The Buckhead cityhood effort is growing more high-profile, with a gubernatorial candidate voicing support and the Atlanta school board standing in opposition.
Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who announced his candidacy for Georgia governor on Dec. 8, said in a statement to Reporter Newspapers that he supports a vote on Buckhead cityhood. Legislation is proposed that would put a referendum on the 2022 ballot allowing Buckhead voters to decide whether to form a new city.
“Georgians are fed up that elected officials continue to stand by and do nothing as their communities are torn apart by violent criminals. In Democrat-run cities like Atlanta, many people have been forced to live in fear after repeated carjackings, shootings, and armed robberies in their once-safe neighborhoods,” Perdue said in the statement. “I fully support giving the people of Buckhead a vote on cityhood and trust the voters to make the right decision. It’s time for Brian Kemp to stop running from this issue and tell Georgians where he stands.”
Katie Byrd, director of communications for Kemp’s office, said in a statement to Reporter Newspapers that the cityhood debate will work its way through the legislative process. State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, on Nov. 18 prefiled a bill that could lead to the creation of “Buckhead City.”
“We are hearing from stakeholders on all sides,” Byrd said. “There’s a valid reason people are supportive of this movement. They’re fed up with violent crime in metro Atlanta. Gov. Kemp remains focused on cracking down on crime through the efforts of the Crime Suppression Unit.”
Byrd offered a list of stats about the unit, saying it has helped apprehend 22 murder suspects and 313 wanted persons, along with recovered 94 stolen guns and made 161 drug arrests.
Stacey Abrams, who announced her bid for Georgia governor on Dec. 1, did not immediately respond to an email request.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Board of Education this week took a stance against the Buckhead cityhood movement. The board on Dec. 6 approved its 2022 legislative priorities, which include opposing legislation that would allow for the deannexation of Buckhead.
“It has been made clear the creation of a city from within the city of Atlanta presents all sorts of issues for the school district, for our community,” Erica Long, senior policy and governmental affairs advisor for Atlanta Public Schools, said during a November work session. “And with your direction, we will advocate directly against that type of legislation.”
A September study paid for by the Buckhead Coalition said that Atlanta Public Schools would see an estimated $232 million annual loss if Buckhead broke off. APS Board Chairman Jason Esteves previously said that nearly 5,500 students would be “in limbo” and that deannexation would be “extremely disruptive” to APS families.
The cityhood opposition effort is also growing in strength with a group of big-name business leaders. The Committee for a United Atlanta gathered Wednesday night for a fundraiser, hosted by prominent Atlantans including Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, UPS CEO Carol Tomé, and Metro Atlanta Chamber President and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick.
Opponents are optimistic new leadership in the city of Atlanta can thwart the cityhood effort. Mayor-elect Andre Dickens also reportedly attended the Wednesday fundraiser.
“The city is turning over a new leaf,” A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, an influential downtown Atlanta business organization, said in an email last week upon the election of Dickens. “I am optimistic that reasonable Buckhead residents will give the new mayor a chance to create a new relationship with them, and I believe he will respond … Andre has the type of drive and personality that will lead to a new, dynamic relationship with the state as well.”
Kemp, during a Dec. 8 event with the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce and the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber, said he’s already talked with Dickens.
“We’ve had some great conversations since his victory,” Kemp said.
Update: This story was updated with a statement from David Perdue.