Silence equals consent

Ben Nelms's picture

There is still talk these days about forming, actually re-forming, a “new” Milton County out of the land mass in north Fulton. Not so curiously, there is less conversation about re-forming a “new” county out of the existing south Fulton. Though currently backing off on the time table, north Fulton legislators will certainly push hard for this concept to eventually be put in the hands of voters who will quite likely pass the measure. Georgia saw the desires of the people come through crystal clear after the “evil” Republicans paved the way for voters to create the cities of Sandy Springs, Milton and John’s Creek and what may later become the City of Dunwoody.

But what about south Fulton and a new county here? In south Fulton the elected representatives of the people, and the people themselves, are largely Democrat. This been the case for eons as Atlanta has evolved. And that’s fine. But will that reality translate into a hesitancy to forego an objective discussion about establishing a new county in south Fulton? You dance with the one who brought you, right? But forever? Even if conditions have persisted that call the efficacy of that bond into account?

In the mix is the question, who stands to gain and who stands to lose from south Fulton remaining a part of Fulton County and what is Fulton willing to do to maintain that bond? On the face of it, most south Fulton elected officials gain because it maintains their political ties and power base to Atlanta and Fulton County and, rightly so, their ability to successfully advocate for their constituents. But what about the residents whose General Fund and Special Service District taxes fund county government? Has anyone noticed the growing number of south Fulton parents who are fed up with Fulton County schools? (And if the solution is to create sub-districts why hasn’t that been done long ago?) Has anyone noticed how the cities of south Fulton are hog-tied when it comes to having law breakers prosecuted in Fulton County courts? Some cities, like Fairburn, have been forced to resort to filing city charges so that offenders can be tried by city judges, thus bypassing the county system that increases crime by putting them back on the street time after time after time. A new county would have its own judicial system, free from the overburdened Fulton. It would have its own sheriff, its own county commission, its own tax commissioner, etc. Or if Fulton can revamp things and do it better, why isn’t it being done?

Now in 21st century Georgia, a move is afoot to form, or re-form, at least one new county. And maybe there is a silver lining with the move to create Milton. Perhaps the discriminatory practice of having taxpayers in Fulton and DeKalb responsible for the funding of Grady and MARTA can finally be addressed. If formed, Milton should pay its fair share, but so should Gwinnett and Cobb and the others that benefit from those services while not paying a penny of tax dollars to support them.

The attempt by some to prevent the creation of the cities of South Fulton and Chattahoochee Hills may not work after all, especially in the case of Chatt Hills. Many in both areas are ready to govern themselves. And perhaps the day is coming for forming a county in south Fulton. That will depend on local and grassroots leadership and the will to forego the myopic human tendency to hold any status quo as inviolate. But above all, and regardless what county south Fulton residents call home, the outcome will depend on the voter’s willingness to objectively scrutinize their presence in the growing Atlanta megalopolis and to actively participate in the conversations that will best determine their families future. On the other hand, the failure to participate in the conversation is tantamount to agreeing with whatever decision is made and enforced on us. After all, silence equals consent.

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