The Atlanta Board of Education on Monday passed a resolution that calls on the Georgia General Assembly to reject any proposals that allow for the formation of Buckhead City. 

 “Creating a new city without addressing the financial, student enrollment, legal, operations and governance issues created by Buckhead deannexation from Atlanta is irresponsible for Buckhead, Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools,” says the resolution. Read it below. 

The Atlanta Board of Education in December had said one of its 2022 legislative priorities was to oppose legislation that would allow for the deannexation of Buckhead. A September 2021 study paid for by the Buckhead Coalition estimated that Atlanta Public Schools would see an estimated $232 million annual loss if Buckhead broke off.  

In response to the school board’s recent resolution, cityhood leader Bill White, CEO and chairman of the Buckhead City Committee, released the following statement:

Cityhood leader Bill White.

“Under former chairman Jason Esteves, APS is rated an abysmal 153 out of 193 in Georgia. Only 40% of APS students meet critical testing standards for Math & English while APS takes a whopping $1.3 billion annually in our taxes to operate this bloated inefficient bureaucracy; $320 million of that comes from Buckhead taxpayers. To have such terrible ranking and results with all that money is a total disgrace. APS would be much better served focusing on getting those test scores way UP & improving the quality of our children’s education rather than inserting APS in the business of the Georgia Legislature.”

The Atlanta Board of Education is not the only prominent group speaking out against Buckhead City. Last week, 32 businesses asked state legislators to table the Buckhead City proposal, or otherwise, exclude the commercial district of Buckhead from the borders of the potential new city. And, a group of Atlanta architects this week voiced their concerns about the possible secession. 

White recently said that his group was busy crafting its own letters and plans to deliver 2,500 to the Georgia General Assembly.

Buckhead City proponents are hoping to get legislation passed at the Georgia General Assembly that would place a referendum on the November 2022 ballot, allowing Buckhead residents to vote on whether to form a new city. So far, two bills, one in the Senate and another in the House, are still sitting in committee.

Not interested in debating

White was absent from an event last week where he was to debate former Rep. Edward Lindsey, co-founder of cityhood opposition group Committee for A United Atlanta.

At the time, White told Reporter Newspapers that he was visiting his sick biological mother in Vermont and that he had “been looking forward to sitting opposite Ed.”

But White said this week his plans changed, and he did not end up going to Vermont. And his tune changed about sitting opposite Lindsey, saying he is not willing to debate him.

“You will never see me in a debate with Ed Lindsey,” White told Reporter Newspapers. He called Lindsey a paid lobbyist, while contending that he is an unpaid volunteer with his organization. “When Ed Lindsey discloses how much money he’s making a month and who’s paying him, then I will debate him.”

Lindsey, in a phone interview, said that White is dodging difficult questions. White also didn’t show up to a meeting of the Atlanta delegation in January, where legislators who represent the city were discussing issues related to carving up the state capitol.

At left, former Rep. Edward Lindsey, a cityhood opponent, and Cory Ruth, CEO of Mergence Global, at last week’s “Future of Buckhead” event.

“Bill and I have been offered multiple opportunities to debate back and forth in front of interested parties, including the Atlanta delegation, the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute, and most recently, a Buckhead gathering,” Lindsey said. “In each of those occasions, Bill has chosen not to attend … He can’t simply only go on shows in which he will be asked softball questions … He’s going to have to, at some point, step up and answer difficult questions. That’s how every other cityhood movement has always operated. And he should respect that.”

White said on Wednesday that former Rep. Beth Beskin plans to debate Lindsey next Monday, Feb 14, on WSB Radio with Shelley Wynter. It’s set to air at 10 p.m., Beskin told Reporter Newspapers.

Beskin last week had come out in support of Buckhead City during the “Future of Buckhead” event. 

“There’s been some interest about that,” Beskin said in a phone call. “I am one Buckhead resident. I’ve lived here for 30 years. I pay taxes here. I’m a former state representative. And I have an opinion, which I am now stating in public, and some people are interested in what I have to say.”

Beskin shared an email with Reporter Newspapers citing her reasons for supporting Buckhead City, including the need for better policies related to crime and zoning. Beskin had served House District 54, which includes parts of Buckhead and historic Brookhaven, from 2015 to 2019.

‘Sick’ tweet

On Tuesday, White was criticized by an Atlanta councilman for tweeting about former MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker, who died by suicide in January.

White on Twitter called for public hearings about Parker’s death and funding related to a MARTA transit project on Campbellton Road.

“To suggest that the tragic death of Jeff Parker is connected to a debate on transit priorities is sick & should be roundly shouted down,” Councilmember Amir Farokhi responded on Twitter.

Correction: A previous version of this story included an Instagram post from a user called @buckheadcity4me. Bill White said he was not affiliated with the account, so the post was removed. Reporter Newspapers apologizes for the error.

Amy Wenk

Amy Wenk was editor of Reporter Newspapers in 2021-22.