Public Safety, Buckhead Cityhood Failure Take Center Stage At Latest BCN Meeting

Georgia State Senator Jason Esteves

State Sen. Jason Esteves (Pictured) addresses failure of Buckhead cityhood bills, outlines other legislation addressing public safety at March 9 meeting.

Public safety was at the forefront of discussions at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhood’s (BCN) latest meeting March 9, spurred further by the recent failure of two Buckhead cityhood bills during the ongoing state legislative session. State Sen. Jason Esteves (District 6), who represents a significant portion of Buckhead, addressed those gathered in person and virtually. He discussed several pieces of legislation concerning public safety, while noting why the two proposed Buckhead City bills failed in the Senate earlier this month. Meanwhile, an update on the Buckhead Safety Alliance’s upcoming patrol of Buckhead’s commercial districts was outlined amid the backdrop of a proposed state budget item that would fund a Georgia State Patrol post in the area.

Why the Buckhead City Bills Failed

Addressing the cityhood elephant in the room shortly into his remarks, Esteves said the cityhood bills failed “primarily” due to questions surrounding the actual execution of the two proposals.

“There were constitutional questions that were raised from both inside the chamber, from lawyers inside the Legislature and also lawyers outside from the governor’s office, and from those representing different parties,” Esteves said. “Because of the fact that there were many questions around the constitutional issues, and there was a big question about whether it would actually address the concerns residents have around public safety and around city services, that failed.”

Two bills proposing the de-annexation of Buckhead and the creation of the “The City of Buckhead City” by referendum were submitted this Legislative session. For the first time, both bills passed through committee with a 4-3 vote along party lines with Republicans in support. The bills’ momentum quickly fizzled out at the State Capitol after being introduced in the state Senate due to constitutionality concerns, including from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office. On March 2, the Senate voted 33-23 with all Democrats in opposition and 10 Republicans joining their ranks to vote against one of the cityhood bills. In response, the other proposal was tabled, effectively killing the Buckhead cityhood effort for the 2023 Legislative Session — and perhaps longer. The Buckhead City Committee released a statement the group believes “there is no path forward for a cityhood referendum” with Gov. Brian Kemp in office. His second term ends in January, 2027.

Additional Public Safety Measures Are In The Works

Addressing crime has been the most prominent rallying cry for those supporting the Buckhead cityhood movement, and Esteves said government officials will continue addressing those concerns following the failure of the cityhood bills.

“Moving forward…there is a commitment from all the legislators who represent Buckhead to really work together with city officials, with the county…with our school board and, of course, with our residents of Buckhead to really see what we can do to continue to tackle public safety and city services,” he said.

One effort to do so has been introduced in the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget introduced earlier this week in the State House. The budget line item calls for $1.25 million to be invested for the Georgia State Patrol to open a satellite post in Buckhead. The budget item states the satellite post will “allow quicker response to incidents inside and along the northern Atlanta perimeter and afford an additional base of operation for the Nighthawks DUI Task Force.”

Though the patrol post hasn’t been finalized within the 2024 state budget, Georgia Speaker of The House Jon Burns, Gov. Brian Kemp, and Lt. Gov. Burt Jones shared their support for the proposal this week.

Meanwhile, the Buckhead Safety Alliance’s subsidized patrol for the commercial districts of Buckhead will kick off in the coming weeks. Maj. Anthony Singh, formerly of APD and tasked with the hiring of officers for the patrol, spoke at the March 9 BCN meeting. Singh said the post should be fully staffed as early as March 10 with patrols beginning either March 20 or March 27. The patrol, which will include APD patrol cars, will monitor commercial districts within Buckhead with Singh stating it will have the same policing power as the APD while focusing on commercial areas in Buckhead.  

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