By Robert Stamper of Smoke Rise
This article originally appeared in the October issue of Smoke Signal, a newsletter for the Smoke Rise community. As a side note, Smoke Rise is also the neighborhood of former commissioner Elaine Boyer, Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond, Tucker 2015 Chairman and Lobbyist Frank Auman, Tucker Business leader Honey Van de Kreke, and former School Board Representative Pam Speaks.
1. The cityhood effort is the most divisive phenomenon I have seen in my 40 years in this community. Regardless of its stated goals, cityhood in DeKalb plainly and effectively 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. 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.
2. For those of us who were raised here it's difficult to believe this has to be said, but misguided assertions from the past year or so (though, tellingly, not once before) underscore the necessity: Smoke Rise is not located in Tucker. The area now referred to as Smoke Rise is in Stone Mountain, and always has been. This isn't just a mailing address. It's our hometown.
Stone Mountain, both incorporated and unincorporated, has seen hard times over the recent past, no question. For those of us whose bond to this place is guided by family history and tradition, and by principles of loyalty and integrity, we respond by strengthening and redoubling our sense of community.
3. Tucker cityhood, specifically, is a bad deal, not just ideologically but financially. The "Feasibility Study" laying out plans for Tucker city government shows that expenditures related to the city's mayor, city council and admin are slated to exceed five million dollars per annum--and that's not even counting costs for the only three services the city will provide (code enforcement, zoning and parks). 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.
4. There is an alternative. We can work together, across DeKalb, as a community, to fix our problems. 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. Our history as a nation is one of greater unity, deeper understanding, and better fellowship, often secured at great cost. E pluribus unum, never ex uno plures.
The last thing DeKalb needs in this difficult time is more division. Please make sure our legislators understand. Thank you.