Opinion: Buckhead City would be step backward for metro, state

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Abraham Lincoln, the Republican president who Unified the nation during the horrible Civil War, famously said that “a House divided cannot stand.” From their very beginning, the Grand Old Party rallied around two causes: the abolition of slavery and national unity. Throughout their history, Republicans have always opposed secession in all of its forms.

Yet today, a cabal of separatists from the opulent neighborhood of Buckhead are preaching secession to create a new “Buckhead City.” Armed with vast resources, this small oligarchy wishes to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of children and strip away hundreds of millions of dollars from Atlanta to create an exclusive utopia.

Of course, there already is a City of Buckhead; a charming community an hour east of Atlanta on Lake Oconee. It got its name during the American Revolution, nearly 250 years ago. The real Buckhead in Morgan County was settled in 1796, was an important train depot by 1837 and an incorporated city since 1891.

Nearly 70 years ago – under the leadership of Mayor Hartsfield – the neighborhoods of Buckhead united with the city of Atlanta in 1952.

The results have been fantastic. The neighborhoods of Buckhead, 20% of Atlanta, have grown so rich that they now amass 40% of the wealth of Atlanta, becoming, “a district of extreme wealth, unrivaled in the South,” according to a recent magazine.

caption arrowCaption
Dave Belton

Credit: contributed

Dave Belton

Credit: contributed

caption arrowCaption
Dave Belton

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Not once in the 250-year history of Georgia has a neighborhood inside a city ever seceded from that city. Furthermore, the General Assembly never contemplates local legislation if the local legislators themselves do not support it. Yet the sponsors of this local legislation don’t live in Buckhead -- or even ATL. In fact, not one local elected official – or legislator – or commissioner – or city councilmember – or the mayor – supports this naked conspiracy. Instead, a gentry of well-heeled patricians – led by a recent New York transplant – have coerced legislative outsiders into breaking every legislative norm (and their own Republican principles) in order to force this unprecedented decree down Atlanta’s throat.

Think of the odious message this will send to the world! Today, investors all over the planet see Atlanta as an alpha city because of her unrivaled airport, thriving economy and unique diversity.

Tomorrow, those same investors will see the ugliness of privilege and segregation.

Think what this means to the Republican mantra of local control! If outsider legislators can jam this measure through, no local city or county will be safe from legislative mischief. The state could destroy any community against the local citizen’s wishes.

Think what this will do to businesses! Georgia’s sterling AAA bond rating would be shattered as wealthy neighborhoods across the state seek to secede from their poorer neighborhoods. The race to the bottom would threaten their city’s municipal finances everywhere, as tiny communities faced ruined grants and expensive borrowing. People who don’t live anywhere near Atlanta will have less economic opportunities as businesses throughout the state suffer.

The motto of our nation is E Pluribus Unum: “Out of Many, One.” The miracle of our Founding Fathers was that they found a way to unify 13 very different colonies.

Indeed, Lincoln argued that unity is forever. “Perpetuity is implied in the fundamental law of all governments. No Government ever had a provision for its own termination.” He warned that, “if the destruction of the Union be lawfully possible, then the Union is less than perfect, having lost its perpetuity.” He pointed out that the Constitution was written, “to form a more perfect Union” and pleaded with Americans to not “break the bonds of affection.” Instead, he prayed that, “the mystic chords of memory will swell the chorus of the Union when touched again … by the better angels of our nature.”

Don’t let a few detractors ruin the rest of Georgia. Ask Republicans to defend their principles of local control, and remind them that a loss in local control in Atlanta is a loss of local control in the city that they live in.

And most of all, let us encourage Buckhead’s neighborhoods to summon their “better angels” and work with the rest of Atlanta…instead of going down the ugly road of secession.

State Rep. Dave Belton, R-Buckhead, Ga., represents House District 112.

» ANOTHER VIEW : Opinion: Local history shows new cities work, and counties adapt

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