By Jim Dickson
This serves to correct the considerable erroneous information about House Bill #1109 to change the Dunwoody city charter.
Despite the overwhelming opposition of ordinary citizens in attendance at the charter meetings last year, the Dunwoody Charter Commission appointed by incumbent politicians voted 3 – 2 to amend the city charter, and eliminate the necessity for a citywide vote to fund the takeover of fire and ambulance services from DeKalb County. This proposed amendment by the Charter Commission circumvented the overall 3.04 millage rate cap by creating a special fire service tax district.
This charter change is nothing more than a means to get around the 3.04 millage rate cap – an overall tax limit that previously required voter approval to exceed under Section 1.03 (37) of the prior city charter.
All that has changed now with House Bill #1109, which recently passed the Georgia Legislature after sponsorship by State Reps. Tom Taylor and Mike Jacobs, along with State Sen. Fran Millar. This legislation to change the Dunwoody city charter was much broader and went far beyond the original amendment proposed by the Dunwoody Charter Commission.
As a result of this legislation, any opportunity for ordinary Dunwoody citizens to vote about important decisions for their city, including bond issues, has been essentially eliminated. In the future, all these decisions will be made by only four members of the Dunwoody City Council who now have the authority to establish many different special tax districts for a wide variety of services. These can now be funded by newly-created authorities that can issue unlimited bond debt through indirect contractual obligations and not be required to operate under the aforementioned overall 3.04 millage rate cap.
Not surprisingly, Millar and Taylor claim they are not doing these things and continue to make statements that are not credible. Moreover, Millar and Taylor attempt to hide behind the irrelevant legal opinion of an attorney retained by the state Legislature – a legal opinion that states the city of Dunwoody can take over additional government services.
This legal opinion is completely irrelevant since it never addressed, and has absolutely nothing to do with, the necessity to operate these services under the overall 3.04 millage rate cap required under the previous city charter before Millar and Taylor changed it. If this legal opinion cited by Millar and Taylor had any relevant validity, it would obviously not have been necessary to change the Dunwoody city charter in the first place.
The truth is this change to the Dunwoody city charter was nothing but an old-fashioned power grab by insider politicians. This is not surprising – especially given the personal relationship between Tom Taylor and Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis. Mike Davis was a former campaign manager for Tom Taylor, and Tom Taylor was instrumental in persuading Mike Davis to run for mayor – another example of how these things work in Dunwoody.
There is also another very serious concern. As previously explained, this House Bill #1109 gives sweeping and almost unlimited taxing and debt authority to just four members of the Dunwoody City Council. It is exactly this type of excessive power structure that enabled the bankruptcy of over 600 U.S. cities in recent years – something that should be of concern to any rational Dunwoody citizen.
Jim Dickson has lived in Dunwoody for more than 37 years.