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Tucker, Smoke Rise residents speak out against cityhood movement

FROM THE CHAMPION NEWSPAPER:

Tucker, Smoke Rise residents speak out against cityhood movement

Proposed map city of Tucker map.
The cityhood movement in DeKalb County has gained more support and momentum in the past few months since three cityhood bills failed to pass during the 2014 legislative session.
On Sept. 24, a statement was posted on the Tucker cityhood initiative’s Facebook page by the Smoke Rise Civic Association (SRCA) announcing the association’s board of directors’ unanimous endorsement of Tucker’s initiative.
In the post, Smoke Rise Community Association president Mike Huerkamp wrote, “by this time next year, the Smoke Rise area may very well be on its way toward incorporation into a city of Tucker, progressing to finalize an annexation into the city of Stone Mountain, or find itself isolated as an area of unincorporated DeKalb fully hemmed-in and excluded by an expansion of the city of Stone Mountain.”
“Seemingly, there is no perfect solution,” Huerkamp continued. “However for those of you looking to the SRCA Board of Directors for guidance, after considering all information and data known to us and in consideration of the best preservation and promotion of our residential property values, the members of the SRCA Board by unanimous vote recommend that residents back the Tucker cityhood initiative.”
While the board has joined the cityhood movement, there is at least one Smoke Rise resident and a few Tucker residents who are not on board with the cityhood movement. Robert Stamper, who lives in the Smoke Rise community, does not believe SRCA made the right decision in endorsing the city of Tucker initiative.
“That was enormously disappointing because by engaging in the political campaign for Tucker cityhood explicitly, they were eliminating any opportunity of becoming a 501c3 nonprofit,” Stamper said. “The board is doing long-term harm to what could have been and what once was an enormously positive force for my community by making it impossible to gain the advantages of becoming a 501c3 nonprofit.”
Stamper is one of many residents who believe cityhood will do more harm than good to those in central DeKalb. He said the proponents of cityhood are breaking the golden rule.
“They are behaving toward me and my neighbors in a way in which my neighbors and I would never behave toward them,” he said. “We found out that Tucker was going to become a city after two parts of unincorporated Stone Mountain had already been placed in the proposed map for the city of Tucker. There had not been any type of invitation to the broad community to consult, to become informed or to provide any type of consent about whether we wanted to be in Tucker before our homes were put in the proposed map. And that’s absolutely not OK.”
In an article printed in his community’s paper, Smoke Signal News, Stamper wrote that cityhood “separates the last majority-White areas of the county from a huge swath of territory populated largely by African Americans.”
“As a former M-to-M student of both Tucker and Towers high schools, and as the father of a fourth-generation resident of Smoke Rise, let me make clear that the obvious, and pathetic, racial element of the cityhood push is an embarrassment,” Stamper wrote. “It is in no way consistent with the family and community values with which I and my classmates were raised. Even if for no other reason, the ethnic separatism aspect of the incorporation efforts demands they be stopped.”
Tucker resident Cheryl Miller, a member the “Save Tucker!” group, said there are residents who are concerned about what the “further fracturing” of DeKalb will do to “everyone’s quality of life.”
“We feel like we are being forced to ‘pick a side’ in a north/south battle that is going to end up with our community torn to shreds,” Miller said. “We either support the city effort or get annexed somewhere else. Either way will cost us more than what we are currently paying in property tax and every development plan so far has brought huge numbers of residents into higher density housing that makes our commute time on [I-285] unbearable as it is.”
Miller said residents are not being given a choice about whether they want to be part a city.
“It isn’t a matter of cities being generically okay or not okay,” Miller said. “It is about being forced into forming a city simply as a defensive means against your own neighbors, not because you think your current services are not being delivered as well as they could be.
“Most people here are happy with DeKalb in terms of the services we receive,” Miller added. “No one is happy about the corruption, but adding more government to the mix is certainly no way to fix that.”
In December, Tucker city supporters found out that the area is financially feasible based on the study conducted by Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. According to the feasibility study, the city of Tucker will start with a surplus of approximately $3.3 million. Based on the mix of residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and public properties taxes, Tucker expects to have annual revenue of approximately $16.6 million and annual expenses of approximately $13.3 million.
Stamper said the feasibility study shows that expenses related to the city’s mayor, city council and administration could exceed “$5 million per annum.”
“And that’s not even counting costs for the only three services the city will provide—code enforcement, zoning and parks,” Stamper said. “Police service does not change. Schools do not change. Regardless of marketing to the contrary, Tucker cityhood gives this area a new layer of government administration in addition to those we already have, with millions of dollars in new fees, and with a new corps of elected officials and bureaucrats, at a total cost to taxpayers of $16.6 million per year—all while doing little or nothing to solve current issues with DeKalb government.”
Stamper said the county could fix its problems without forming new cities.
“We can work together, across DeKalb, as a community, to fix our problems,” he said. “Black and White, majority and minority, north and south, affluent and struggling, we can choose—guided by the values we work to instill in our children—to unite rather than divide, and to rebuild rather than repel.”

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