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13 January 2014

Lawmakers Hear From Constituents on Proposed City of South Fulton

On the eve of the 2014 legislative session, state legislators met with residents to hear their thoughts about the proposed city of South Fulton.

Held at Westlake High School, the meeting between lawmakers and community members was the first mass gathering of unincorporated south Fulton residents to discuss their future.

"This bill does not create the city of South Fulton," state Representative Roger Bruce (D - Atlanta) said of House Bill 704. "What this bill does, it gives you time to investigate the pros, the cons, the good, the bad, and then make a decision as to whether or not you want the city."

Later in the meeting, Bruce told those in attendance that he supported the right of south Fulton to determine its own destiny. Those sentiments were echoed by state Senator Donzella James, whose district covers much of the proposed city.

"I wanted you to know that I, as a citizen, don't necessarily like the fact that these other people, who we don't vote for, can decide our destiny," James said.

James was referencing the form of governance that currently rules unincorporated south Fulton County.

Unincorporated south Fulton is governed by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Commissioners elected from across the county frequently decide planning and zoning, taxation, and other quality of life issues for south Fulton. However, most Fulton County Commissioners do not live in south Fulton and are rarely impacted by the decisions they make about south Fulton.

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves countered Sen. James' statement, saying, "The unincorporated area of south Fulton is well run and well represented."

"The question for everyone to consider with the formation of a government is, will my cost as a resident increase," Eaves continued.

And that is the million dollar question.

Quite a few residents asked legislators if the proposed city could sustain itself financially without tax increases or reduction in services.

State Representative LaDawn Blackett Jones (D - Atlanta) said South Fulton United, the group spearheading the cityhood movement, shared with her a preliminary draft of the feasibility study and she said the report indicated that south Fulton could stand on its own two feet.

Jones also revealed that she contributed $150 to fund the south Fulton feasibility study. Reps. Virgil Fludd and Ronnie Mabra said they made contributions as well, but would not disclose how much money they gave.

Asked when the feasibility study might be released, South Fulton United member Harold Reid responded, "When we've paid for it," eliciting a few laughs and audible groans from the audience.

When pressed further, Reid said the feasibility study would be released by 15 January 2014.

State Senator Vincent Fort (D - Atlanta) again re-stated his opposition to the proposed city of South Fulton; and he cautioned those to make decisions based on facts.

"It should not be based on hype. It should not be based on emotion. It should be based on data presented to you in an objective way," Fort said. "It is very important that the feasibility study, if it is to be provided, be provided as quickly as possible. The legislative session this year is going to be a quick turn around."