Leaving Atlanta: Amid rising urban crime and taxes, a secession movement grows in a moderate suburb

"They basically feel that they've been exploited for decades," Bill White said of Buckhead residents.

Updated: October 26, 2021 - 10:40pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Bill White and his husband Bryan Eure are leading the charge for the secession of Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta, Ga., from the capital city — and hoping to pave the way for other suburbs to follow.

"They basically feel that they've been exploited for decades," White told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "I think this movement has popped up once in a while when the crime gets bad or some terrible policy gets instituted, but it's very hard to think of a piece of the community breaking away from a big city."

White is the former president of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Manhattan, and has been a major fundraiser for both Democrats and Republicans, most recently for the latter, following former President Trump's election victory in 2016, according to the New York Post.

While White has only lived in Buckhead for three years, he and his husband, whose family lives in the suburb, have gone there for the past 20 years.

Between the Black Lives Matter riots last year, defunding the police, 300 officers quitting in the past 12 months, a rise in taxes despite less public services, and possible additional low-income housing that would "decimate ... the real estate values," the suburb has "filed for divorce," he said.

We "have two bills in the Georgia Assembly and Senate," White said. "We believe the governor will sign those bills when they pass this upcoming session. That will put us on the referendum in November of 2022. So next year, this time, we will be on the ballot."

The new name for the suburb would be Buckhead City.

The "58,000 legally registered voters within the Buckhead City map that the Georgia legislature has accepted will be the only voters," White noted, clarifying that not all Atlanta voters will be able to vote on it, only those living in Buckhead.

White said that three polls have been conducted thus far to learn how Buckhead voters feel about the secession, and the most recent one found that 72% said they would vote for it.

The referendum would need a simple majority of Buckhead voters to pass, "and on that day, Buckhead City is a city," White said.

"The governor would then put a commission together," which White said he and his group, the Buckhead City Committee, would be a part of, as they are working closely and regularly with Gov. Brian Kemp's office.

"And then February of 2023, we would elect a mayor and six city council men or women, and on that day ... a mayor could start signing contracts, hiring police, and spending taxpayer dollars the way we're all waiting for them to be properly and efficiently spent."

In the process of preparing for this new city, they are writing charters, instituting term limits, planning for a balanced budget, "trying to keep a lean, low-profile, high-efficient type of government so that we can make everybody proud," he added.

"[W]e're gonna have the highest-paid police officers in the state of Georgia," White said. "We're hiring 250 police officers, we're going to love on them ... I said we'll do a parade every quarter to try to make up for the mistrust that they have in the cities that they swear their lives to protect."

"We'll have the best parks, the best cops, the best relationship with them," White continued. "And we won't live in fear anymore. I think that's a huge thing people are looking forward to here."

White said that no one from Atlanta — neither the mayor, who is in the midst of an election, nor the city council president — has "reached out to us to talk us off the ledge."

That that tells him "they really don't care about Buckhead, but they do care about the money," he said. "That's the only thing they care about."

White also said that they've heard from other cities and areas in the U.S. — as well as people in other countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and Bangladesh — who have been encouraged by the grassroots movement in Buckhead.

"We're on to something, but we've got to get it done here," said White. "We have to focus our energies here, and it can be an example."