DeKalb Strong DeKalb County, Better Together! Tue, 06 Mar 2018 18:54:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Petition calling for resignation of Lee May Fri, 02 Oct 2015 15:55:42 +0000 After careful consideration, we are calling for Lee May to resign his position as Interim CEO of DeKalb County.
Click here to sign our petition.

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]]> 0 Wed, 16 Sep 2015 11:25:20 +0000 Most civic associations in this area have done a great job in participating in this referendum process and sponsoring forums and informational events to educate their voters.

The Embry Hills Civic Association, however, has taken a strongly partisan approach, hosting only one sided meetings. At a meeting tonight, anyone with a ‘No’ sign was explicitly not invited.

Open letter from a resident to Embry Hills regarding their behavior on this issue.

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Response to August 24th Event Wed, 26 Aug 2015 03:49:38 +0000 There were a great many false claims and misleading statements made last night.


Claim: Cities have lower millage rates, thus lower taxes.

False. This comparison is meaningless, and they know it.

The presentation showed a head-to-head comparison of city and county millage rates, leading people to believe that their taxes would drop in a city. Not only did they use an outdated county millage rate, but this comparison is inappropriate, and they know it.

As they say on the LaVista Hills Web site, “A county millage rate is not equivalent to a city millage rate in this context. A city millage rate does not come with the HOST county property tax rollback or the applicable county homestead exemptions. Thus a lower city millage rate will generate more revenue than DeKalb County’s millage rate.”

“Generate more revenue” is bureaucrat-speak for ‘raises taxes.’ While the millages may look lower in cities, those lower millage rates, without the tax credits we have in unincorporated areas, result in higher taxes.

There will be no new taxes

False. Taxes WILL go up.

The county currently gathers $32 million in taxes in this footprint. A city of LaVista Hills, according to the CVI study, will gather $36.5 million. This is a tax increase of $4.5 million.

City governments are lean.

Inaccurate.  Redundant government is very expensive, and new city governments love to grow.

The CVI study predicts that cost of administration would be $6.5 million dollars—20% of our tax dollars siphoned off to fund new bureaucracy.

And that’s before we talk about growth in government. Brookhaven was supposed to also have less than a dozen employees. They now have 33 (not including politicians or police). Sandy Springs, once a poster child for libertarian small government, used eminent domain to seize some long-standing businesses and is now building a $100 million “City Center.”

Claim: Cities have lower crime and better response times.

False. New cities have seen higher crime and understaffed forces.

Matt Slappey made this claim, but kept it intentionally vague. The gist was “when I drive around Brookhaven, I see more police cars.” That is the extent of the support for their position.

There is a reason that they don’t present any statistics or data; the facts do not support them. A 2012 study in Dunwoody found that the small police force there was ‘often overwhelmed’, and that 25% of calls were not getting timely responses. Three years later, they have even fewer police officers. Dunwoody police statistics show that property crimes are up 30% since the first full year of their department in 2010. In 2014, only 10% of burglaries and 14% of motor vehicle thefts were resulted in an arrest.

Claim: We don’t really need those specialty police services, anyway.

Ridiculous.  You don’t need these special services until you do.  Why trade first class public safety for a third tier force?

Matt Slappey said that losing our quick access to specialty units, SWAT services, and bomb squads wasn’t an issue, because he doesn’t think we normally need these things, and we will just get them from the county if we need them.

Will we? In response to budget cuts after the incorporation of Dunwoody, DeKalb had to ground their helicopter for a time, meaning that Dunwoody lost this service, too. If we want to be able to count on these services when we need them, is it wise to force budget cuts to the organization that provides them?

Also, is it true that we don’t really need these specialty units, anyway? One of the specialty units offered by DeKalb and not offered by cities is domestic violence specialists. Domestic-violence-related police calls have been found to constitute the single largest category of calls received by police, and that includes more affluent areas.

DeKalb police also receive more training, in general. It is always good to have a more trained police officer, whatever the reason for your call.

Claim: We will use zoning to protect us from development

False.  Zoning in fractured districts is chaotic, and often leaves residents unhappy.

Matt Slappey specifically stated that his issue was that the new apartment complex near the Movie Tavern was going to overcrowd Briarlake, and was bad planning.

This is a perfect example of the reason the city movement is so bad.

