Last month, Georgia News Daily reported on the attempt by the Georgia Legislature to facilitate the disembowelment of the City of Stockbridge. For a time, it appeared that all of the relevant bills (SB 262, SB 263, HB 638 and HB 639) would not pass, but ultimately both the House and the Senate approved all four bills- two of which provide for a referendum to de-annex approximately half the land area of Stockbridge, and two of which provide for a referendum on the establishment of the new city of Eagle’s Landing.
The justification mentioned by some of the state senators and representatives for voting in favor of the bills, was that they provided area residents with the option for self-determination; by allowing a referendum, residents could decide whether they wanted to stay in Stockbridge, or become part of the new city of Eagle’s Landing. That may sound like a legitimate consideration, but it ignores the fact that the bill limits voting to only those residents who would become part of the new city. It also ignores the fact that without any say in the matter, residents in a section of Stockbridge will be removed from within the city, will not incorporated into Eagle’s Landing, and will no longer be able to avail themselves of any city resident services, as they become part of unincorporated Henry County.
Considering that many, if not most, of the voters within the proposed corporate limits of Eagle’s Landing participated in efforts to have the referenced legislation crafted, they are essentially playing with a stacked deck. Who wouldn’t vote in favor of legislation they asked to be created?
As sent to the governor for approval, Senate Bill 262 states that it is, “An Act to provide a new charter for the City of Stockbridge…” It then goes on to state that if approved, “On and after January 1, 2019, the following described territory shall no longer be a part of the corporate boundaries of the City of Stockbridge:”
That sounds direct enough, yet the bill also states,
“The ballot shall have written or printed thereon the words:
Shall the Act be approved which annexes certain land into the City of
( ) Yes
That wording is sure to confuse any voter who hasn’t read through SB262. In essence, the vote calls for approval of the areas to be annexed into the city of Stockbridge, as opposed to asking whether specified areas should be de-annexed to create the city of Eagle’s Landing. SB 263, which provides for the incorporation of Eagle’s Landing, does not include any reference to a vote. And to pour more salt into the wound, the election has to be paid for by the city of Stockbridge.
At this point, Governor Deal’s veto is the only thing standing in the way of the disembowelment of Stockbridge. If you don’t live in the city, you may think, “Who cares”? Everyone who lives in an incorporated city should care. If SB262 and SB263 are signed into law, they establish a precedent for the rape and pillaging of every city in Georgia. That may sound overly dramatic, but the reality is that by sanctioning de-annexation as a means of creating a new city, the legislature has established a road map for future efforts to divide existing cities.
Most likely, future city divisions will follow the same pattern as the assault on Stockbridge- any new city will attempt to take mostly prime real estate. The areas of Stockbridge to be de-annexed and incorporated into Eagle’s Landing include the existing primary commercial areas, and higher priced homes.
Governor Deal has an opportunity to right a terrible wrong. If you’d like to encourage him to do so, you can e-mail his office at https://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor