Atlanta’s wealthiest – and whitest – neighborhood continues effort to secede

Leader of pro-unity group says he is less worried now than a year ago

The City of Buckhead?

Residents of Atlanta’s wealthiest and whitest neighborhood are doubling down on efforts to secede from the city and create an independent police force, alarming local officials who worry about population loss and reduced tax revenue, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Critics say a split would divide the region along economic and racial lines and perhaps politically as well. The Republican-led state legislature is taking up legislation for a referendum on Buckhead, while politicians in left-leaning Atlanta oppose the idea, the Journal reported.

Bill White, chief executive of the committee advocating Buckhead’s cityhood, said Atlanta hasn’t done enough to stop violent crime, car-thefts, drag-racing and other crime that surged in 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic and after civil unrest following Black Lives Matter protests.

“They really don’t care about Buckhead,” White said to the Journal about city officials. “They just want the money.”

Yet proponents say that establishing services and taxes in a new city would be more difficult than proponents claim. Residents who were considering secession last year are starting to have doubts, said Jim Durrett, president of the Buckhead Coalition, a group of community and business leaders that oppose secession,

“I am a little bit worried today,” he said. “But I am less worried than I was six months ago.”

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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and other city leaders have said they’re taking steps to address crime in Buckhead and other parts of the city.

Violent crime is rising in large cities across the nation. Atlanta had 158 homicides in 2021 and 157 in 2020, compared with 99 in 2019, according to figures cited by the Journal from the Atlanta Police Department. There were 13 murders in the police zone that includes Buckhead through Christmas, up 63 percent from 2020.

Growth in violent crime is a major issue in Atlanta. Former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms didn’t seek re-election last November after she was criticized for how she handled the issue. Mayor Dickens campaigned largely on combating crime.

At a news conference last week, Dickens promised more officers in Buckhead. The City Council is creating a new public safety task force to focus on the neighborhood.

“It is of paramount concern for me to stop this crime wave in our city,” Dickens said, according to the Journal. “We will be one city with one bright future.”

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[Crain’s] – Harrison Connery

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