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‘We just want the right to vote’

Georgia Capitol. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

By Guest Columnist DAVIS FOX, retired city planner who has been active in DeKalb County politics and government for many years

For now, the legislation to allow for the secession of the Buckhead neighborhood has stalled in the General Assembly. Credit goes to the courage and leadership of Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston.

Davis Fox

Unfortunately, I do not believe we are finished with this issue. The proponents are still proposing a silver bullet solution to complicated issues. The idea of breaking apart the City of Atlanta is especially a bad idea – for Atlanta, Buckhead, and the State of Georgia. Yet, the issue I want to focus on for this column is the idea pushed by those in favor of secession: “We just want the right to vote.”

Having worked for a DeKalb County commissioner, I’ve had a front row seat for the cityhood movement. There is one argument that has been used in previous cityhood efforts and now it is coming from the Buckhead secessionists that seems impossible to refute.

“We just want the right to vote and choose our local government,” is the common plea from proponents. For those who have a sense of fairness it is always difficult to limit choices. Unfortunately, the answer elected officials should say in this matter is, “No, you do not have the right to vote to break off from Atlanta to form a new city.” And here’s why.

America is a republic, not a democracy. We don’t have a right to vote on everything. Many important ideas are not put up for a vote. We went through the civil rights era without a vote on whether segregation should end. Would a referendum on civil rights in the South have been helpful to our country? Parents don’t have a right to vote in choosing the school principal or classroom teacher even though they may have a profound impact on our children’s future. We don’t have a right to vote on a new traffic signal that might worsen our daily commute and harm our quality of life. When we chose a republic form of government, we decided not everything can or most importantly should be brought to a vote.

To some legislators it might seem difficult to tell Buckhead City proponents they don’t get to vote, but it shouldn’t be. Politicians don’t give citizens the right to set their taxes for next year, and we should not let citizens decide to fracture a municipality with all of the associated problems that will follow in Atlanta and in the rest of the state. The hard truth is citizens do not have the right to vote on some issues. There, I said it. I don’t expect elected officials to shout it out loud, but they know that some political decisions should not be brought to referendum. The prospect of Buckhead City should not be brought to referendum.

To Buckhead citizens who are dissatisfied, thank you for your commitment. Your desire to build a better community is valuable and recognized. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens shows all indications that he respects and values Buckhead residents. Please use your energy and creativity to find better solutions that will improve the quality of life for all citizens. Elected officials and engaged citizens can work cooperatively to seek better outcomes with less destructive side effects.

 

 

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Davis Fox

Davis Fox is a retired city planner who has been active in DeKalb County politics and government for many years.

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6 Comments

  1. Another Random City Planner Non-Entity February 21, 2022 1:36 pm

    Totally agree. Similarly, City of Atlanta residents don’t have the right to choose their local government. SInce Atlanta elections affect the entire state, ALL Georgians should get to vote on who runs the capital city. Agreed?Report

    Reply
    1. Libby Gozansky February 22, 2022 10:28 am

      To Another Random City Planner – I do not understand the point you are trying to make.Report

      Reply
  2. Mike St Louis February 22, 2022 10:04 am

    Thanks, Mr. Fox. Secession from an already-incorporated city is an exceptionally disruptive governmental maneuver that should require detailed planning and review plus concurrence from ALL the highly-impacted entities, not least the parts of the city being “left behind.”

    Furthermore, if allowed to happen, where would it stop? Why would relatively well-off or commercial zones not continue serial secession until there remained a set of gated neighborhood with higher and higher walls?Report

    Reply
  3. Scotty Greene February 22, 2022 10:22 am

    Well and timely said. The “let us vote” mantra is chimera used to dodge bad news answers to the difficult questions about the reality of tearing apart a great city in the name of fear and anger. These twin emotions are the bread and butter of skilled fundraisers like Bill White, but not visionaries and leaders doing the harder work of community problem solving.Report

    Reply
  4. Kevin Polite February 23, 2022 1:56 pm

    Very timely, as this also relates to the City of DeKalb (formerly Greenhaven, Ga) movement by Kathryn Rice and their attempts to make a city out of South DeKalb with over 300,000 citizens. Just plug in Greenhaven each time you have Buckhead in this article and the result is the same. There should be legislation to make it more difficult for anyone with enough money to secede from a city or county. Citizens In Opposition to Greenhaven and Neighbors Against Greenhaven have been fighting Greenhaven/City of DeKalb for over 8 years and yet they are allowed to use a feasibility study that is 8 years old. The Carl Vinson Institute at University of Georgia has produced nearly ever cityhood movement’s feasibility study and has yet to find one it didn’t like.Report

    Reply
    1. Eric Edwards March 4, 2022 1:38 pm

      The DeKalb Cityhood Movement group (DCM) has now asked President Joe Biden to intervene in their efforts to create the City DeKalb. It’s even more ridiculous and disrespectful when you consider that the President is having to deal with a potential war with Russia, the continued COVID pandemic, an upcoming Senate race in Georgia (Senator Raphael Warnock), legitimate voter suppression issues, inflation, and other national issues, this action demonstrates their inability to be honest and forthright. Clearly, their inability to prioritize issues shows that they lack the basic skills to govern. Would you want this group to run a new city? If they are willing to mislead the President of the United States, you can bet they will mislead you. What a sad and embarrassing reflection on DeKalb County citizens. https://neighborsagainstgreenhaven.com/2019/03/11/proposed-greenhaven-ga-how-it-all-began/Report

      Reply

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