Dec 21, 2021 - News

What's behind Cobb's cityhood movements?

Map of the proposed city of East Cobb boundaries.

Photo courtesy of the East Cobb Cityhood Committee

One of metro Atlanta’s rapidly changing counties is home to four different campaigns to create new cities.

Why it matters: If these new cities form, the money they pay Cobb County to provide existing services could be diverted to the municipalities, affecting the county’s bottom line.

Some common themes among Cobb’s cityhood advocates are that they want more control over how their tax dollars are being spent, said Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University.

  • “The issues can be different, but they all share the same economic and tax-related causes,” he said.

Cityhood proponents in Mableton, East Cobb, Vinings and Lost Mountain also say they want control over zoning, parks and recreation services, code enforcement and future land use.

State of play: In East Cobb, where the cityhood movement is further along in the process, a bill calling for a referendum in November on cityhood could pass the state legislature next year, said state Rep. Matt Dollar.

What they’re saying: Dollar, who sponsored the legislation, said incorporation would not add another layer of government, but “gives more voice” to people who want more control over issues in their backyards.

  • “If residents of Marietta, Acworth, Kennesaw, and Powder Springs have it, why shouldn’t residents of West Cobb, Mableton and East Cobb have the same?” he asked. “Ultimately, the voters themselves will decide if they want cityhood for communities or not.”

The other side: Mindy Seger, a member of East Cobb Alliance that opposes cityhood, told Axios that instead of advocating for a new city, supporters should work with County Commission Chair Lisa Cupid and District 2 Commissioner Jerica Richardson, who was first elected last year.

  • “We’ve got new leadership and maybe that’s an opportunity to do things differently,” she said. “This seems like a solution looking for a problem here.”

Segar also said the latest cityhood proposal that would include public safety services could lead to East Cobb shelling out more money, not only to recruit and hire personnel, but to maintain equipment, retain those employees and pay out their pensions.

  • “How do you maintain that, and can you do so without raising taxes and raising costs for the citizens who live here?” she asked.

Cupid, who also was elected last year as commission chair, told Axios that the broader issue of service delivery is something she and her colleagues are reviewing to “make sure we are properly resourcing the needs across the county and being responsive to desires of our constituents.”

However, Cupid said the same concerns some residents have about not being heard could still be the case if the new cities form.

  • “I’m not sure if all the issues they may be concerned about at the county level would be remedied with a city, but that’s for the residents to determine.”

The bottom line: Swint told Axios any resident exploring cityhood needs to ask if incorporating would make financial sense.

  • “Does it make sense for me to support forming a city? Would that make me better off or cost me more in taxes or property values?”

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