To the editor:
When I tell friends that I am against the proposed city of Brookhaven and for my area’s annexation into the City of Chamblee, I often get asked why I care about Brookhaven since I don’t live in the proposed city. I also get asked why I am against one city and for another. These are very valid questions. Surprisingly, the reasons I’m against a city of Brookhaven are very similar to the reasons why I’m for Chamblee annexation. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first, why do I care about Brookhaven?
It started about a year ago when state Rep Mike Jacobs and Citizens for North DeKalb (C4ND) released their map of the proposed city. Like many other Dresden East residents I was shocked that the proposed city included almost all of the commercial area surrounding our neighborhoods, but none of the residential areas. When DECA invited Jacobs and C4ND to a meeting so we could share our concerns with them, we were told by J. Max Davis that C4ND felt that the borders of Brookhaven should naturally extend to Clairmont Road. When asked why the proposed city extended east of Clairmont Road only to include Century Center, Plaza Fiesta and the southern half of PDK, we got no response.
After months of heavy pressure from DECA members, other Dresden East residents and Chamblee officials, Jacobs and C4ND finally dropped all the disputed commercial land from the proposed city. If not for the help of Chamblee, some of that commercial land would probably still be in Brookhaven. By the time this land was dropped, numerous other serious concerns had surfaced about the proposed City of Brookhaven that will affect our neighborhoods if Brookhaven passes. We had also begun looking into becoming part of the City of Chamblee in order to preserve our options. It became clear to me that it was in everyone’s best interest for the City of Brookhaven to fail and for us to annex into Chamblee.
Here are 3 reasons why:
1) Local control: Shifting some of the county’s responsibilities to local officials such as a Mayor, City Manager and City Council makes sense. It allows you get to know your elected officials and makes them more accountable. If you don’t like who’s running for Mayor or City Council, vote against them! Is there political bickering in city governments? Of course there is, but given the option I’d rather have local representatives that are more connected to my neighborhood in addition to my DeKalb County Commissioner.
2) Better services including police protection: DeKalb’s sanitation department does an amazing job, but for every well run department in DeKalb there are several others that need major improvement. The DeKalb Police do a good job, but recent cuts to the Interactive Community Policing (ICP) program have hurt. Plus, the location of the North Precinct is still up in the air.
BrookhavenYES promises better services, but can they deliver? Included in the promises are better police coverage and more patrols, but since the city will only have 53 officers or slightly less officers per person than DeKalb, it’s hard to see how this will be possible. Brookhaven’s poverty rate and population will be similar to Smyrna’s, which has 91 police officers. Brookhaven has about half the amount of land as Smyrna does, but that doesn’t mean it should have half as many officers. The City of Brookhaven will not have adequate police protection.
Chamblee on the other hand, offers roughly twice the amount of police officers per person than the proposed City of Brookhaven. When they annexed the Huntley Hills neighborhood, their police immediately went in and cleaned-up the Savoy Drive area. They have a plan to combat gangs and their Police Chief (along with other elected officials), have been very eager to answer all of our questions and concerns.
3) Taxes and finance: If the proposed city of Brookhaven passes it will have a lower millage (tax) rate than DeKalb County, with Chamblee having the highest millage rate. So BrookhavenYES, ChambleeNO, DeKalbNO, right? Not so fast, my friends!
When the CVI study for the proposed city of Brookhaven was first released, Brookhaven had a millage rate of 6.39 identical to DeKalb County and a surplus of about $3 million. After receiving harsh criticism from many who correctly pointed out that he had promised Brookhaven would have lower taxes, Jacobs put out a revised study with a tax rate of 3.35 mills and a surplus of about $300,000. DeKalb County has since released data showing that given updated property values, Brookhaven would start off in debt. While Jacobs is suddenly silent, Brookhaven YES has denied DeKalb’s claims, but failed to produce an updated CVI study to prove their case.
Even if DeKalb is wrong, Brookhaven will start out with a very slim surplus. Furthermore, if they do go into debt, due to the millage cap they cannot raise taxes unless their residents vote to do so. After being told for many months to vote for cityhood to lower their tax burden, do you think Brookhaven residents will vote to raise their taxes? Not likely. If they won’t raise their taxes, what services get cut? Not police. Maybe the parks budget?
Chamblee provides a high level of service. It has kept its tax rate the same as last year while putting aside nearly $1,500,000 to prepare for our possible annexation. One mil = $628,270 — You do the math. Chamblee has a slightly higher tax rate because they are investing in their future. They have fully restored their reserve and funded the recent annexation of Huntley Hills.
These are some of the reasons why I hope that the city of Brookhaven fails and why I will be voting for my neighborhood’s annexation into Chamblee in November regardless of what happens with Brookhaven. My hope is that after all the voting is over, we will continue to use all the passion and energy we have exhibited regarding cityhood to better our communities and schools.
Jordan M. Fox