Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Of race, politics, and cities

I'm cynically amused by the brouhaha currently brewing in the Atlanta, Georgia area at the moment. A group of black representatives in the Georgia legislature have filed a lawsuit challenging the recent incorporation of several cities. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of Georgia seeking to dissolve the city charters of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills. Further, the lawmakers, joined by civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery, aim to dash any hopes of a Milton County.

The lawsuit, filed in a North Georgia U.S. District Court Monday, claims that the state circumvented the normal legislative process and set aside its own criteria when creating the "super-majority white" cities within Fulton and DeKalb counties. The result, it argues, is to dilute minority votes in those areas, violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

"This suit is based on the idea that African Americans and other minorities can elect the people of their choice," said Democratic State Sen. Vincent Fort.

. . .

Lead attorney Jerome Lee, of Taylor Lee & Associates, said the suit is novel.

"The Voting Rights Act forbids a state from doing anything that affects the voting rights of minorities, except with a permissible purpose," he said, citing the redistricting that takes place when the census documents population shifts. "In this case, it’s different because the state actually went outside the normal redistricting process and created these cities that have no meaningful state purpose."

According to the 2010 census, Fulton County is 44.5 percent white and 44.1 percent black. About 54 percent of DeKalb County residents are black, and 33.3 percent are white.

Sandy Springs, created in 2005, is 65 percent white and 20 percent black. Milton, formed a year later, is 76.6 percent white and 9 percent black. Johns Creek, also formed that year, is 63.5 percent white and 9.2 percent black. Chattahoochee Hills, formed in 2007, is 68.6 percent white and 28 percent black, while Dunwoody, created in 2008, is 69.8 percent white and 12.6 percent black.

There's more at the link.

This report puzzled me. There was clearly much more going on that was not apparent from the AJC's report; so I looked further. In Wikipedia's entry for the city of Sandy Springs, one of the cities involved, I found this:

Debate over incorporation began in the 1970s when the city of Atlanta attempted to use a state law to force annexation of Sandy Springs. (Buckhead had joined Atlanta in 1952.) The attempt failed when the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that the law was unconstitutional. In response, the Committee for Sandy Springs was formed in 1975. In every legislative session since 1989, state legislators representing the area introduced a bill in the Georgia General Assembly to authorize a referendum on incorporation. Legislators representing the city of Atlanta and southwestern Fulton County, who feared for the tax revenue that would be lost, blocked the bills using the procedural requirement that all local legislation be approved first by a delegation of representatives from the affected area.

When the Republican Party gained a majority in both houses of the General Assembly in early 2005, the procedural rules previously used to prevent a vote by the full chamber were changed so that the bill was handled as a state bill and not as a local bill. It was introduced and passed as HB 37. The referendum initiative was approved by the Assembly and signed by Governor Sonny Purdue. The Assembly also temporarily repealed the 1995 law that all Georgia cities must provide at least three municipal services on their own or have their cityhood revoked, because the new city would need time to start up and would be contracting most of its services from the county through the end of 2006. The assembly also repealed the requirement that new cities must be at least three miles (4.8 km) from existing cities, because the new city limits border both Roswell and Atlanta.

The referendum was held on June 21, 2005, and residents voted 94% to 6% in favor of incorporation. Many residents expressed displeasure with county services, claiming, based upon financial information provided by the county, that the county was redistributing revenues to fund services in less financially-stable areas of the county, ignoring local opposition to rezoning, and allowing excessive development. Many residents of unincorporated and less-developed south Fulton County strongly opposed incorporation, fearing the loss of tax revenues which fund county services. County residents outside Sandy Springs were not allowed to vote on the matter. Efforts such as requesting the U.S. Justice Department to reject the plan were unsuccessful.

Again, more at the link.

This clarifies matters quite a bit, wouldn't you say? The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) has several members representing districts in and around the cities concerned, whose residents must have felt the loss of tax revenues from the newly-incorporated cities. They undoubtedly want the money back in their pockets!

I note, too, that Silver Springs is regarded as a very well-run city, spending considerably less on its infrastructure and municipal services than most other towns its size. This video report by Reason TV shows how the city has managed to achieve this distinction.

So we have an efficiently-run city, spending its money wisely for the benefit of its residents . . . and a bunch of angry State lawmakers who are no longer able to appropriate that money for the benefit of those who vote for them, handing it out as largesse in exchange for electoral support. Therefore, they're suing to dissolve the cities concerned, so that the ratepayers' funds from those areas will once again flow through their hands (or hands they control) and benefit them politically.

It's a lot clearer now, isn't it? One does hope the courts won't permit this absurdity to proceed . . . but I don't know how the Federal judge handling the case will see things. It'll be interesting to watch what happens. I wouldn't be surprised if this made it all the way to the Supreme Court in due course.



Michael said...

It's crap like this that makes me embarassed to live near Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, isn't it, that at the bottom it is all about money and not about the rights of voters, minority, majority or even migratory? And typical.

perlhaqr said...

94 to 6. And the population is only 65 white, 20 black, and 15 other. So it could well be that every "minority" in the city voted for this, and 6% of the white people voted against it. It's not like it even fell out on racial lines by percentage.

And why the fuck do these assclowns presume that African-Americans and other minorities aren't already electing people of their choice? Is it the assumption that black people couldn't possibly vote Republican? These guys just want people to stay on the Democrat plantation.

And if they've pulled that many white people out of the county and into a city, doesn't that mean that the black populations of those counties has been equally increased? So even their purported rationale doesn't hold up under any sort of scrutiny.

MrGarabaldi said...

it is about revenue, The moochers lost out on a lot of revenue when those cities split away from the mostly moocher filled Fulton County. The northside was an income stream. I work at the airport and live south of the city. The CBC is why they have gerrymandering districts.