Rep. Howard Mosby says “show the people of this state that you believe in local control” then urges vote against local control

In the debate over House Bill 626, which gives voters in unicorporated DeKalb an opportunity to vote later this year to incorporate as the City of Brookhaven Ashford Brookhaven, Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta), the Chairman of the DeKalb County Delegation gave an impassioned speech about the imporance of local control:

“What has DeKalb County done to deserve this? For the last six years we’ve been down here fighting some local issue that our local delegation should be dealing with.”

“Why is DeKalb County here today? And I kinda got a theory on this. And I believe that we are down here today for one simple reason: it’s politics. It’s politics. Our county is run by Democrats. The delegation is run by Democrats. And some people don’t want to deal with Democrats.”

“I have a problem with the fact that we are debating policy that is going to affect the lives of the citizens in our county and we’re here because I’m a Democrat. This is not your issue, this is my issue. I understand your colleague has put you in this position, to allow you, or to have you vote on an issue that only affects my community. But it is my community.”

“I’ve been living in DeKalb County 45 years…. I have a vested interest in what happens there. Some of you may have live in DeKalb County, some of you may have visited DeKalb County, but this is our County, and I would appreciate it if you would allow us to control our own destiny.”

“This is a DeKalb County, this is a local issue, and I’m asking you to allow us to do this. To allow us to control what’s going on in our community, to allow us to be in charge, that the people who duly elected us to be in charge of their affairs, let us to do our job. I appreciate your help, but we can handle this. We can handle this. We know what we can do to make DeKalb County great.”

“I want this body to show the people of this state that you do believe in local control. I want this body to show the people of this state that you don’t support the heavy hand of state government coming down and demanding that the people in a local area do what that state is telling them to do. That we have the sovereign right to govern ourselves. I want you all to show the state that you believe that. You preach it, now it’s time for you to practice it.”

Here’s the livestream of today’s debate. Rep. Mosby begins around 3:28:00.

That’s a great speech about the importance of local control. Unfortunately, Mr. Mosby doesn’t understand that “local control” is about “local” and not about “control.” Mr. Mosby’s interest seems more in controlling Brookhaven residents from Decatur than in actual local control.

Most readers here know that I live in Brookhaven, and I support incorporation for the very reasons that Mr. Mosby articulates. Strike the partisan language and substitute “the heavy hand of DeKalb County” for “the heavy hand of state government” in that last paragraph and that’s exactly what Brookhaven residents are asking for.

As it currently stands, we are taxed and our taxes spent by a county commission in Decatur, none of whose members lives in Brookhaven.

Mr. Mosby asks what DeKalb County has done to deserve this. Shall we review?

In the past year, a DeKalb County judge resigned under scrutiny by the Judicial Qualifications Commission for misspending taxpayer dollars on travel.

S&P downgraded DeKalb County bonds by five rating slots.

The county government granted early retirement to 800 employees, then hired 600 new ones.

They raised property taxes by 26 percent.

I know I’m missing a few, but that’s enough for just the last year. Clearly DeKalb County cannot handle the people’s business. And that’s before we even discuss that train wreck of a delegation meeting last week.

After the bill passed, the state government is not forcing anything on the citizens of DeKalb County, it has setup a structure under which a group of citizens can vote on whether we wish to incorporate and govern ourselves more locally. That’s real local control.

40 comments

  1. eburke says:

    Todd,
    While I am sympathetic to decisions being made at the local level, does everyone understand that Brookhaven (Ashford) will still be in DeKalb County and its property owners will still pay DeKalb taxes and be under the authority of Judges elected countywide. You will be paying more taxes to establish your own police department, planning and zoning department and what ever services that y’all decide you want to offer and still pay taxes to DeKalb County.

    If the issue is, “we the people in the Brookhaven area of DeKalb want more services than what we are receiving from DeKalb County” then you if the General Assembly lets you create another city, you will have better service but pay more to get it. If the issue is, “we the people in the Brookhaven area of DeKalb County are paying too much for poor service” creating a city will not change what you pay to the County.

    If y’all really want to become a city so be it. But I can’t see the arguments you have made justify it. You will still remain in DeKalb, pay high taxes, have bad judges, have a poor bond rating, a bloated county government and then pay city taxes on top of it to get services you actually want.

    • Todd Rehm says:

      Yes, I am aware of that, as is every citizen who has taken the time to attend one of the information meetings should be aware of that fact, as it has been stated at every single meeting I’ve been to.

