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Buckhead cityhood faces high legislative hurdle

Key Republicans are skeptical about the possibility and could kill the bill.

ATLANTA — The proposed city of Buckhead may face trouble when the legislature meets next week.

The city can’t form unless lawmakers approve – and some Republican leaders say they aren’t sold on it.  

Ultimately, voters in Buckhead would have to approve it if the Buckhead community were to separate from Atlanta and form its own city. 

But not unless the legislature approves the issue for a vote first.

Signs of approval are easy to find in Buckhead, where the cityhood movement has spent ample money to separate the neighborhood from the rest of Atlanta, citing the city's crime surge.

But inside the state Capitol, it’s a slightly different story.

"If it’s a cheap sales pitch that you vote for the city and crime goes away, all of us know that that’s not true," said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, who presides over the Georgia Senate. He said he's convinced Atlanta’s new mayor Andre Dickens will attack the crime problem citywide.

"(He's) very upbeat on how hard he’s going to work on fighting crime," Duncan said, citing a meeting with Dickens this week. "He’s won the right to be the mayor of this city. He’s earned the right to do what he said he’s going to do."

Duncan can’t block Buckhead cityhood alone. However, House Speaker David Ralston could by simply letting the Buckhead cityhood bill die without a House vote.  

Cityhood bills typically pass only with support from hometown lawmakers but no lawmaker living in Buckhead supports the cityhood bill.  

"What we do will set a precedent," Ralston said. "And it will be a precedent we will be called upon to follow, whatever we do, in a year or two or in five years or twenty years down the road -- and I want us to get it right."

Both Ralston and Duncan say they are sympathetic with Buckhead residents frustrated by a spike in crime in Atlanta.

Dickens has a substantial rapport with Republican leaders in the legislature His message is he deserves a chance to tackle Buckhead’s issues before lawmakers try to do it for him.