Brookhaven bill goes through first committee hearing
Legislation to create a city of Brookhaven is in motion, following the bill’s hearing in the House of Representatives.
The Government Affairs Committee met Jan. 24 to hear the results of a feasibility study on a city of Brookhaven done by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said he is aware that the cityhood issue is a sensitive one for those on both sides. He pledged to make the hearing process open and transparent and urged supporters and opponents of the bill to do the same.
Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-DeKalb, who introduced the legislation to create a city of Brookhaven last year, gave the committee a presentation on the report.
He said the cities of Dunwoody and Johns Creek were studied do to their similarities to the Brookhaven community in proximity and population.
Jacobs said the process that Brookhaven is going through to become a city is very similar to what Dunwoody, its DeKalb County neighbor, went through just a few years ago.
“We believe Dunwoody is a very close analogue for Brookhaven,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the other “big ticket” items for supporters of a city of Brookhaven are parks and police services.
He said the study modeled the potential city’s parks budget on the city of Roswell, because Brookhaven residents would like to spend more money on the area’s parks than the county currently spends.
“Given the very nice parks we have in the area and the maturity of those parks, we felt the numbers that came back from DeKalb were inadequate,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said he expects the city of Brookhaven can run with a smaller budget than the Carl Vinson Institute projected based on the city of Dunwoody’s operations. He said in 2009, Dunwoody’s expenditures were 11 percent less than estimated in its feasibility study.
“Dunwoody came back with a surplus in their Carl Vinson Institute Study,” Jacobs said. “We’re basically holding ourselves to the exact same standard. We don’t need that large of a surplus.
“We have a viable city here on the expenditure side of the coin, I am absolutely confident of that.”
Jacobs told the committee that a Brookhaven City Council would be made up of three district council members, three at large members, and one mayor who only votes in the case of a tie on the city council.
He said that is an advantage because none of the DeKalb County Commissioners that represent Brookhaven live in the area.
“Stack that up against DeKalb County and it just completely blows it out of the water,” Jacobs said. “The only two non-judicial elected officials who live in the footprint of the proposed city are the state representatives in this room,” he said, referring to himself and Rep. Elena Parent, D-DeKalb.
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, questioned whether the study took the financial viability of the areas surrounding the Brookhaven study area into account.
“The charge to the Carl Vinson Institute was to study the viability, the feasibility of the proposed city of Brookhaven as proposed in HB 636,” Jacobs said. “You can extrapolate from numbers that are in here how that relates to DeKalb County.”
She also asked whether Jacobs had considered the Voting Rights Act.
He said he has followed the same process as other cities that have been created since 2005.
Rep. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, said he heard that Jacobs would run for mayor if Brookhaven became a city.
“Someone in the community started that rumor,” Jacobs said with a laugh. “I have prohibited members of the general assembly at the time the bill passes from serving as mayor or members of council for four years.”
The second hearing for the bill is scheduled for Jan. 31 at 3 p.m. in room 341 of the state Capitol.