The Georgia Senate plans to grant the Buckhead City proposal a hearing during its upcoming special session, a sign that the push for the wealthy district to deannex from Atlanta is continuing its momentum.
Bill sponsor Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), who has served in the state legislature’s upper chamber for ten years, told Breitbart News he has “never seen” Buckhead cityhood gain so much traction before.
The deannexation idea is not new, having been floated by local officials and residents on and off again for at least a decade. However, the passage of a pair of introductory cityhood bills in the Georgia General Assembly this past spring has given the effort newfound validation. Beach said surging crime numbers are driving the support for it.
“I’ve got Senate leadership behind it, and I’ve got a lot of really high-powered folks that are interested in making sure we get this thing moving forward,” Beach said.
Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown), chairman of the State and Local Government Operations Committee, confirmed to Breitbart News he plans to schedule a committee hearing for the legislation next time the Senate convenes, which is expected to be in late fall for a special session for redistricting.
The goal of the organization leading the cityhood effort, the Buckhead City Committee, is to earn a spot on next year’s ballot so that Buckhead’s roughly 90,000 residents can formally vote on it.
Buckhead City Committee spawned from residents’ frustrations over crime rates in the area and has evolved in recent months into a serious effort that has backing from many Republican state lawmakers, including Beach and Anderson, and, according to committee CEO Bill White, substantial fundraising abilities.
“The money is a leading indicator in my book,” White told Breitbart News.
He detailed the price tags of several upcoming events designed to fundraise for Buckhead City. One gentleman hosting a local event is anticipating ten attendees at $25,000 per head, while another is hosting a dinner at his home for four couples at a similar cost. The committee in September will have a 75-person event at Bones, a fancy local steakhouse, and White said that event has already raised $75,000. A committee board member hosting an event in October expects that one to generate half a million dollars.
“I think by October we’ll have another million dollars on the books. That’s what our plan is,” White said.
The committee head moved to the affluent district with his husband a few years ago from New York, where he had been CEO of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for about 20 years. He said he has been disturbed by the “brazenness” of the criminal behavior as of late, pointing to a high murder rate, home invasions while residents are home, and a recent police warning of “bump and robs.”
“Our [agenda], which is irrespective of politics, is just taking control back of our city,” White said in June.
Buckhead has often been ranked one of the wealthiest communities in the south and is home to an abundance of expensive retail, shiny new office buildings, and upscale neighborhoods. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis assessed that a hypothetical Buckhead City would be 74 percent white and have an average median income of around $140,000, and that the city would take with it about 40 percent of Atlanta’s entire value.
Beach warned, “The city of Atlanta’s going to fight this. They’re going to fight it tooth and nail because this is a big portion of their tax collection, and the people have always been okay with that as long as they felt like they were getting a return on their investment, but when you’re not getting public safety, and you’ve got potholes and your trash isn’t being picked up and you’re not getting any services, people say, ‘Hey we want to take control and control our own destiny,’ if you will.”
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), who is opposed to Buckhead’s deannexation, restated Friday at a press conference about anti-violence initiatives that the “current wave of violent crime” in her city is a “COVID crime wave.” She reasserted that Georgia reopening earlier than other states last year caused more people to flock to Georgia, which she claimed correlated to the uptick in crime.
Bottoms made similar comments in April at the Buckhead Rotary Club as she addressed deannexation, saying, “In creating a new city, you’re not building a wall around the city.” She contended, “It doesn’t address crime,” and added that the way to correct the “COVID crime wave” is to “continue to work together as we have done for decades, as a city, as one city.”
White, however, argued a lack of proper police resources was the source of the crime spike. He said there is “no leadership here in Atlanta” and called Bottoms the “worst mayor in history.”
He compared Buckhead’s deannexation to a divorce, saying, “At a certain point you realize you have — literally they call it ‘irreconcilable differences’ — and the only way to civilly handle that is to file for divorce in a marriage.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.