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Bill White, the CEO of Buckhead City Committee (BCC), is pushing for the suburb to ‘divorce’ itself from Atlanta due to rising crimes rates
Atlanta’s wealthiest suburb is edging closer to separating itself from the city as it introduces a bill to Georgia’s legislature that goes up for a vote next year.
With rising crime rates in Atlanta, Bill White, the CEO of Buckhead City Committee (BCC), is pushing for the suburb where the average house price costs $1.4 million, to ‘divorce’ itself from Atlanta.
‘We are living in a war zone in Buckhead,’ White told Bloomberg Businessweek. ‘Shootings and killings, it just never ends.’
White, who officially filed to secede from the city in June, previously slammed Atlanta city leadership, including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, accusing her of ignoring soaring crime in Buckhead and presiding over a demoralized and underfunded police department.
It followed a shocking shooting in Buckhead on June 5, when father-of-three Andrew Worrell was struck twice by bullets while jogging at around 8.35am. He survived and after a stay in hospital was discharged and recovered at home.
On August 7, Kenon Jennings died after he was murdered near a popular hookah bar Hide Kitchen & Cocktails in one of the neighborhood’s booming strips of Buckhead.
Jennings became one of the 121 people murdered in Atlanta as of this year, up from 98 last year. He also became the ninth murder, as of that week, in Zone 2, which encompasses Buckhead, up from the six murders the previous year.
On August 7, Kenon Jennings died after he was murdered near a popular hookah bar Hide Kitchen & Cocktails in one of the neighborhood’s booming strips of Buckhead. Jennings became one of the 121 people murdered in Atlanta as of this year, up from 98 last year. He also became the ninth murder, as of that week, in Zone 2, which encompasses Buckhead, up from the six murders the previous year. Pictured: The scene of the shooting
Father-of-three Andrew Worrell was struck twice by bullets while jogging the morning of June 5. He survived and has since been released from hospital to recover at home
Crime in Atlanta has risen this year. More than 100 murders have occurred since the start of the year, up from the 98 from the same period last year. A total of 577 shooting incidents have happened this year and 656 people have become shooting victims this year
For White, it was just another push for the high-end suburb – which encompasses 24 square miles – to push for separate so the citizens could take public safety into their own hands.
‘We filed our divorce papers at the city of Atlanta and our divorce is final,’ said Bill White in an interview with Fox News in June.
A bill has been introduced to de-annex the suburb from the city and it goes up to vote in next year. It’s not clear exactly when the bill will be voted on.
If it passes, White expects the new city of Buckhead to be up and running by June 2023, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
If the citizens of Buckhead managed to do it, they’ll be the first Georgia city to break from an existing one.
The break could harm the city of Atlanta financially, as Buckhead would take around 90,000 citizens with it, which is approximately one-fifth of the population, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Buckhead is one of the most expensive zip codes, with mansions lining the streets and glossy shopping centers sparkling downtown
The suburb encompasses 24 square miles and the White says the Atlanta Police Department isn’t cutting it. After the recent murder of Kenon Jennings on August 7, the citizens of Buckhead are pushing harder to separate their suburb
Atlanta would lose 38 per cent of its current tax revenue, according to the Buckhead Community Improvement District.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Buckhead Coalition, and the Buckhead Business Association have said they oppose de-annexation.
On top of that, Buckhead’s departure would unsettle Atlanta’s black political class. African American residents of Atlanta have been working for 50 years to accrue black leadership in the city, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
If the suburb succeeds, it will be the first Georgia city to break from an existing one. It is estimated that 54 to 62 per cent of Buckhead citizens are pro-annex
The suburb, which has seen rising crime rates since last year, has entered a bill into the Georgia Legislature to separate from the city and they plan to develop their own police department. It is planned to go up for voting next year
More than 50 per cent of the city is black, according to 2019 census data, while the majority of Buckhead’s wealthy community is white.
A political scientist at Emory University Michael Leo Owens thinks the split will create a ‘racial cleavage.
BUCKHEAD, GEORGIA: ONE OF THE NATION’S WEALTHIEST ZIP CODES
Buckhead is known as Atlanta’s commercial and residential district, famed for its high-rise buildings and shopping centers, hotels and mansions.
