New cities feeling the pain

To the editor:

You just can’t make this stuff up. Here are some more fun facts from the new cities to the north.

In Dunwoody, the cost of the special investigation into leaks from a closed council session will likely double. This special investigation will cost Dunwoody’s taxpayers upwards of $50,000, even though the legality of the closed-door meeting has since been questioned. And, City Councilwoman Adrian Bonser has said that many of the citizens in Dunwoody are “becoming disenchanted with how we are conducting city business.”

In the new city of Peachtree Corners, city managers from Johns Creek and Sandy Springs were hired as consultants to provide an estimated budget for Peachtree Corners’ operations. Their report states that the cost to run the new city of Peachtree Corners will be four times the estimate in the Carl Vinson Institute’s study. Four times the CVI estimate!

In Sandy Springs, the council is arguing over how to spend a budget surplus. They can’t decide whether to build a park, a new city hall complex, or use it to increase their bond rating, which presumably could then be used to raise more money for the politicians to spend. Not once do you hear of them giving the surplus back to the taxpayers. Politicians love to spend our money!

Fifteen cities in Gwinnett County just settled with the county for $32 million that the county has been taxing the citizens for services that the cities were already providing. The citizens were essentially being double taxed. But rather than giving taxpayers a refund, the cities are keeping the millions to prop up their budgets, pay for stalled projects and legal fees. Just another example of how politicians love to spend our money.

Let’s not make this mistake in Brookhaven. We don’t need more politicians and bureaucrats telling us what’s good for us while they figure out more and more ways to spend our money. Vote no on July 31st.

Mary Ellen Imlay

Just who are these opponents against cityhood?

To the editor:

It is ironic to see just who the loudest voices against cityhood are.

Some of them apparently are leaders of Ashford Neighbors and No City. Some of them own plazas and some work for big apartment developers. They charge, “No more bureaucracy, no more taxes.” Interestingly, some of these same people are those that actively support our failing DeKalb bureaucracy and our tax-and-spend county government.

They seem to prefer tax code enforcement and zoning that would hurt our schools and property values. They were as silent as church mice when the recent 26 percent tax increase was being pushed through.

Do you really think they are looking out for lower taxes and less bureaucracy? I don’t think so. They just don’t want to lose financial control over you and me and our wallets.

It is also telling that the opposition has not offered up a plan to reduce taxes and improve services. Could it be that they are happy with the way things are? I understand the opposition has refused a public debate – that should tell us something. Where is their alternative?

Don’t be fooled on July 31 into defending the status quo. Vote “yes” for a new future that you and I control.

Mary Davis

Anyone defending the ‘status quo’ in unincorporated DeKalb?

To the editor:

Where are the advantages of obese county government, gluttonous consumption of our taxes, malnourished services, and distant, disinterested representation? The answer of course, is there is no argument to be made.

In addition, after we vote July 31, the status quo will disappear in one of two outcomes. If we vote yes to create a new, efficient and vibrant city of Brookhaven, we will shift taxes and city services from DeKalb to our new city.

If we vote incorrectly, we will lose the opportunity and Dunwoody and Chamblee will annex prime commercial tax base in Perimeter Summit and at Buford/Clairmont.

For years DeKalb demonstrated its lack of interest in the Brookhaven footprint, even as it received all our taxes. If we fail to incorporate on July 31, losing that commercial tax base, we become a residential appendage and a net drain of DeKalb resources. Ever higher taxes and less service for our area will follow. Here’s the bottom line: DeKalb County is going to lose tax revenues from the commercial properties mentioned.

I ask: Will the revenues stay in the new city of Brookhaven or will we be left behind as they go to Dunwoody and Chamblee?

Find more facts and neighborhood meetings at BrookhavenYES.org. Yes is best for Brookhaven.

Clayton Conarro

We’ll see more for less money.

To the editor:

I’ve read many letters to the editor regarding the pros and cons of the proposed city. It seems pretty simple to me.

Garbage service is great in DeKalb… which will not change with the new city. I’ve only heard good things about the fire department…which will not change with the new city. The schools…will not change.

What will change? More police officers on duty patrolling, a lot more money for parks and stricter, streamlined code enforcement. All for less money.

