Tucker. They’ve Earned a Yes.

I was asked a moment ago why I think it makes sense for Tucker’s voters to choose to become an actual city on Tuesday. After all, incorporation comes with costs.

Well, yes. Good government costs something.

We live in Georgia, where government is a curse word. So we cheap out. We contribute less tax revenue per capita than almost anyone. Starve the beast, and all. And then we wonder why DeKalb County management often can’t find its own ass with two hands and a sherpa guide.

There’s something to be said for having someone close to yell at when things are screwed up. There’s something more to be said when you’ve got someone close who is paid to yell at the right person, because you don’t have time to find out who that person is.

For residents of Tucker, the benefit is planning and zoning control, for one, along with the power of local legislation. It is worth noting that Tucker has been a dumping ground — literally — for corruption problems in DeKalb County related to this kind of control.

The DoJ indicted a state DoT manager a couple of months ago for taking bribes to allow dirty fill to be dumped in restricted areas … of Tucker.

Jerry Clark, who will be serving a sentence in federal prison for bribery, took money to let a shady nightclub operate without proper permits … in Tucker. That’s Lu Lu Billares — now La Vaca — on Chamblee-Tucker Road.

Local government gives someone — someone — direct responsibility to the local community to watch out for this kind of thing. We need eyes on these problems. Good government comes with a cost. Incorporation pays for eyes.

Here’s another reason: Identity matters. Tucker is fundamentally more than just a neighborhood. Most people already think they’re a city. Actually becoming a city reinforces local identity.

Identity matters because it breeds civic participation … which is the solution to 80 percent of the problems in this county, and in metro Atlanta. Civic participation rates in the metro region are among the lowest in the country, whether measuring voter turnout or community meeting attendance, school board meetings, PTA stuff, Rotary Club, or others. About the only area this part of the world rates in is bitching online.

That’s not a joke. Georgia ranks sixth in participation in online discussion of politics. Thank you Eric Erickson.

If the word “Tucker” means something to people, they’ll fight to defend it. And it’s the fight that counts right now.

One more: Tucker is about the last bastion of middle-class America left in metro Atlanta. A city of Tucker can maintain that. And that’s something that needs maintaining.

In this, Tucker is fundamentally different from LaVista Hills, which still feels like a 50-year-old marketing VP buying an overpriced BMW — incorporation as aspiration.

But metro Atlanta has the widest split between wealth and poverty in America. Communities are either very rich, or very poor. Buckhead, or Bankhead. North Peachtree or South Fulton. A gated community or a larval favela.

There are few places around here in the middle. There are damned few that also have a healthy ethnic mix, one reflecting America’s future. That social and economic combination of melting pot middle class values can actually breed the kind of leadership that makes sensible politics possible in Georgia.

We need that. We, as in this county and this state, need that. We are rapidly forgetting what that looks like. We will soon forget how to make policies relevant to that.

So. Vote yes. Vote yes on the ethics referendum and yes on Tucker. After acting like a city for about 100 years already, they’ve earned it.

8 comments

  1. Rambler14 says:

    “Civic participation rates in the metro region are among the lowest in the country, whether measuring voter turnout or community meeting attendance, school board meetings, PTA stuff, Rotary Club, or others.”

    Where is this kind of information available?

  2. fran millar says:

    George, I agree with your Tucker comments but LaVista Hills is much like Brookhaven and that has worked out well as respects services. Bottom line DeKalb can not deliver quality services on a consistent basis and LaVista Hills and Stonecrest next year should happen.

  3. objective says:

    I talked to a resident who will be a potential voter on the LaVista Hills incorporation, who stated they went to a community meeting about it about 3 weeks ago. It wasn’t clear who ran the meeting, but the resident said that the presenter(s) swore up and down that taxes would not increase. That left me with serious doubts as to the credibility of any data presented, and the credibility of anyone advocating incorporation with such a premise.

  4. Don Broussard says:

    George, hard to understand how the logic to endorse Tucker does not equally apply to LaVista Hills. The name sounds inauthentic? — Sen. Jason Carter was the first to use it in his 2013 placeholder bill for a city (SB275). No question Tucker is an authentic historic community though one wonders why it did not incorporate before the year 2015. As you note, it is a home for the middle class, though you seem reluctant to say the blue-collar middle class. That is not a knock on them and I agree with you that I hope it preserves that part of its character. Although LaVista Hills may have higher household incomes and higher housing values, it also has a higher poverty rate than Tucker: 14.5% compared to 11.4% according to the census. If LaVista Hills lacks an identity, some of the blame is on us but some also needs to fall on DeKalb County government which essentially has used our area as an ATM machine. I don’t think we want to make a new rule that only communities with old town centers get to become city governments — not when DeKalb is in corruption free-fall. LaVista Hills will develop a center over time — as will the proposed cities of Stonecrest and Greenhaven in south DeKalb.

    • George Chidi says:

      I probably should stop harshing on LaVista Hills. You’ve done yeoman’s work during the process. Do as thou wilt. I begrudge no one their vote in either direction on LaVista Hills. I will applaud either result, as long as the vote is fair.

      I saw a flier a few days ago that basically said vote for LaVista Hills Police. The text was superimposed over a picture of a little blonde four year old girl looking scared in her mother’s arms. While that might seem fairly innocuous, I still have the sotto voce street level black-people-are-scary rhetoric of the early campaign — the stuff that the campaign has largely abandoned — rattling around in my head, and I read that as “white people need their own cops to keep them safe.” Perhaps that’s unfair, but that’s where my attitude is coming from. I’m trying to let it go. It’s hard.

      I suppose one question to answer would be whether an incorporated LaVista Hills would rezone the apartment complexes near I-85, which would knock a few points of poverty off that percentage. Looking at LVH, census tract by tract, there’s a couple of tracts in the family income range of $20,000 to $40,000 — that’s the stuff near the Silverbacks’ stadium, which screams redevelopment — and many tracts in the high $70’s and up, with a couple over $100,000. Nothing really in the middle though, between $40,000 and $70,000 household income. That’s half of Tucker. It’s a fundamentally different animal.

      I don’t disagree with your assessment of the county, though. And, yes: they’ve been unresponsive to the needs of your community. If county commissioners knew how to answer their damned phone, and cared enough to negotiate community concerns early, none of this would have happened.

  5. saltycracker says:

    Got no dog in this hunt but the shot at Georgia’s “low” per person tax revenue may be related more to an almost 20% poverty level (a top ranking state) than a reluctance to tax.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    I predict both will be approved by 55% or less. It’ll be low turnout relative to the long term results. Fear and disgust are powerful motivation, while as George points out, many of those fine with the status quo think they’re already in a city.

    The next round is the municipalization of what remains inside I-285 north of I-20, and Stone Mountain and Clarkston creep.

    Once a tipping point is reached, cities will seek direct influence with respect to various Board/Commission appointments that are County Commission prerogatives.

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