Burrell Ellis, DeKalb County CEO

DeKalb County’s chief executive says state legislators should develop “new and fairer laws” governing the creation of new cities.

“We need laws that prevent the cherry-picking of the choicest residential and commercial areas, while disenfranchising residents in the remainder of the county,” DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis said in his “State of the County” speech Jan. 5.

“We need laws which respect the cost of services to our citizens in both cities and counties and which take into consideration the unique roles of each.”

Ellis’ comments came as some lawmakers and residents in the northern end of the county are calling for the creation of a city of Brookhaven.  Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) and Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) introduced legislation creating the city in an area roughly bounded by Chamblee, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Atlanta and I-85.

A nonprofit group called Citizens for North DeKalb paid for a $27,000 study by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia that found a city in that area could be financed, and produce a budget surplus, without raising the property tax millage above the level now levied by DeKalb County.

Jacobs has said he believes the legislation will pass this year, allowing a public vote this summer on whether to establish the city. If approved by the voters, the city could be organized by the end of the year.

Ellis told the about 500 people attending the “State of the County” speech that DeKalb legislators and commissioners and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia should work together to draft new laws on the creation of cities. The speech, at the Thalia N. Carlos Community Center at 2500 Clairmont Road, was co-hosted by the DeKalb Chamber and the Council for Quality Growth.

“It is a fundamental right for our citizens to choose more government and pay a premium for heightened levels of service,” he said, “but it is wrong to impact others who have no voice. Under current law, cityhood not only drives up the cost to those citizens who embrace this option, but it also places an undue tax burden on those who are drawn outside of arbitrarily created boundaries and have no say in the process.”

Ellis said the process under current state law creates “an even greater cost in terms of social isolation, class and ethnic stratification.”

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader last year drew up a county resolution asking state lawmakers to take a break on creating new cities until the issue could have more study. He agreed with Ellis that the current process needs review.

“Certainly the process we have for establishing boundaries of cities is not fair to incorporated areas or unincorporated areas,” Rader said after Ellis’ speech. “We need everyone to participate in that process — not just the localized area, but everyone who has interests in the county services.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.