How? Right now there is a giant sucking sound as our tax dollars are sucked out of Brookhaven and deposited elsewhere in the county, coincidentally where the elected officials live. Our forefathers fought King George with the cry “no taxation without representation.” Well, we don’t have a single representative living in the boundaries of the city of Brookhaven.

The city of Brookhaven isn’t more government, it’s our only representation. There were people in 1776 that didn’t want to form a new country. We call them Canadians now. Ask your friends in Johns Creek, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs what they think of their new cities. I’ve only heard glowing responses.

Rob Mancini

Ordinary citizens say no to city

To the editor:

“No City Brookhaven” is a grass-roots organization made up of ordinary citizens throughout the area of the proposed city of Brookhaven. We are reluctant volunteers in this process. With only a very few exceptions, we didn’t even know each other prior to this campaign.

We do not have any aspirations for power or political office. Our organization and website is not about the people, it’s about the issues, because that is what this campaign should be about. We have only gotten involved because we felt we had to provide a response to the misinformation being circulated about cityhood. All of the information on our website comes from the Carl Vinson Institute study and supplements, Rep. Mike Jacobs’ website, the newspapers and other factual sources.

More government will not solve anything and will only create more bureaucrats and inefficiencies. The CVI study is not detailed or comprehensive enough to substantiate the viability of a new city. The proposed police force is not sufficient to keep us safe and it is far inferior to the one we already have. We will not have any more control over our elected officials than we already have. This is already being evidenced in the newly formed cities to the north.

You can find more information on our website — nocitybrookhaven.com — and also contact us there. We will be happy to give you a direct response.

Carolyn Benton, Jodi Cobb, John Higley, Mary Ellen Imay, Chuck Konas.

Brookhaven is already a known brand

To the editor:

The letter to the editor from Mr. Christopher Binkert [in the May 4-17 edition of the Brookhaven Reporter] about the new proposed city of Brookhaven helping to build a brand for Brookhaven was almost amusing.

As a reminder to Rep. Mike Jacobs and his friends who seem to have stronger feelings about the name than the city itself, Brookhaven has existed for over 110 years and already is a powerful and well-known brand. You can ask 50,000 people in north Atlanta and they know exactly where Brookhaven is located.

It is not Murphey Candler or Buford Highway, nor should it be. Most people in Atlanta will never go to these two diverse areas to shop or eat.

Mr. Binkert also mentions housing values. Those in Murphey Candler might go up and those along Buford Highway will never go up and many more in the actual Brookhaven area will go down.

Speaking of numbers — without a Perimeter Center as a huge tax base, the tax projections in the [Carl Vinson Institute] study are very suspect.

The existing Brookhaven brand will be diminished by a new city with no commonality from end to end. Coca-Cola would never walk down that type of road.

Peter Landt

Can we believe the city of Brookhaven study?

To the editor:

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Peachtree Corners City Council revealed that their consultants, the city managers of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek, had proposed a budget for the city startup July 1 of 400 percent of the budget proposed in the Peachtree Corners Carl Vinson Institute (CVI) study done last year.

This 400 percent budget is indicative of the self-importance of a group who promotes a city without giving citizens a clear understanding of exactly what they are going to get or pay. They promise one thing, deliver another. So can we believe the Brookhaven CVI study and Brookhaven Yes?

I have seen that the Brookhaven Yes group is now suggesting that they are not sticking to and do not have to follow the Brookhaven CVI study. If that is the case, how reliable is what the Brookhaven Yes group is saying to voters about the proposed city and the upcoming referendum July 31? What exactly are we going to get in the rushed election?

House Bill 636, introduced by Rep. Mike Jacobs, which sets up the law for the referendum and the city of Brookhaven charter, doesn’t require any specific services to be adopted, just three of nine services. However, when Jacobs and the Citizens for North DeKalb commissioned the study, they did specify certain services to be included.

Can we now believe that they will not offer these services? Or that they will offer these services at a much greater cost – even 400 percent greater?

The Brookhaven Yes group has also indicated that they will willingly cut the Parks and Recreation budget, if necessary, even though they go around telling voters that the parks will be much better in the city of Brookhaven. Can we rely on this promise to make parks better or to cut the parks budget?

