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Creating a Buckhead City would hurt Atlanta on so many levels

Aerial view of the Buckhead skyline (Photo Credit: Plus © Gene Phillips artist, www.AtlantaPhotos.com, Courtesy Atlanta.net)

By Maria Saporta

The proposal to carve a City of Buckhead out of the City of Atlanta would be detrimental – financially, politically and psychologically.

In essence, it would create a majority white Buckhead City and majority Black Atlanta – going against everything our city has represented historically as a place where races can come together to work on solutions.

It also would divide our city into two cities – one of the haves and the other of the have-nots.

That’s what Dave Stockert, chairman of the Buckhead Coalition, told the Rotary Club of Atlanta earlier this month.

“According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the median income in a new Buckhead City would be about $140,000; and the median household income in the rest of Atlanta would drop by 17 percent to about $50,000 painting in a very stark light the difference between the regional haves and have nots,” Stockert said.

That is only one of many problems a City of Buckhead would create. The last thing the Atlanta region needs is yet another local government with its own bureaucracy. Already, the City of Atlanta represents only 11 percent of the Atlanta region’s residents. Removing up to 110,000 residents from Atlanta’s population of 520,000 would dilute the city’s relative standing even more – making it even harder to build regional relationships to address the issues most vital to our region.

Bill White

Even Bill White, president and CEO of the Buckhead City Committee, acknowledged that creating a City of Buckhead would have a psychological effect on Atlanta’s national image.

“What we are doing is embarrassing the city of Atlanta, and that’s a factor for me because we don’t want to hurt Atlanta,” White said in an interview with SaportaReport. “But Buckhead is dying on the vine.”

Without a doubt, problems do exist in Buckhead (as they do throughout the city). Stockert said the best way to address those issues is for people to go vote in the Nov. 2 election.

“Then we have an opportunity to engage with a new city government,” Stockert said. Atlantans will be electing a new mayor, a new city council president and all but one of the City Council seats are being contested.

Edward Lindsey, head of Denton’s Georgia Public Policy Team and co-chair of the Committee for a United Atlanta, agreed.

“A lot of things are motivating people to want a Buckhead City,” Lindsey said. “Their concerns are based on real problems. We don’t dispute that. But creating a City of Buckhead would exacerbate the problems.”

When asked why not spend his energies fixing the City of Atlanta from within, White responded: “The current candidates [for mayor], they are not offering solutions.” White expressed frustration that none of the leading candidates have met with the Buckhead City Committee to address his group’s concerns.

A map of Buckhead (Special: KB Advisory Group)

Creating a Buckhead City will not be a simple feat. First, the area will have to be unbuckled from the City of Atlanta – a process that would involve countless legal, financial and governance issues.

“Making an unincorporated area a city is fundamentally different that de-annexing a part of the city,” Lindsey said. “Essentially, it is the difference between scrambling and unscrambling an egg.”

In recent times, only one community has tried to do that. Two years ago, there was an attempt to carve out the City of Eagles Landing out of the City of Stockbridge.

In that case, most state legislators representing Stockbridge were in favor of the new city. But the voters turned it down.

So far, the state legislators who represent the City of Atlanta and the Buckhead community are against creating a Buckhead City.

“No city has been created without strong support from representatives of that area,” Lindsey said. “No representative in any part of Buckhead or the City of Atlanta is supporting it. It would create a dangerous precedent to do otherwise with our capital city.”

A map of Buckhead (in red) as part of the City of Atlanta (Special: KB Advisory Group)

White said he believes those state legislators will change their minds According to polls by his organization, most of the people who live in Buckhead support the creation of a new city.

But creating a new Buckhead City would have such a devastating impact on the City of Atlanta, people throughout the city should have a voice and not just voters who live in Buckhead.

“That would be up to the Legislature to decide but unlike creating a city in an unincorporated area, this is a divorce,” Lindsey said. “In a divorce, both parties usually have a say-so in what takes place.”

Given the detrimental impact a Buckhead City would have on Atlanta’s brand, it’s surprising to me that the Atlanta business community has not been more outspoken against the effort.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber issued a statement against Buckhead City saying “it would set a very dangerous precedent statewide and deal a crippling blow to the tremendous economic momentum we have achieved.”

But the statement came from Marshall Guest, the Chamber’s senior vice president of public policy, rather than President Katie Kirkpatrick or 2021 Chairman Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines.

Wouldn’t it have been more impactful if the Metro Atlanta Chamber had held a press conference with a host of business leaders strongly advocating against Buckhead City –sending the message to state legislators that future financial contributions to their campaigns would depend on how they voted?

An artistic reflective view of Buckhead (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

And where is the Atlanta Committee for Progress?

