Thursday, January 31, 2008

City of Dunwoody referendum defeated in committee

For several years, many Dunwoody residents including myself have worked on the effort to examine if Dunwoody should become a city. Two months ago, acting not as President of the Dunwoody North Civic Association but as an individual Dunwoody resident, I officially joined the Board of Directors of the Citizens for Dunwoody. The Dunwoody North Civic Association has the duty to keep you informed on issues affecting this neighborhood yet its policy is to not take a political stand on highly political issues such as this. We are here merely to provide information and that was the reason that the DNCA board as a whole decided to incorporate a flyer from the Citizens for Dunwoody in our last newsletter. (We received a complaint that we were being biased in our delivery of the information.)

This afternoon, the House of Representatives Government Affairs Committee held a two-hour meeting to discuss and vote on Dunwoody’s request to hold a referendum on incorporation.

Fran Millar re-introduced the legislation passed by the committee last year and described the results of the updated CVI study. DeKalb County Finance director Michael Bell spoke against the bill as did several legislators from DeKalb County. Commissioner Kathie Gannon (whose district includes Dunwoody) also spoke against the bill.

Surprisingly, the Democratic opponents of the bill were quiet throughout the proceedings. The only hostility was from Jill Chambers, a Republican legislator whose home is in Dunwoody North and whose legislative district includes a small corner of Dunwoody. She challenged the CVI study, raised the fear of law suits from the county and repeatedly attempted to raise uncertainty and doubt that the new city would face unforeseen obstacles. Despite repeated assurances before the meeting that she would support the bill to allow Dunwoody citizens to vote on incorporation she voted with the opponents of the bill. As a result, the Dunwoody referendum was defeated in the committee by a single vote.

What is next? Unless some un-foreseen turn of events occurs, the legislation to allow Dunwoody residents to vote on incorporation is dead for this year. It will need to be re-introduced next year and start the process over from the beginning as new legislation.


bdodds said...

Thanks John for clearly defining DNCA's mission. It is sad when politicians think the residents of Dunwoody should not have the right to vote on the question of becoming a city. It sure will make my decision easier next time they are up for re-election.

ilene gormly said...

I am a resident of Dunwoody North and I also work part-time for Representative Jill Chambers. I attended the hearing held by the Government Affairs Committee. As John reports, a majority of that Committee did vote No on the City of Dunwoody. I was amazed that Jill Chambers' questions were described as "hostility". The questions she asked were legitimate inquiries and the answers were appalling- to the extent that there were answers.

Rep. Chambers did not raise the "fear" of a lawsuit on Host. In fact, the county has already retained counsel and they are prepared to pursue a lawsuit if a City of Dunwoody is formed and if it requests any HOST funds. It has not been initiated yet because it is premature. However, as soon as it is initiated the HOST money listed by Dunwoody will be frozen and that revenue will be unavailable to the City.

Legislation has been introduced to revoke the franchise fees and insurance fees that are listed as revenue streams by the City of Dunwoody. Repeal is supported by Governor Perdue and by the Insurance Commissioner, and it is very possible that they will be revoked.

The impact that the loss of this revenue will have on the City of Dunwoody is immense. Based on the figures in the CVI study, loss of this revenue will create a substantial deficit. The CVI representative who testified stated that they had not even considered the financial impact of these changes. The annual revenue stream could be decreased by more than five million dollars. This is important information.

Representative Chambers does believe that people should have the right to vote. However, she also believes in transparency and honesty in government. Not everyone involved in this process shares that belief.

The citizens should have all the facts before they vote.

The Big Tuna said...

Beyond the rhetoric on the Dunwoody legislation, let’s look at some facts. The folks that are climbing all over themselves to congratulate Representative Chambers for preventing a referendum in which Dunwoody residents would chose to incorporate, or choose not to, should look beyond her mendacious platitudes and see for themselves her record on this. While she railed about how terrible these bills were and laid out frightening scenarios that would financially cripple the residents of Dunwoody, this did not seem to be a concern last legislative session, when she voted to approve all of them. I know, those pesky facts get in the way, but see for yourself in the following links. The committee votes are not posted online, but are a matter of record:

1. Representative Chambers YES vote on HB 264 (HOST bill) on the House floor 2007:

2. Representative Chambers vote on SB 82 (Dunwoody Charter) in House Government Affairs Committee 2007:

Voted Yes (in favor of passage)

3. Representative Chambers vote on SB 83 (Transfer of Property bill) in House Government Affairs Committee 2007:

Voted Yes (in favor of passage)

4. Representative Chambers YES vote on SB 82 (Dunwoody Charter) on the House floor 2007:

5. SB 83 (Transfer of Property bill) did not make it to a floor vote last session.

Now, why would someone who voted to approve these last session find so many problems this session? None of these bills changed. The bill (HB 264) that she said would do so much damage and ruin Dunwoody’s viability passed and was signed into law, with Representative Chambers voting for it. Was Representative Chambers duped last session and now suddenly has had an epiphany and made a 180 degree change? Could a campaign contributor have called in a marker? Did this campaign contribution (link below) from DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones to Representative Chambers, which helped her win her first election, carry any weight?

The world, or at least Dunwoody, wonders and waits. It would appear that Ms. Chambers is a proud member of the world’s first and second oldest professions.