By Linley Jones
Citizens of Brookhaven need a government with the best interest of Brookhaven at heart. As it currently stands, no elected county representative even lives in our community. Our closest county commissioners live in Druid Hills, Decatur and Stone Mountain! Many of us in favor of cityhood simply seek the right to grassroots self-governance.
A city of Brookhaven is not another layer of government–it’s another option for government. Instead of a county government that has proven itself to be inefficient, wasteful and bureaucratically bloated, we can move certain services (parks, police, roads, zoning and code enforcement) over to a government that really works, with the sort of citizen input only possible with a government close to the people.
DeKalb County is a massive bureaucracy representing 700,000 citizens and employing thousands of employees, resulting in a 2011 budget of over a half billion dollars, a budget shortfall of $50 million and a massive 2011 tax hike. Our local community would undoubtedly be better served with a nearby mayor, city councilors we elect from our own neighborhoods and a lean government model created and implemented successfully in other nearby cities.
According to UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, we can achieve all of this for approximately $25 million.
Take, for example, our parks. DeKalb’s 2011 budget for all eight parks in Brookhaven was only $480,000. Meanwhile, 20 miles south, DeKalb spent $7 million on the Browns Mill Aquatic Center, an elaborate water park. Imagine what could be done in Brookhaven with just a fraction of that sum.
According to the Carl Vinson Institute, a city of Brookhaven could almost triple its parks budget to $1.4 million and remain within a modest overall city budget. It may not fund a $7 million water park, but clean, well-maintained parks with safe, working playground equipment would be a vast improvement.
A local government would also allow for improved code enforcement and zoning, ensuring community standards in development and land use. Last year, DeKalb negotiated to authorize the giant flashing, digital billboard right in the heart of our city at Peachtree and North Druid Hills roads. Today, the No City folks use that billboard to advertise their cause.
With a city, local citizens would have control over billboards, neon, digital displays and other development to ensure that they befit and benefit our community.
Brookhaven can provide these services cheaper and better than DeKalb county using private contractors; Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have proven it works. In 3½ short years, Dunwoody now has lower property taxes than we do and a multimillion dollar reserve fund. Clearly, a new city does not mean new taxes. No one wants more taxes or more government.
Brookhaven residents are entirely united on these issues. Unfortunately, last year, being a citizen of unincorporated DeKalb meant both more government and more taxes. That is why we must act now to ensure a government that upholds our community ideals–a government for the people of Brookhaven, by the people of Brookhaven.
Linley Jones is a member of the board of Brookhaven Yes, a group that promotes creation of a city of Brookhaven.