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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kevin Levitas: 'F*** Y**, Briarcliff!'

Kevin Levitas
Former LCA co-chair
Kevin Levitas is STILL upset, and STILL refuses to take responsibility for LCA's failure.

In the comment section of a COBI Facebook article, Kevin Levitas, former co-chair of the Lakeside City Alliance (and former state representative and former Democrat) makes no bones about his feelings regarding the City of Briarcliff Initiative's role in the recent cityhood hearings in the House of Representatives. In his comment, Mr. Levitas belittles COBI's efforts over the past year, and insults every DeKalb citizen who supported COBI's proposal.  We can only shake our head at this shameful fingerpointing and blame game that the LCA has presented to its adoring public.

Mr. Levitas's comment, and a response from COBI board member Keith Hanks, after the break. In this reposting, I have edited the comments into a cleaner outline version, for readibility's sake. These comments can be a challenge to find in the Facebook system.

Kevin Levitas
Former co-chair of the Lakeside City Alliance
Comment posted to COBI Facebook page article advertising April 22 meeting
April 21, 2014

I comment here only because I do not want to see our community divided once again by a needlessly competing cityhood group.  The existence of the Briarcliff group this session played into the hands of anti-city forces and helped prevent our community from getting the opportunity to vote for self-rule. 

If you decide to attend this meeting, the facts to know and the questions to ask the Briarcliff group are these:

1.    No Seat at the Table.
a.    Facts:
i.     The simple truth is that negotiations at the Legislature regarding cityhood did not and would not next year involve the Briarcliff group—period. (If you would like information about what—or more precisely, who—doomed the bill to allow a vote on cityhood this year, please read this article:
ii.    Those of us who were present at the Legislature this session can attest that the Briarcliff group was given a one-hour hearing as a courtesy by a new chairman, and that is it—no vote and no serious consideration. Lakeside and a third cityhood group were part of end-of-session negotiations with House leadership to move forward the plans of these two groups, but Briarcliff was DOA at the Legislature and not any part of those discussions. 
b.   Questions for Briarcliff: 
i.     Did the Briarcliff group have a legislative champion in the Legislature this session? If so, who was it, and what steps did he or she take towards passage of the Briarcliff proposal? 
ii.    Who was/were the sponsor(s) of the Briarcliff bill?

2.    Lack of Community Support.
a.    Facts: 
i.     Druid Hills. The Briarcliff’s group’s main source of funding and “support,” the Druid Hills Neighborhood Association, is now engaged in serious annexation discussions with the city of Atlanta. Druid Hills was involved with Briarcliff because it appeared to be the only cityhood option for that area at the time (Druid Hills was not part of the Lakeside map). 
ii.    The Northlake Area. The focus of the Briarcliff plan is the Emory/CDC area, made evident by the group’s own advocacy documents and statements as well as the lack of any Briarcliff board representation in the entire Northlake area. The inclusion of Northlake was nothing more than a source of revenue for the group’s plan to create its own “Cambridge” (Briarcliff’s term) with non-taxable Emory University as its base.
iii.   Emory.  A major obstacle for the Briarcliff group was and is that Emory wants nothing to do with any city, other than possibly the city of Atlanta. Emory relies heavily on its Atlanta branding for marketing purposes, and Lakeside experienced firsthand how Emory acts to protect its own interests, including leveraging its strong lobbyist ties at the Capitol to remove from cityhood maps any commercial areas and adjacent neighborhoods (including Victoria Estates) that Emory considers within its own sphere.
b.   Questions:
i.     Druid Hills.
1.    How much of the funding for the Briarcliff feasibility study came from the Druid Hills neighborhood, including the Druid Hills Civic Association?
2.    Does the Druid Hills neighborhood support “Briarcliff 2.0?” If so, on what do you base this conclusion?
ii.    Emory
1.    Why do you think that Emory wants to be included in Briarcliff?
2.    What has Emory told you about being included in the proposed Briarcliff boundaries?

