Cityhood: Be careful what you wish for

More than five years ago, Dunwoody became a new city with the objective of wresting control from DeKalb County and establishing a local government to better represent the interests of Dunwoody citizens. It has not worked out that way. We have been betrayed by politicians and associates who play inside political baseball.

The latest episode of this saga is recent legislation to change the Dunwoody city charter and eliminate the necessity for a citywide vote to fund the takeover of fire and ambulance services from DeKalb; instead, this decision now will be made by majority vote of the seven-member City Council. This charter amendment removed the only right to vote that Dunwoody citizens had regarding the takeover of services from DeKalb.

Most important, this amended city charter does not have a guaranteed limit on the maximum tax rates to fund the operating costs needed to run fire and EMS services. And there is no limit to the high capital costs to acquire fire stations, trucks and ambulances – especially since the city charter has no debt limits via indirect contractual obligations. None.

Since Dunwoody became a city, the City Council has followed impractical urban planning agenda and master plans recommended by consultants and developers who contribute to certain political insiders. This agenda completely changes the character of a community that has attracted individuals and businesses for many years.

As a result, while police protection has improved somewhat, there have been many high-cost projects opposed by an overwhelming majority of residents, according to credible polls of more than 1,400 residents. One project cost $2.5 million for a half-mile stretch of parkway that goes from four lanes to two lanes and will undoubtedly increase traffic congestion in an area already burdened with traffic gridlock. Perhaps the worst project is the ChatComm 911 service, which has not worked safely since its inception more than two years ago.

These consultants are also the root cause of new layers of excessive fees and regulations, and very low budgets for residential road repaving that will result in many residents never having neighborhood streets repaved in their lifetimes, despite upgrading their homes and paying taxes for years.

A new organization called SaveDunwoody was formed about 18 months ago to oppose this impractical agenda. It hasgrown to more than 850 members. Conversely, the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, with a declining membership, no longer independently represents the interests of homeowners the way it once did.

While Dunwoody is mostly Republican, the DeKalb GOP is also a closed shop controlled by insider political appointees; incredibly, the DeKalb GOP chairman refuses to disclose names and contact information of members of the executive committee, even to bona fide members of that committee.

The bottom line is simple: Georgia citizens wishing to establish a city should be careful what they wish for. Beware of more political insider cronyism.

Jim Dickson has lived in Dunwoody for 35 years.