The Georgia state Senate has blocked an effort spearheaded by residents of the wealthy Atlanta enclave of Buckhead to form their own city, forcing supporters to call off their secession bid “for now.”
The Buckhead cityhood bill failed 33-23 in the Georgia Senate Thursday, making 2023 the second year in a row that the movement’s goal of putting the issue of separation from Atlanta on the November ballot has been defeated in the state legislature.
“In a nutshell, Governor [Brian] Kemp and his team coordinated behind closed doors to kill the Buckhead City bills before they even had the chance for an honest vote in the Senate,” the Buckhead City Committee said in a statement late Sunday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Unfortunately,” the statement added, “now that Governor Kemp has displayed that he does not support our right to vote, there is no path forward for a cityhood referendum while he remains governor until the end of his term in 2026.”
Supporters of the cityhood bill argue that mainly white Buckhead would be better able to fight crime and provide services by separating from the rest of Atlanta.
Buckhead’s cityhood push has been opposed by every Atlanta elected official, as well as a number of other local leaders who argue that it would weaken the Peach State’s capital.
Opponents of the split worried about the possibility of a widespread default of municipal bonds and lower bond ratings for both Atlanta and Buckhead if the divorce were to happen.
Other critics argued that Atlanta would be forced to sell public facilities, such as schools and other infrastructure, to the new city at below-market value.
“If we jerk the heart out of the city of Atlanta, which is Buckhead, I know our capital city will die,” said GOP state Sen. Frank Ginn, who opposed the split.
Ten Republican senators joined Democrats in voting against the measure Thursday.
The uptown residential and commercial district is one of Atlanta’s most affluent suburbs.
Median household income in the area is $109,774 compared to $68,806 in the rest of Atlanta.
The neighborhood is known for high-end shopping and several famous residents, including music legend Elton John and singer Mariah Carey — who put her $6.5 million Buckhead home on the market last year after a break-in.
“Buckhead is a target,” Buckhead City supporter Kelly Rodts complained to the City Committee last month, WRDW reported. “We’re a target for criminals in the city, and Atlanta has not been able to protect us.”
“These people are being ignored,” GOP state Sen. Randy Robertson, who sponsored the separation bill, told WSB before the vote. “And I think the response that we’ve seen has been ‘just enough’ and then they hope it will go away.”