I was asked a moment ago why I think it makes sense for Tucker’s voters to choose to become an actual city on Tuesday. After all, incorporation comes with costs.
Well, yes. Good government costs something.
We live in Georgia, where government is a curse word. So we cheap out. We contribute less tax revenue per capita than almost anyone. Starve the beast, and all. And then we wonder why DeKalb County management often can’t find its own ass with two hands and a sherpa guide.
There’s something to be said for having someone close to yell at when things are screwed up. There’s something more to be said when you’ve got someone close who is paid to yell at the right person, because you don’t have time to find out who that person is.
For residents of Tucker, the benefit is planning and zoning control, for one, along with the power of local legislation. It is worth noting that Tucker has been a dumping ground — literally — for corruption problems in DeKalb County related to this kind of control.
The DoJ indicted a state DoT manager a couple of months ago for taking bribes to allow dirty fill to be dumped in restricted areas … of Tucker.
Jerry Clark, who will be serving a sentence in federal prison for bribery, took money to let a shady nightclub operate without proper permits … in Tucker. That’s Lu Lu Billares — now La Vaca — on Chamblee-Tucker Road.
Local government gives someone — someone — direct responsibility to the local community to watch out for this kind of thing. We need eyes on these problems. Good government comes with a cost. Incorporation pays for eyes.
Here’s another reason: Identity matters. Tucker is fundamentally more than just a neighborhood. Most people already think they’re a city. Actually becoming a city reinforces local identity.
Identity matters because it breeds civic participation … which is the solution to 80 percent of the problems in this county, and in metro Atlanta. Civic participation rates in the metro region are among the lowest in the country, whether measuring voter turnout or community meeting attendance, school board meetings, PTA stuff, Rotary Club, or others. About the only area this part of the world rates in is bitching online.
That’s not a joke. Georgia ranks sixth in participation in online discussion of politics. Thank you Eric Erickson.
If the word “Tucker” means something to people, they’ll fight to defend it. And it’s the fight that counts right now.
One more: Tucker is about the last bastion of middle-class America left in metro Atlanta. A city of Tucker can maintain that. And that’s something that needs maintaining.
In this, Tucker is fundamentally different from LaVista Hills, which still feels like a 50-year-old marketing VP buying an overpriced BMW — incorporation as aspiration.
But metro Atlanta has the widest split between wealth and poverty in America. Communities are either very rich, or very poor. Buckhead, or Bankhead. North Peachtree or South Fulton. A gated community or a larval favela.
There are few places around here in the middle. There are damned few that also have a healthy ethnic mix, one reflecting America’s future. That social and economic combination of melting pot middle class values can actually breed the kind of leadership that makes sensible politics possible in Georgia.
We need that. We, as in this county and this state, need that. We are rapidly forgetting what that looks like. We will soon forget how to make policies relevant to that.
So. Vote yes. Vote yes on the ethics referendum and yes on Tucker. After acting like a city for about 100 years already, they’ve earned it.