ATLANTA (NewsNation) — The affluent and predominantly white neighborhood of Buckhead in Atlanta is moving closer to breaking away from one of the most populous cities in the Southeast.
Some residents are trying to form Buckhead City, citing concerns about crime. Some also say they’re not getting their fair share of Atlanta’s municipal services.
These secession aspirations are now moving closer to being realized after the Republican majority of a Georgia Senate committee approved two bills on Monday and advanced them to the full Senate for further debate.
The movement gained traction after a spike in crime dating back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Atlanta Police Department investigated 170 homicides in 2022 compared to 159 in 2021 and 95 in 2019, according to departmental data.
But opponents say a new city wouldn’t be able to stop criminals from coming to the area. They also say the plan doesn’t deal with major issues and could make crime worse by weakening the remaining parts of Atlanta.
“What is happening today is my constituents are being forced to eat a half-baked pie,” Sen. Jason Esteves, an Atlanta Democrat, told The Associated Press last week.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has been vocal against the movement. In a statement to News 2’s sister station, NewsNation, a City of Atlanta spokesperson said the city’s team will “continue to work with the Senate to put an end to this legislation before it has disastrous consequences.”
One Buckhead resident, Gina Winchester, also says it’s a “very bad idea” to separate the neighborhood from the city.
“The whole city would suffer,” she said. “We’re not here to say we’re better than everyone. We’re here to be a part of the city.”
Despite the steps forward, prospects remain uncertain for the measures, which are bitterly opposed by Atlanta’s business community and the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic lawmakers.
A lawyer for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also sent a memo to lawmakers this week, questioning whether proposals to assign a portion of Atlanta’s bond debt to the new city would be legal. He also challenged the legality of the plans of Buckhead City proponents to collect taxes for the Atlanta city school system and continue enrolling students in it even after leaving Atlanta.
Democrats also say those in favor of Buckhead becoming its own city are in the minority, even within the Buckhead neighborhood’s limits.
Bill White, the CEO of the Buckhead City Committee, is instead claiming that 72% of people polled in the neighborhood were at least interested in voting in such a referendum.
“Some of those 72% are gonna vote no, and I say let the best campaign win,” White said. “Atlanta will be fine.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.