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Bill That Could Let Buckhead Split From Atlanta Advances

A Georgia Senate committee has approved two bills that could allow the Buckhead neighborhood to secede from the city of Atlanta, the first time that an issue freighted with fears about crime and racial and economic division has moved forward in the General Assembly.

The Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee’s Republican majority pushed Senate Bills 113 and 114 through on 4-3 votes Monday, sending them to the full Senate for more debate.

Despite the step forward, prospects remain uncertain for the measures, which are bitterly opposed by Atlanta’s business community and the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic lawmakers. If they succeed, residents would vote on forming a new city in a referendum.

In a statement, city spokesperson Michael Smith said Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens “is disappointed by the committee’s vote to advance this short-sighted legislation,” saying it would have “disastrous consequences” and that the city is making progress on reducing crime and improving services.

Some residents of the city’s whitest, most affluent area are trying to pull out of Atlanta and form Buckhead City, saying Atlanta isn’t doing enough to control crime and that affluent Buckhead residents aren’t getting their money’s worth from municipal services.

Kelly Rodts, a Buckhead City supporter, told the committee last week that “Atlanta taxes us to the nines” but that city police have failed to stop both petty and violent crime.

“This violence has reached a tipping point, and that is why we are all here today,” Rodts said. “Buckhead is a target. We’re a target for criminals in the city, and Atlanta has not been able to protect us.”


But Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican sponsoring the bills, says he’s championing the rights of citizens unfairly being ignored. He’s pointedly called on Dickens to meet with leaders of the Buckhead City Committee.


Opponents say taking apart an existing city is much more complicated than creating a new one, and that it’s even more complex to dismember Atlanta, which has its own school system and extra layers of local taxes and debt. Buckhead City proponents want a system whereby the new city would collect taxes and send them to Atlanta Public Schools, and the school system would continue to serve Buckhead. {snip}