Guest Column by State Rep. Mike Jacobs
At the meeting of the DeKalb County House Delegation that was held on February 1, CEO Burrell Ellis joined us and spoke to the assembled DeKalb legislators. He said a few things I agreed with and a few things I didn’t, but then uttered three words which I consider – and you should consider – like fingernails on a chalkboard: City of DeKalb.
I thought this idea had died with reign of Vernon Jones, but apparently I was mistaken. As you may recall, sometime in 2006, Jones floated this same idea. It would turn the entire unincorporated portion of DeKalb County into one big city. On a map, it would look like a giant piece of Swiss cheese with holes in the locations where DeKalb’s existing cities (Dunwoody, Chamblee, Doraville, Decatur, etc.) are located. It’s a terrible idea.
The county’s stated reason for revisiting the City of DeKalb proposal is to be able to collect franchise fees to help fill a gap in the county budget. Franchise fees are a tax that cities, but not counties, are authorized to charge utilities for use of the public right of way along local roads. That tax, of course, is not absorbed by the utility companies. It is passed along to you as a line item on your utility bills. It’s an indirect means of taking more money out of your pocket.
Just below the surface is the county’s unstated reason for revisiting the City of DeKalb. The county is seeking to curtail any future annexation of currently unincorporated territory into DeKalb’s existing cities, and to prevent the creation of new cities. You can’t add territory to a new or existing city if it’s already in the “city” formerly known as DeKalb County.
If Brookhaven ever wants to start a city, forget it. If residents near Chamblee or Dunwoody ever want to join those cities, that’s off the table, too. The presently unincorporated peninsula of neighborhoods surrounding Murphey Candler Park would remain forever stuck in a big DeKalb “city” government.
A City of DeKalb is unacceptable. CEO Ellis may not want to waste his time talking about the issue any longer. It will require a majority of the DeKalb House Delegation, and then a vote of the full House of Representatives, in order to pass. Even if the CEO manages to win the support of a majority of the DeKalb House Delegation, I will see to it that enough of my Republican colleagues vote to stop any supersized city proposal on the floor of the House.
Mike Jacobs represents Dist. 80 in the Georgia House of Representatives. He can be reached at (404) 656-0152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.