A Snake in the Meadows

on March 31 | in z300 | by | with Comments Off on A Snake in the Meadows

To the sheer delight of DeKalb County government and local Democrats in the state Legislature, the proposal to create the new city of Lakeside in DeKalb County is dead. And the GOP is left holding the knife.

One might rightly ask about the roles in this outcome of acting DeKalb CEO Lee May and the DeKalb commissioners — particularly Republican Elaine Boyer — all of whom fought hard over the last several months to kill city-hood initiatives in DeKalb.

Then there are the powerful and high-priced lobbyists from the law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge, hired at DeKalb taxpayer expense, to lobby against DeKalb citizens. Credit is due also to paid lobbyists from another politically influential law firm, Hall Booth & Smith, retained (by whom is unclear) to represent a Tucker cityhood group. The Hall Booth contingent, along with their clients, succeeded in muddying the legislative waters by providing bogus information to legislators to prevent approval of the Lakeside proposal.

There is also a cameo by longtime anti-city legislator state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver and her partners in the House who, in past sessions, voted against the cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven and who, this year, took aim at the proposed city of Lakeside.

Finally, one should not entirely discount the role and fine dramatic performance on the Senate floor (including a walk on the vote) from the DeKalb legislator running for Governor (state Sen. Jason Carter); the horrendous mismanagement of the House Governmental Affairs Committee; and the utter failure of most of House leadership. False racial politics even played a part.

Yes, all of these actors had a role in the slow death march of the opportunity for DeKalb citizens to vote on self-rule, and those of you who hoped for that chance should long remember the parts, even small ones, that each and every one them played in this legislative calamity.

Make no mistake, however.  The judge, jury and executioner in this case was ultimately—and quite ironically—the former 13-year mayor of Calhoun, Rep. John Meadows, now the intimidating and powerful chairman of the House Rules Committee.  From that lofty position, Mayor Meadows is free to impose his will on other legislators who must seek his blessing to get their bills to reach the state House floor.  Few have the temerity to cross him, but if there is a silver lining to this otherwise terrible story, it is that at least a few valiant members of the General Assembly refused to run scared.

The tale of how one person—a former mayor from a small county in the northwest corner of Georgia—could kill the opportunity for cityhood for tens of thousands of DeKalb residents is instructive about what is so very wrong with the political process in our country.  The sad and bizarre story of Mayor Meadows’s usurpation of local control is strong anecdotal evidence of why tea parties began and why Republicans observers find it increasingly difficult to tell a difference between politicians with R’s and D’s after their names at the state Capitol.

I didn’t really know much about the city of Calhoun until Mayor Meadows made that geography relevant to me and to my DeKalb neighbors a week or so ago—when he destroyed our chance, a chance for Democrats, Independents and Republicans, to vote on self-determination for our community.

I now wonder, however, how folks from Calhoun would feel if people from DeKalb started redrawing Calhoun’s city lines—or simply decommissioned the city entirely.  They might rightly demand: “What in the [heck] business is that of yours?!”  We in DeKalb would, of course, be wrong to interfere in Calhoun’s local business, just as it was wrong of Mayor Meadows to team up with veteran lobbyists, Democrats and a few gullible Republicans to decide the fate of DeKalb citizens by killing its city-hood bill.

What a dangerous legislative precedent Mayor Meadows set when he decided to intervene in the business of other officials’ local areas.  It’s a new day under the Gold Dome, and Mayor Meadows and his comrades-in-arms among the high-paid lobbyists and in the Democrat Party are simply ecstatic.  He has done an incomparable job of increasing the stock of both latter groups—and just in time for the fall elections.

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