County official asked to stop insulting north Fulton

Liz Hausmann, who represents most of north Fulton, has asked Vice Chair Emma Darnell to stop insulting her and her district, and while she's at it, stop haranguing county staffers called before the commission dais.

"All this does is continue the drumbeat to separate the county," Hausmann said.

The spat is another setback in Chairman John Eaves' efforts to improve the county government's image. The commission directly governs less than 10 percent of the population but provides libraries, criminal justice, health services, senior centers, property tax assessments and other services to nearly 1 million people.

Last week, while talking about unincorporated south Fulton's share if voters in the region approve a new transportation sales tax in July, Darnell told Hausmann to pipe down because she doesn't represent that area. Hausmann had stated that $2.9 million per year, the south's projected share for local projects, is a significant sum.

The commission is unincorporated south Fulton's governing body, making decisions on zoning matters and its property tax rate, among other things. Hausmann pointed out that she would be voting on which transportation projects south Fulton gets.

Darnell said later, while talking about buying new cell door locks for the county jail, that she never agrees with Hausmann on anything because of the area she speaks for.

Hausmann told Darnell in a letter Friday, copied to the whole board, that it's time for her anti-north rhetoric to stop. Darnell has so far not responded.

"It only plays into this narrative that we are dysfunctional," said Bernie Tokarz, a public policy coordinator for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, "that the board doesn't get along and we are ungovernable. I don't believe we're ungovernable at all."

North Fulton is 68 percent white and makes up more than a third of the county population. Its median household income is $93,555, according to north Fulton chamber data.

Dissatisfaction with the county led four Fulton communities -- including Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton in north Fulton -- to vote to form cities during the past decade, changes made possible by Republican gains in the Legislature.

Northside residents have long complained that the county government siphons their tax money to the south while ignoring their needs, while Southside leaders contend that their money helped build up north Fulton, so it ought to reciprocate. The dispute has sparked a movement to split off the six northern cities and re-form old Milton County.

Were that to happen, what remained of Fulton would have a $36,930 median household income, according to a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Georgia and Georgia State. South Fulton is 81 percent black and Atlanta is 54 percent black, according to census statistics.

Darnell, who represents northwest Atlanta and part of south Fulton, has railed against secession efforts. She did not return phone messages or emails seeking comment Monday and Tuesday.

The vice chair frequently spars with colleagues over meeting decorum. A year ago, she clashed with Eaves after she exceeded her speaking time and he ordered her microphone cut off. Eaves, at the time, was trying to rein in meeting lengths.

In 2011, Darnell took up 44 percent of all debate time, speaking for a cumulative 17 hours and 22 minutes throughout the year, according to time logs obtained through an open records request. She was followed by Commissioner Bill Edwards, who spoke for 8 1/2 hours, and Eaves, who spoke for almost 4 hours.

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