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08 May 2015

Annexation Debate Gets Personal As Lawmaker & Lobbyist Launch Insults at Fulton Co. Commission

Unincorporated south Fulton County is deeply divided in the dialogue on cityhood versus annexation.

Some residents say they want another referendum on creating a new municipality called South Fulton. Others would prefer to join an existing city.

This divisive debate spilled onto the floor of the Georgia State Senate, earlier this year.

A majority of the Senators refused to pass House Bill 514, legislation authorizing a vote on creating the proposed city of South Fulton, due to no agreement among the lawmakers who represent the area in the General Assembly.

State Senator Josh McKoon, a Republican from Muscogee County, said, "This is the State Senate, not the Fulton County Commission. If there is this much division, the thing to do is vote it down.

"I think there is a lot of frustration that here we are on the fortieth day dealing with a local contested matter," McKoon told Georgia Unfiltered.

That local contested matter has gotten more contentious since the Senate defeated the city of South Fulton bill; with personal attacks flying from a lawmaker and a lobbyist who support cityhood but oppose annexation.

At the 6 May 2015 Fulton County Commission meeting, dozens of unincorporated south Fulton County residents pleaded for local elected officials to deny an annexation request from property owners and voters in the Loch Lomond, Sandtown, and South Oaks communities wishing to go into the City of Atlanta.

State Rep. Ladawn Blackett Jones (D - Atlanta), an attorney who opposes the annexation, told Fulton Commissioners they had the power to investigate whether the annexation petitions were valid.

Jones' interpretation of the law was refuted by County Attorney David Ware.

"The duty falls upon the City of Atlanta," Ware told Commissioners. "Atlanta has a legal obligation to verify signatures. Fulton County does not have a role."

The sharpest rebuke of Jones, however, came from Commissioner Marvin Arrington.

"I take great exception to people, alleged leaders, coming down here trying to pit citizens against the Fulton County commissioners," Arrington said. "The law is very clear. The city has the responsibility for verifying those rolls.

"As leaders we need to unite people, we do not need to be sending people down here to make examples out of county commissioners because someone doesn’t know how to read a law. Don’t come in here and try to suggest that we don’t care about children because you don’t know the law.”

Arrington's comments incensed Rep. Jones, which prompted the following angry response on Facebook:

Due to the law, the Fulton County Commission could do nothing to stop the annexation of the Loch Lomond, Sandtown, and South Oaks communities into the City of Atlanta. That still did not prevent Commission Chairman John Eaves from asking his colleagues to take a symbolic vote opposing the annexation request. But that symbolic vote failed to pass, eliciting even more anger; this time from a lobbyist for the organization promoting the proposed city of South Fulton.

South Fulton Now lobbyist Helen Zenobia Willis suggested Commissioners who did not support Chairman Eaves' symbolic vote, as well as those trying to annex out of unincorporated south Fulton, were "Satan's [sic] who want to destroy our community."

Before the annexation process is complete, Atlanta must hold a public hearing, which could bring more harsh attacks and divide the community further.