A rally for Buckhead City is taking place at their headquarters located on 3002 Peachtree Road NW in Atlanta, Georgia on October 31, 2021. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

The legislation that would create Buckhead City did not pass in the Georgia State Senate. A faction of the Republican Party sided with the Democrats, with the measure failing by a 33-23 margin. The author of the bill, State Senator Randy Roberson, R-Cataula, says a vote against Buckhead City will not stop him and the supporters from pushing for the people to have their voices heard.

“So understand this, no matter how you vote on this today: once it’s all over, not only to the individuals that want to start Buckhead City or vote on Buckhead City, not only will they look at the light next year and decide whether you support them or not,” said Robertson. “What happens when the next group of citizens want something different?”

Georgia State Senator Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, speaks from the well on Thursday, March 2, 2023 inside the Georgia Senate Chamber. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Robertson, along with Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, additionally supported the measure due to the belief the City of Atlanta had not done enough to combat crime during the protests after the death of George Floyd in 2020.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, a staunch opponent of the Buckhead City movement, was thankful for the bipartisan majority that stood up to the larger Georgia Republican caucus as the Buckhead City measure was defeated:

“Atlanta is one city, with one bright future.

“I am thankful to the bipartisan majority of the Georgia Senate who voted to reject SB 114. I am grateful to the large number of Atlantans—from parents to businesses to educational leaders—who stood up and spoke with a united voice for a united city.

“When I came into office, I committed to building strong bonds across Atlanta, including in Buckhead, and with our state’s leaders. We’ve delivered investments in public safety that have driven down crime, filled potholes and are moving Atlanta forward, together. But most importantly, we have listened to residents about their concerns and hopes, and we have responded.

“To my fellow Atlantans: whether you support or oppose de-annexation, I will continue working with you to improve our services, to invest in our communities and ensure a safe city for all. Atlanta is a group project, and we will work every day of the week with you, on your behalf, and hearing your voices.”

The other piece of legislation that would create Buckhead City, Senate Bill 113, has been tabled for further discussion, upon the defeat of Senate Bill 114. 

Senator Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, described the creation of Buckhead City as a disaster.

“There’s been a lot of discussion for the first few speakers about self determination and voting rights,” McLaurin said. “This idea that we’ve made a bunch of cities in North Fulton that has happened over and over again, no… and y’all know this. We have never de-annexed a city in this way. We’ve just never done it. We have incorporated new cities from unincorporated territory, and that has avoided all the practical problems from schools to violence. But the history is we’ve never done this.”

One of the reasons the legislation failed was due to the wish that Atlanta Public Schools would still be required to serve Buckhead students if the neighborhood broke away or would be faced with a bill of $300 million a year to continue to serve the 3,000-5,000 students in Buckhead. 

“If students are not able to remain in the Atlanta Independent School System, are Fulton County schools able and equipped to manage the influx of students that would then be added to their rolls,” David Dove, a member of Governor Brian Kemp’s executive counsel, questioned in a statement.

Furthermore, Atlanta Public Schools also opposed the Buckhead City movement. 

“Formation of a Buckhead City would have a disastrous impact on the entire school district,” Atlanta Public Schools said in a written statement.

The defeat of the Buckhead City legislation would seem to spell doom for Buckhead City CEO Bill White. After rising to prominence in 2020 as he led the clarion call for Atlanta’s well-to-do-neighborhood to secede from the city, the wealthy businessman from New York City issued a statement which was contrite and humble in defeat.

“Today, the Georgia State Senate voted against our Buckhead City bills moving forward in the legislative process for this year. We want to thank you for your unwavering support, resources, volunteerism and love, especially these past few weeks contacting the legislators.”

White promised he will never give up until Buckhead gets a chance to vote on its future. 

In the end, the Democrats were able to hold the line and the 33-23 defeat in the Georgia Senate largely reflected the polling data which suggested 60% those questioned are against Buckhead City. 

Georgia State Senator Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta, speaks from the well on Thursday, March 2, 2023 inside the Georgia Senate Chamber. State Sen. Halpern represents Buckhead and spoke out against Buckhead City. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“There are major questions as you’ve already heard about the legality, the constitutionality, and the practicality of breaking apart the city,” said State Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta. “So I’m looking at my colleagues today and I’m asking why these bill sponsors are pushing legislation that creates divisions and puts up walls? Imagine if legislators who do not represent your city or your county were to do the same thing?”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...