The neighborhood is a historically wealthy district and was once ranked the ninth richest zip code in the country with a median price of homes of $1,460,595, according to Forbes.
American suburban luxury home in Buckhead, Atlanta
Bloomberg named Buckhead the 20th richest zip code in the nation in 2011, when the average household net worth there was $1,353,189.
The average household income was $280,631.
Because of this, Buckhead is often called the ‘Beverly Hills of the East/South’, in reference to the upscale city in California.
Buckhead is also known to have a few notable residents, including Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler.
Loeffler was among the wealthiest members of Congress until she lost her seat in January. In 2009, she and her husband spent more than $10million on a European-style mansion named Descante in the Buckhead neighborhood.
‘I think that much of what’s going on is about the inability of [White Buckhead residents] to have greater influence over the policy choices of the city of Atlanta,’ he told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Buckhead is one of the wealthiest zip codes in the nation and the ‘epicenter of Republicanism in Atlanta.’
‘All those things map on to each other to create, at a minimum, a racial cleavage, with regards to politics and elections in the city of Atlanta,’ Owen told Bloomberg Businessweek.
White disagrees – despite being the only suburb of Atlanta to vote for Donald Trump. White, himself, helped fund Hilary Clinton’s campaign until she lost in 2016, then he switched his political leanings over to Trump.
He argues the suburb leaving not about politics or race, but about creating a safe neighborhood.
‘We are people who just want to take our community back,’ White told Bloomberg Businessweek.
‘I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not an independent. I’m not Black. I’m not White. I’m not gay or straight. I’m none of those things,’ he told the publication. White only moved to the city roughly three years ago, returning to his husband’s hometown.
‘We want all of us to start thinking that way because that’s the way we win.’
Unlike previous attempts to annex themselves, this time the group has gotten momentum underneath them. The BCC has raised almost $1million, with several $100,000 contributions coming in.
Between 54 to 62 per cent of Buckhead’s citizens agree the suburb should separate from the city, according to the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs and the BCC, respectively.
Buckhead bolsters 82.4 per cent white and 14 per cent black citizens, according to Data USA, compared to the city as a whole who has a 51 per cent black community.
But race isn’t the center of the split, crime is. The suburb wants to create its own police department after blaming Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for the failings of the Atlanta force, who lost almost 200 officers last year.
‘We love the Atlanta police department but we’ll form Buckhead City with its own police department, with a significantly greater presence on the streets,’ White told Fox News in June.
The boundaries of their proposed new city are seen above
White has called out Mayor Bottoms for the failings of the police department after almost 200 officers left the force last year. The police department fired back saying they weren’t ‘looking the other way’ and it was a ‘far-fetched notion’ to think so
Since 2021 began, murder has been up 23 per cent in Atlanta, the biggest city in the south. Rape has gone up 68 per cent and aggravated assault has gone up 17 per cent.
A total of 577 shooting incidents have happened this year and 656 people have become shooting victims this year.
‘What’s going on here in Atlanta is pervasive,’ White said in June. ‘The police are saying we can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem, and I have to say, on behalf of Buckhead City, we have not arrested enough in Buckhead.’
The Buckhead City Committee CEO specifically called out Mayor Bottoms and the city’s police department in ignoring a large homeless camp known locally as ‘The Hill.’
Lance Bottoms previously admitted she didn’t know how to tackle her city’s burgeoning crime problem.
The encampment was discovered after an area reporter tracked a stolen Citi Bike to the location.
‘It’s a very dangerous place,’ White said. ‘There’s security, they have weapons… there’s a lot of crime being committed by those men and women who are in those encampments.’
The Atlanta Police Department released a statement in August, disagreeing with White’s view of the force.
‘To insinuate that we’re looking the other way when it comes to crime is a far-fetched notion,’ the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement from August 4. The police force has also sworn in 150 members that are assigned to ‘multiple specialized units’ and are ‘utilized on a regular basis in Buckhead.’
‘Regardless of where their enforcement activity occurs, it has an impact on crime throughout the entire city, Buckhead included,’ the statement read.