Leaders of the Lakeside City Alliance called the Feb. 13 meeting an informational session as they fielded written questions from the predominantly white audience.
The proposed Lakeside City would have about 50,000 residents in an area bounded by neighborhoods that feed into Lakeside High School. It would include most of the communities near Spaghetti Junction, Northlake Mall and Century Center at Clairmont Road and I-285.
One of the most popular questions was “Why do it?”
Alliance chairwoman Mary Kay Woodworth said one of the prime reasons is police protection.
“No reflection on the DeKalb County Police Department,” she said. “They do a fine job but are spread thin. The issue we have is we don’t have enough police officers on the streets in our area for the population that lives here. And we feel that it would possibly be better for the community to take that on as a city service.”
Woodworth said the community also is concerned about the ongoing turmoil on the School Board, the district’s probationary status, corruption investigations into DeKalb government, and zoning issues in the Lakeside area.
Some of the written questions were pointedly worded.
“If cityhood is so great, why do the older cities Doraville, Chamblee, Lithonia, Stone Mountain, all have the same or worse issues than the county?” asked one.
“That’s a loaded question,” Woodworth responded. “And a matter of opinion, we may disagree but we can talk about this.”
But when Woodworth asked for a show of hands of all those who want to see further study of the issue of cityhood, all but a few hands went up.
The Lakeside City Alliance says the neighborhood has seen its influence dwindle in recent years because the area is split between two county commissioners and the new cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody are nearby. Woodworth said the area doesn’t have a real voice at the county level and residents want local control of government and services.
DeKalb officials in recent weeks have been mounting an aggressive strategy to prevent the creation of new cities that are sucking away its commercial tax base. They say the county has lost millions of dollars in tax revenue with the creation of Brookhaven and Dunwoody, making it difficult to fund basic services for unincorporated DeKalb. Commissioners have asked the DeKalb House and Senate delegation to the General Assembly to help them fight off new annexations.
A bill introduced by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) would require all new cities to conduct a financial impact study on the county in which they are located.
Woodworth said the alliance is confident the requirement will never pass the GOP-controlled Legislature.
The alliance is trying to raise at least $20,000 from the community for a feasibility study. That study would have to be funded before the Legislature can vote to allow cityhood to go to a ballot referendum in 2014. The alliance will announce the next meeting on www.lakesidecityalliance.org.