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No City Brookhaven may rock vote
by Bobby Tedder
btedder@neighbornewspapers.com
June 11, 2012 11:30 AM | 2755 views | 4 4 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal<br>
From left, Chuck Konas, Carolyn Benton and Mary Ellen Imlay are members of the No City Brookhaven group.
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A fledgling group of residents who oppose the idea of Brookhaven cityhood is mobilizing ahead of next month’s referendum.

The No City Brookhaven committee is in the midst of a door-to-door style campaign designed to educate prospective voters.

“We’re trying to get the facts out, get the word out … otherwise, this thing will just float on through without anybody knowing what’s going on,” said co-founder Chuck Konas.

The bipartisan grassroots outfit — barely a month old — boasts membership hailing from different neighborhoods in the area. A website, yard signs and bumper stickers have been employed as conduits for communication.

The committee’s case against incorporation largely centers on taxes, the solvency of the proposed city and the prospects of adding another “layer” of government.

“We don’t have a legislative office to work from, but we have found a lot of support,” said co-founder Mary Ellen Imlay. “When you don’t have a kind of bully pulpit you have to make your own way.”

No City members assert that most residents would see a tax increase after municipalization. In addition to bumps on power and telephone bills, any property tax savings would be offset by new franchise taxes.

District State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, acknowledged that while not all franchise fees are passed directly to utility customers who live in the city charging the fees, some are.

Cityhood will reduce residents overall property tax burden as compared to what is paid in unincorporated DeKalb County, Jacobs stated on his website.

Committee volunteer Carolyn Benton questioned the feasibility study conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute and touted by proponents of an incorporated Brookhaven budget that calculated a surplus of $135,000 in its first year.

“The actuals in regards to 2012 property tax revenue don’t match the projections,” Benton said. “From Day 1 we’re starting at the cap, 3.31 mils, so we have no room for error.”

Benton and company scoff at any comparison between their proposed city and recently incorporated neighbor Dunwoody.

Brookhaven’s ratio of commercial to residential property is currently 27 to 73 percent whereas Dunwoody’s is 40 to 60.

“[Moreover] we’re walled in by Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Dunwoody, so we have very little room to expand or increase density to sustain us and pay for services,” Benton said.

Another point on No City’s list of grievances is the specter of a new wave of elected officials, bureaucrats and municipal operations.

“Of course, the county can always be better, but more government doesn’t solve anything,” Konas said.
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Dimitrius Owens
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June 18, 2012
When driving around Brookhaven observing yard signs, either for city hood or against, one notices that the majority of the signs for " No City" are in the yards of the older more established homes in the community, and the majority of signs for " Yes City" are in the yards of new construction . One may draw the conclusion from that fact alone, that the people, neighborhoods, and spirit that help make Brookhaven the proud and stable community it is, are very resistant to newer members of our community coming in and forcing this referendum on them. It kinda feels like an inside the palace coup that attempts to establish a new order and control with no guarantee that they can even do half of what they claim. Often times by blasting Dekalb County government as incompetent they leave out the fact that they are probably just as incompetent than those they are pointing the finger at. Remember what your grandmother said…." when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you". The most galling thing to me is how this decision of city hood hasn't done it's due diligence and carefully included everyone in the process. There is an elephant in the room and everybody is talking around it instead of addressing it. This has been a rushed process that has prematurely pushed for a massive change that threatens to disrupt our otherwise quiet community and add another level of government that we don't need.

Lately I have received mailers from proponents of the "Yes" vote, and I've even gotten robo calls too . This seems like a well funded attempt anyway, but it still leaves me a lingering suspicion of exactly who the "Yes" people are. If they are concerned citizens, there are plenty of things they could do to help the community be better besides looking for a place to call city hall. It all feels too rushed to me. City hood is a really big deal. Lets just wait and see how Sandy Springs and Dunwoody fair in the city hood game. Let's look at what they didn't anticipate, what they under estimated, or over estimated. Let's look at their ability to deliver quality services and effective governance and figure out how it applies to Brookhaven. Right off the bat, it's obvious that both Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have a larger commercial tax base than Brookhaven does, … so why the big push to shove this referendum so early down our throats. Brookhaven, as a community, did not ask for this. It is my hope that citizens turn out to vote in massive numbers to smash this effort to privatize our communities and disrupt the quality of life we enjoy in Brookhaven. People want to move into our community because we are solid, we are neighborly, and we are united already in our identity as a preferred location to live. Let's preserve that instead of trying to create something new.

