More than two years ago, Save Tucker! posed questions to the Lakeside City Alliance, as you will read in the post below that was originally published in the Tucker Patch. These questions were a combination of all questions submitted to us on our Save Tucker! Facebook page as well as questions the organizers of Save Tucker! had for Oliver Porter and the Lakeside City Alliance.
Now called "Lavista Hills," and slated for a referendum vote on Tuesday, November 3, this group will be meeting once again to answer questions tonight at Lakeside High School.
You can read our questions below and decide if they were ever answered to your satisfaction. If not, you might have a chance to ask them one last time if you decide to attend the meeting. But you must submit them in advance to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just remember, you are under no obligation to sign in or provide any personal contact information at this meeting. If you do, you should be aware that many people who have followed Save Tucker! and are planning to vote No have claimed that they received emails containing viruses after signing in at similar meetings held by elected officials. They believe the integrity of their information was violated when it was shared by elected officials with the city organizers. And, a virus would be one sure fire way to keep the opposition from chatting up the nay side to this debate online.
There will be a community forum sponsored by State Representatives Michele Henson, Scott Holcomb and Mary Margaret Oliver and State Senator Elena Parent on the LaVista Hills cityhood referendum at Lakeside High School on September 30.
LaVista Hills and DeKalb Strong will present the pro and con perspectives on whether to incorporate. The forum will be moderated by Representative Holcomb.
This forum is being held to provide a structured meeting enabling both sides to present their positions to the public, and for the community members to have their questions answered.
Questions will be read by the moderator. They may be submitted in advance to email@example.com.
Questions for Lakeside City Alliance
Dear Lakeside City Alliance Organizers,
I plan on attending Thursday's meeting at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral and look forward to hearing the guest speaker Oliver Porter.
I am also sharing my list of questions with some media contacts, such as the Tucker Patch.
I hope they will choose to publish these questions before your meeting so that if time permits and your panel has been unable to get to some of them,others might have the opportunity to ask during the open Q & A portion that your press release stated that you would be allowing.
I am just letting you know ahead of time so that we do not have any misunderstandings.
Questions for Mr. Porter:
1. I understand the model city you describe in your book has been very successful for Sandy Springs, but the residential makeup of that area is unique in many ways. What are the core attributes that you saw in Sandy Springs that made it a good candidate for this form of privatized government that you would say are critical for other areas to have if they wish to replicate that model?
2. Here in the metro Atlanta area, we have a wide variety of communities that intertwine and connect to each other as the city sprawl from Atlanta has grown over the years. These interconnecting streets are part of Atlanta's charm as well as part of the traffic congestion we are known for. As this apparent trend of city development begins to spread, we will become in theory more like separate "bubbles" bumping up against one another on a map. Instead of road improvement projects that help metro commuters, we could end up with a patchwork of roads at various stages of either decline or improvement. How would you suggest solving a problem like this one when cities are only charged with servicing their smaller bubble and do not influence the overall plan of the county in terms of transportation?
3. If multiple cities are created in a large urban area like ours and they all start popping up in relatively short succession, then they will likely be competing with each other to retain the best services for the best price from a finite list of true quality, experienced providers. Doesn't that mean that as time goes on, the last few cities to form, like the one being presented here tonight, will not have the same access to the top in class providers like Sandy Springs and Dunwoody did when they incorporated? An increased number of providers would be necessary but they would lack the same experience level. So, aren't we fooling ourselves to think that Sandy Springs can truly be replicated here in Atlanta? Instead, what we are really talking about would be more akin to creating a "knock-off" version of the original. Do you have any evidence that a "generic" or "knock-off" would work just as well?
4. Dunwoody made many of the same promises to its voters when they wanted to incorporate, but their city leaders have stated that property values actually went down every year after incorporation. In addition, the study they relied on had far underestimated the cost of implementing their own police force, which had been one of the primary concerns for their residents at the time. When you have a business model that is already looking at the liklihood of declining revenues due to the overbuilt housing market like what we are experiencing right now, and you also have to project that costs could be as much as twice what the feasibility study suggests, does that still sound to you like the right time to proceed anyway? Some might say that is a very risky investment.
5. Dunwoody has already stated that they were not able to outsource in the same manner as Sandy Springs because they had more limitations on their funds. Their solution was to hire fewer companies and allow them to provide more than one service. Is this still a government created in the spirit of the system you are advocating or are they cutting corners that could lead to some problems down the road, such as creating a private monopoly of sorts that could later hike up rates or lower the quality of their service, such as many customers have said happened when ATT started offering "bundled" services to customers, seeking to be their primary utility?
6. I understand when an area has grown in population over a long period of time, some maybe even as much as 120 or more years, and those residents have a shared history and sense of pride and they want to incorporate because they believe the establishment of a local government will be able to provide services in a cost efficient manner that will benefit their citizens or help attract more of the commercial base necessary for a downtown area to thrive and provide jobs for the people who live in the community.
