Sam Rosen, writer and researcher for Brown University's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, says that movement leaders also cited county government corruption and inefficiency in an effort to cover their racial motives.
Sandy Springs, located just north of the city of Atlanta in Fulton County, began the city incorporation movement in 2005. Since then, a number of new cities have formed in Fulton and adjacent DeKalb County, mostly in majority white northern suburban communities.
Rosen in the current Atlantic magazine examines what the municipal incorporation efforts have meant for the metro area.
In a skillful combination of reporting and analysis, Rosen looks at the racial and economic dynamics that have driven the movement.
With county tax bases shrinking and ability to provide services in unincorporated areas declining, black residents recently have followed the white residents' moves, forming the new cities of Stonecrest in South DeKalb and South Fulton, south of the city of Atlanta. The Stonecrest effort is a centerpiece of Rosen's article
While Rosen doesn't mention the Sixth Congressional District race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, several of the majority-white cities formed in DeKalb and Fulton lie in the district, including the bellwether Sandy Springs.
With Democratic support growing in the district, Ossoff nearly captured the congressional seat in the special election's first primary. The GOP has united behind Handel, who is favored to win the June runoff.
The Atlantic article contains a few mistakes, but overall the piece gives an accurate picture of the metro area with its north-south racial divides, suburban hostility toward black-dominated urban politics, and the corruption that has particularly plagued DeKalb over the last 20 years.
Of particular interest is Rosen's interview with Oliver Porter, the man who built Sandy Springs' lean municipal government, which provides most of its services outside of police and fire by contracting with private companies. As Rosen points out, the city of Sandy Springs has more Fortune 500 companies than the city of Atlanta. (The photo shows the King and Queen towers in Sandy Springs.)
I was struck by Porter's insistence that Sandy Springs' decades long effort to become a separate city was carried out because the Fulton County government allowed too many apartments to be built, bringing transient residents and higher crime. These days, Sandy Springs encourages apartment construction, with a number of high-rise residential structures rising along the city's main thoroughfare, Roswell Road. After the 2008 recession, condos fell out of favor, and high-quality apartments are now considered the key to attracting young millennial workers.
Princeton historian Kevin Kruse, author of the groundbreaking book, "White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of American Conservatism," is among several academic experts cited by Rosen.
One area Rosen doesn't cover is schools: North Fulton's majority white public high schools are among the best in the state, while those in the predominantly black south lag. With strong schools, North Fulton residents don't seem to mind county control of education.
The DeKalb revolt against county government reflects a long deterioration. In the days when noted bar owner Manuel Maloff ran DeKalb in the 1960s through early 1980s, its government was a model of efficient service to citizens. That era of satisfied voters is difficult to imagine now.