A bill that would call for a referendum on creating a town of East Cobb could get a vote in committee as early as Thursday after the legislation got its first full hearing on Wednesday.
Residents of East Cobb spoke out both for and against the Town Bill before lawmakers on Wednesday (you can watch the hearing by clicking here.)
A special panel of the Georgia House Government Affairs Committee heard arguments that echoed public debate when the town of East Cobb first emerged in 2019.
The bill is on the agenda of the plenary committee, which meets Thursday at 8 am. You can watch this meeting by clicking here.
Unlike the first campaign for the precinct, which was abandoned by the bill’s supporters after vocal opposition surfaced in town halls, the current effort last year was conducted in virtual form and small gatherings.
During the hearing at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, city supporters, including lead sponsor Rep. Matt Dollar, stressed the importance of local government control in Cobb County, including the four district commissioners now serve approximately 200,000 citizens each.
Opponents made familiar complaints that the city would add another layer of government and questioned who was behind the campaign, despite newcomers representing the Committee for East Cobb Cityhood.
“East Cobb is a place,” said Dollar, who sponsored the original bill in 2019 and now has the support of Rep. Sharon Cooper, another East Cobb Republican.
“It’s very relative. East Cobb means something different to everyone who is there.
He said city supporters have garnered a lot of feedback on the first campaign to incorporate into their drive to create a city of 55,000 with public safety, planning, zoning and code enforcement.
Dollar, who is not seeking re-election this year, initially said he opposed the precinct bill.
“I think it’s a positive thing for a place that I’ve called home my whole life,” said Dollar, who added that he recently purchased a new home in East Cobb.
“This is our forever home. I do not go.”
What has changed since 2019?
Political dynamics in Cobb County, for starters.
Cobb’s Board of Commissioners now has a Democratic majority after Republicans began to dominate in the 1980s.
Pamela Reardon, a real estate agent who said she opposed the city’s initial effort, is now on board due to zoning and development issues in Cobb, suggesting the county’s current elected officials are plotting a future high density for the Johnson Ferry Road corridor.
“What scares me is the direction these commissioners are heading in the county,” she said. “They do not hide that their objective is to urbanize our suburbs.”
But other East Cobb residents were equally adamant that they saw no need for a new town.
“What’s in it for me other than more taxes?” said Robert Hanson, a retiree. “Who is really behind all this?
He suggested that Cobb County have a single government, folding over the existing six towns and “eliminating politicians and bureaucracy”.
Resident Norman Black said: “I don’t know of anyone whose opinion was asked before this bill. He came out of nowhere.
Mindy Seger, a leader of the East Cobb Alliance, which formed in 2019 to oppose the city, reiterated to the subcommittee that creating a city would amount to creating a new level of government, and that even though there are new faces on the city committee, “it’s the same song and the same dance.
She questioned the late summer 2021 addition of police and fire departments to a financial feasibility study, which was released in November and showed an annual revenue surplus of $3 million. .
But Seger said the study did not include cost estimates for police and fire personnel, equipment and related expenses.
And she questioned the governance structure of the current bill for a weak mayor system, in which city council members would elect one of their own to serve as mayor for two years.
It is a similar format to the Cobb Board of Education, which has been the subject of controversy for the past three years.
“It’s not the best governance model right now,” she said in response to a question from Rep. Barry Fleming, a Republican from Harlem (near Augusta).
She was opposed by State Rep. Ed Setzler, who spoke to the subcommittee in favor of East Cobb Cityhood.
He is a Republican from West Cobb, and he is the sponsor of a bill to create a town of Lost Mountain, primarily for zoning and development reasons.
Setzler said “it’s not a new government, it’s a representative government”.
He said his constituents in the towns of Acworth and Kennesaw get “40 times the representation” of those in his district living in unincorporated Cobb County.
With a town of East Cobb, he said, citizens would get “20 times the representation you have now.
“The city movement must be seen in the context of quality of life and representative government.
State Representative Mary Frances Williams, a Democrat from Marietta who represents a portion of Northeast Cobb that is not in the proposed city, asked Setzler about the demographics of East Cobb — which she said was about 75% white – compared to the rest of the county.
He said he supported the city at all levels, including South Fulton, with a large minority population, and countered that his premise “is wrong to ask. Does this group look like a larger group of people? “
She replied that “you didn’t really answer my question but thank you” and said she was curious to know “why the city is wanted here”.
Another Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Mesha Mainor of Atlanta, said she knew East Cobb from living in Sandy Springs.
“East Cobb is its own place,” she said.
City committee members who spoke on Wednesday said that was why they were getting involved now, after not doing so or being aware of the issue three years ago.
“A lot of times it seems like our reps are out of touch,” said Cindy Cooperman, the group’s communications manager. “I’m not getting the commitment or representation that I’m looking for.”
Another newcomer to the cityhood campaign, Sarah Haas, said she is now taking part to help preserve “the character of East Cobb”, particularly with regards to development and redevelopment.
“How can we have local control and a local voice? said Craig Chain, the group’s president. “This is not the secession of Cobb County.
“People who live in the community should make the decisions that are most relevant to our community.”
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