Proposed Greenhaven, Ga How It All Began
Neighbors Against Greenhaven (NAG) and Concerned Citizens in Opposition to Greenhaven (CCOG) have often been asked how the idea of a city named Greenhaven in south and central DeKalb came into existence. The answer revolves around a very small number of individuals led by one person – Kathryn Rice.
For the past five years, independent organizations, all incorporated with the Secretary of State’s Office, have formed to promote the formation of Greenhaven. They were formed to create the appearance that a number of different organizations are joining together to endorse a new city. This would be convincing until closer scrutiny shows these organizations are actually slightly different combinations of the same key people.
The Greenhaven cityhood efforts are the result of self-motivated, self-interested, unelected individuals, in collaboration with lobbyists, contractors, and vendors desiring financial gain at citizens’ expense. Promoters for Greenhaven have sought legislative sponsors from Senators and Representatives residing outside of DeKalb County who have no interest in the communities’ best interest, nor a knowledge of DeKalb County issues. This small group of promoters want a new city so badly that they don’t care whom the lobbyist get to sponsor it.
The story begins with the key individuals running for office – and losing, and then forming organizations to hopefully meet their objective: Cityhood at any price.
1. Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb (since May 2018 – now known as Imagine Greenhaven) – listed as the entity that pays their lobbyist at the firm of Hall Booth Smith over $10,000 to convince state legislators to approve a bill creating Greenhaven. This organization pays for the branding of Greenhaven Now. The Registered Agent is Kathryn Rice and CEO.
2. South DeKalb Improvement Association (SDIA), SDIA’s purpose is as their economic development arm. To date, they have not led any new economic development in south or central DeKalb. Kenneth Saunders, III is not only a spokesperson for Greenhaven Now but is also CEO of this organization’s board. Kathryn Rice is the Registered Agent. Tom Walton – CFO.
3. Greenhaven Business Alliance- Led by Dean Heard who is yet another failed politician (details below). It collects donations for Greenhaven, but its source of funds is unknown. Musa Dan Folio is the registered Agent. He has an attorney office in downtown Stone Mountain. Kathryn Rice is Secretary. Tom Walton – CFO.
4. Greenhaven Now – Rebranded in 2019 as Greenhaven Now, this is the umbrella organization representing all of the entities above.
As you can see there is a lot of cross-pollination amongst these groups, but at the core is Kathryn Rice. They promote these groups as separate entities in an attempt to hide their true motivations from the public; however, you can see they are all one in the same.
Timeline – Legislative Failures
Since 2015, a total of four bills have been officially introduced in the state legislature to create the proposed city of Greenhaven. All have failed to pass.
Concerned Citizens for Cityhood for South DeKalb paid the Carl Vinson Institute of University of Georgia (CVIOG) over $20,000 to conduct a feasibility study to determine the fiscal viability of the proposed city. It is more than five-years old with outdated information, but satisfies one of the “technical requirements for meeting the House Governmental Affairs Committee’s rules. This chair of this committee has publicly stated the committee does not consider the merits of what is in the bill for a new city. The bill automatically gets passed of this committee regardless of the inaccuracy of the feasibility study.
HB 613 introduced in House of representatives. SB 221 introduced in the State Senate. Both bills failed. A bill to grant cityhood to Greenhaven, pending a public referendum, was introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives during the 2015 legislative session, alongside a similar bill for Stonecrest. Both proposals failed to advance past committee consideration and never made it to the House floor.
In 2016, the House Governmental Affairs Committee subcommittee declined to move the bill out of committee, following large public opposition to the cityhood measure.
A third attempt started in 2017 under the Senate’s revised two-year process for new cities, which delayed legislative action until 2018.
HB 644 passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee, through unconventional rules by Chairmen Ed Rynders, a Republican Representative from Albany, Georgia, but failed to receive a House floor vote.
At the end of that session, Josh McKoon, then a Republican Senator from Columbus, Georgia dropped SB 495 to bring Greenhaven back in 2019. McKoon had been an avid supporter of voter ID laws in Georgia meant to suppress minority votes. This is ironic in that Kathryn Rice states that their “right to vote is being suppressed.” Greenhaven, Ga is using this serious and national issue to advocate for their “right to vote.” However, citizens will only vote should the city of Greenhaven become law, signed by the Governor.
Greenhaven and its lobbyists were unsuccessful in obtaining a sponsor by Crossover Day on March 7, 2019. However, they continue to seek any legislator to sponsor a new bill before the close the General Assembly session on April 2, 2019.
History of Losing Elections after Sponsoring Greenhaven
Josh McKoon is no longer in office having run for Secretary of State and lost in the Republican primary.
