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Opinion: For Every Point Favoring Annexation, There’s A Point Opposing It

The writer for the website www.annexmenot.com makes her case.

  

By Molly A. Badgett

Lots of incoming missiles, so I’ll put on a helmet. But I’ve decided not to lay low.

I’m the writer and webmaster for www.annexmenot.com. It is, in fact, a group effort, representing a number of long-term residents of the B-1 area that the City of Decatur has targeted, yet again, for annexation. The more people we talk to about annexation the more we discover are on our side of this debate; they’re admittedly uneasy, however, about voicing their opinions online, particularly on social media.

To me, this is the most unfortunate aspect of this issue, the marginalization of those who dare say to lovely Decatur, “Thanks, but no thanks.” It’s not a popular position.

The City’s last attempt to grab the properties of Springdale Heights and other nearby homes failed just a few years ago; more neighbors than not were opposed to the plan. Now, some of my neighbors say with the withdrawal of Brookhaven and other tax bases from DeKalb County’s coffers, the county is headed to hell in a hand basket. Others present the drop in homes prices over the last several years as another reason to bail on the county. Some simply say the increases in taxes we’ll pay to be in the City won’t really be that bad.

No one knows just how quickly DeKalb County will reach this hell-fire destination; some say it’s already there and I won’t deny that watching the County is like watching really bad reality TV. But according to “An Assessment of Municipal Annexation in Georgia and the United States: A Search for Policy Guidance” from the Public Policy Research Series (Carl Vinson Institute of Government at The University of Georgia), peeling off specific areas isn’t always a bad thing for some counties:

“(O)nly a small fraction of cities undertake formal revenue and expenditure analyses prior to annexation, perhaps because they have preconceived ideas about how specific revenue streams will change. In fact, with many revenues such as the property tax, local sales taxes, charges, and intergovernmental grants, the impact varies by jurisdiction. In other words, the view that counties will always experience a negative fiscal impact, and that cities will always have a positive one, is false. The variability of fiscal impacts should encourage jurisdictions to carefully consider finances for each annexation, particularly when several developed parcels are involved.”

A long-time personal friend, Harry Hayes, the primary author of this report, was the (joint) City and County Planning Director for Gainesville and Hall County, where I grew up, for decades before joining UGA. Harry is a no-nonsense kind of guy, one who would probably suggest that Brookhaven’s rapid expansion could make it an expensive area to operate. Only if the City of Brookhaven comes out with an annual budget surplus will the DeKalb-is-hemorrhaging-money argument be valid. Sure, DeKalb has lost a lot of Brookhaven-based taxes, but DeKalb also has lost that new city as an obligation.

With regard to the concern that home prices have dropped so drastically, it’s easy to wonder if someone has been ignoring the hoards of headlines that collectively scream back, “Duh!” Springdale Heights home prices have – for all the 20 years I have lived here – kept in sync quite well with Decatur home prices, both upward and downward. They are less volatile if given a facelift, the most certain way to raise the value of homes that lie just outside the city limits (and without, I should add, affecting your neighbors’ pockets). But to determine in the middle of a recession that you must “act now!” to save your home’s value is like worrying, in the middle of night, why your daylilies aren’t blooming.

Finally, the characterization of the tax increase as practically immaterial fails to see that as a completely subjective point. No, it is The Point to the person over 65 on a fixed income. And describe “modest tax increase” to a neighbor who could still – or just did – lose his or her job given this volatile economy. I happen to be self-employed with three income streams; I can always beef up marketing and make extra bucks to cover an additional $150 in monthly taxes. But I still have healthcare costs to worry about, and I dare say those costs will creep up for the steadily employed, too. Oh, and there’s plenty of talk that our mortgage-interest deductions might be at risk soon.

So there are three arguments against annexation in response to the three most common arguments I’ve heard from advocates. The annexmenot.com Web site is full of other points; my favorite among them comes from one of my neighbors, who says let’s wait until the economy has stabilized and Suburban Plaza is completed before we decide. Our group welcomes thoughtful feedback, too, so please see the “Additions and edits” tab. It is not an open forum because we don’t want the same kind of comments on it that have already intimidated other opponents of annexation from speaking out on other online sites, including this one.

But here, really, is the most important point. The Internet belongs to everyone, and everyone deserves to be heard. Those of you who favor annexation could certainly create your own Web site and post persuasive arguments in the same way our group has. I think such a site would be great! Residents of area B-1 (or any targeted area, really) could explore both sites and make informed decisions based on expressed opinions, pro or con. Perhaps this would take arguments off the more community-based social sites and ease tensions on both sides, leaving us to talk about vegetables, finches, and wayward gnomes.

In fact, how ‘bout I make all of you annexation proponents an offer? I’ll create your Web site for you – one that puts annexmenot.com to absolute shame! – for around $150 a month, with a binding contract that lasts at least the next 15 years.

Do we have a deal?