      But you are incorrect that it will not change how much we pay the county. There’s an item on my tax bill for “Unincorporated Services District.” That item would be under the control of the Brookhaven City Council. That will go down. Residents in the City of Dunwoody now pay less in property taxes and receive better services. I believe that Brookhaven will follow in those footsteps.

      But you are correct that it doesn’t change our judges, board of education. It’s a small change, but we hope it will be the first of many incremental changes. Do you think our situation would be improved if we simply continued the county to have its way on everything?

  2. bgsmallz says:

    Here is the distinction Mr. Mosby and his Democrat peers miss completely. Incorporation is a local issue, but isn’t a local power. Incorporation is a state power and a state function (at least it is now…I think Savannah was formed via the power of the crown), period. It’s true that local delegations were given the responsibility of managing that power, but it was never ‘theirs’ to do with what they wanted. It was never a ‘sovereign right’ of the county delegation to control the process of incorporation. It was a privilege that he and his peers badly abused.

    And they continue to do so…Mosby’s City of DeKalb bill is only trumped by the Oliver/Parent bill that would hand neighboring cities veto power over incorporation, thus removing ‘local’ control all together and putting control in the power of neighboring cities. The city of Atlanta would have a 3 mile ‘buffer’ of close to 45 square miles where they could block incorporation with no accountability to anyone.

    Thus the problem…local delegations controlled by Democrats blocked new cities from forming, showed no willingness to compromise, and abused the power of allowing municipal incorporations for pure political and power motives. They continue to say things like ‘we need to study it more’ out of one side of their mouth, while proposing bills that would put the death knell to any sort of incorporation movement, period.

    Well, the other shoe finally dropped and the majority of those that run the state got tired of local delegations blocking reasonable efforts of incorporation and abusing the power granted to them by the state.

  3. MsArnold says:

    Good stuff, Todd. I almost chocked on my Frap here at Starbucks, though after I noticed that you have the “run this town” video posted. Eburke, I’m sure that what you’re saying is incorrect unless i”m misunderstanding you. While the residents will continue to pay taxes to DeKalb County, the taxes for those services you’d normally receive from the county will supposedly be reallocated to the new city.

    • Todd Rehm says:

      Were you at the Starbucks in Cherokee Plaza in Brookhaven, staking it out in case there’s another Travolta sighting? Biggest celebrity I ever saw there was Vernon Jones. If he had an entourage, that means he’s a celebrity, right?

  4. SallyForth says:

    I don’t live in Brookhaven and definitely don’t know all the details about city-hood, but what does incorporating gain for residents in a particular area other than having to pay more taxes to set up and run a city government in addition to what they already do to the county?

    • Andre says:

      First of all, Sally, citizens moving from unincorporated to incorporated status do not pay more taxes.

      Residents of unincorporated Brookhaven are already paying for city services (i.e., fire, police, planning & zoning). DeKalb County is simply providing those city services to unincorporated Brookhaven. If Brookhaven were to incorporate, instead of paying DeKalb County to provide city services, residents would pay their money directly to the Brookhaven municipal government.

      There are no new taxes. The taxes simply get a new name. Instead of, as Todd said, paying taxes to the “Unincorporated Services District,” Brookhaven residents would pay those same taxes to the City of Brookhaven.

      Now, the biggest reason for any unincorporated area to become incorporated is local control over local issues. Local people living in the area directly controlling local issues such as police coverage, fire coverage, planning, zoning, and the like.

      As I said to a great many people during the debate over incorporating unincorporated south Fulton, if an elected official in the City of South Fulton voted against their constituents’ wishes, those constituents could literally round up a posse, with torches and pitchforks, march to the elected official’s home and run the elected official out of town. If a Fulton County Commissioner in north Fulton voted against what south Fulton wanted, the people in south Fulton can’t do diddly-squat because they didn’t put the north Fulton commissioner in office.

      I really like north Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann, but she has no business voting on planning and zoning issues in south Fulton.

      Likewise, a county commissioner who lives in south DeKalb County has no business voting on what is and is not built in Brookhaven. That’s a local issue that is best decided by the local people directly affected by the action.

      I could go on and on, but to summarize, the residents of Brookhaven would not see more taxes. They would not see any new taxes. The residents of Brookhaven, should they become a new municipality, would have local control over local issues.

      • saltycracker says:

        Might be wrong but when living in Roswell our combined City/County taxes were a little higher, which was possibly worth the premium for local p&z control.