However, as we have witnessed in other areas in DeKalb, and as many here believe is the case with this proposal for a City of Lakeside, you now have a group of individuals who like the idea behind incorporation but do not live in an area that has naturally grown ripe for it. So instead of a large, unified group with a shared vision, we have a group that in some ways has just had a lasso thrown over it and not everyone is happy about being tied with the same rope.
Brookhaven is the perfect example of what is going on here. In fact, I believe some of these same politicians were involved in that city movement. Their vote for incorporation was practically a 50/50 split. Do you have any advice for city planners who are going into the development stage with half of their new citizens already feeling that were taken against their will? This type of process appears to me to be extremely corrosive to the very unity and sense of community it seeks to provide.
7. It appears that your book offers a long-term vision of what "could" be possible. But, what is the "short-term" vision? And, how much of both of these plans do you think should be shared with the public in order to gain their buy-in to the process? I can tell you that a large portion of people whom this alliance has identified are unaware of any need that would necessitate another layer of government.
8. Lakeside Alliance has been unclear about the services it would provide but has mentioned zoning. How does a city go about establishing a new zoning code for an area that is already well established? Do you begin with what you have and then create overlay zoning? So, is the goal to just lay down more and more zoning rules and laws that will be mandatory for even existing homeowners and businesses to comply with? Or do you start with a clean slate and zone the area in line with a vision of the future and what you want to see?
9. Doesn't the removal of money from an area (like the county) that has grown to rely upon it cause major upheaval for that system? How do you suggest we balance the benefits of a city with the harmful effects that will surely come to the county system?
10. Last, according to the Lakeside leaders, their city model was formed without taking the schools into consideration, which is clear from their lack of consideration for school attendance lines and school board districts which have already been delineated by the state. How do your outsourced cities work to advocate for the schools inside their attendance lines? Are they able to speak with school board members when the individual parents and stakeholders are being kept more at arm's length based on the SACS accreditation standards? How will a city impact the already overcrowded schools in this area?
11. If a city wanted to create its own separate school system, hypothetically speaking, and that was something permitted by law, would the standard Carl Vision feasibility study include the information that they would need in order to determine viability? Or would they need a separate feasibility study in order to determine if this task was something they could accomplish based on the tax dollars for education they would be claiming?
Questions for the Alliance:
1. Based on the answer to number 8, would you please provide for us your vision and how you would like to use zoning in order to make the improvements that we have only heard you speak of in general terms?
It would appear that there is the beginning of a charter cluster with Evansdale feeding Henderson and then feeding to Lakeside High School which has a stated goal of being a technology centered high school. Dunwoody has been working on its own version of a charter cluster, which involves more than just one elementary school in order to qualify under the new state law. Can you tell us what other schools you are looking at for your charter cluster and how you plan to convince the DeKalb School Board to redistrict Livsey and Midvale for this purpose when you have stated that your desire for a city is unrelated to education.
4. Are you aware that you are allowed to create charter schools and charter school clusters right now since all our schools are in the county school system? Why would a city be necessary if you can achieve your goal of a charter cluster now, without a city?
5. Are you aware that Dunwoody has commissioned a legal study to determine if there is a way to change the state constitution so that more cities can create smaller school districts limited to just their own boundaries?
6. If the constitution is changed, would Lakeside City also be interested in creating its own school system?
7. Isn't this issue about the school portion of our taxes really a much bigger issue than anything else you have covered in your analysis of cities when you consider how much of our tax dollars are allocated toward both of these aspects of incorporation? For example, if my annual taxes in DeKalb County are around $2,000, then about $1400 of those dollars are going toward the schools (supposedly) but not necessarily the schools in my immediate community and not necessarily in a manner that would make the schools acceptable to the parents whom we would like to encourage to move to our area.
That leaves only $600 for the rest of the county's projects and the city services you have discussed, if only three are taken on, you would realistically only be entitled to a fraction of that amount. That means we are here tonight discussing about $20 a year and how the LCA will be using that money if they convince us to vote yes on their plan if it is able to get onto a ballot, right?
So, shouldn't we actually be more concerned about how that $1,400 is being used RIGHT NOW and what LCA would do with THAT?
8. More importantly, shouldn't we be worried about how much money would be removed from the entire school system as a whole if Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Lakeside and others remove the School portion of funding out of DeKalb County taxes? If you are planning to create a city school system, removing a significant portion of YOUR school taxes and TUCKER's school taxes (as the retired citizens do not pay the school portion of the property tax bill) and unincorporated DECATUR's school taxes... then have you considered what the effects might be on the remaining families and children who live in Tucker and elsewhere in the county whom you did not include in your boundaries?
Do you have a plan that would ensure they are not being denied their rights as taxpayers and their children are not being denied their rights to a quality educational system?
9. If there will no longer be a need for Tucker Middle, Smoke Rise and Brockett, do you have a plan other than demolition of these schools? Do you plan to annex Tucker High as well, but still leave out the rest of Tucker's residents from being able to access the schools their tax dollars have helped to build?
10. Will the Vision Insitute contribute any financing for the political campaigns of the individuals who will seek the city commission or mayor seats?