Lawrence Schall
Lawrence Schall

By Lawrence Schall

To be or not to be. Brookhaven that is. That’s the question on the minds and lawns of people in my neighborhood.

The last time my street was so openly divided on an issue was a few years back when speed-bumps pitted neighbor against neighbor. I have friends on both sides of the issue, although most, like me, have ended up on the “No City” side.

After all is said and done, we will all have to live with each other again, so I hope the rhetoric stays civil and that no more of the “No City” signs disappear from my front lawn. That kind of vandalism seems like it ought to be beyond us.

In the end, I do believe there are more important issues about which we all ought to be concerned.

A full quarter of American children are living in poverty. Our school systems are more segregated than they were 50 years ago, before the era of the Civil Rights Movement and public education here in Atlanta is still woefully inadequate. Meanwhile, our elected officials continue to slash education budgets. We have soldiers dying in wars that have been proven to be useless.

But most of us are able to ignore all these things and get completely animated about whether Brookhaven ought to become its own city. I wish that wasn’t the case.

Some of the Brookhaven fight is a disagreement about whether taxes are likely to go up or down. I honestly believe no one knows.

The studies that were done by the “yes” folks are not reliable in my opinion. Hiring sufficient policemen or trash collectors is likely to cost the same after all this compared to before. Then, the “yes” proponents suggest the new government will be more responsive to the people. I just am awful skeptical of those kinds of promises by politicians.

I have not seen many signs of responsiveness in this campaign. Has DeKalb County been the model of good government and efficiency? Probably not. Neither has the state of Georgia in my view, but splitting the state into two—Atlanta and everyone else—is not likely to solve our problems, which are increasingly regional.

Personally, I am not in favor of dividing the county up, especially when the division appears to separate certain kinds of people from other kinds.

And from my university’s perspective, an institution that draws students from 30 states and 30 countries, it is to our benefit that our home right now is Atlanta. Being located in Brookhaven, Ga., is likely not to help us, especially when the boundaries of this new city appear to be made up.

That’s my opinion, anyway.

Lawrence Schall is president of Oglethorpe University.