Thursday, June 26, 2008
Chamblee celebrates 100 years of cityhood
100 Years! That is how long the City of Chamblee has been an incorporated municipality in the state of Georgia. And as we celebrate our centennial year, I am grateful to those individuals that had the vision and wisdom to start this great city.
There are many reasons that I feel compelled to be grateful to these visionaries of the past, and it is my hope that the people of Dunwoody will have the vision and courage to see what a city form of government can do for their community and vote in favor of incorporation on July 15.
Much of the history of Chamblee is a wonderful story of an evolving landscape. From an agricultural beginning, to Southern rail town, to the first home of Camp Gordon, and the industrial development of the 1950s, Chamblee has represented this past century’s greatest eras of progress.
Today, it’s forging into the next century by building on the foundations of the past. All of the challenges that come with this inevitable change are best served by the very local form of city government. Cities are absolutely not another layer of government, but rather a form of government different than that of a county that is often too large and too cumbersome to truly meet the challenges faced by a local community.
Cities provide heightened services and more responsive representation where self determination and self governance are truly the way we work. The Municipal Government Committee for the Georgia Municipal Association has a policy recommendation that reads, in part, “Recently, Georgia has witnessed a surge of interest by various communities in the benefits of municipal government. As the level of government that is closest to the people, municipalities offer home rule that gives citizens greater influence in the character of their community and the nature of services that they wish to receive. As an entity that supports home rule and the benefits that municipalities offer, GMA is supportive of their aspirations.”
Controlling taxes is an essential role that cities provide. In Chamblee we are able to provide a responsive form of government with enhanced services with a tax structure that is almost identical to the taxes being paid by our friends in the surrounding unincorporated DeKalb County neighborhoods. And as DeKalb County continues to raise taxes to pay for high priced attorneys to litigate things such as distribution of HOST funds and the incorporation of new cities, we are able to opt out of county bond referendums and focus on what is important to our citizens.
The things that are important to our citizens are too many to list here, but zoning has to be right at the top. Land use decisions are some of the most important decisions that a community can make. These decisions are best made at the local city level, not by a group of county staff and elected officials living and meeting several miles away from where their decisions will be felt the most.
In Chamblee we recently adopted a new zoning ordinance that promotes smart growth principles to better position our community for future growth. Chamblee now has the opportunity to re-develop even further into a modern village while maintaining that small town charm that has lured so many here in the past and will continue to draw others to this city in the future. The city is working hard to further create this sense of place, complete with bike and pedestrian trails, landscaped streets, and architectural designs that invite people to stroll down wide sidewalks and gather at festivals.
Community involvement is vital to the success of a community. Simply being able to drive a short distance to a city council meeting rather than trekking halfway across the county to attend meetings helps to get more citizens involved. There are other ways as well. In 2004, I was on the city council that started to plant the seeds of growing informed citizenry. The city started providing a yearly class called Chamblee101 that is designed to inform and educate citizens about local government. It includes discussions and interactive activities on topics such as Chamblee's history, form of government, city services, budgeting and finances, volunteer boards, and volunteer organizations and opportunities in the city. While we are fortunate to have several wonderful departments in Chamblee, public safety is our largest department. Not only do we have our own police force, we have our own 911 system where the average response time is less than four minutes.
It is with great honor and pride that I serve as mayor of the city of Chamblee. So as we in Chamblee celebrate our first 100 years in existence, I can’t help but think how remarkable it would be for the future citizens of Chamblee to be celebrating their 200th birthday, while their friends just to the north in a city of Dunwoody, will be celebrating their Centennial year.