The influential group of business, academic and civic leaders has been almost silent. At the September ACP board meeting, the Committee for a United Atlanta made a presentation. But because the group talked about the real problems in Buckhead, it made Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms visibly uncomfortable, so the conversation came to an end.

Shan Cooper, ACP’s executive director, when asked whether the group had a position, responded in a text: “As for the separation of Buckhead from Atlanta, we stand behind the Mayor and believe that Atlanta and Buckhead are stronger together.”

Back in the day, one would expect a much more vocal response from Atlanta’s top business and civic leaders.

Lindsey, however, is hopeful the “United Atlanta” movement is gaining traction.

I’m pleased with the Metro Chamber for coming out,” Lindsey said about the recent statement from Guest. “I do expect to see more business and civic leaders to step up forcefully going forward. We have 250 pre-eminent residents in Buckhead who have gone on the record in a full-page ad. We certainly could use more help and expect we will get it. What we are trying to do right now, through the art of persuasion, is show that it is both bad policy and bad politics.”

Dave Stockert

Atlanta needs to live up to its highest ideals and its historic integrity by working on solutions that unify the races and the city by stopping efforts that are racially or economically divisive. In other words, let’s find ways to solve the problems in Buckhead and throughout the City of Atlanta by working together rather than at cross purposes.

“Buckhead is clearly a vibrant part of the tapestry of neighborhoods that makes Atlanta special, and Buckhead residents and businesses deserve to be heard on the deeply felt heartfelt concerns that they have about how things are run,” Stockert said. “But those concerns are not unique to any one part of Atlanta. They are common to all the parts of Atlanta. And to that extent, we’re all in the same boat.”

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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13 Comments

  1. Red Foreman October 26, 2021 9:50 am

    “At the September ACP board meeting, the Committee for a United Atlanta made a presentation. But because the group talked about the real problems in Buckhead, it made Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms visibly uncomfortable, so the conversation came to an end.” She SHOULD be uncomfortable–THIS is ALL HER FAULT!! Selling out the Atlanta Police Department during the George Floyd “protests” was, and continues to be her biggest mistake. Mayor Bottoms has been nothing but a failure to this City. Defunding ANY police department is a stupid idea. Mayor Bottoms made her bed, and now she is forced to sleep in her slime. Anyone remember Secoreia Turner? I do and her blood is on the Mayor’s hands. Buckhead should have the right to do as they please and have its citizens FEEL SAFE.Report

    Reply
  2. Scotty Greene October 26, 2021 10:05 am

    You Go Maria, et. al. ! This Buckhead City “movement” is a cynical dagger poised over the heart of a great city. It would undo decades of hard often heroic civic work and progress. Relentless heat and light need to be deployed to prevent it from happening.Report

    Reply
  3. Marion and Austin Bunch October 26, 2021 10:07 am

    We live in Buckhead and many of our friends are against secession. It’s a crazy idea and anyone who is for it isn’t thinking strategically about the future of the METROPOLIGAN area of Atlanta. If you cut off the head of a body, the whole body will die! Without Buckhead, Atlanta loses alot of revenue and it will segregate the blacks from the whites. It will literally kill the national reputation of Atlanta, and decrease corporations from considering a move here. YES, the Atlanta-based corporations need to speak up and state their position against secession.

    Bill White is saying that ‘the current candidates for mayor aren’t offering solutions.’ Really? He needs to listen more carefully to SHARON GAY who has many solutions that make sense!Report

    Reply
  4. Justin Wiedeman October 26, 2021 10:50 am

    Can we stop electing Crooks? That is a big part of the solution. How about a Mayor focused on us rather than upcoming trials of the Ex-Mayor’s Cabinet? Has anyone forgotten that Federal Criminal Trials are coming for key people in the Reed Administration?

    I have to question why Reed is running. Is it to have leverage over these Federal Trials so they don’t flip on him? It is outrageous that he is even allowed to run in my opinion.Report

    Reply
  5. Jeff October 26, 2021 10:51 am

    Of course you make it about race. Good grief. Eyeroll. This is about safety and getting potholes filled in an area of Atlanta that pays 40% of taxes to fund the other parts of this ungrateful city. It is time the money going to Atlanta actually benefits Buckhead instead of siphoning it off with no thanks. To no longer have a corrupt city government using tax payers money in illegal ways to benefit them personally. Crime is out of control in Buckhead because Mayor Bottoms defunded the police and no longer puts people in jail and does not back the police. Buckhead City will back the Blue. You should too!Report

    Reply
    1. jay October 27, 2021 10:53 am

      Crime is out of control in Buckhead and everywhere else because of the Trump Pandemic and Trump Depression and the Republican war against the 99%. The 1 percenter Republicans like Trump have destroyed this country with their tax cuts for the 1%. And police are having a hissy fit because they’re finally being held accountable for their racism. What a joke.Report

