By Eric Clarkson
With the recent incorporation of the city of Dunwoody in 2008 and the successful annexation of neighborhoods into Chamblee in 2011, there has been some recent discussion on annexation or incorporation for much of the remaining neighborhoods that make up the area south of Dunwoody and to the north and west of Chamblee.
I firmly believe that most of DeKalb County would be better served by being within the boundaries of a city. I have had the opportunity to work with many of the mayors of the new cities recently created in Fulton County and I am convinced that their constituents are far better off being served by this very local form of government.
103 Years! That is how long the city of Chamblee has been an incorporated municipality in the state of Georgia. Cities are absolutely not another layer of government, but rather a form of government different than that of a county that is often too large and too cumbersome to truly meet the challenges faced by a local community. Cities provide heightened services and more responsive representation where self determination and self governance are truly the way we work.
Service delivery is the primary function of any government. So the question is, which form of local government best serves the needs of the residents and business owners in the remaining unincorporated areas of north DeKalb County. Is it a new city? Or annexation into an existing city? Or possibly remaining in unincorporated DeKalb County?
From a practical standpoint, for the delivery of very basic services like police and public works, it makes no sense for one jurisdiction to have to travel through a part of another to deliver these services. This situation currently exists around Chamblee and would still be the same if certain neighborhoods were to be annexed by Dunwoody or brought into a new city of Brookhaven.
Controlling taxes is an essential role that cities provide. In Chamblee, we are able to provide a responsive form of government with enhanced services with a tax structure that is slightly higher than the taxes being paid by our friends in the surrounding unincorporated DeKalb County neighborhoods. And as DeKalb County continues to cut services and impose layoffs and furloughs of county employees, Chamblee has continued to provide the same high level of service with no layoffs or furloughs.
Land use decisions are some of the most important decisions that a community can make. In Chamblee we adopted a zoning ordinance that promotes smart growth principles to better position our community for future growth. Chamblee now has the opportunity to re-develop even further into a modern village while maintaining that small town charm that has lured so many here in the past and will continue to draw others to this city in the future.
The city is working hard to further create this sense of place, complete with bike and pedestrian trails, landscaped streets, and architectural designs that invite people to stroll down wide sidewalks and gather at festivals.
Then there is the sense of community that being incorporated into a city can bring to an area. From that standpoint, I feel that a city’s limits ought to mirror as closely as possible the boundaries of a high school cluster. Dunwoody currently enjoys this situation and I believe that it helps to create a much better sense of community than if this was not the case.
Citizen involvement is vital to the success of a community. In 2004, Chamblee started providing a yearly class called Chamblee101 that is designed to inform and educate citizens about local government. It includes discussions and interactive activities on topics such as Chamblee’s history, form of government, city services, budgeting and finances, volunteer boards, and volunteer organizations and opportunities in the city.
The class also offers a chance to tour city facilities such as City Hall, Public Works, and the Police Department, and to meet various department heads for question-and-answer sessions. While we are fortunate to have several wonderful departments in Chamblee, Public Safety is our largest department. Not only do we have our own police force, we have our own 911 system.
It is with great honor and pride that I serve as mayor of the city of Chamblee. So, as we in Chamblee continue to enjoy our very local form of government, it is with much interest that I watch the discussions about incorporation or annexation for many of our neighbors.
Eric Clarkson is mayor of Chamblee.