In response to the article titled “How race and racism shaped growth and cityhood in north metro Atlanta” (July 3): Retired history professor Ronald Bayor suggests, without evidence or even due diligence, that the city of Dunwoody incorporation movement was motivated by racism. That is a terrible mischaracterization and attributes a serious character flaw to the founders who worked to create the city.
Our drive for cityhood was fueled by a large county that had become unresponsive and dysfunctional at virtually every level. What drove us was a desire to control zoning decisions that impacted our neighborhoods and schools. What drove us was the need to ensure adequate police protection. What drove us was the county’s unwillingness to repave badly deteriorated streets or install sidewalks. What drove us was a desire to invest tax dollars to create much needed green space and parks.
In short, what drove us was what drives every new government creation, the desire to improve our community and control our own destiny, thus enhancing the quality of life for all of our citizens.
It is true that DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones’ arrogance and antagonism helped galvanize a community that is generally reluctant to embrace change, but race was not the issue. Longstanding county government incompetence was the issue. That incompetence included the White, Republican county commissioner at the time, who ended up serving jail time for corruption.
It is also worth noting that at the time of incorporation in 2009, Dunwoody had long since ceased to be a Whites-only enclave. Dunwoody was 17% Black, 17% Hispanic, 12% Asian, 51% White non-Hispanic and 3% multiracial. Racial and ethnic diversity was and is a driving force of Dunwoody’s success and the founders were all looking for that to continue.
The founders of the city of Dunwoody helped pave the way and map a path to success for other neglected multiracial DeKalb communities to follow suit in forming new cities. These new cities include Brookhaven (14.4% Hispanic, 9.76% Black, 6.3% Asian, 7.46% multiracial, 56.9% White non-Hispanic), Tucker (57.8% White non-Hispanic, 22.3% Black and 10.6% Hispanic), and Stonecrest (92.6% Black, 3.5% White non-Hispanic, and 1.9% Hispanic).
To ascribe racist motives to our deep commitment to improve our community wounds us deeply and taints our sacrifices to achieve a stronger community.
Ken Wright, founding Dunwoody mayor
Robert Wittenstein, founding Dunwoody City Council
Danny Ross, founding Dunwoody City Council
Tom Taylor, founding Dunwoody City Council
Dennis Shortal, founding Dunwoody City Council
John Heneghan, founding Dunwoody City Council and current mayor pro tempore
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