Oops! Atlanta may be following lead of Homewood and Mountain Brook

Alabama Theatre--downtown Birmingham
Alabama Theatre–downtown Birmingham

Birmingham and Atlanta were about the same size in 1950.

Atlanta’s population is now five times greater than Birmingham’s.

What happened?

In 1952 the upscale community of Buckhead was annexed into the city of Atlanta.

A few years later the citizens of Homewood and Mountain Brook were considering voting to be annexed into the city of Birmingham.

So a resident of Homewood wrote a letter to Atlanta Mayor W. B. Hartsfield to get his advice.

Here’s the response he received from Mayor Hartsfield:

“I understand that the communities of Homewood and Mountain Brook are the ones affected.  As a frequent visitor to Birmingham, I have often wondered why they were not a part of Birmingham.”

“We had a similar situation in Atlanta; to wit, the Buckhead area, where all of our business, social, civic and financial leadership lived.  Their inclusion into the City of Atlanta was one of the finest and healthiest things which has ever happened to our town.  We took in over 100 square miles of contiguous territory.”

“We are proud to say that in Atlanta, the very wealthiest of our citizens and the very largest taxpayers, after considering these facts, voted to come in and become a part of our city, and to this sort of broadminded civic patriotism, we attribute much of Atlanta’s marvelous growth in the last few years.”

The Homewood and Mountain Brook votes failed and Jefferson County was ultimately divided into 35 separate municipalities.

That was then and this is now…

Buckhead is considering breaking away from Atlanta

Today Buckhead residents are upset about the increase in crime and lack of response from the City of Atlanta. Buckhead residents have a right to be upset, but this appears to be a clear case of the solution being worse than the problem. There has been large increases in crime all over Atlanta and across the U.S–including Alabama.

According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), “A study funded by those who oppose Buckhead cityhood has found a split from Atlanta would increase tax rates on residents of both cities, siphon revenue away from the capital city’s coffers and create needless competition. Atlanta would lose between $80 million and $116 million in annual revenue…Atlanta Public schools stand to lose $232 million.”

“’Other neighborhoods in cities throughout Georgia may suddenly decide to break up key parts of their city. No doubt, it will risk the reputation of Georgia as the best state in the country for business,’ wrote Ed Lindsey, co-chair of the Committee for a United Atlanta against Buckhead cityhood and former state representative whose district included much of Buckhead.”

According to CNN, “Buckhead City would take nearly 20% of Atlanta’s population and remove more than 40% of the assessed value of its property.”

“Atlanta is now roughly 51% Black and 38% White, according to the US Census Bureau. Without Buckhead, Atlanta would become roughly 59% Black and 31% White, according to the AJC analysis. Buckhead City, if it became a reality, would be roughly 74% White and 11% Black, the analysis found.”

The City of Birmingham has suffered decades of population loss–leaving a city with high poverty and crime. Birmingham lost 11,500 residents during the past ten years alone.

Atlanta is on the verge of making the same mistake as Birmingham. If you drain revenue and brain power from the city– Atlanta will likely suffer greater poverty and crime.

No matter what happens, Buckhead will still be located adjacent to the City of Atlanta—and if other municipalities follow its lead—the future of Atlanta will suffer.

Birmingham region headed in right direction

Some Birminghamians may be glad we didn’t turn into a big metro, but we’ve paid the price  by losing many of our children and grandchildren to Atlanta and more progressive cities.

I don’t know if we’ll see Jefferson County cities merge during my lifetime, but fortunately we are beginning to come to our senses.

Jefferson County mayors have formally agreed to work together. And city councilors from many of our municipalities are making similar efforts. Our Jefferson County Commissioners are backing them.

Refreshingly, Birmingham and its suburbs now seem to understand that if we work together we will all benefit.

Atlanta may have forgotten what made it successful.

