Opinion: The case and reasons for de-annexing to create Buckhead City

Atlanta mayor doesn't think creating city of Buckhead will curb crime
Atlanta mayor doesn't think creating city of Buckhead will curb crime

The executive committee of the Buckhead Exploratory Committee (BEC), as well as the hundreds of citizens who have volunteered and joined the movement to de-annex Buckhead, have been driven by a singular and common vision: a safer Buckhead. We envision a community with well-maintained infrastructure, appropriate levels of police presence, law enforcement and emergency services.

We want leaders who listen to us as people and not just as “a valuable part of Atlanta,” as we are usually referred to when there are issues and no solutions. We want leaders who enhance the quality of life, and that includes our trees, our streets, and our safety.

The BEC initially set out to comprehensively explore various “models of existence” for Buckhead and to assess the viability, ramifications, and costs associated with each. After substantial due diligence and thoughtful debate by the BEC, residents, and business owners, it became apparent that the optimal course of action was for Buckhead to de-annex and to create its own municipality. All we want is for our residents to have a chance to vote on it. That’s all.

It is surprising to us that many of the voices who claim to represent Buckhead and are against de-annexation don’t even live in Buckhead. In fact, they live in small municipalities with well-functioning services.

The case became readily clear that Buckhead was headed in the wrong direction on multiple fronts. Consider that:

  • Crime overall, and violent crime, in particular, are increasing at an alarming rate. In 2021, aggravated assault and auto theft increased by 50% and 86% compared to 2019, among the highest increases in the state. Furthermore, the city of Atlanta has a critical shortage of police officers, down about 400 from full strength. As a result, total arrests are down 43%, warrant arrests are down 71%, and traffic stops decreased by 11%. Officer salaries are not in line with the law enforcement services they need to provide, as well as the life-threatening situations they face on a daily basis. The rental subsidies for officers to live in our community are insufficient. Their shifts are long, and police morale is at an all-time low and continuing to decline. The city “talks about” fixing this, but the issues are getting worse, and the solutions are band-aids with no sustainable future. Buckhead needs its own independent police department away from the city bureaucracy. Only then the city would be free to focus its energy and money on keeping the rest of Atlanta safe. Both cities, Buckhead City and Atlanta, could work together as equals for a safer metro Atlanta. Until now, “working together” meant begging for the city to do something. In response, the city asked for more money through the Buckhead Coalition: a handful of patrol and officers in bikes were added, and the crime stats kept climbing. It’s also worth remembering the close call of the 2020 vote to withhold $73 million out of the Atlanta Police Department’s budget. APD was able to keep their budget only by one vote.
  • Despite the heavy tax burden, Buckhead’s infrastructure is in dire need of restoration and upgrading. Buckhead’s roads have never been worse, with potholes and broken sidewalks prevalent everywhere. Street markings are either nonexistent or have faded to the point of not being noticeable. These issues are safety concerns for everyone, including ambulances, school buses, and daily commuters.
  • New zoning laws currently being forced by the city of Atlanta’s leadership targeting Buckhead will negatively impact the overall quality of life and sense of community. In the recent Atlanta City Design Housing Report, the city has vowed to change zoning laws to drastically alter the landscape of Buckhead by adding density, which means waving goodbye to the trees that made this “a city in the forest.” We should also note that the city can’t even provide security or maintain the current infrastructure for the existing population. As a municipality, Buckhead would control its own zoning and permitting and not simply wait for the city of Atlanta.

This movement is what is desired by the vast majority of the citizens of Buckhead, people who live, work and seek to raise a family and enjoy life in this area. And, should Buckhead City become a reality, and all signs indicate that we are trending in that direction despite what the political elites say, Atlanta will not go bankrupt. As their own planning report states, “Atlanta’s population continues to grow at a rate not seen in decades”, and “Atlanta currently has a population of over 500,000, but estimates suggest that Atlanta could double in size in the next few decades to 1,200,000”.

Atlanta has plenty of new residential and commercial areas, including large technology companies, to generate taxable income. Atlanta is far from being poor. It will need to become more efficient so it can quickly respond to the needs of the community. That can only happen if we keep the government close to its people.

Buckhead needs to do what Brookhaven and Sandy Springs have done successfully in the past, and that is to de-annex itself from the city and create a prosperous and thriving independent Buckhead City. If Buckhead thrives, Atlanta will thrive as well.

Sam Lenaeus is president of the Buckhead Exploratory Committee.

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