Residents and elected representatives from northern and southern DeKalb County must talk to each more to solve issues before considering incorporations that could economically weaken the county, Commissioner Stan Watson said Wednesday.
The Super District 7 commissioner said he would like to see a meeting between residents and elected representatives of northern and southern DeKalb County to hash out issues that have lead to serious cityhood discussions in the Lakeside High School area.
"The citizens don't talk to each other," Watson said. "We have to get rid of the barriers that separate and find the commonalities that bring us closer together."
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis said this week in a statement to Patch he believes the county has reached a tipping point where continued incorporations of unincorporated county land could harm the county's ability to fund essential services such as courts, elections and libraries – services all county residents use regardless of whether they live in a city. Recent incorporations of Brookhaven and Dunwoody have siphoned tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue from the county government.
Speaking at a community meeting in Tucker on Tuesday, Ellis said he understands the desire for cityhood but that historically, new cities often encounter difficulties meeting their fiscal goals, and end up having to raise taxes just to meet basic needs.
"You'll still be DeKalb citizens," he said, emphasizing that new cities cannot isolate themselves from their counties.
Watson said he supports the idea of cityhood but hasn't appreciated the legislature's efforts to squash a city of DeKalb that would incorporate all remaining unincorporated county land from north to south.
“I’m for cityhood but allow all the citizens to vote on cityhood," he said. "But just don’t give it to a respectful few."
Proponents of cityhood in the Lakeside area have said they believe they can improve police services and local representation by erecting a city government closer to its residents. District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader, who represents part of the area that would be incorporated under several proposed maps from various cityhood groups, said he believes he's been responsive to constituents.
"You can't speak in general, but I am not running across constients who feel that our office hasn’t been responsive to them," he said. "I don’t know that you’re always gong to get what you want from another government."
But the county government doesn't have much control over what happens in the Lakeside area. If the legislature approves a cityhood bill for that area next year, it will go to a vote before residents of that proposed cit as early as fall 2014.
"If we don't control the legislature, there's nothing we can do," he said.