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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group for free about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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7 thoughts on “Oops! Atlanta may be following lead of Homewood and Mountain Brook”

  1. Hahaha – shamelessly ripped from the Internet – author unknown – RE: Birmingham vs Charlotte vs Atlanta vs Austin vs Chattanooga, etc., etc.

    “How to Ride a Dead Horse”

    1. Buying a stronger whip.

    2. Changing riders.

    3. Declaring, “God told us to ride this horse.”

    4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

    5. Threatening the horse with termination.

    6. Proclaiming, “This is the way we’ve always ridden this horse.”

    7. Develop a training session to improve our riding ability.

    8. Reminding ourselves that other cities ride this same kind of horse.

    9. Determining that riders who don’t stay on dead horses are lazy, lack drive, and have no ambition – then replacing them.

    10. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.

    11. Reclassifying the horse as “living-impaired.”

    12. Hiring an outside consultant to advise on how to better ride the horse.

    13. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase the speed.

    14. Confessing boldly, “This horse is not dead, but alive!”

    15. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.

    16. Riding the dead horse “outside the box.”

    17. Get the horse a Web site.

    18. Killing all the other horses so the dead one doesn’t stand out.

    19. Taking a positive outlook – pronouncing that the dead horse doesn’t have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the cities’ budget than do some other horses.

    20. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

    21. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

    22. Name the dead horse, “paradigm shift” and keep riding it.

    23. Riding the dead horse “smarter, not harder.”

    24. Stating that other horses reflect compromise, and are not from God.

    25. Remembering all the good times you had while riding that horse.

  2. In metro Atlanta, these efforts are not only seen at the city level but also at the county level. Milton County was a county in Georgia which was near Atlanta. Milton County went bankrupt during the Great Depression and was forced to merge with Fulton County. Campaigns have been made in recent years to re-create Milton County out of the northern part of Fulton County where Milton originally was. Fortunate this movement has faded for now. Admittedly Fulton County is oddly shaped, but the solution is to merge other Atlanta area counties into one and let that county government handle metro-wide concerns.

  3. What?? This will not affect Atlanta or its growth one bit. I know we like to blame Mountain Brook and Homewood for our lack of growth and success but that’s just pointing fingers. Most big cities have an upscale suburb that may or may not be part of it’s city limits. Do you think LA is suffering because Beverly Hills is its own city? DFW has done just fine with Fort Worth, Plano, Frisco, Arlington all be totally separate municipalities.

    Thinks Birminghamians blame for falling behind:
    1. Conservative politicians (that’s stupid, look at TX)
    2. Montgomery. Not sure why we think they hate Bham and love HSV and MOB so much.
    3. OTM not wanting to lower its standards to become part of BHM

    Perhaps it could have something to do with the fact that local Bham leadership has plain sucked for a long time and with the age of the internet our kids are able to see the fruits of living elsewhere easier than ever before.

    1. I agree with you 100% and as I have pointed out before, you can build all the castles and stadiums and uptown dining you want, but until they make the schools and roads something to be proud of, you have nothing. Stop making our schools weaker,make them stronger and something to be proud of. Check out some of the sorry facilities our children are force to attend, make the kids smarter not dumber. Being a great traveler every year, Birmingham roads rank among the worse in the country. If you want to have a fine city, start at the bottom, not the top.

  4. It is heartening to see the growing efforts around regionalism in Birmingham. One area where there is great opportunity is in our parks and greenways. Jefferson County is one of the few large urban counties in the country that does not have a countywide park system. There is some movement among some of the major “open space” nonprofits – Red Mountain, Ruffner Mountain, Turkey Creek, Freshwater Land Trust – to do more in this realm. The recent report by the Hoover Institution, for the Alabama Innovation Commission, speaks about the need to expand our parks and greenways and trails and blueways if we are truly going to reach our potential in the state for economic development, business attraction and talent retention. The recently approved infrastructure bill also provides resources to improve our greenspace infrastructure. Let’s hope the new year continues our momentum here, for a better quality of life and greater opportunity.

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