Hasta Lavista, Baby

In a result that was surprising to many observers, and on a night when its proposed neighbor to the east, Tucker, passed overwhelmingly, the city of LaVista Hills failed to reach the 50% needed for incorporation.

Two questions for the commentariat:

Why did LaVista Hills fail when Tucker succeeded?

Has any ballot for a new city failed previously? If so, when and where?




    • ATLguy says:

      You beat me to it by one minute :-)!

      But I do not think that the margin was 85%. And it wasn’t so much as saying no to a new city. It failed because:

      A) a large chunk of voters preferred being annexed into the city of Atlanta, which the city of Atlanta promoted behind the scenes (more on that later)

      B) a large chunk of voters did want a city but voted against the measure because of their disagreement with some of the particulars in the incorporation measure and wanted to try again with different language because they felt/feared that the incorporation attempt was more of a power grab by people with personal political aspirations i.e. wanting to be mayor, city councilmen, department chiefs etc. in the new government

      I think that 2 years from now, when the much-disliked Kasim Reed is no longer in office to promote annexation and when the cityhood leaders can agree on a sound proposal, the deal may pass.

      As for LaVista Hills, well here is the deal: some people feel that annexation into Atlanta is a better deal. When Reed publicly floated supporting annexation efforts awhile back, the usual suspects freaked out. So, a more “behind the scenes” incrementalism effort was launched instead, and it has already had its first success: http://saportareport.com/one-dekalb-county-neighborhood-quietly-winning-annexation-into-atlanta/

      It may have been that floating the annexation thing might have caused a partisan split. Perhaps one can presume that the leadership of LaVista Hills would be Republican or some majority combination of Republican and conservative Democrat. Democrats who don’t want to be governed by Republicans and center-right Democrats might see annexation into the liberal city of Atlanta as a better deal. Just a theory anyway.

      Also, it is funny. The GOP was full tilt on the cityhood movement so long as it was GOP enclaves breaking away from majority Democrat areas in metro Atlanta. But when south Fulton launched the first attempt to create a new Democratic area the GOP all of a sudden think that it was such a good idea. The first proposal it didn’t even get on the legislative calendar. The second proposal was actually going to pass but was pulled at the last second because south Fulton getting to vote while the the GOP-led efforts in DeKalb getting delayed was “bad” or something. After FINALLY getting through in the third legislative session, and then being confronted by a bunch of other cityhood attempts from Democratic areas as well as areas outside metro Atlanta, THAT is when the GOP decided that they were going to end their “let the people decide” approach and instead create a state cityhood review bureaucracy.

      So, when the cityhood movement was primarily about letting “suburbanites” opt out of “urban” governments (and yes, I am using dog whistle code words and we all know what they mean) it was a great idea that needed no regulation or anything else beyond a positive recommendation from any reputable cityhood feasibility study policy group followed by an up-or-down vote from the legislature and voters. But when the GOPers in the gold dome realized that this cityhood measure could result in more governments being created in Democratic areas – meaning more Democratic officeholders, and potentially Democratic governments being created in GOP areas like Cobb and Gwinnett – small government and local control became a bad idea all of a sudden. Which, of course, is rotten to the core. If you read the Gwinnett Daily Post, the Marietta Daily Journal, the Henry Daily Herald (for example) Democratic areas complain about not being represented, the lack of services, the lack of economic development attempts etc. in their areas too, just as GOP-leaning enclaves in Democratic run counties had similar complaints. Apparently, the state GOP thinks that Republican North Fulton getting mistreated by Fulton County Democrats is an outrage that requires an immediate response, but the desires for people in south Cobb and south Gwinnett for more parks, better services, economic development and more public transportation options requires “a more thorough review by the state” http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/senators-seek-more-thorough-review-of-proposed-geo/npFcg/.

      I could be wrong, but if I am, hearing why the cityhood movement was a lightly regulated wild west when the GOP base wanted local control but needs the heavy hand of the state when it is Democrats wanting the same benefits that the GOP base gets would be very educational, if any elephants among you are up to explaining it. After all, it isn’t as if the Democrats haven’t been stating that cityhood proposals needed stronger state oversight plus explicit rules and regulations ever since the fight for Sandy Springs was won over a decade ago. Why it took over 10 years plus a slate of Democrats trying to create their own cities for the GOP to conclude that the Democrats were right would be interesting to hear. It seems to me that the time to regulate should have been in response to the mess that Brookhaven has turned out to be (for example) and not Greenhaven, South Fulton and Stonecrest and Mableton http://mdjonline.com/view/full_story/26932349/article-Cobb-officials-react-to-possible-Mableton-cityhood?instance=home_top_bullets.

      Again, the first commenter to that AJC article has a nice theory. If a GOPer would like to refute it, well here’s the opportunity.

      • Harvey Davis says:

        The number was indeed 85% feel free to fact check me. The motivation for this incorporation effort’s rejection is not relevant – it failed, it is not likely to be on the ballot after failing legislative efforts for the past two sessions and even if it does it will be rejected by voters yet again.

        Since 2007 particularly in the past year a significant number of unincorporated residents have indeed chosen to annex not only into Atlanta, but Chattahoochee Hills, East Point and College Park as petitions to join existing municipalities continue to gain steam and people also look to East Point over a new city.

