News & Politics

What's Driving 'Buckxit,' the Secession Movement in Atlanta's Wealthiest District?

(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ben Gray)

There’s a growing movement in Buckhead, Atlanta’s wealthiest area, to remove the district and spin it off into its own city. You could call it a grassroots movement coming from the most manicured lawns you could imagine. They’re calling this nascent crusade to carve out Buckhead City (because there’s already a town called Buckhead in eastern Georgia) “Buckxit,” and it’s generating some controversy.

The Buckhead City Committee has laid out its reasons for wanting to leave Atlanta. Residents of Buckhead have felt the sting of the “pattern of neglect and disrespect towards our community” at the hands of the City of Atlanta.

Their website states:

We want a Buckhead where its citizens:

  • Are protected by a police force that is respected, properly staffed, appropriately trained, and fully funded

  • Have emergency response times that are as fast as possible

  • Receive city services commensurate with taxes paid

  • Benefit from a well-maintained infrastructure 

  • Communicate more directly with municipal leadership 

  • Control issues affecting zoning, parks and recreation

  • Engage actively in neighborhood improvement endeavors

The site goes on to cite crime, zoning issues, taxes, and infrastructure as the drivers behind “Buckxit.” The site also presents evidence that Atlanta would be financially solvent without Buckhead as part of the city, along with a feasibility study that demonstrates how Buckhead can stand on its own two feet.

Crime is one of the biggest issues plaguing Atlanta. It was the front-and-center issue of the mayoral race this fall, largely because Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta’s current mayor, hasn’t done anything to fix the problem. She may have made it worse, as the statistics cited by the Buckhead City Committee demonstrate:

According to a June Atlanta Police Department report, robberies have increased by 2% citywide, but 39% in Buckhead since last year; Aggravated assaults are up 26% in Atlanta, 52% in Buckhead; Larceny from automobiles is up 27% in Atlanta, 40% in Buckhead. Buckhead clearly is attracting crime and criminals at a higher rate than Atlanta in general.

The residents of Buckhead believe that they can control crime better and do more with their tax revenues than they can as part of Atlanta.

Related: Atlanta’s Mayor Urges Eyewitnesses to Call 911 Instead of Videoing Incidents

Of course, members of the media think otherwise.

Brett Pully and Brentin Mock of Bloomberg Business think they’ve cracked the code, and they say — you guessed it — that it’s about race:

Buckhead’s secession would strike at the power of Atlanta’s Black political class. Black residents have been involved in a 50-year project to accrue power in the city, beginning with the election of the first Black mayor, Maynard Jackson, in 1973. Today, a mostly Black cast of elected officials is in charge of the largest city in the South, which has one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 company headquarters in the nation.

Atlanta as a whole is 51% Black, according to 2019 census data. An analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that the new Buckhead City would be roughly three-quarters White.

Pulley and Mock also noted that Buckhead is the most politically conservative area of the city. “The 30327 ZIP code, representing Buckhead’s plushest quarters, was the only pocket of the city of Atlanta to vote for Donald Trump in 2020,” they write.

Axios also goes out of its way to refer to Buckhead as “Atlanta’s Whitest Neighborhood.” But the leaders of the movement are quick to retort that Buckhead is looking out for Buckhead, not trying to score political points or cater to any particular demographic.

Local media outlets are more concerned about the practical implications of “Buckxit.” News stories in places like the AJC and Axios and press releases from the Committee for a Better Atlanta cite a study from the KB Advisory Group. The report states:

The analysis finds that the City of Atlanta would lose approximately $252 million in recurring revenues from the Buckhead area derived mainly
from property taxes, sales taxes, lodging taxes, and business license fees. However, this study also finds that the City of Atlanta would enjoy cost savings of between $136 million and $178 million by not having to provide various services such as public works and general government to the Buckhead area.

Despite the cost savings, the City of Atlanta would be financially worse off if the Buckhead area de-annexes, with net fiscal losses to the City of Atlanta ranging from an estimated $80 million to $116 million annually.

From the APS perspective, the district stands to lose approximately $332 million in recurring revenues from the Buckhead area, saving only $98 million in student service costs. Similar to the outcome for the city, the school district coffers would be substantially depleted due to Buckhead de-annexation, with an estimated $232 million annual loss to the district budget.

All of these figures are disheartening, to say the least, but they demonstrate the financial impact that Buckhead has on the city as a whole. Yet Buckhead is at the mercy of City Hall, and that’s where residents believe they’re not getting the bang for their buck.

Don’t the people of Buckhead deserve to have more of a say in their local governance? Should they allow a city government that isn’t responsive to their needs run roughshod over them? Isn’t a move like this worth a try?

The next step is approval from the Georgia legislature. The first committee meeting took place Thursday night, and it was tense. But Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) has said that he will file a bill to establish a referendum on “Buckxit,” which will add it to the General Assembly’s docket for the coming year. Stay tuned.