Atlanta Mayor Dickens and his administration plan to keep pushing hard against Buckhead cityhood efforts at the Georgia Capitol, putting the issue at the top of its 2023 legislative agenda.
The City Council adopted the mayor’s 2023 legislative package last week that outlines an agenda of priorities at the Gold Dome, including opposing any legislation to remove ownership and control of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport from the city and increasing funding for affordable housing.
At No. 1 is the city’s opposition to any legislation that seeks to divide a “One United Atlanta.”
“Specifically, the city of Atlanta strongly opposes any legislation that would de-annex or provide oversight responsibilities for a proposed ‘City of Buckhead,'” the agenda item said.
“Deannexation would not reduce crime, have negative brand implications, set a dangerous precedent, and create higher, duplicative costs as well as chaos in our public schools,” according to the agenda item.
Dickens last year staved off the GOP-led Buckhead cityhood movement in the General Assembly when former Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and the late Speaker of the House David Ralston opposed the idea. The Republican leaders said they wanted to give the newly-elected mayor a chance to address crime, a driving force behind the Buckhead City effort.
During his first year in office, Dickens worked to quell further talks of a Buckhead City. He supported the contentious lease of the Atlanta City Detention Center to Fulton County to help with overcrowding at the county’s jails. The city opened a new mini-police precinct in Buckhead Village during a ceremony with Gov. Brian Kemp participating.
Dickens also backs the controversial construction of a $90 million public safety training center in DeKalb County. He hired Darin Schierbaum as police chief. And he regularly touts Atlanta Police Department data that shows crime is down double digits in Buckhead.
Many business and civic leaders spoke out against Buckhead City last year. The Committee for a United Atlanta was also formed and is co-chaired by former state representative Ed Lindsey and attorney Linda Klein.
Recent high-profile crimes, such as the killing of 77-year-old Eleanor Bowles at her Buckhead home, put cityhood talk back in the headlines.
Bill White, the Trump-like leader of the Buckhead City Committee, the group leading the cityhood effort, said Dickens failed to reduce crime in Buckhead despite what APD data shows. He said the group is again focused on getting a bill passed by state lawmakers to give Buckhead residents a chance to vote on de-annexing from Atlanta.
State Rep. Betsy Holland (D-Atlanta), whose district includes Buckhead, said in a recent interview the Buckhead City movement is not nearly as robust as it was last year.
State leaders want to work with the city of Atlanta and the metro area to find ways to address crime, such as holding Fulton County courts accountable when they release violent criminals, Holland said.