Sponsoring Greenhaven and then losing an election have coincidently happened several times. In 2014, State Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur) sponsored the feasibility study. He lost re-election in 2016 Democratic Primary to Renitta Shannon. Shannon went on to win the general election and has consistently voted against Greenhaven. State Senator JaNice Van Ness sponsored Greenhaven in 2016. She served one term and lost overwhelmingly in the general election receiving only 30% of the vote. This should serve as a warning to politicians thinking of sponsoring Greenhaven. It’s cursed, plain and simple.
The Cityhood Players
Kathryn Rice is the founder and officer of South DeKalb Improvement Association, Imagine Greenhaven (formerly Concerned Citizens for Cityhood for South DeKalb), and Greenhaven Business Alliance. All organizations have a stated goal of creating the proposed City of Greenhaven and actively lobby the state legislature for its passage.
The AJC reported on February 24, 2015 that Kathryn Rice was nominated to fill a vacant seat on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. The three Commissioners representing south DeKalb, who are all Black, voted to reject her nomination and she failed to gain a seat on the Board.
Disappointed but determined, Kathryn Rice, decided to run for the same seat when an election was announced for that open seat in June 2015. She, again, lost. As reported in DeKalb News Watch on June 17, 2015, Ms. Rice received 9% or 427 votes. Greenhaven Now Spokesperson, Kenneth Saunders also ran in that election and received 3% of the vote or 115 votes. Mereda Davis Johnson was the eventual winner.
On March 4, 2019, Capitol Police removed Ms. Rice for disrupting the DeKalb County House Delegation meeting. Her actions were a pre-planned and ill-conceived publicity stunt.
Dean Heard A.K.A L. Dean Heard
Dean Heard is the CEO of Greenhaven Business Alliance ran unsuccessfully for office with the intent of running for office so that he could sponsor a new Greenhaven bill in 2019. He lost in the May 18, 2018 Democratic primary to Karen Bennett receiving only 21% of the vote.
Annette Davis Johnson
Annette Davis Jackson is a Gwinnett County resident and is another failed politician associated with Greenhaven. She is one of the few black Republicans who has run for office in DeKalb County. On November 8, 2016 and November 6, 2018, she ran unsuccessfully for State Senate District 55, losing both times to Senator Gloria Butler, Gaining only 22% and 18.4% of the vote each time, respectively. It is assumed she ran for office to sponsor the bill for Greenhaven. She is a spokesperson for Greenhaven with no known DeKalb community affiliations. She spoke on behalf for Greenhaven at their rally at the State Capitol on March 4, 2019, and was part of the disruption at the DeKalb County House Delegation meeting on the same day. She is not a supporter of LBGTQ rights.
Kenneth Saunders, III
CEO of South DeKalb Improve Association, Kenneth Saunders, III also ran for a vacant seat on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners May 18, 2018 and received 3% of the vote or 115 votes. Mereda Davis Johnson was the eventual winner. He is currently the spokesperson of Greenhaven Now (the umbrella group for the three Greenhaven organizations).
Greenhaven Opposition Forms
Neighbors Against Greenhaven and Citizens in Opposition of Greenhaven both formed separately in 2015, but joined forces in 2019 to bring greater coordination of each of their efforts to defeat Greenhaven. Both have worked tirelessly expending resources and time, by petitioning, emailing, calling, and even visiting state legislators and attending meeting at the State Capitol.
Neighbors Against Greenhaven started in 2015 when residents from south and central DeKalb discovered that their homes were being dragged into a city that they had never heard of, let alone been consulted. They formed a Neighbors Against Greenhaven (NAG) Facebook Page and things took off from there. Concerned Citizens in Opposition to Greenhaven began with Spring Valley Civic Association board approved a resolution opposing the creation of Greenhaven and began holding public meetings to educate the public on impacts the legislation would have on the community.
Proposed Greenhaven, Ga When Will It Die
In 2019, Greenhaven did not receive a sponsor before Crossover Day. We all know it’s not really over until Sine Die, the term used for the 40th and last day of the legislative session, which will be April 2 this year. However, according to the AJC, “Efforts to create two new cities in DeKalb County have failed in the Statehouse this year.”
There are big money incentives for those involved in the process to create the proposed city of Greenhaven. We expect they will be back in 2020 with another bill. Only through our strengthened opposition will they perhaps finally get the message: We do not want this city.
Thanks to all of your efforts, we have defeated a Greenhaven and Vista Grove again. All the phone calls, emails, those that signed the petition and all the visits to the statehouse have paid off. We did not have high paid fancy lawyers, lobbyist and PR executives – just the voice of the people was heard when it counted.
We could not have done this without the help of DeKalb Strong and Concerned Citizens Against Greenhaven. Our collaboration with them has been invaluable.
‘Let’s hope this will put an end to Kathryn Rice’s Greenhaven and Vista Grove.