City of Brookhaven as an American value

To the editor:

On May 10, 1773, the crown enacted the Tea Act. A significant party in Boston Harbor ensued.

But the protests of the Sons of Liberty surrounding the Tea Act did not revolve around the actual levels of the tax on tea. In fact, the Tea Act actually reduced the then current price of legally imported tea to below that of illegally smuggled Dutch tea.

Rather, the Tea Act energized the colonists because the tax on tea became more visible as it was now collected directly by the East India Company from colonial merchants and, more importantly, rekindled long-standing issues between Great Britain and America regarding self-governance and “no taxation without representation!”

The debate as to whether the establishment of a city of Brookhaven will cause our taxes to rise or fall has been robust and in good faith. But I submit that this is not the fundamental point. As with the fateful Tea Act, the issue, while vitally important, is not the ultimate levels of the local taxes we Brookhaveners will ultimately pay.

Rather, the fundamental issue is whether we as citizens will have a meaningful voice as to who lays and collects them – “no taxation without representation” – and how those tax proceeds are ultimately spent. And as to this fundamental point, I do not think there is much debate.

I had the good fortune of attending this year’s Masters Tournament Augusta, Ga. And it was my drive home from Augusta that crystallized my views on the city of Brookhaven. As I returned home on I-20, I viewed a signpost indicating my entry into DeKalb County. And yet, I was still 10 miles from I-285 and roughly 34 miles from my house in Brookhaven – with, I might add, hundreds of thousands of people in between.

As I passed this signpost, I had little doubt that the citizens of places in or about Lithonia and Redan and Avondale Estates and Decatur were wonderful people with sound judgment. And I further had little doubt that these citizens face many of the same struggles of city life as we do here in Brookhaven. But I also realized at that very moment as well that our existing local government isn’t local.

We in Brookhaven surely do not have the same constellation of issues and needs as those far-away communities off I-20. And our existing local government, based much more closely to these far-away communities but yet lays taxes upon us, surely cannot have the pulse on the needs of our area or the better judgment as to how to spend the precious tax dollars we pay.

With a city of Brookhaven, we ourselves will have a voice – our voice – as to how to tax and govern ourselves. We will have only ourselves to laud if we carry on an efficient government or only ourselves to blame if we run afoul. But it will be ourselves that carry on – ourselves to govern – and not someone in a far-off government building located miles away in another city.

While the debate on taxes and services is healthy and should surely carry on, let us not be overly clouded by it recognizing these matters will, with a new city, be in our own hands. Rather, as with the Sons of Liberty and their historic Tea Party, the fundamental issue is one of self governance, self-determination and “no taxation without representation.”

We should follow in the path of those Sons of Liberty and vote “yes.”

Richard W. Grice

Soon it will be decision time

To the editor:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012, will be a day at the polls with far-reaching consequences for 12 square miles and nearly 50,000 residents in unincorporated DeKalb County.

We will have the opportunity to either continue participating in the mistakes of our 190-year-old county’s recent past, or to embark on an adventurous journey of self-determination as a new city of Brookhaven. Every community has a past, a present and a future.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012, will see us make our decision. Then our decision will make us.

Tom Reilly

Common sense means no city

To the editor:

The advocates for the proposed city of Brookhaven must be pretty desperate. A group calling itself the Brookhaven Ballot Committee, Inc., keeps sending out mailers alleging that the DeKalb County government is coordinating the “no-city campaign.” If this glossy piece of campaign literature is to be believed, then those of us who oppose the plans of the pro-city backers are dupes manipulated by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

I am insulted by these accusations. I’ve contributed my own hard-earned money to the “no-city” cause, and I didn’t need Ellis or anyone else to tell me what to think about this issue. Common sense led me to conclude that we don’t need a new city to provide a few of the services now handled by the county to my satisfaction.

The DeKalb County government certainly is not perfect, but there is no guarantee that a city government will be run as well or any better. Moreover, I view this vote as an attempt to reverse the decision that my husband and I made 20 years ago to live in an unincorporated area. We didn’t want to deal with a city government or pay city taxes, and we’ve enjoyed the “live and let live” attitude prevalent in our area.

Frankly, I worry that if this city is created, its newly elected officials, eager to justify their existence, will pass all kinds of silly and bothersome ordinances.

I suspect that the people who started the push for cityhood plan on wielding power in Brookhaven. It’s fair to ask if they have a hidden agenda.

The manner in which this initiative was handled invites suspicion. Most of the people in the proposed city were not consulted prior to the introduction of legislation by Rep. Mike Jacobs. Legislators from all over the state have already voted on this issue. Most of them know nothing about us. Yet, enough of these politicians voted for Jacobs’ bill to get it passed.

Residents within the proposed boundaries will have a chance to vote on it – not during the general election in November, when voter turnout will be high, but rather in the primary elections on July 31, in the middle of summer, when people often take vacations.

I’ve been told that the vote was scheduled for July so that city elections, if necessary, could be held in November. However, the brief interval between the two elections favors candidates backed by existing organizations.

I’ll do my part to counter these pro-city forces. I’ll make some phone calls, maybe stuff some envelopes, and try to get like-minded people to the polls on July 31. And, no, I won’t take marching orders from Burrell Ellis. He can stand down on this one.

Barbara Swint

New city brings higher taxes

To the editor:

I’d like my money back, please.

I read with amusement the latest issue of BrookhavenFACTS.com, released by Brookhaven Yes, regarding a potential surplus for the proposed city of Brookhaven. Once I got through the giddy excitement of this recent press release, which seems to have been written by a child in a frantic craze after finding an unexpected present under the Christmas tree, I soon realized the true meaning of what I was reading.

The Brookhaven Yes politicians-in-training have decided they will claim every dime they can from me to support their efforts to build another level of government for Brookhaven.

Rather than refunding any potential savings, they have elected to claim every cent possible to shore up their unsustainable model for the proposed city of Brookhaven. Not only does the suggested budget surplus include every bit of the additional HOST money that may be available to the proposed city, proponents have continued to base all budget estimates on a 3.35 millage rate – the absolute maximum permitted under the law.

After further dissecting the numbers, I realized the budget surplus they proposed includes projected 2011 HOST revenue; projected 2012 property tax revenue; and estimated 2013 Town Brookhaven revenue. These revenue numbers are mutually exclusive, drawn from three different budget years and will never appear together in the same budget – ever.

Instead of maximizing their budget to support their agenda as the proponents of the city of Brookhaven have elected to do, DeKalb County has instead proposed to refund more of the HOST funds to me as a citizen in unincorporated DeKalb County. With the DeKalb Board of Commissioners’ vote to raise the HOST refund to 59 percent, the effective millage rate (what taxes you actually pay after HOST refunds are applied) for homeowners in unincorporated DeKalb County will be reduced to approximately 2.61 mils – a full 0.74 mils lower than the millage rate established for the proposed city of Brookhaven. Yes, that is correct, a vote for Brookhaven is truly a vote to increase your property taxes.

The proponents of the proposed city of Brookhaven have decided that they know better than I how to spend my tax savings. They have elected to claim my tax savings to spend on pet projects, beginning with the giddy sales pitch for the proposed city and ending with who knows what, rather than retuning the savings to me as DeKalb County will do.

Because I believe I know better than an unnamed politician on how to spend my potential tax savings, I will vote no for the proposed city of Brookhaven on July 31.

Jim Eyre