Today I passed three houses under construction and they all have " Brookhaven Yes" signs on the property. Are these people even from Brookhaven ? I'm voting "NO CITY" !

Curiously, the tip of the spear leading this privatization effort is Rep. Mike Jacobs. I suspect if, and when, this effort is defeated this summer, he will likely face a similar fate in the fall because when you stir up a hornet's nest like this…. you're likely to get stung !

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June 19, 2012
Mr. Owens,

I'm very interested in your point of view on the Brookhaven issue and would like to speak with you further on it. Can you email contact information to lgarnigan@neighbornewspapers.com?

Thanks!
Annie G
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June 25, 2012
Mr. Owens,

With all due respect, your post is full of inaccuracies and appears to be part of the opposition's tactic of misleading people as to the election. Here are the facts as to the statements you make:

1. Accusations that somehow it is the newer residents who want a City of Brookhaven are false. Most of the people supporting the new city have resided in unincorporated DeKalb for over a decade. We lived through Vernon Jones and we had our hopes crushed when we realized Burrell did not stand up for ALL of DeKalb.

2. The pro-city movement is a grass-roots effort. If you go to Brookhavenyes.org, board members are listed. The same cannot be said for opposition, although we know that one of those groups is lead by Chuck Konas a VP of Post Properties. (Did you know that by the time Dunwoody incorporated, their residential single-family v. apartments ration was down to 53% because of the County's willy nilly attitude towards apartment development in the north to fill the tax coffers and give to the south?) Further, the opposition is being assisted (and therefore indirectly funded) by the County. It was revealed that the lobbyist at the capitol who worked to oppose the bill to give Brookhaven residents the right to vote on the issue has been working with the opposition to coordinate their campaigns. Further, they recently used the County finance administrator to play with the CVI study to change revenue projections solely based on the 2012 tax digest. This was not a "county" service – this was using tax dollars to engage in political campaigning. Why? Because the County ignored other facts which actually show the city is even more viable than projected by the CVI. As the AJC has reported, the county announced stronger-than-expected collections of the Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST). But such collections were not added to the County in their transparent CVI update. If the County really wished to update the CVI with all things that would affect the numbers, their report would have to consider HOST collections went up from the $91.2 million used in the CVI study to the new amount of $103.4 million. It would also add 2013 property tax revenue from the Town Brookhaven development not counted in the CVI study because of a tax abatement, and the amount that results from reducing the size of the city council from 7 in the CVI study to 5 in the city charter. That would put the new city's surplus above a million.

3. The suggestion that all that's needed is citizen involvement is bogus. I live in a neighborhood with high civic involvement, and thus higher frustration as to County services. Only people who do NOT engage in civic matters, associations, and groups are the ones who say they are happy with the county and all that's needed is for people to call the county and ask for things.

There was a great article in the NYT about the great city of Sandy Springs. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/business/a-georgia-town-takes-the-peoples-business-private.html?pagewanted=all Sandy Springs and Dunwoody are a great model of government efficiency, which I never thought I'd used in one sentence. The opposition to Brookhaven is nothing more than a County tool to hold on to power to support their wasteful and inefficient ways. Enough is enough.

Eric Hovdesven
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June 13, 2012
Using the CVI projections its true that after franchise fees you could pay a little more.

But what's ignored is that the projections by the CVI study show massive increases in spending on parks, roads and sidewalks, storm sewer repair as well as increased police patrols.

True DeKalb has a higher ratio of police to people than the projections for Brookhaven. But Brookhaven's number is higher than Dunwoody's and Dunwoody's police presence increased dramatically when they became a city. Why? Part of the reason is DeKalb's police force apparently have a number of people not on the street. I don't want to say it has to many managers but....

Bottom line this isn't another layer - its moving certain departments from the larger county level to the more local city level.

Yes additional costs will be for a mayor and council people, but that's a small price to pay.

It also should help DeKalb right size itself by drawing a more serviceable boundary of incorporation. With the Chamblee annexation if Brookhaven happens everything North of I-85 will be in a city. This should help the County better focus its police and zoning and parks issues elsewhere. While also allowing them to better focus on the regional items they still will run.
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