        In the new North Fulton cities some had expectations that taxes might go down as so much of their money wasn’t transferred South. They might until egos take over and build monuments to themselves. Local control has advantages but doubtful it is cheaper.

        Some “cities”of low populations, like in Cherokee, continue some county services when they realize they can’t do it for the millage paid the county.

        Thinking statewide, there should be some land area or population guidelines for jurisdictions. Absent these we get inefficient multiple layers of administrators, equipment and infrastructure to provide basic services.

        • SallyForth says:

          Thanks guys, for expanding on this part of the conversation and helping me understand better. From what you both say, it sounds like it turns out with mixed results depending on each locale. It would be good if voters could know up front, maybe have exact info re what each taxpayer pays now and what the amount would be for both county and city after incorporation. Looking at real numbers could help folks make up their minds.

          • bgsmallz says:

            “Sally”-

            Make sure you note that the charter for Brookhaven has a mileage cap . In this case, the cap plus the homestead exception will equal lower taxes for those in Brookhaven.

                  • saltycracker says:

                    I was speaking as one who had property taxes increase 50% over 24 months, was told by a BOC member that the BOC has not raised taxes in years (he meant millages) and that my problem was with the assessor, who responded he only followed the law, contact the BOC.
                    Full circle, higher taxes.

                    It went up as others were buying with easy money and it isn’t going down at the market rate because the county can’t afford it, so they say.

                    Gotta love taxing property based on what others are doing or want.

                    • saltycracker says:

                      And yes, the jerk BOC member probably knew they should roll back the millages but they didn’t want to or say that and took the BS road out, acting like we don’t get it and evading an honest response.

                      Now the bragging is the BOC hasn’t had to lay any county worker off, what with the retirements and other “belt tightening”.

                      Gov’t is all about empire building with our money.

  5. EnuffGovtAlready says:

    Why the video? If you know a new city doesn’t affect the judiciary why did you include it? If you know a new city doesn’t affect the BOE or BOC why did you include it? Didn’t the bond rating just get raised? So 800 high salary employees retired and are replaced by 600 entry level salary employees, what’s the problem? A tax increase that roughly equals the amount of money removed by the creation of Dunwoody and the expansion of Chamblee, I wonder if there is a connection? The Dekalb delegation is much more local than having state rep’s from the far four corners of this state vote on Dekalb issues. A new city will definitely create local control over an ineffective police department (see Dunwoody’s request for 18 more officers), an inability to fund needed infrastructure (see Johns Creek with not enough $ to pave streets or Dunwoody raising storm water fees) and an embarrassing use of authority (see Dunwoody’s park bonds to get the minorities out of town). This is simply another political fiefdom! The bad actors currently at the top of county government will not be there forever. The sky is not falling and there is no need for more government in DeKalb!

    • Cassandra says:

      @enuffgovtalready:

      “The Dekalb delegation is much more local than having state rep’s from the far four corners of this state vote on Dekalb issues.” To my recollection ,the DeKalb delegation has never once openly discussed resolving governance issues created by this County’s unique and imperfect CEO/Board of Commissioner model.

      Rep. Emmanuel tried, but never got to that question.

      Perhaps the General Assembly will deliver us from the CEO/BOC government model. I have always maintained that if Decatur was making folks happy, the incorporation movement would not exist. DeKalb does a lot of things right, City zealots pile-on, but any objective observer knows this. At issue is the increasing number of poor governance decisions. For example, $1M to build a Soap Box Derby track?

      As to the these comments:

      – ineffective police department (see Dunwoody’s request for 18 more officers),
      Our Police Chief suggests that 18 Officers are needed over a five year time period. That decision is being vetted by our City Council, Mayor, and ultimately, Citizens. Total logic #FAIL.

      – an inability to fund needed infrastructure see Johns Creek with not enough $ to pave streets,
      Johns Creek citizens will choose to shell out more money to improve their streets, based on what they want. Again, Citizens decide locally, as opposed to Fulton policymakers who cannot find or have ever been to John’s Creek.

      – Dunwoody raising storm water fees
      Don’t even get me started!

      DeKalb has raised this fee, and the whole water and sewer bill by over 30% for the next three years due to poor management. These increases could have been avoided by routine and regular maintenance over the years. Dunwoody, for whatever reason, chose to be responsible for it’s 30-40 year old metal sewer pipes. The fee increase is less than $30 per year and will be spent in Dunwoody. We may end up paying a lot for those rusting old pipes, but when we are done, they will have been repaired properly, at the lowest cost, because we are locally controlling the process.

