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08 December 2013

South Fulton Group Suggests Cityhood is the Only Way to Stop Republican Dirty Tricks

The Cliftondale Communuity Club meeting on the renewed push for cityhood in unincorporated south Fulton is scheduled for Thursday, 12 December at the Cliftondale Community Clubhouse -- 4645 Butner Road, College Park, Georgia 30349. The meeting starts at 7PM.
Months after the Republican-led Georgia General Assembly passed bills aimed at changing how Fulton County operates, the war of words between lawmakers and south Fulton community activists continues.

In a recent email to members announcing a meeting to discuss cityhood for unincorporated south Fulton, the Cliftondale Community Club said, "The status of unincorporated Fulton County is under attack by the majority in the Georgia legislature and will not survive.

"It is no secret that certain elements within the Georgia General Assembly are actively working to get Fulton County Government out of the 'city' services it provides to unincorporated South Fulton County, shifting that responsibility to a new city or the existing cities," the Cliftondale Community Club email reads. "2013 legislation capped the County's access to tax revenue and reduced South Fulton's representation on the County Board of Commissioners. The tax caps will result in reduction in fire protection and police presence, limited library funding, closing of parks and short-changing other services - to the point where County government can no longer properly deliver services here, at the very time we have less political representation."

Last May, Governor Deal signed into law a package of bills that GOP lawmakers say will reform Fulton County. Included among the bills was legislation that eliminated one of Fulton County's two at-large commission seats in favor of maps that created three county commission districts in north Fulton, three commission districts in south Fulton, and one county commissioner elected countywide. Another piece of legislation freezes the Fulton County property tax rate for two years. After the two-year freeze expires, future property tax increases would require the "yes" votes of five Fulton County commissioners; a super-majority on the seven-member board.

State Representative Lynne Riley, a former Fulton County Commissioner who sponsored the new commission maps, defended her bill, saying, "The resulting map is fair, complies with constitutional and federal mandates, respects precinct boundaries and communities of interests, and consists of compact districts."

House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones said of her Fulton County tax legislation, "Fulton County taxes and spends substantially more per resident than other metro counties, and the numbers bear it out. Fulton spends 121 percent more per capita in its budget than neighboring, similarly sized Gwinnett County and 68 percent more than Cobb. And that's after excluding expenditures on Grady Hospital and MARTA.

"The message to Fulton County government is clear, too: Get to work on cutting the waste and improving services," Jones concluded.

South Fulton community activists called the 2013 Fulton County legislation supported by Jones and Riley both racist and vindictive. The Cliftondale Community Club suggests in its email that Jones, Riley, and other Republican lawmakers intend to force unincorporated south Fulton residents into an existing city unless the proposed City of South Fulton is approved by voters.

"Soon the voters of unincorporated South Fulton County will vote for or against cityhood," the Cliftondale email reads. "If the new city vote fails, the Georgia General Assembly will almost certainly resort to forced annexation, and our communities will be placed into whichever city the legislators decide.

"Do not let this fate come to pass - get informed and get ready to vote. Choose your own destiny!"

With an estimated population of 87,628, unincorporated south Fulton represents about 9.5% of the total Fulton County population. A wave of municipalization between 2005 and 2007 --resulting in the new cities of Chattahoochee Hills, Johns Creek, Milton, and Sandy Springs-- left south Fulton standing alone as the only unincorporated area in Georgia's largest county.

Six years ago, unincorporated south Fulton County was asked if they wanted to become the City of South Fulton. The answer was a loud no, with 85% rejecting the proposed city.

The Cliftondale Communuity Club meeting on the renewed push for cityhood in unincorporated south Fulton is scheduled for Thursday, 12 December at the Cliftondale Community Clubhouse -- 4645 Butner Road, College Park, Georgia 30349. The meeting starts at 7PM.