North DeKalb lawmakers said Jan. 12 that efforts to convince backers of north-central DeKalb cities to combine proposals appear to have been unsuccessful.
That may mean the city of Lakeside, one of three cities proposed in the area south of Brookhaven and north of Decatur, may have the best chance of legislative consideration this year, the legislators told about 150 residents who attended a legislative forum at Dunwoody United Methodist Church.
“One option was to combine into a city of 100,000,” Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, said. “One side rejected it. My plan would be to go ahead to do something with the city of Lakeside.”
Backers of a city of Lakeside financed a study that found their proposed city would be financially feasible. Backers of cities of Tucker and Briarcliff, which both proposed incorporating areas that overlap the Lakeside area, also have financed studies that said those cities would be financially feasible.
“I don’t know why Lakeside and Tucker cannot be together,” Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, said during the Sunday morning forum.
“We tried,” Millar replied.
Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, said he plans to concentrate on efforts to call for a constitutional amendment allowing cities created since 2005 to create their own school systems or to join with adjacent cities to create school systems. The law would apply to 16 cities, he said.
“This is huge for our community,” he said, “not just for the education of our kids, but for economic development.”
Taylor said he thought this may be the best time for the legislation to find backers because of problems in DeKalb’s school system, including the sentencing of the former school superintendent to a year in jail for hindering a law enforcement officer and the removal and replacement by Gov. Nathan Deal of members of the school board. “I think we’ve got the perfect storm,” he said. “We’ve got our superintendent locked up. We’ve got the school board removed. It’s time to do this.”
Millar said that creating a local school system would be the cities’ best option for improving education. He pointed out that the county school board had rejected efforts to create a charter school cluster in Druid Hills. “If DeKalb doesn’t want to do something like a charter cluster, this is the only option left,” he said.
Taylor said the 40-day legislative session is expected to end earlier than usual this year due to court-ordered changes in the date of the 2014 primary elections. “This session will be very truncated,” he said. “I expect we’ll be out of there by March 20.”