A Strong Vista Grove Means a Strong Region and County
Partnership is a vital aspect of how cities can operate effectively in DeKalb County today. For some needs, it makes more sense for a small and very responsive city government to handle them; for others, where a uniform type of non-localized service is provided over a large area, it makes more sense for the county to handle those needs.
This goes back to the history of the region. DeKalb, of course, covers a very large land area. When it was set up, the area was largely rural and the population much, much smaller. In recent years, the population has swelled, and the county today is comprised of many different neighborhoods, which are part of multiple larger communities. Tucker, before its incorporation, is one example. Vista Grove, united by Lakeside school communities and shared history, is another. And across the county, different communities are in different states of economic development. They also have different needs.
What Tucker, Brookhaven, and Chamblee have shown us is that counties and cities can partner, providing different but collaborative functions to make sure those different community needs get the most direct and efficient attention. To determine which functions make the most sense, one excellent question is, “How dependent is this service on direct input from a particular set of citizens in a particular geographic area?”
Where a particular service is really localized — for example, zoning; parks, trails and greenspace; sidewalk placement; and code enforcement — we see cities successfully handling them. Take zoning: In deciding what is the right mix of beauty and function and economic vitality for a specific area — and how the zoning and planning code and process works — the citizens with a direct stake and the most knowledge are the ones who live there. They use the shopping centers, live in the neighborhoods, and patronize the businesses. They see each day whether an area is thriving or not, and when an issue — whether it is a public nuisance, a dangerous building, or an area that desperately needs a sidewalk — requires attention.
When something goes wrong, the more direct access the citizens have to enforcement, the better. The local community suffers when there is not enough foot traffic and visitors to keep an area vital. Then it cannot support higher yield uses like bookstores, cafes, and groceries and space is abandoned or underutilized.
On the other hand, the kind of water and sewer services necessary in Brookhaven are not fundamentally different from those in Stonecrest. And with services like sanitation, tax collection, or administering elections — there is little or no element of local input or planning. All can be handled by an administrative area like a county on a wider scale. And having a smaller city government, closer to the community it serves, has worked repeatedly.
We have only to talk to our friends in those cities to hear their stories, or to look at the infrastructure enhancements we see every day within their borders. As we have seen in Tucker, Brookhaven, and Chamblee, a city is not an “extra layer” of government. In fact, it moves important services closer to the local community.
When the city is handling an area like zoning and planning for the Vista Grove area, or overseeing park expansion and improvement, the county does not have to perform that service. Rather than being an “extra layer of government,” it saves the county time and resources — and permits the county to use its time and resources to focus on the geographic areas and administrative services it does provide.
We agree with DeKalb’s CEO that the county and cities are partners. They have to have a strong, positive, and collaborative relationship to best serve all residents. And that is equally true for a City of Vista Grove. In looking to connect our community and get our physical infrastructure ready for the future, we will need to partner not only with the county, but with other cities, and regional stakeholders, like the Atlanta Regional Commission, to help Vista Grove and the entire metro area thrive. And that is good for the entire county, and for the region.
As you may have heard, we’re having a fundraiser dinner Thursday, March 22 and would love for you to join us if you can. It will be a fun, delicious night of Middle Eastern food and camaraderie with your neighbors! Tickets ($50 each) are available for purchase here.
What else can you do to help?
- Donate to help us fund our feasibility study.
- Encourage your neighbors to sign our petition to let legislators know we want the option to consider cityhood.
- Attend Vista Grove meetings.
- Help represent Vista Grove by attending other key community meetings (please wear your Vista Grove shirt!).
- Volunteer with Vista Grove Initiative.
Let’s get involved in making our community an area that we can continue to be proud of!
Lara, Andrew, Meg, John, and Megan