Former Mayor Sam Massell is joining the critics of the revived talk about separate cityhood for Buckhead, calling it “a mistake for Atlanta.”
“I think it’s a mistake for Atlanta, and what’s a mistake for Atlanta is a mistake for Buckhead,” said Massell in a phone interview. “… Less government is better government, in my opinion, and creating another one here won’t correct anything. We have one of the most successful, sought-after addresses in the United States, and why try to fix it if it ain’t broken?”
Talk of the neighborhood leaving the city and incorporating rumbles from time to time. The latest revival is coming from residents concerned about crime, according to City Councilmember Howard Shook. Massell, who has lived in Buckhead since it was annexed into the city in the 1950s, is a consistent critic of the cityhood idea and regularly spoke against it as president of the Buckhead Coalition, a nonprofit civic and business organization.
Jim Durrett, who replaced Massell at the Buckhead Coalition earlier this month, previously criticized the idea as “balkanization” and likened it to a child threatening to take their toys home. Under his leadership, the Coalition, the Buckhead Community Improvement District, Livable Buckhead and the Buckhead Business Association co-signed a statement opposing cityhood.
Massell has not heard the latest cityhood talk directly from any proponent — “They may still think that I would be fistfighting with them,” he joked — and noted that it is politically and procedurally unlikely. But he spoke strongly against it.
“Buckhead, even if it’s a separate city, it would be within the city of Atlanta and it would never enjoy its success or prestige or opportunities that it enjoys now,” said Massell. “If it became a separate city, it could bankrupt Atlanta, if it removed all of that income. I’m satisfied that a lot of well-meaning neighbors and some business people equally think it would help reduce their taxes, but the problem is, you can’t live in a bubble that surrounds itself with the city of poverty. The crime rate in those areas would be so bad, I just can’t envision living in that secret place that would be Buckhead.”