The plea to neighboring cities was pointed: stop trying to take their land. Let South Fulton residents vote.
“I ask you to step back and not look at this new city as an enemy, but as an ally,” said Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta. “I ask you to back off from those annexation efforts and give South Fulton residents the opportunity to decide their own fate, their own destiny, just like you did.”
At a Friday ceremony to celebrate the fact that a cityhood referendum will be on the ballot in November — Gov. Nathan Deal signed the legislation that called for it earlier this week — Bruce and others said they would begin educating residents about what cityhood could mean.
The reasons to approve the city are many, Bruce said.
“It gives people who live in South Fulton the opportunity to decide for themselves how they want to be governed,” he said.
And if South Fulton doesn’t choose to incorporate, there’s a good chance Atlanta will try to annex some land, Bruce said, including Fulton County schools. That could disrupt the educations of 1,800 children.
The city has already tried to annex some land in the unincorporated area, and there are two lawsuits pending before the State Supreme Court on the topic. One, regarding land in the Fulton Industrial District, was heard this week. Another, related to the schools, will be heard later this summer.
“This has a definite impact on the school system,” Fulton County school board member Linda Bryant said. “Basically, what you’re going to choose is whether you go to Atlanta Public Schools or Fulton County Schools at this venture.”
Supporters said the potential city would be financially stable, and has had the opportunity to prove that it would function on its own over years of operating in its own special tax district.
A decade ago, voters handily rejected the creation of the city. Bruce said it was because they were happy living in an unincorporated area, and they didn’t want anything to change.
This time would be different, longtime resident Sharon Beasley-Teague said. Residents understand that with other cities eyeing them, they can’t remain unincorporated forever.
“This is the second time at the bite of the apple,” she said. “We understand the importance.”