The complex he has an issue with isn’t in the footprint of LaVista Hills. It would be in Tucker. Many of our schools have districts that go outside these boundaries, just as the boundaries for Druid Hills High School, which is NOT in our footprint, cover a large swath of this area. When zoning is sliced and diced into different fiefdoms that don’t correspond with school district lines, we lose all say in zoning decisions that may affect our schools.

In general, cities have made a mess of zoning. The 300-unit apartment complex in Tucker will have less of an effect on schools than the $1.5 million square foot complex Brookhaven just approved next to Montgomery Elemetary. Cities cause the cost of government to rise, and put pressure on governments to increase density.


Claim: But we WILL zone for more development.

True.  You think congestion is bad now? 

The presentation was a bit contradictory. Right after Matt Slappey expressed his ire at a 300-person apartment complex over in Tucker, Ben Shackleford stated that if we had a city, maybe the new Mercedes complex–with its 355 apartment units and dense single family homes–may have located at Northlake. Apparently, residents of the Sandy Springs neighborhoods surrounding this complex wish the same thing.


Claim: LaVista Hills will get around to ethics. Just trust us.

We shouldn’t. New cities often have no ethics boards, and politicians easily escape consequences.

The LaVista Hills charter has no independent ethics authority. The city council would essentially be responsible for investigating themselves. This is LESS ethics protection than we currently have in DeKalb County.

We need more ethics protections–not less!

Claim: The county fought the purchase of the new Briarlake Forest, and in a city, citizens wouldn’t have to work to convince government to acquire parks.

False. Briarlake Forest is an example of what we would LOSE if out parks money leaves the county.

The process did take time and effort – and money. After a protracted battle with the developer, the purchase of those 21 acres cost the county more than $9 million – roughly $430,000 per acre. This was an extraordinarily expensive park acquisition.

There is very little property in the LVH footprint that is both suitable for development as a park and affordable to the county, much less to a city with limited resources. With so little room in their budget, LaVista HIlls does not have the resources to even maintain additional parks, even if they could find a way to acquire them. This park alone reduces the projected surplus by 15%.

Mr. Marion has earlier stated that “The Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs has reached out to BCFA to assist with the formation of a “Friends of the Park” group to help the department with planning, improvements and maintenance of the park.” That is in direct conflict with his statement at the meeting. If the park leaves the county and becomes part of the City of LaVista Hills, BCFA will also lose the services of the non-profit organization Park Pride in obtaining grants, donations and volunteers to assist in improving and maintaining the park, and will have significantly fewer resources than they have now.

The innuendos and whispers by LVH leaders at the meeting concerning the supposedly regressive actions of their “unnamed” local district commissioner (hardly a mystery, since they only have one, Jeff Rader) were unprofessional in the extreme and, more importantly, untrue.

Claim: LaVista Hills Alliance is open for business, DeKalb-style

Offensive: Corruption and cronyism from the get go.

The most disturbing statement of the night was the answer to a question about how the LaVista Hills Alliance holding a $500-a-plate fundraiser for potential city vendors was different than what Burrell Ellis went to prison for.

And Kevin Levitas’ response? I quote:

“It’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to invest in us before we invest in them.”

No. It isn’t perfectly reasonable. This is pay-to-play. Saying that contractors have to pony up campaign cash if they want to do business with a government is wrong. It violates most government procurement codes, and is the exact kind of behavior we need less of in DeKalb. We do NOT need to make more opportunities for it, especially if the leaders of this movement don’t understand basic ethics.


We do not know if these misstatements were purposeful or were made in error, but had the LaVista Hills Alliance allowed for a debate format (as we requested), attendees would have been able to judge for themselves.

Please plan on attending an event where both sides of new cityhood will be debated…

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August 23 Newsletter Sun, 23 Aug 2015 15:15:44 +0000 August 23 newsletter

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Will we have an improvement in Zoning? Wed, 19 Aug 2015 15:59:30 +0000 Recently, a handful of Breckenridge neighbors announced that they were supporting a city because of a “Fairly standard” sideyard setback decision. The homeowners association had opposed the variance, but, citing precedent in the neighborhood, the zoning board approved it.

The angry neighbors stated they are supporting LaVista Hills, because they are convinced that having a city run by politicians that live nearer to them will ensure that zoning decisions will better match their desires.

It would be nice if a new layer of government could guarantee us that there would never be zoning decisions we don’t like.

Unfortunately, if we look at the experience of other new cities, the financial pressures of supporting a new layer government have more often than not encouraged city officials to allow extraordinary increases in density, over the strenuous objections of neighbors. And it’s far worse than reductions in setbacks.