      – an embarrassing use of authority (see Dunwoody’s park bonds to get the minorities out of town).
      What a foolish, trollish, and WRONG statement to suggest that “Dun is Down on Brown.” I positively hated how that Bond Referendum was put together, and Sen. Weber knows it. The idea to buy the 30 year old apartments was poorly vetted, and your supposition gained some traction among residents.

      The free commercial real estate market should control redevelopment, PERHAPS assisted by government vis-a-vis, revenue bonds or CID’s.

      As with ANY government entity, people need to be involved to assure unwise bonding decisions do not occur, LIKE THE DEKALB PARK BOND REFERENDUM. That snuggles did not get indicted over Arabia Mountain is a mystery to me.

      You should rename yourself, ‘EnuffPOORGovtAlready,” as snuggles is replaced by the Great Noncommunicator.

  6. EnuffGovtAlready says:

    All these new cities were promised as more for less. Now the money is running out and they can’t. Taxes will go up and soon the cities will look and act like the former government of the area. Next the cities will start bickering among themselves as we completely balkanize. The problems will remain if not get worse. Wasn’t the soap box derby vetoed like the Mt Vernon ice skating rink; the police have had ever expanding budget but only produce a 1% decline in crime-while only having a call for service rate of 3 to 4 per hour; I’m confident that Fulton lawmakers can find Johns Creek; “Dun is down on brown” is now out there and Dunwoody put it there; sunggles has been gone for 3 years and he ain’t coming back. There is enuff govt already and yea much of it is bad so why create more to go bad?

      • bgsmallz says:

        There is no proof. The essence of all of those arguments is the inability to either prove or deny them because they are hypothetical future events.

        Oh…and if you are worried about Balkanization, you should go directly to the DeKalb or Fulton county government and complain to them about how they divided their counties by refusing to respond to the concerns and needs of certain areas while funneling money from those areas to other parts of the county. I don’t agree that cities will equal ‘balkanazation’…in fact, I think the work of certain mayors on the TIA roundtable and the ability of city governments to quickly pinpoint the positions of their citizens in relation to other governments in the region will actually help the region overall….however, if you want to cry ‘balkanazation’, at least be consistent and point out who started it. Of course, that assumes that you can come to conclusions based upon facts and events that have already happened vs. fictional future hypotheticals.

  7. Cassandra says:

    @Enuff –

    Get the DeKalb delegation to quit jabbering and do something, then we’ll talk. Until that point in time, your words ring hollow as to ‘truth before power.’

  8. I Miss the 90s says:

    What is it about local control of education that makes everyone go crazy?

    Georgians, local control has not exactly served you well. You have ended up with delegates on school boards that have no experience in education policy and research, they act in a way that maximizes their opportunities to climb the professional political ladder, and leave every child behind.

    I would never advocate a complete federal takeover (but national minimum-educations standards should probably be set), but rather that the states should step in when local governments are failing their constituents. I really do not think many of you understand how different the school systems of the successful states operate from those of the failing states. The South’s problem is very clear and very consistent. Stop electing “the conservative” and start ceding local control to experts or changing the way in which you evaluate candidates for executive-government offices. Conservative does not mean good or correct, regardless of your ideological leanings.

    As has been so famously quoted: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” You can argue until you are blue in the face that what is going on in Cherokee is wrong, or that the HOT lanes are wrong, and about the government privileging one group over another. This does not change the fact that Cherokee County is almost broke, that opening the Charter school will mean laying off first responders or closing a different school and laying off those employees, or raising taxes (or expanding the city limits of Canton, Woodstock, and Waleska to include a larger and more valuable property tax base). Cherokee county officials are damned if they do and damned if they do not. Same goes for the HOT lanes. If you buy into the idea that government is privileging one group over another…that is, picking winners and losers, then deal with it. You people are the ones that buy into the idea that money is free speech and that market capitalism is the end all be all of human existence. If politics is a market then he who has the most capital enjoys the most representation. Never mind the one-man one-vote democratic ideal. You threw that away when you decided to single-mindedly extoll libertarian values over all others (ie community, egalitarianism, humanitarianism, family, and god amongst others). I truly suspect that conservative disillusion with government is not the fault of the governing, but of the governed.

