Cobb District 4 BOC candidates take up home rule maps, transit referendum

Audience seated at Cobb Board of Commissioners candidate forum

District 4 candidates for the Cobb County Board of Commissioners faced off on Monday, May 6, 2024’s forum at Grace City Church.

Incumbent Monique Sheffield and attorney Yashica Marshall answered questions posed by the moderator, former state legislator, education leader and consultant Alisha Searcy.

Marshall was at the forum in person, while Sheffield attended virtually while en route to Jekyll Island to receive the Steve Reynolds Public Servant Of The Year Award.

District 2 map confusion

Once again, Searcy brought up the home rule and redistricting of District 2.

Marshall opposed the idea of the commission drawing district maps, a job designated to state legislators.

“I think that the commission could have taken a different direction,” she said. “I think the instituting the home rule map created a lot of chaos. I think it created confusion. I think it impacted and disenfranchised voters.”

“I wish and I hate it for the voters who were disenfranchised by the decision to institute home rule map when it is very clear that the Georgia Constitution indicates that drawing the district lines is something that is still about the state legislature,” she said.

However, Sheffield disagreed with Marshall.

Sheffield said that the commissioners discussed different courses of action with county attorneys and decided to move forward with the home rule map.

She went on to address the voters redistricted out of District 2.

“Obviously there’s been some inconvenience to some, but there’s ever any concern regarding those residents that were actually redistricted out of District 2,” Sheffield said. “In 2020, they voted for Jerica Richardson and in all fairness, she should have been able to stay in their seat. Those voters also have been disenfranchised and for the maps to have been drawn the way they were, it basically underserves or undermines democracy by nullifying their vote or nullifying the voice of the voters.”

The 30-year Mobility SPLOST

Marshall said the transit referendum is less about the comprehensive transit plan in Cobb and more about the 30-year tax.

“I think we need to shift in how we’re dealing with the money that we’re taking from our citizens to ensure that we are doing things transparently that we’re creating the opportunities that we need as it relates to housing, as it relates to transit, as it relates to infrastructure,” she said.

She went on to criticize past commissions for not allocating tax dollars appropriately.

“I think it’s just more so about ensuring that the budgeting process is done appropriately and I don’t think that’s what’s been happening,” she said.

Sheffield said that the 30-year tax does not equate to a 30-year project implementation. Instead, many of those dollars will go towards operational costs, equipment, and maintenance.

She said many of the projects the mobility tax will help fund are meant to accommodate Cobb as a growing county.

“Emerging practices keep you ahead of the game. Cobb County has 785,000 and we are expected to go to nearly 1 million people in just two decades,” Sheffield said.

Veterans Memorial Highway

Both candidates agreed that the state of Veterans Memorial Highway must be addressed.

“Now that Mableton is a city, hopefully, the county can work very closely together with the city and ensuring that there are beautification efforts in the city going forward,” Marshall said.

She said there is a need for a plan and action rather than a discussion about there being an issue.

“I’ve gone to Powder Springs and spoke to them,” Marshal said. “They need a Boys and Girls Club. I’ve gone to Austell. They’re trying to revitalize their downtown. So there’s lots of things that different communities are asking for, and they just need to ensure that the county is working with these different communities to in order to institute those things.”

The state route began as a two-lane highway that the Georgia Department of Transportation expanded through eminent domain, which created narrow and shallow lots for businesses, Sheffield said.

Yet, she is still “encouraged about redevelopment on Veterans Memorial.”

Sheffield approved Chick-fil-A’s zoning application along the Veterans Memorial in 2023.

“And as most know, Chick-fil-A doesn’t just have a customer following, but they also have a developer following,” she said. “So I am confident that because of that approval of that zoning application, that will be the impetus to bring about more change on Veterans Memorial.”

Affordable Housing

Sheffield recalled the approval of two apartment complex applications in her three years in office as well as opposing a number of built-to-rent homes.

Sheffield said she plans to take the initiative to streamline zoning through the Unified Development Code, an item she ran on in 2020.

“It gives us an opportunity to explore those areas in which we can have greater density, so we can have additional homes available,” she said. “But attainable housing is just not the cost of housing. It’s also ensuring that people can make a livable wage. So to that end, I am also excited that on Veterans Memorial Highway … we will have a workforce center where residents in the community will receive job training … job leads, et cetera.”

“We need to stop focusing on the outside individuals,” Marshal said. “We need to really take care of the people here. We need to take care of the people that’s already in Cobb.”

If elected, Marshal said she would take a Cobb-first approach and focus on attainable housing rather than affordable housing for residents.

“Let’s take care of home. Let’s take care of our communities, make sure that they have the housing that they deserve, have the jobs that they deserve, that they are having a livable wage so they can work, live, and play here in Cobb County,” she said. “And then, you know, what that does, that attracts more people here because they can afford to be here.”