whole that will suffer attacks and characterizations from spin artists that will require money and PR dollars from the state to repair.Report

      Reply

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