There's no doubt about it. Cityhood Fever has been spreading through the metro area for the past few years. From Sandy Springs to Johns Creek, suburbanites have been voting in favor of cityhood for the purposes of having local control, name identity and a superior quality of life. It's tough to argue against those wishes. Having set rules and regulations in place protects property owners from "dumb growth." An example of "dumb growth" is when greedy developers knock down vacant buildings to make way for more retail or housing without considering traffic or environmental impacts. Living or conducting business in an incorporated area increases homeowner value and translates into profits for local companies, corporations and entrepreneurs. But, cityhood does not grow on trees. You get what you pay for and in the cases of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Johns Creek, property owners are committed to paying the price for control and beautification.
Many folks in Peachtree Corners desire the same destiny as its incorporated neighbors. The pro-city people feel that Peachtree Corners is at its tipping point. They feel that the nearby city of Norcross will annex the area thus resulting in high taxes and control from those who do not understand "our needs." City proponents point to Norcross' Technology Park annexation plans and "dumb growth" proposals which included a proposal to build a Walmart on Holcomb Bridge Road. While those plans did not come to fruition, still, those types of initiatives could be implemented if Peachtree Corners does not incorporate now, proponents say.
Those concerns inspired community activists to tirelessly push for a November 8th vote to incorporate Peachtree Corners. Community town hall meetings have been conducted touting the benefits of incorporation. It's obvious that pro and against signs have been festooning the area since late summer. And the local blogosphere and websites have been bubbling up with arguments from both sides of the fence.
"So, what are you going to vote for?" people have been asking me.
"I'm undecided until November 8th," I reply. "I'm still listening to all sides."
On the one hand, I don't see Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson coming over the hills like General Sherman with a cavalry ready to "invade" us with his city's identity, authority and taxes. On the other hand, I'm not too crazy about control coming from Lawrenceville.
Name recognition is a good thing, but at what price? I'm on a budget. Those dollars that I would spend at the local Dick's Sporting Goods will instead go to the new city. I'm that cheap because I have a teenage daughter who is like a Hoover vacuum cleaner sucking away at my wallet.
Sure, incorporating is like buying an insurance policy for my home or "investment," but at the end of the day, someone else is choosing my "insurer."
We are told that the new city will have a better trash plan than what our county provides, but we do not have a set final price tag as to what that plan will cost. Will we have to buy special bags or cartons which may cost us more in the long run? Will there be draconian recycling rules in place? Asking these questions is not putting the cart before the horse.
Something interesting is happening here. It's no secret that Peachtree Corners is a majority politically conservative area. We are seeing conservatives versus conservatives in this debate. Cityhood proponents are going against the philosophy of less government versus opponents who argue that a city is another layer of government. Opponents point to their ideological leader in the late President Ronald Reagan, who they say, would be against imposing more taxes on the people. Proponents argue that President Reagan would say that this city would be good because it would be effective government that is closest to the people.
Admittedly, this is not the best time to ask residents to pony up more funds for a new city. Most of us are watching our dollars, doing our best to be fiscally responsible. With the slow economy in mind, opponents say that no matter how much one slices this argument up, incorporation will cost us more than what we pay now. Their argument says that since the county government will not provide us with tax relief if Peachtree Corners incorporates, a new city is a tax hike. We will be shelling out more dollars towards more government, they say. This is a Tea Party philosophy that says, "It doesn't matter if we pay one penny more a year, it's a tax hike. Furthermore, a new city is another layer of government. The city will include a manager and council members who will be compensated for their time through taxes."
The opponents also point out that government grows. They say that there will be a time when the city will be asking residents to help pay for improvements through what it sees as revenue enhancements. Proponents say any mil increase will be put to a vote, thus ensuring democracy in action. Yes, but those who are against the city say that when these votes come up, those in favor of it will have a bigger voice in the matter through a well-funded campaign thus drowning out those who do not want new taxes.
If a new city is formed, one can only hope that its leaders will be working in the interests of the people. Will these elected officials competently manage the area? Will city leaders be able to improve Technology Park and attract more business? Will it be possible for the city council to work in concert with higher governmental bodies to solve traffic problems and improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists? It might seem petty, but will those in charge negotiate a good trash plan? Will a new city know how to prioritize its needs? Are we going to be paying for a Paul Duke statue, a new city hall, and more flowers on Peachtree Parkway or are we going to be funding strong leaders who will be able to protect us from overdevelopment?
When you hit the voting booth next month, think of these questions: Are you better off now than you were five, 10, 15 -- or in my case -- more than 20 years ago – and need this “insurance policy?” Do you feel that this area is at the tipping point and our quality of life is threatened? Are you willing to invest more of your dollars in our area? The future is in your hands.