By Mark Woolsey
Advocates for incorporating a portion of East Cobb into a new city say support for their cause is growing. (see the interactive map at the bottom of this article for the boundaries of the proposed city).
At a virtual town hall meeting Thursday, leaders of the group East Cobb Cityhood presented May 20 poll results of registrants to the event, saying that 41 percent of residents of the proposed community favor incorporating with 36 percent undecided and 23 percent opposed.
The question was asked of almost 100 registrants for the event, said Cindy Cooperman, a co-leader of the effort. She said those not living in the boundaries of the proposed city were filtered out.
The group said an earlier reading in Mid-April revealed 34 percent of those questioned favored cityhood with 38 percent undecided and 28 percent opposed.
The group is pushing for a community with a limited menu of services; zoning. local ordinance and parks and recreation. Other services such as police and fire and health would be left to Cobb County at large.
“In the past six weeks community interest and support is growing as we continue on our mission to bring awareness to the residents of East Cobb on the benefits of cityhood,” said Cooperman in an email. She said they’ve connected with nearly 800 residents through their website and social media and that more people are volunteering.
Enthusiasm or no, the road to cityhood is an involved one.
A bill introduced in the final days of the 2021 state legislative session creates a path to incorporating. If lawmakers approve the bill calling for a referendum next year, a popular vote would be held in November of 2022. Then if residents of the proposed new jurisdiction approve, the new municipality would be organized in early 2023.
As the boundaries are now drawn, about 55 thousand people would live in the new city.
A coalition called the East Cobb Alliance has also formed in opposition to the cityhood push. It claims that what it calls an additional layer of government is not needed. The group has said that cityhood backers have been secretive in their approach, forming a non-profit group hiding donors and sources of money from public review and commissioning a $36,000 feasibility study.
Cityhood boosters said Thursday that because the structure and services provided by the proposed city have changed from the initial 2018 push, another feasibility study will be done later this year.
Also during the Zoom event, the group heard from Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood, who sketched out the North Fulton County city’s experience since becoming a city in 2006.
Echoing Cobb incorporation backers, Lockwood said their number one concern was local control, driven in large measure by Fulton County’s geography-stretching 70 miles from north to South.
“People were tired of decisions being made 40 miles away,” he said.
Lockwood said that advantages since cityhood have ranged from the ability to attend public meetings close by to being able to more closely interact with city leaders.
“When the people making the decisions are in the grocery store with you,” sad Lockwood, “you have a better sense of what’s going on. “
He also said the city has performed well from a financial standpoint. With the millage rate capped. he said, the city has given residents more service than when it was part of unincorporated northwest Fulton County for the same dollars.
From a less tangible viewpoint, the mayor said that Milton’s being its own city has built a sense of community pride and belonging that has only increased over the years.