ATLANTA – Residents of East Cobb were divided at a legislative hearing Wednesday over whether their community should become a city.
A Georgia House subcommittee is considering a bill asking East Cobb voters to decide the cityhood issue in a November referendum.
“Closer to the people is better,” East Cobb resident Scott Hausman told members of the subcommittee, explaining his support for a new city.
“More government means more taxes,” countered resident Scott Killebrew, a cityhood opponent.
The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Matt Dollar and Sharon Cooper, both of whom represent East Cobb, calls for a city of about 55,000 centered around the Johnson Ferry corridor. It would stretch from the Chattahoochee River on the south to Shallowford Road on the north and from the Fulton County line on the east to Old Canton Road on the west.
A study conducted last year by the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University found the proposed city to be financially feasible.
The city would be governed by a six-member council with three at-large posts and three district seats, all elected citywide. The six would elect a mayor from among themselves.
“We wanted a weaker mayor and a strong city council,” Dollar said.
House Bill 841, which Dollar and Cooper introduced last year, is the second legislative effort at forming a city in East Cobb. A 2019 bill was abandoned due to lack of public support, Dollar said.
“It is a far more well received idea [now],” he said. “People are starting to understand it.”
Democrats captured control of the Cobb County Commission last fall, while East Cobb is heavily Republican.
East Cobb resident and Realtor Pamela Reardon said she doesn’t like the direction the commission is taking on land use and zoning issues.
“They make no bones that their goal is to urbanize our suburbs,” she said. “They want to have high density along Johnson Ferry.”
Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, who supports the bill, said East Cobb residents could expect better police protection with a local rather than a countywide police force.
“If you’re a resident of East Cobb, you are paying for police who are not patrolling your community,” he said. “You’re going to get a demonstrably better level of service.”
But opponents questioned the fiscal wisdom of operating a smaller city government in an area now served by Cobb County.
“Incorporating a city is another layer of government,” said Mindy Seger, an organizer of the East Cobb Alliance, a group formed to oppose cityhood.
Setzler said the municipal services the new city would provide would replace county services, not duplicate them.
“It’s not another layer of government,” he said. “It’s just a different layer.”
Seger also criticized the provision in the bill calling for the city council to elect the mayor.
“Citizens should be able to directly participate in the election of this public officer,” she said.
Rep. Victor Anderson, R-Cornelia, the subcommittee’s chairman, said the full House Governmental Affairs Committee could take up the East Cobb cityhood bill as early as Thursday.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.