      Reply
    2. jN October 27, 2021 10:54 am

      Crime is out of control in Buckhead and everywhere else because of the Trump Pandemic and Trump Depression and the Republican war against the 99%. The 1 percenter Republicans like Trump have destroyed this country with their tax cuts for the 1%. And police are having a hissy fit because they’re finally being held accountable for their racism. What a joke.Report

      Reply
  6. Moz Def October 26, 2021 10:51 am

    Bill Will has continuously stated that Buckhead City is not about punishing Atlanta – well as a 30 year Buckhead resident let me tell you nothing could be further from the truth – Atlanta is a third world sh*thole run by third world sh*theads. I have traveled south of Ponce maybe ten times in the decades I’ve lived here and each time my SKIN HAS CRAWLED with how disgusting, nasty, filthy and ugly downtown Atlanta is. Full of bums, dystopian windowless office buildings and the most jumped up, entitled, incompetent, ignorant “people” I have ever had the misfortune of being forced to interact with, usually over some BS make-work government paperwork some arrogant diversity hire lost. Atlanta – let it be known – YOU WILL BE DEFUNDED – YOUR BUREAUCRATS WILL BE FIRED – YOU WILL STEAL PARASITIZE AND GASLIGHT THE GOOD PEOPLE NO MORE – SO LONG LOSERS! LETS GO BRANDON!!!Report

    Reply
    1. jan October 27, 2021 10:56 am

      Right, let’s have more Trump Pandemics and Trump Depressions and Trump Global Warming and Trump white supremacist domestic terrorism. Get a life and turn off the FOX Noise that has destroyed this country along with Trump and the Republicans with their fake news and lies and racism and sexism and conspiracy theories. But I’m sure you wouldn’t give a damn if Trump murdered someone on 5th Ave. That’s how badly FOX Noise has destroyed this countryReport

      Reply
  7. Dianne October 26, 2021 11:57 am

    My major concern about separating Buckhead from Atlanta is the impact on city schools, a haven for the next generation. Northside High School is a source of pride for many Atlanta students, Black and White. Our children must matter, all of them, or there is no hope for any of us. There is no question this plan is about Race and a need to embrace safety in our own homes. That said, if Blacks and Whites don’t start electing city officials that have integrity, intelligence and a sense of justice for all of Atlanta, our city is without hope. The Mayor was a disaster during disastrous times; turning against the police, doing nothing about violence and rampant destruction, ignoring our Northwest community where folks lived in fear. Leading the charge for a separate city, Bill White, moved here after he encouraged the domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol with a post on Twitter. Their time in the sun is over. The times they are changing. The entire country has recently gone through a transformation; and, as a result, young voters in the future will not buy into blaming all problems on the color of a person’s skin. They will not vote by party but based on what a candidate stands for. In 1996, folks from all over the Atlanta area volunteered, supported and shared pride in our city. Corporations moved here from around the globe. We won’t be there again; but, if we work together, we can be even better.Report

    Reply
  8. William J. Brotherton October 26, 2021 1:34 pm

    Wow, quite an article. I grew up in the 50s and 60s in Peachtree Hills, that would be part of a new Buckhead City. I’m all for it. When I was a child we rode our bikes to Grant Park, to Stone Mountain, even to the big Sears on Ponce De Leon. We never felt in danger even though we probably shouldn’t have been doing foolish things like that! We even rode into downtown to look at Brotherton Street, supposedly named after an ancestor. But those were the times and they are long gone unfortunately. Atlanta has become big and corrupt and Buckhead has the absolute right to seek its own destiny in order to protect the safety of its residents.Report

    Reply
  9. Peter October 27, 2021 10:03 am

    I don’t like either option. It’s a question to me of which one is the less crappy option. If the decision is based on moral, ethical and financial grounds, then based on the long history of city political leadership being unethical at best, and criminally corrupt, at worst, then a strong case can be made for separation of Buckhead since it’s mostly non-buckhead residents in statistically more heavily democratic neighborhoods electing the crooks over and over and over again. The finances need to be examined closely by neutral third parties and a really solid plan needs to be laid out by White. I believe he will do so, and when he does it could, and should, tip the scales in favor of secession for more voters. Enough is enough from the city of Atlanta. It is a failure of a city, sadly.Report

    Reply
  10. Billy Wilfred November 11, 2021 6:03 pm

    Man, this is a lot of words for “Please, stay and be victim to crime. We hate what you stand for and who you vote for, but we love your money.” It’s like a rapist questioning the audacity of a woman trying to escape.Report

    Reply

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