        The question of viability of this ill fated city, is over as since the last financial feasibility study that proponents have not been able to finish paying Georgia State for is obsolete. A new study would be required and there is no doubt that given the diminished tax base it will not be assessed as viable.

        One must factor in continuing shrinking land mass for the city, the court ruling that property holders in the previously protected Fulton Industrial District are free to annex into municipalities.

        This area also lacks the commercial tax base that new north Fulton cities have, it has a high percentage of seniors who are exempt from property taxes and hence the burden of supporting this city rest on a small number of residential taxpayers.

        Even with the new LOST dollars, they would have to build a city hall, courtrooms, jails, buy parks from the county, build/buy a police and fire stations, cars/trucks and the gamut of things that the county NOT the city owns – much more than the 15-18 million in new LOST dollars might cover.

        Those in the know – especially the legislature realize this cityhood effort died as neighboring municipalities continue to expand their borders as residents and property holders continue to bail for established and financially secure cities instead of the nightmare of a start-up city of South Fulton, orchestrated by a handful of local politicians to create yet another jobs program.

  1. DunwoodyModerate says:

    I think lavista hills failed because it’s in essence a made up place and name with “no there there.” Most of the residents there are more than happy to tell people they live in buckhead, Brookhaven or Decatur.

    Tucker fits the mold of most of the other new cities, it’s a place people readily identify with and most people already probably thought was a city. What will be interesting to see is how fast tucker moves to annex the areas around north lake mall it had to split with lavista hills when the boundaries were drawn. If tucker annexes those areas lavista hills will be effectively dead, there won’t be enough of a tax base to sustain it anymore.

    • One minor correction – if Tucker takes those areas it will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that LVH isn’t sustainable. But there were already serious and substantive questions about LVH’s sustainability with those areas. Questions that supporters did not take seriously and cost them this election.

  2. chamblee54 says:

    Maybe these new cities should be required to have a follow up election. Five years after establishment, the voters would need to certify their approval. I suspect Brookhaven would be disbanded if such a vote were taken.

  3. Progressive Dem says:

    Tucker is a place that even has a Main Street.

    Lot’s of seniors were not convinced their taxes would decline as represented by cityhood proponents.

    DeKalb Strong’s argument that neither more politicians, nor a new city would fix DeKalb.

    LaVista Hills neighborhood organizations have good access to their commissioners.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      DeKalb has shown no signs of being fixable, and Tucker incorporation makes it harder. New cities may insulate residents from some of the dysfunction.

  4. Harvey Davis says:

    A proposed City of South Fulton has no commonality or unified community sense of place. The unincorporated area is a diverse hobnob of communities with no commonality. There is no main street or downtown and nobody has a clue where the city hall would be even if this ill-fated idea were financially viable. Thank goodness that is is apparent that this idea is dead. Those interested in joining neighboring cities can continue to proceed to determine their governance and what little is left a year or so from now can be divided up by the legislature as the majority of state leadership wants Fulton County out of the municipal services business.

  5. northside101 says:

    Maybe LaVista Hills was seen as a “Republican ploy” in heavily Democratic DeKalb—though it has been years since what is now the LaVista Hills area was strongly Republican. Most of the GOP-heavy precincts remaining in that roughly mid-upper 70s (percentage) Democratic county are north of I-85; of the 12 DeKalb precincts where Romney took over 60% last time, 9 are in Dunwoody and 2 in Brookhaven. Only 1 precinct in DeKalb south of I-85 gave Romney over 60% (that being the Midvale Elem. precinct in the Tucker area outside of 285). Accordingly, there are no overwhelmingly GOP precincts in DeKalb south of 85 and inside 285.

    Looks like from AJC report this morning, 6 precincts voted “no” on the issue by a great margin than the overall 136-vote loss on Lavista Hills. I suspect supporters today are saying, “oh, if we could have only excluded that precinct….”

    As for Kasim Reed wanting to annex a lot of the Briar Vista/Toco Hills area close to the Atlanta city limits,well, I’m not so sure—that would reduce the black percentage of the city, facilitating another run by Mary Norwood (who lost by less than 750 votes in 2009), Kathy Woolard, etc., lessening chances of another black mayor. (The last time Atlanta elected a white mayor was way back in 1969, when Sam Massell—yes, the same one who now heads the Buckhead Coalition—defeated Republican Rodney Cook.)

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    My prognostication both would pass by less than 55% was clearly off—LaVista not by much. It was based only on the opinions of a half dozen friends or acquaintances in each locale, everyday people not much interested in politics.

    Continuing damage to DeKalb County will ensue—County government continuing a 15 year tradition—as Tucker scarfs up the remainder of Northlake outside its current boundaries. The CID/commercial interests didn’t like the idea of being split—now they won’t have to be.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      PS – It’s a green light for Atlanta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkson, Decatur, and Avondale to cherry-pick (or continue to cherrypick), commercial-industrial properties around the Lavista perimeter.

      Doraville won’t be in that race, having already last year cherrypicked nearly every square foot of commercial-industrial property in its area, leaving two large unincorporated islands residents of a 1,000 or more residents each, courtesy of the General Assembly.

      The last DeKalb incorporation may well be “Apartment City”.

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