  9. objective says:

    I’m a DeKalb resident for over ten years, and while I struggle with this one, I don’t see why there can’t be a nice symbiotic relationship formed between city and county.
    The issue really is: how local is local?
    It seems to have been defined in terms of nighborhoods, which often break on lines of historical identity, and far too often, on income. If a neighbrhood has a kind of unique self-identity, then greater localized control makes perfect sense. Whether they can save money depends on the development of both their governance and the county’s governance, as there always will remain an option to contract out cerain services to the County.
    But what about the income disparities? The poorer neighboods will certainly lose in the short-term, but may gain in the long-term through forced efficiencies. But we are still commanded to love our neighbors, and our neighbors can live 1 mile away or 20 miles away. so, it does seem perfectly fine that any dollars- for education or the justice system or otherwise- are distributed countywide, should people choose to define their communities that way. either way, it should be the will of the residents who get to choose.
    also of note: a new city can set up a new municipal court that can lead to efficiency increases in misdemeanor prosecutions. i am no fan of the inefficiency of dekalb recorder’s court….

    • Cassandra says:

      I truly wish, for many of the reasons yuo state, that another means existed to resolve the government inefficiency of the CEO/BOC form of government. To that point, we agree.

      Yet, cities are working out, right now and DeKalb has not crumbled.

      There seems no other practical way to pare down DeKalb County, short of a complete taxpayer revolt. As soon as new real property appraisals come out, we may even see that as this is the last years of the tax freeze.

      Are your brothers south of I-20 as concerned about your well being as you might be theirs?

  10. elfiii says:

    As a resident of Chamblee for over 30 years who is not happy with the current mayor and council and their tax and spend philosophy I would rather die and go to Hell with a broke back before I would vote to turn in our charter. The city services are the very best and they are well worth the premium I pay to be a citizen of Chamblee. We get results.

    A long, long (not so long) time ago in another galaxy Democrats owned this state, in particular DeKalb County and the homeboys down at the Capitol made sure the path was clear for Manuel Maloof’s “City of DeKalb” crackpot idea. The spate of incorporations and annexations in DeKalb over the last few years are the verdict on that idea. Those citizens still stuck in the incompetent Democrat controlled morass of DeKalb want out!

    Those of us who live in cities in DeKalb know we can do a better job of policing our streets, toting the garbage to the dump, and providing planning and zoning that makes sense for us and if it costs a few dollars more to do it, no problem-o. We aren’t slaves to Decatur like the Democrats think we are.

    I notice everybody finding all kinds of things wrong with cities in DeKalb. The good news is those people can fix their problems at the next election if they so desire. Not so with the Dekalb Co. Commission. The names may change but the faces remain the same. All the more reason to incorporate and escape all but the courts and the school board.

      • Cassandra says:

        Four years ago, I would have called BS to elfiii point of view, but not so today.

        If CEO Burrell Ellis has proven anything, it is that that office creates an air of “arrogant dismissal” to most all things efficient. The CEO budget war with the BOC is an annual sporting event, paid for by the public, who has virtually no say.

        • elfiii says:

          And 4 years ago you would have been wrong. 😉

          Nevertheless, you finally made it to the party, and that’s what counts.

          • Cassandra says:

            The principle that resolution of issues common to all taxpaying citizens of DeKalb remains unaddressed by incorporation. That point is as true today, as it was four years ago. Time creates verdicts.

            What has not changed is the obvious intractability of DeKalb’s CEO/BOC government paradigm in even giving the slightest show of concern to these issues.

            Chamblee is a well run little city and Mayor Clarkston spends a lot of time hearing and understanding issues.

            • elfiii says:

              Almost all of the cities in Dekalb are well run cities (well, there is Pine Lake), especially in comparison to the county government. Dunwoody isn’t that “old” yet and they are still in the “shakedown era” looking for what works and what doesn’t work. I’m certain they will figure it out.

              Granted incorporation doesn’t solve all problems, especially the big ones like education but it does take off the table a considerable number of issues the county has never been able to address effectively and efficiently.

              I am unimpressed with Mayor Clarkson. The sitting city council isn’t worth the powder to blow it half way to Hades. They are the worst fiscal managers in the history of the city.

              • bgsmallz says:

                “Granted incorporation doesn’t solve all problems, especially the big ones like education…”

                This is where I get confused with our current leadership on the issue of education. They preach ‘competition’ and ‘local control’ and want state granted charter schools to be reality. While the school boards claim that local school boards shouldn’t have to divert money to charter schools. Fine….there is another option all together. Allow cities to be the local school board and remove the restriction on new independent schools systems….that satisfies the complaint of competition and it satisfies the complaint that local school boards shouldn’t lose their money to charter schools.

                It also creates school districts of manageable sizes like Marietta, Decatur, Dalton, Gainesville, etc.

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