Opinion: Buckhead cityhood an ill-advised idea

Group that supports Buckhead cityhood wants crime addressed by the city of Atlanta
Caption
Group that supports Buckhead cityhood wants crime addressed by the city of Atlanta

A FORMER MAYOR’S VIEW

When I was Mayor of Atlanta more than 50 years ago, with a larger population but smaller budget, I set about becoming part of every organization of record, from the Fraternal Order of Police to the American Civil Liberties Union. I learned fast that the place I could best influence opinion was personal contact with the masses.

Since retiring a year ago, I have purposely shied away from any civic controversy. However, the current ill-advised proposal to make the Buckhead community a separate city has excited me to reiterate my longstanding opposition to such.

I don’t want to see our city cut into several slices, believing that — in the long range — it would degrade the quality of life of the new creations and the remaining citizens.

Caption
Sam Massell.

Sam Massell.
Caption
Sam Massell.

When I was in office, building and protecting the Atlanta brand became my daily commitment. I read books and attended seminars to emulate the master of this challenge — the soft drink company birthed and headquartered here. I learned that it could take years to build a brand. I learned as well some years later that the same firm could dramatically damage its brand with introduction of a test beverage not appreciated by its loyal clientele.

A half-century later, I’m still in love with our city and still have faith we shall overcome our dip of the day. We now face a new mayor’s race; and although I was one of the first to advise candidates that crime was the main issue, attitude will transcend this.

Whatever our mantra, it doesn’t need another study for the shelf! I’m alluding to the effort of those who would carve out a part of our city. This is an idea that I’ve been opposed to every time it has appeared.

Atlanta, like other incorporated areas, is a creature of the state. I don’t know many of the young members of our legislative delegation, but suspect they have the collective wisdom to avoid depleting an existing successful leadership.

I hope that our next mayor will have visited every neighborhood and every house of worship and every other organized group. Let the leader of each know your interests. Cull the best ideas and build a platform of peace.

Academicians have long preached that less government was better government. Note that taxes may be more in one part of the city because there is more development, just as success normally results in greater contributions to charities to help others.

Taking Buckhead away will bankrupt Atlanta and be reported nationally, crippling all development. It would likely complicate public safety, with no improvement in crime prevention. It would destroy the community brand, which would require decades to rebuild. And it would increase taxes and diminish services.

To test these thoughts, check with your clergy, with your elected officials, with your employer, with your civic leaders and others.

As a student of government, now at 94 years of age, I shudder to think how much it can damage our brand if any major section of our population is separated from the balance of us.

Please pledge today that you will stay alert and stay together.

Caption
January 26, 2021 Buckhead - Aerial photography shows Buckhead Skyline on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. The quest for cityhood in Buckhead has several hurdles to clear before it becomes reality, but leaders behind a new group exploring the issue say they are confident they have a chance.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

January 26, 2021 Buckhead - Aerial photography shows Buckhead Skyline on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. The quest for cityhood in Buckhead has several hurdles to clear before it becomes reality, but leaders behind a new group exploring the issue say they are confident they have a chance.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
January 26, 2021 Buckhead - Aerial photography shows Buckhead Skyline on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. The quest for cityhood in Buckhead has several hurdles to clear before it becomes reality, but leaders behind a new group exploring the issue say they are confident they have a chance.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Sam Massell was mayor of Atlanta, 1970-1974, and president of the City Council, then called the Board of Aldermen, from 1962-1970.

About the Author

Editors' Picks