3.    No Path Forward.
a.    Facts:
i.     Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, Briarcliff’s purported bill sponsor this session, sits on the House committee with jurisdiction over cityhood bills, but even she abandoned Briarcliff during this year’s session.  Instead of moving to pass Briarcliff’s bill, she instead attempted to move a different group’s cityhood plan located outside the Perimeter—miles from her own district—simply to stop Lakeside. 
ii.    Of course, Rep. Oliver was never really a supporter of the Briarcliff plan. She was instead using her sponsorship to try to defeat all cityhood plans by muddying the waters.  At a neighborhood gathering in February of this year, made the following statement, as reported by a Victoria Estates neighborhood group:
iii.   Mary Margaret Oliver stated that she is prepared to put a substitute Briarcliff charter/map into the Lakeside bill if Senate Bill 270 [the Lakeside bill] comes across into the House, but only talked about doing so to block Lakeside, not to promote Briarcliff
iv.  Although she played only a bit part in the cityhood discussions at the Capitol, her plan was clear.  Other evidence of the lack of true support for the Briarcliff proposal includes Rep. Oliver’s previous votes and speeches against passage of both the Dunwoody and Brookhaven bills as well as the introduction of House Bill 22, her strong anti-city legislation
v.   By contrast, Rep. Mike Jacobs, author of the Brookhaven legislation, has committed to the Lakeside group that he will introduce a bill next year to allow a vote on cityhood.  According to Rep. Jacobs, that bill will include only the Lakeside map with no boundaries changes.
b.    Questions:
i.     Does the Briarcliff group have a commitment from a legislator to sponsor a bill on its behalf next session?
ii.    What specific plans does the Briarcliff group have to be a factor in the upcoming legislative in the coming year?

4.    Putting an End to Obstruction.
a.    Facts:
i.     Briarcliff could continue to serve the very limited role of remaining a hindrance to passage of a cityhood bill at the Capitol. This is precisely what anti-city forces hope will happen. They would welcome Briarcliff’s continuing to work against Lakeside.
ii.    From its beginning, a primary motivation of the Briarcliff groups has been to stop Lakeside’s efforts, rather than to actually create the opportunity for citizens to vote on self-rule. One of its board members admitted as much in the following quotation, while claiming at the same time that he is now pro-city: 

"I came to the conclusion that the best way to oppose Lakeside was to support Briarcliff. At that point I joined the Briarcliff effort and have devoted significant time and energy to that cause.  So, opposing Lakeside by supporting Briarcliff was my primary motivation…"

b.    Question:
The existence of competing cityhood groups played a role in the inability to get a cityhood bill approved by the Legislature.  Would the Briarcliff group be willing to fold into Lakeside or to disband if that improved the chances of a cityhood bill being passed during the next legislative session?

If you do decide to attend the advertised meeting, please use it as an opportunity to ask the Briarcliff group to do the helpful thing: fold into and support the one group inside the Perimeter that has the best chance of success at the Capitol.

Response from Keith Hanks
COBI Board Member
Comment posted to COBI Facebook page
April 20, 2014

Kevin, as a board member I'd like to thank you personally for including Briarcliff as part of the "Kevin Levitas Post Legislative Session Tour of Rage.”  It is a real honor to get this level of attention from you. We thought this was only reserved for the AJC and GOP House leadership.

The good news is you wouldn’t take such extensive time to write this if you didn’t see Briarcliff as a legitimate challenge.  So I guess that settles the faux cityhood movement claims you’ve been spreading.

More good news, we had not been public about this (wanted it to be a surprise), but might as well give a preview now.  Over the last few weeks we’ve have multiple conversations with Lakeside and Tucker and we’ve extended invitations to both groups tomorrow evening to have the floor.  Each group has the ability to discuss their thoughts on cityhood for 5 minutes each.  Seemed like the right thing to do and something people have been asking for.  We saw this as an opportunity to start ending the community being so divided.  Even though it doesn’t appear you’ll be taking a leadership role in Lakeside moving forward, as a Co-Chair of the original Lakeside group that invitation extends to you.

When it comes to either ‘folding or disbanding’ I’m assuming you’re referring to the “Lakeside way or the highway” approach?  I’m going to take the high road and follow up with you individually. Because you initiated it with your Tour of Rage, I’ll end with this . . . if you want to see a city in the near future here, it’s time to back off the rage, genuinely learn how to work with others, and eat some humble pie.


  1. I wish Briarcliff had been a serious, well-thought-out cityhood effort, with legislative backing. Unfortunately,it was not. And beyond that, it appears it was formed simply to stop Lakeside. What is the true goal of Briarcliff 2 0? I know I don't trust it anymore. And that makes me very sad. I'm afraid we all blew the chance to form a city because we were more into playing checkers than chess.

  2. Kevin Levitas should have learned by now, via his chequered political career, that sometimes it is best to keep his mouth shut.