Atlanta’s wealthiest suburb inches closer to seceding from the crime-ridden city
The possibility of a secession from the city of Atlanta became a little more likely this week as the affluent area of Buckhead continues its attempt to peel off from the crime-ridden inner city.
Two bills that would allow Buckhead to secede from the city passed a Georgia Senate committee Monday and could be up for a floor vote as soon as today.
If both chambers of the legislature approve the bills, and they are subsequently signed by Governor Brian Kemp, residents of Buckhead – the 24-square-mile area on the edge of Atlanta – would be able to vote in the November 2024 election about whether to leave Atlanta and form their own city.
The controversial move faced initial opposition last year, when former Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan put the kibosh on the effort last year, sending the secession bill to a committee comprised solely of urban Democrats who opposed the effort.
However, the state’s new Lieutenant Governor, Burt Jones, is a backer of the measure. The effort is still expected to face resistance in the House.
Buckhead is one of the most expensive zip codes in the US, with mansions lining the streets and glossy shopping centers downtown
Crime in Atlanta has surged over the last several years, prompting the Buckhead population to seriously consider seceding from the troubled inner city
According to Fortune, a spokesperson for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said that City Hall ‘will continue to work with the Senate to put an end to this legislation before it has disastrous consequences.’
In 2021, Bill White, the CEO of Buckhead City, p9ushed for the suburb to ‘divorce’ itself from Atlanta.
‘We are living in a war zone in Buckhead. Shooting and killings, it just never ends,’ he told Bloomberg.
BUCKHEAD, GEORGIA: ONE OF THE NATION’S WEALTHIEST ZIP CODES
Buckhead is known as Atlanta’s commercial and residential district, famed for its high-rise buildings and shopping centers, hotels and mansions.
The neighborhood is a historically wealthy district and was once ranked the ninth richest zip code in the country with a median price of homes of $1,460,595, according to Forbes.
American suburban luxury home in Buckhead, Atlanta
Bloomberg named Buckhead the 20th richest zip code in the nation in 2011, when the average household net worth there was $1,353,189.
The average household income was $280,631.
Because of this, Buckhead is often called the ‘Beverly Hills of the Southeast,’ in reference to the upscale city in California.
Buckhead is also known to have a few notable residents, including Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler.
Loeffler was among the wealthiest members of Congress until she lost her seat in January of 2021. In 2009, she and her husband spent more than $10million on a European-style mansion named Descante in the Buckhead neighborhood.
White, who officially filed to secede from the city in June, previously slammed Atlanta city leadership, including former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, accusing her of ignoring soaring crime in Buckhead and presiding over a demoralized and underfunded police department.
White hopes the suburb, where the average home costs $1.4million, will be able to secede in order to take public safety in their own hands.
The breakup would mean Atlanta proper would have about 90,000 fewer citizens – a population decrease of one-fifth. It would also mean an approximate loss of 38% of its tax revenue, which could in turn impact Atlanta’s credit rating.
The affluent residents of Buckhead have grown weary of seeing members of their own community suffer gunshot wounds, home invasions and murders.
Although rumblings about a potential split from Atlanta have gone on for years, the Buckhead split has gained traction in recent years due to ongoing concerns about crime.
The homicide rate in Atlanta climbed last year to 161 – the highest number since 1996. That figure was up from 157 in 2020 and 99 in 2019.
Burglaries, shoplifting and carjackings also rose by number in the southern city.
The secession proposal would, like all divorces, taken assets into consideration.
Under the presented legislation, Buckhead City would be allowed to acquire Atlanta park land within its boundaries for a mere $100,000 per acre, despite an acre in the neighborhood commanding 10 times that amount
Atlanta would also be required to either split all assets outside its city limits with the proposed Buckhead City borders or sell them and split the proceeds.
Georgia’s legislature has historically allowed unincorporated areas around Atlanta to vote for their own cities for about 20 years.
However, in that time, it has allowed just one vote to leave – the wealthy small city of Stockbridge, and subdivision residents rejected secession in 2018.
In 2021, the last time the proposal to leave the city was sent to the state legislature, an estimated 80 percent of the community was planning to vote in favor of the separation.
Buckhead’s population is 73.5 percent white and 23.9 percent black. This compares to the wider Atlanta population which is 50.7 percent black and 38 percent white, according to census data.
The suburb encompasses 24 square miles and the White says the Atlanta Police Department isn’t cutting it. After the recent murder of Kenon Jennings on August 7, the citizens of Buckhead are pushing harder to separate their suburb
If the suburb succeeds, it will be the first Georgia city to break from an existing one. It is estimated that 54 to 62 per cent of Buckhead citizens were pro-annex in 2021
The violence problem persists in Atlanta: High school pallbearers carry the coffin of young shooting victim Lloyd LeVon Foster III, 16, during his funeral at the Greater Springfield Baptist Church in the Vine City neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 18 February 2023