Several groups opposed to forming a new city in north DeKalb County say they are prepared to fight the effort in the courtroom.
The groups plan to sue over the proposed city because they believe it would violate the Voting Rights Act as well as the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, said Kevin Hughley, president of the Brookhaven Chamblee Homeowners and Neighborhood Business Alliance.
Hughley said one of the main issues is that the bill to create the city was introduced as general legislation before the entire House of Representatives, instead of going through the DeKalb County delegation as local legislation.
“The 700,000 people in DeKalb elected people to represent them. When they went around these people, they diluted the minority voting strength in DeKalb County,” Hughley said.
The lawsuit would be similar to one filed last year by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and several individuals against the recently formed cities of Sandy Springs, Milton, Johns Creek and Dunwoody. That lawsuit claims that the newly created cities were formed in areas where the majority of residents are white, which dilutes the voting power and political access of voters in the majority-black Fulton County.
The Georgia House of Representatives has approved a bill to create a north DeKalb city in an area bounded roughly by Chamblee, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Atlanta and I-85, and Clairmont Road. The city was called “Brookhaven” in early versions of the House bill, but the name was changed to “Ashford” in the version that passed the House. It is expected to go before the Senate in mid-March.
“The city of Ashford bill is following the same path that the others did,” Hughley said.
Although, unlike the Fulton County lawsuit, Hughley said this one would specifically name as defendants the Brookhaven bill’s sponsors, Reps. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, and Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody.
“At this point, they penalized the community. We think the community should seek some kind of damages against these two legislators,” Hughley said.
Taylor said he isn’t concerned about the possibility of being named in the suit.
“What this looks like is an attempt to sow some fear, uncertainty and doubt in the community,” Taylor said.
He also doesn’t believe that the process violates the Voting Rights Act.
“At the end of the day it’s frivolous and it’s not going to affect us at all,” Taylor said. “This is the seventh city to go through this process in the last five years.”
Jacobs said he doesn’t think the lawsuit has merit either.
“We’re not going to let outside agitators stand in the way of the right of people to vote on cityhood,” Jacobs said. “I don’t see how you can file a lawsuit to prevent the legislative process from running its course. But stranger things have happened.”