Cityhood sobriety—what’s your clearest vision and does it need bending?

Last week, North Central DeKalb’s cityhood prospects encountered a setback of at least one year in a series of moves within the General Assembly’s House Government Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 270 (Lakeside City) sponsor Senator Fran Millar withdrew the legislation from House consideration for reasons that could only be speculated about from his irritation with House committee members. Millar and Lakeside board members reacted as if having been betrayed by the House Government Affairs Committee. In a full page, Atlanta Journal Constitution’s writers produced a mighty attempt to round up a year’s worth of public confusion, conflict and in the end, cacophony of inner legislative wrangling. In a response to the AJC shared on Facebook, Lakeside board member and former House Representative Kevin Levitas hammered the article for its purported inaccuracies and editorial nature. The article, Levitas’ response and a position statement by current House Representative Scott Holcomb were voluminous, reflecting the complexities of defining and supporting the formation of a new city along DeKalb’s Briarcliff/Lavista/US 29 Corridor—and what escapes most people, how little the effort resembles the neat package that forming the “original” new city Sandy Springs represented.

Meanwhile Friday’s timely Journal Constitution “Atlanta Forward” editorials amounted to a pro/con cityhood argument from Dunwoody “on the merits”: service levels and adequacy of funds—a debate which will never have a winner. In the North Central failure and the Dunwoody editorials, the terms of engagement amount to a distraction—the functional arguments for new cities. Operations and service cannot trump an underlying social and economic environment in determining the future of a newly formed jurisdiction—trends that will have more influence in validating EXPECTATIONS (or not) for incorporation. Issues related to cost of operations, planning and control of assets can be laid low by more  fundamental and inarguable “truths”: market choices and social organization; the “pay to play” to deflect real economics (incentives and subsidies); and why governing success will always rely on democratic factors—social (such as class and age) and political. These affect all jurisdictions, old and new, county and city. However, in the case of new cities, the decisions to start them are ELECTIVE and based in HOPE and ANTICIPATION.

A totality of information, past, present and predictively, the future would enrich such a debate and decision. Such an “awareness” brings sobriety, reality and best, predictability to the minds of citizens—enriching their understanding of what “local control” can be and what it can’t.

In the past year, when the public asked what the reasons or advantages of forming new cities are, the rationale boiled down to a philosophical “government closer to the people” and “maintaining our quality of life”. Can such expectations be justified when living conditions are beyond a question of forming and operating a new city? What “living conditions”? Those which describe who will live here and income expectations—are they in line with the case for forming new cities? Is the desire for more “national retail” outdated in an environment where growth markets are multinational and multicultural—and conversely, the notion of a “mainstream establishment” consumer? Will the national economy support continued home buying versus an increased need for rentals? http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/arms-are-back--reverse-mortgages-too--is-this-housing-bubble-2-0--145901330.html

Further, what can we glean from broader demographic market and social trends that offer a view into future residential property values—will they differ dramatically from “stretch areas” to more densely walkable areas? How must society pay-to-play for transforming one into another in terms of new infrastructure and subsidizing “economic revitalization”?

The articles mentioned below are intended to help consider whether we are even on the right page when we talk about city operations rather than what will exert far greater force on service levels and affordability—that of what the community will actually look like and want to pay for.

All items are from last week’s Atlanta Journal Constitution:

(1)    Page A12, Business, In Brief—Average new car priced beyond many Atlantans The average price for a new car is out of reach for the median family income in Atlanta. Only buyers in Washington D.C. are making enough money to cover the average cost of a new car. http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/biz-beat/2014/mar/12/study-most-median-incomers-cant-afford-new-car/  

(2)    Page A14, Editorial— UAW creates jobs, higher living standards Reductions in union jobs have decimated the middle class, the underpinnings of suburban growth. Unions may be needed for a healthy consumer economy. http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2014/03/13/states-vs-unions/

(3)    Monday, March 17, B1—GOP senator right about drop in family income: Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) claimed “the average family…is now bringing home $4,000 less than they did five years ago.” The Truth-O-Meter gauged Portman correct. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national-govt-politics/politifact-gop-senator-right-about-drop-in-family-/nfCXk/

(4)    With housing apparently on the uptick in Atlanta, local homebuyers are making different choices about where and how they live, reports the Atlanta Business Chronicle. So what to do with 3,000 to 5,000 sf homes on half-acre lots—portending multiple families and rental? Here are five key housing trends recently identified by the news site: http://blog.allstate.com/local/atlanta-ga/five-predictions-atlanta-housing-market/

(5)    Page B1, Top—Cobb considering new sales tax: Like DeKalb’s HOST, the proposed sales tax offsets a reduction in property taxes. Consider how this is more like a “race to the bottom” as has been the experience in DeKalb. The proposal may actually be a cushion against home values not rising over the long term.    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/cobb-leaders-consider-increasing-sales-tax-to-ease/nS2xc/

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim Tackett March 31, 2014 at 04:52 PM
Tom, this is the third time you misread or misquoted me in 2 days. I can't keep up with the corrections, so I'm reluctant to continue on this thread. I didn't *mention* Northlake in this vision, nor anything about ring area intersections. This "N. Decatur" city vision ended at Frazier, (though I would have no problem with N'lake being part of this ITP city if citizens there petition for this.) There are countless stats and resources to back up what I'm saying regarding the trend toward intown values and connectivity. A new ITP city will have far more focus and impetus to improve this aspect of North Dekalb. Here, I'll leave you with some reading on the topic. ------------------------------------------------------------------ http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/011014/forget-suburbs-city-living-offers-best-values.asp
Jim Tackett March 31, 2014 at 04:58 PM
Tom Doolittle March 31, 2014 at 06:49 PM
...and Jim--you misread me. I'm not arguing with you. I'm trying to get people to say to other people what they know...and trying to get clear. First--my point was to get answers that would confirm precisely what you (maybe it was someone else) and I know--"ring" areas will deteriorate (you ITP's seem to think I'm defending "the ring"--I know it will lose property value as (I repeat, single-family large lot residentail propoerty won't be attractive to the Establishment buyer--it will go to multiple family immigrants who will build extra room and sell goat meat that's butcered in their back yards--right here on my "ring" street. My question was--if you guys care to read the work that I put into my article--(1) will making this place a city stop the market from emerging like that and (2) how far down Briarcliff/Lavista/US 29 toward your end will the phenomenon take place? If I attributed "ring" stuff to you--and you've never mentioned Northlake or the ring in any of your previous posts--I do apologize--you can see I'm not the only one on here that has distinguished drawn attention to the comparison between you areas you live in from mine.
Tom Doolittle March 31, 2014 at 09:02 PM
Jim: I Read the articles you post here. Thanks. Confirms all that I've read, including death of malls--and my anecdotal observations. As an example--DC was way ahead of this curve for obvious reasons--altho property values on the Beltway haven't gone down--nothing goes down there--yet. Anyway, I was there 15 years ago, (when Henderson Mill Elementary here was still highly sought with mostly single-family kids attending--its over 50% low income now). Anyway, Glebe Road would be our Henderson Mill arc--from Annandale to Tysons. All first generation immigrant except obviously for homeowners that had owned since the "50s. It was eye opening and like everything that happens in DC, I knew the forces that would then shape "North Central Dekalb--at "the ring".


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