Georgia House gives nod to proposed new city of East Cobb
ATLANTA (AP) — One of Atlanta’s most affluent suburban areas is a step closer to becoming its own city, after the Georgia House voted to allow residents in a proposed city of East Cobb to decide whether they want to incorporate.
The House voted 98-63 for House Bill 841; the measure will next move to the Senate for more debate. If the bill becomes law, residents would vote on cityhood on May 25. If approved, they would elect council members and a mayor in November, with the city coming into existence on Jan. 1.
Proponents say the move will bring government closer to the people, with sponsor Matt Dollar, a Marietta Republican, saying it’s “a true community effort.” The city would provide zoning and code enforcement, police and fire protection, parks and road paving.
“What this is doing is shifting very specific services to a level of government that is closer to the people,” Dollar told lawmakers, saying people should get a chance to decide on their own self governance.
Opponents say the proposal is rushed, makes unneeded changes to county services that function just fine, and could harm county government. Rep. Don Parsons, a Marietta Republican, denied that East Cobb was a natural target for incorporation and said the effort was being pushed by a small group of people.
“This is not a group of people who have come together and built a city or a town,” Parsons said. “There is no town of East Cobb. There is no city of East Cobb waiting to be incorporated.”
Parsons said he’s gotten a rush of opposition in the past week.
“It doesn’t seem to make any sense to me,” he said. We have Cobb County government. I think that they’re doing a good job.”
Metro Atlanta has seen a wave of suburban incorporations since 2005, fostered by Republicans. Those changes resulted in almost all of Fulton County becoming part of a city and chunks of DeKalb and Gwinnett counties formed into new cities. This is the first time the wave has reached Cobb County, coming after Democrats took control of the county commission, which governs unincorporated areas, for the first time in decades.
Three more Cobb cityhood approvals are pending this year: Lost Mountain in western Cobb, and Vinings and Mableton in southern Cobb.
The Cobb cities also advance in the shadow of debate over whether Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood should be allowed to secede. Some opponents say the efforts are motivated by white Republicans who don’t want to be governed by nonwhite Democrats.
Rep. Ed Setzler, another Marietta Republican sponsoring the bill, said Cobb County is too big for four district commissioners to adequately represent and said East Cobb is “a great idea whose time has come.”
“You have one county commissioner per 200,000. That level of representation is not what I think we would desire,” Setzler said. “I think going from one elected official per 200,000 to one per 8,000 is something we can be very, very proud of.”
Rep. Erick Allen, a Smyrna Democrat, said again that he wants the decision on all the proposed Cobb cities to be delayed until there’s a study about how the county will be affected. He also said that all four proposed cities should get a vote, saying the proposal for Mableton, a predominantly Black area, has not yet been scheduled for a vote.
Another opponent, Democratic Rep. Teri Anulewicz, said the proposal to provide fire services could endanger the excellent fire rating the area now enjoys as part of Cobb County.
“Residents need to be able to enter into the creation of a city with their eyes wide open,” said Anulewicz, a former Smyrna City Council member. “This city is being rushed.”
The city would have six council members, who would each have to live in a district but be elected at large across the city. Late in the process, proponents also added a mayor elected at large. The mayor would have no veto and weak powers.
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.