A group of state senators say the Georgia Senate will hold hearings on allowing the upscale Buckhead neighborhood to secede from the city of Atlanta in a November special session on redistricting.
However, the senators, including Republican Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, said Wednesday that there will not be a vote on any secession bill until the 2022 regular session at the earliest. Supporters hope that Buckhead voters will be able to decide whether to leave Atlanta in a referendum in November 2022.
However, it remains unclear whether Gov. Brian Kemp or House Speaker David Ralston, both Republicans, will support allowing the affluent community to exit the state capital. A departure is complicated by questions over everything from how debt will be shared to what school district would serve Buckhead children to how much Atlanta would charge for water and sewer service.
Supporters of a new city of Buckhead City — there’s already an incorporated town called Buckhead in Morgan County — say they could work through those questions after a vote.
The breakaway effort’s leaders are using crime as the main motivation for the mostly white area of about 100,000 people to pull away from the 500,000-resident city of Atlanta. They’re promising to hire a large police force to crack down on crime.
Local lawmakers who represent the areas, all Democrats, oppose the effort. It’s unusual to pass a local bill in the General Assembly over the protests of the lawmakers who represent the area, but the all-Republican group pushing for a vote on Buckhead City argue the area is in the grips of such a crime emergency that extraordinary measures are merited.
“We’re talking about local legislation, that if not passed, costs lives, causes children to be killed, causes elderly people to be shot at daily, causes people and their animals to be murdered in a public park,” said Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican, on Wednesday.
Opponents of Buckhead City say it would wreck Atlanta’s finances and leave the metropolitan area and state weaker.
“Carving up the city of Atlanta would be a race to the bottom for everyone involved. It’s not just bad policy for the city of Atlanta and Buckhead, but for the state of Georgia,” said Billy Linville, a spokesperson for the Committee for a United Atlanta, an anti-cityhood group.