Jacobs requested that the Carl Vinson Institute produce two amendments to the Brookhaven study, which were “sneaked” by the community, because they were not publicly revealed until the bill was well on its way to passage in the state House and Senate. The first amendment “Supplemental Proposed City of Brookhaven Property Tax Analysis” released in January 2012 analyzed two hypothetical municipal millage rate scenarios, showing a very small savings (approximately $6/$100,000 assessed value) per property owner. The major change was that the homestead exemption was increased to allow for the loss of the HOST factor of 47 percent reduction on your property taxes. Net out-of-pocket dollars for most residential property owners is negligible. Based on this amendment, why make a city at all?

Jacobs’ request for the second CVI study amendment “Supplemental Proposed City of Brookhaven Airport Area Revenue Analysis” released March 2012 made further reductions to revenues in the original study because the boundaries for the proposed city of Brookhaven were changed. A conservative position would require more cutting of services and raising property taxes to cover these changes.

After all these changing stories, what are we to believe? Let’s not rush into a city without understanding the ramifications pro and con.

Sandy Murray

Sandy Murray is running against Rep. Mike Jacobs for the District 81 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Zoning frustrations lead to a ‘yes’ vote for city

To the editor:

I’m off the fence.

I live in the Brookhaven Heights community and have been on the fence in regards to the proposed city of Brookhaven – until now. Originally, I was leaning towards a “no” vote because I felt my tax dollars should serve the greater good, which in this case means all of DeKalb County.

However, now that I have acquired firsthand experience dealing with DeKalb County politics over the past year, it has become painfully obvious that some key county officials are more interested in their personal agendas than they are in what is best for Brookhaven.

Here are my top three reasons for a yes vote:

1. We have a greater chance of realizing our vision and creating “A Better Brookhaven,” if we have more control over zoning in our community.

As a board member of the BPCA, I have personally witnessed the political machinations of the DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). While they are supposed to be an impartial group that grants building variances based on a defined set of guidelines, they are anything but impartial. The ZBA goes out of their way to ignore those guidelines when considering the variance requests made by corporations who are represented by developers and law firms that have close ties with key county officials.

There is not one ZBA member or county commissioner that lives in Brookhaven. Most don’t live anywhere near Brookhaven – yet these are the people who make important decisions about how our community develops. If we want to realize the vision behind the LCI Overlay and develop Brookhaven into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly community, with wide, tree-lined sidewalks, attractive building fronts and rear parking, we need a zoning board consisting of people who live here and who care about this community.

If we become a city, there will still be politics and there will still be challenges. However, unlike now, our council members will live in Brookhaven and will be our neighbors. As a much smaller community, our votes have a greater impact and we can more easily boot out any city official who makes his/her personal agenda more important than serving the community.

2. Cityhood has improved the quality of life and services received for residents of nearby cities such as Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek.

For the past several months I’ve been interviewing everyone I meet from the nearby cities that have incorporated to determine if the services they receive have improved since becoming a city. The answer is always a resounding yes.

As for taxes, the people I spoke with indicated that they did not notice any significant change to their city tax bill. What they do notice and what they are most enthusiastic about is the fact that the taxes collected by their city stay in the city. They continuously see improvements being made in their community and many from Sandy Springs commented on the extensive new pavement of roads and new green space. The other benefit people mentioned is that they feel a greater sense of community and they see more police cars driving around than ever before.

I did some research . . .

• Dunwoody’s millage rate started at 2.74 mills and is still 2.74 mills.

• Johns Creek’s millage rate started at 4.614 mills and is still 4.614 mills

• Sandy Springs’ millage rate started at 4.731 mills and is still 4.731 mills

• Milton’s millage rate started at 4.731 and is still 4.731 mills

3. DeKalb County has done very little to improve, expand or maintain our green space. DeKalb County spends roughly $331,000 to operate our parks. The CVI study has budgeted $1.3 million per year for parks.

I would encourage Brookhaven residents who are on the fence to do their own research and read what both sides have to say about becoming a city. For the most meaningful information, talk to everyone you meet from any of the nearby cities in DeKalb or Fulton county. These folks can speak from personal experience and are in a good position to provide honest feedback regarding the pros and cons of becoming a city.

As for me, the decision to vote “yes” was driven by my frustrations with the DeKalb ZBA. After speaking to lots of people from incorporated communities, it’s hard to ignore the fact that they would never turn back the clock since becoming a city. More than anything, they value the improved services they are receiving and the greater sense of community.

Kathy Forbes