In Brookhaven, the city council unanimously approved a 1.13 million square foot office building/300-unit apartment complex by Montgomery Elementary School, over the objections of the neighborhood:

The developer’s attorney said, after the approval: “I’ll bet you, those that were registered to vote, when you had a vote on cityhood, voted for the city. They are having a hard time making up their minds, whether they really want to be in a city or not, because they still want to maintain land use decisions based on a suburban mentality, not on an urban mentality.”

Sandy Springs is similarly overbuilding, with little thought to the consequence. The pleas of homeowners associations have been ignored.

Cityhood is likely to make zoning issues far worse, especially if we want to protect our area from increased density and more traffic.

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August 12th Newsletter Thu, 13 Aug 2015 19:12:44 +0000 The latest is here.

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Voter Information Night, April 16th! Thu, 09 Apr 2015 01:53:07 +0000 Voter Information Night

In November, we will be voting on whether or not to form a new city. Come learn about the possible effects of creating a new level of government, as well as other local changes coming out of the Georgia Assembly this session.

Bring friends and neighbors!

Clairmont Hills Baptist Church
1995 Clairmont Rd
Thursday, April 16, 2015
7:00 p.m.

See more details in our Events section.

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Get ready to vote in November! Fri, 03 Apr 2015 13:13:25 +0000 Please pardon the long post, but I have something I really want to share.

I am so happy tonight.

When I first started following this issue in fall of 2013 and keeping a little blog of my thoughts, I never dreamed that barely over a year later, I would be part of such a vibrant, effective, and strong organization fighting to preserve my home.

We had three major issues we were pushing this session: the three DeKalb reform bills, fighting Atlanta annexation, and fighting the new cities. We went 2 for 3. I am thrilled at getting 60% of what we want, considering that we are talking about the Georgia General Assembly.

We have taken a big step on the road to REAL reform of DeKalb County—reform that new cities, thus far, have failed to deliver. We forestalled, at least for now, an annexation that would have been devastating for our schools. Now, people in this area can have clarity when voting on whether or not we want to add to our government, without worrying that they must vote yes because people in Atlanta will be voting yes. And we have a good chance to stop the Atlanta annexation totally if we vote down LaVista Hills and Tucker, and end the idea that we all must end up in cities whether we like it or not.

But do you know what I am happiest about? I’ve spent three long months trekking down to the Capitol, listening to legislators say that our community is a terrible place they are glad they don’t live, that they want to ‘crush’ it. No more Gold Dome. This feels like a homecoming.

Now I can work for this cause in the beautiful and vibrant community that I love. Now I have the opportunity to get to know even more of my incredibly diverse neighbors, and open up hundreds of new conversations about why this place is so special, and why we shouldn’t let it fall apart.

We need a lot of help. We are not going to have the funding or the political expertise of our opponents. But this isn’t a big, partisan race. This is an argument that we are going to win neighbor to neighbor, at backyard barbecues and block parties and swim meets and PTA meetings. We are committed to providing our wonderful network of supporters with the resources that you need to help with these conversations, so please let us know what you need.

We are only just beginning.


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Follow Up on Marshall Orson Emails Wed, 01 Apr 2015 01:09:24 +0000 On April 1, 2015, CBS Channel 46 reported on the Dekalb County School Board meeting.  During this meeting a number of concerned residents spoke out regarding the communication between school board member, Marshall Orson, and the Atlanta Annexation Group, Together in Atlanta.

CBS46 News

To watch the entire Citizen Input Session of the April 1, 2015 Board of Education Meeting, visit the Board of Education Video on Demand Site.

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Emails From DeKalb County Schools Board Member Marshall Orson Thu, 19 Mar 2015 23:12:29 +0000 Emails show DeKalb County Schools Board Member Marshall Orson was working for the Atlanta annexation, which hurts DeKalb County Schools.

CBS46 News

A story ran March 19, 2015 on Channel 46 about DCSS Board member Marshall Orson, and how he was actively working to support the Atlanta annexation, which hurts the system he is on the board of.

Here is a sample of the emails referenced in the story on CBS Channel 46:

Fernbank attendance zone

Clairmont heights supporting DHCA petition

getschooled blog


Re Meeting

More Druid Hills Info


Opposition to City of Atlanta

Fw Opposition to City of Atlanta

What is your cell number

Fernbank Annexation Meeting

NB: Redactions are ours, not the government’s.  We are trying to respect the privacy of private citizens.


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