Do you agree with this resident? Express yourself in the comment box below.

youmustbejoking? September 17, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Hah really? That's funny - I think that we poor ignorant pro-annexation folks can manage to create a spiffy WordPress blog with a generic template just like yours without your help - thanks. Plus, we can spell! "hoards"? Did you mean "hordes"? You, in fact, are the one who made the issue so contentious by constantly changing the argument when you don't like what someone writes, or when - gasp - they actually state facts.
Attic's a changing September 17, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Molly, I applaud you for posting this and have no opinion on this specific topic. It is so unfortunate for someone to voice an opinion, only to be attacked for a spelling mistake. Seems more time is spent calling out such things or making unfounded accusations about a group like GGD rather than engaging in thoughtful debate. Any parallels to our "modern day" politics??
Molly Badgett September 17, 2012 at 03:41 PM
You are incorrect. A "hoard" refers to a collection, pile, stash, heap or cache of things; a "horde" refers to a group, crowd or tribe of people. In this column, I refer to "hoards" of headlines, meaning a cache of (past) headlines about the economy. Headlines are not people.
Molly Badgett September 17, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Thank you so much for your comment. Please note that I corrected "youmustbejoking" on his or her inaccurate point regarding my spelling; I was, in fact, correct. I'm glad to entertain other comments of, as you say, thoughtful debate, but emotional attacks from hordes of people who disagree with me do nothing but waste time. I imagine there will be hoards of these attacks over time.
Kevin Polite September 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Molly, thanks for standing up and making a point for all of us who are against annexation. I live in Midway Woods. A portion of my neighborhood is included in Zone D. A group of citizens in our neighborhood choose to use this as an opportunity to include the entire neighborhood of 700 homes to go into Zone D, which has about 150 homes, of which 30 are actually part of Midway Woods. Man, the e-mails have been flying back and forth on our listserve and there has been talk of let's work together whether you are for or against (this mainly by those that are for annexation). When I brought to their attention that COD requires separate petitions for and against http://www.decaturga.com/index.aspx?page=660 the silence has been deaf·en·ing. Now, I'm sure they were quite unaware of this rule even though they have been very diligently researching both the pros and cons and didn't know that separate petitions needed to be presented to COD by Nov. 5. I am not saying that is why that they kept insisting on us having one peition to present to COD. Another point has been the demise of DeKalb School Commission. Now, admittedely they've had their problems, but they have a new Superintendent. Two of the Commissioner were voted out of office and will be leaving soon. I can bet you the GA Legislature will decide to narrow the number of Dekalb CSC & a few of the remaining memebers will be voted off. Hats of to you and I admire your courage!
Molly Badgett September 17, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Thank you, Kevin.
Oakhurst Curator September 17, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Perhaps not a parallel to politics but here's how some other Decaturites deal with opinions with which they disagree: http://wp.me/p1bnGQ-1DX With people like this as Decatur's online face, who would want to live in the city?
J September 17, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Dear youmustbejoking, She was. Joking that is, about creating a website for the opposing view - it is called "humor". Aside from making a wee bit of a fool of yourself with the snarky, pointless spelling comment, this is still the good old USA and people are allowed to - gasp - have an opinion that differs from yours or mine. The argument has NOT changed; there are many arguments, both pro and con, Molly has simply stated the three that are at the head of the list for many people, including me. As part of the group effort Molly refers to in her article, I appreciate her efforts on the behalf of so many that do not want to be saddled with the tax increases annexation will bring when the return on those increases are unproven - what will the effect be on services and schools when there is a large influx of new citizens?
Oakhurst Curator September 17, 2012 at 10:53 PM
As for Molly's actions, any community would be proud to have an articulate and caring activist willing to offer a dissenting and perhaps unpopular opinion. It speaks volumes to a community's character how its citizens react to people like Molly who have the backbone to speak up. I hope Decatur fails with the annexation bid because Decatur's loss (of Molly) is DeKalb's win.
Ralph Ellis September 18, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Commenters, please don't make personal attacks in the comments. I just deleted a comment because of that.
Ms. September 18, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I get people don't want their taxes to go up, but Dekalb's taxes are going up anyhow, the recent property assessment debacle was just their way of testing the water and seeing what they could get away with. At least in Decatur, you'd be under a government where your voice actually matters, and someone goes to bat for you, as the Decatur Mayor did for his resident in this matter. As far as the atrocious state the Dekalb school finances are in, where do you even start... $70 million that we know of so far, think that won't affect taxes in the next few years? Meanwhile, the Superintendent is under fire for playing the same games the past one did, shroud everything in secrecy so people don't know the real nature of the issues, and all the school board members got millions in increases in their budget while on a mission to try and ram through teacher firings. I'd be hard pressed to believe that many of the no-annexation folks have children in their homes. But I could be wrong.
Kevin Polite September 20, 2012 at 06:38 PM
There is more to it than having children in your home. It's the tax. Now, according to COD website, just by being in Decatur on Day 1 your taxes will increase 40%. Now if it's true your value will increase $30-$50k (according to COD website) then the following year it will increase again. I'm in Midway Woods, which has 700 homes. Let's say I'm for it. With the number of kids in this area there is no way they could attend the closest school, Winnona Park, They great school district is teaching kids out of trailers. Don't believe me, just drive by. Now, you're talking about adding 30% more. The Museum School, which is a charter school that includes Midway Woods, has higher scores than COD schools. They are #3 in Science out of 1200 Elementary schools! Also, most people moved here to be close to Decatur, just not IN Decatur. the money we saved we put into renovating our home and in hopes we'd be able to retire here. Also, Peggy Burriss, City of Decatur City Manager, will be speaking at Midway Woods Neighborhood Association meeting 7:30pm Wed Sept. 26 at Columbia Presbyterian Church. Why? Could it be they are actually sanctioning this land grab?

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