East Cobbers voice mixed reactions to city idea
by Jon Gillooly
August 10, 2012 07:09 AM | 7558 views | 34 34 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
EAST COBB — East Cobbers have mixed reactions to county chairman candidate Bill Byrne’s suggestion that they form their own city.

This week, Byrne suggested the Cobb Legislative Delegation could draw up boundary lines in the unincorporated eastern part of the county and then turn it over to voters who live in the district to decide whether to become Cobb’s seventh city.

Republican activist Donna Rowe of east Cobb said she would want to see what the tax structure looked like before giving it her blessing.

“For example, the city of Marietta, the city of Smyrna, the city of Roswell all have additional tax on top of the county tax, so I’d like to see what the tax structure would be,” Rowe said.

Under the proposal, the county government would continue to provide water, sewer, police and fire services to the new city for a nominal fee of one dollar per year.

“If that’s part of the proposal and that’s what passes, I’m sure that would be amiable to the people of east Cobb,” Rowe said. “You know, everyone says, ‘I’m an east Cobber.’ … They don’t identify themselves per se with being in Marietta. I know Cynthia Rozzo with the East Cobber (Magazine) has tried to do east Cobb events like the parade and all that other stuff, but there’s really no center unless you want to call Merchant’s Walk a center.

“It’s an interesting proposal that’s worth investigating. … Bill usually has very innovative ideas that citizens like, and I’m sure he would go with the will of the people.”

State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) said one of the first steps required on the way to becoming a city would be to have the Carl Vinson Institute of Government study the costs involved.

“It is government closer to the people, but it is another layer of government,” Cooper said. “If citizens in my district want to explore the possibility, I’m certainly willing to help them with that and tell them all of the complicated processes that creating a city entails.”

State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) pointed out that neither the state legislature nor the county commission creates cities. Cities are created through referendums determined by the people in that community.

Hill said he’s never heard anyone suggest creating a new city in Cobb in the seven years he’s represented most of east Cobb and a portion of Sandy Springs.

“North Fulton has created a number of new cities in the last seven or eight years, and during that time period I’ve never had anybody from east Cobb suggest that Cobb County should follow North Fulton’s lead,” Hill said.

Hill said Byrne’s proposal is worthy of consideration and should be investigated by those with experience in county and city governments.

“It is very important to understand the financial pros and cons before creating another layer of government,” he said.

Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, which represents about 10,000 homeowners, said she’d have to study the proposal in depth.

“I’m an engineer by trade,” Flamm said. “If I hear an idea, I want to go research it. I don’t have a knee-jerk reaction as far as ‘no’ or ‘yes.’ I try not to.”

At the same time, “It’s always good to look at different things,” she said.

Karen Hallacy, an active east Cobb community member, called Byrne’s proposal an intriguing idea that warrants study.

“There are tax and infrastructure implications along with administrative costs and many other considerations that need to be fully understood before proceeding,” Hallacy said.

J.D. Van Brink, chairman of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party, said his initial reaction to creating a city of east Cobb is favorable.

“The government that’s closest to the people is the best government — you know, more responsive to the citizens,” he said. “I’m not going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I think I need to think about it more. I probably need to talk with Bill Byrne about it and get some more information. My initial reaction, though, is pretty favorable. My understanding is that Sandy Spring has been doing pretty well, right? This is self-government, that’s what it’s all about. If this is what the people choose, then I don’t see any problem with it.”

The two county commissioners who represent portions of east Cobb, JoAnn Birrell and Bob Ott, say they are willing to listen.

“First of all, we need to wait and see what happens (in the runoff election between Byrne and incumbent Tim Lee) and then go from there, but I wouldn’t shut the door on it,” Birrell said. “I want to hear from the constituents and see what their thoughts are. I mean, it’s fine for people in Atlanta or other parts of the county to comment, but it’s not really affecting them like the impact it would have on my constituents and Bob’s constituents.”

Retired Lockheed chief Bob Ormsby of east Cobb said he’d like to learn more about the proposal as well.

“Let’s take some time to sort this out in an intelligent way,” Ormsby said.

Others, like Attorney General Sam Olens and Georgia GOP Chair Sue Everhart, say they oppose the idea.

“I don’t want east Cobb to become a city,” Everhart said. “We are served well by Cobb County government, and I see no reason to change as long as it’s going well. I’ve never had a problem in east Cobb. East Cobb pays more taxes than anybody else, but that’s OK too.”

Larry Savage, who lost in the Republican primary race for chairman and who has now endorsed Byrne, isn’t excited about Byrne’s idea either.

“It strikes me as a solution in search of a problem,” Savage said.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to have a community conversation about it, though, he said.

“If we were to determine that we needed more local control, I think there might be some options that we would consider before going to the ultimate option of creating a city,” Savage said. “There are other places that have levels of government that are somewhat local, but not to the scale of a full-blown city. I’m thinking something in the realm of a township or a village where you can have some local management in a formal setting, but you don’t necessarily have the ability to completely uproot everything that your county government has done.”

The proposed city would be governed by an elected mayor and five City Council members, with wards drawn by the Cobb Delegation.

Byrne said the county government could provide $1 million from its capital improvements budget for the design and construction of a city hall and provide temporary meeting locations until construction is complete. The design, construction and location of the new city hall would be determined by the new mayor and city council.

“It’s a concept to begin the discussion, not to end it, and obviously the two district commissioners — Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell — would have to buy into it or it doesn’t fly, and the Delegation would have to buy into it or they won’t create it,” Byrne said Wednesday.

Is candidate Byrne's proposal for a city in East Cobb a good idea?

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Mike O. Bedenbaugh
August 13, 2012
All you have to do is check out the Cities of Acworth, Kennesaw and Powder Springs to see what the cost is compared to only county taxes as they all have a police department and garbage collection. They are serviced by the county for schools,fire department and some by county water and sewage.
August 12, 2012
East Cobbers are all the people who have moved in and helped overcrow the city, the ones who dont like anything about what was here and dont want to be a part of Marietta, so they want to just take their toys and go home. They need to get on the bandwagon and realize they are part of Cobb County, Marietta, stop showing the attitude that created the phrase East Cobb Snobs. Things never get better when people live with those attitudes
August 11, 2012
One has to wonder what political or business entity is throwing enough money around to get this newspaper and local politicians/political hustlers interested in even considering this insane notion.

The unincorporated parts of Dekalb and Fulton had very strong arguments for removing themselves from county services and becoming their own cities. East Cobb has NONE of those problems, in fact East Cobb probably gets taken care of better by the county than most of the cities that are currently in Cobb County.

There appears to be an organized attempt to create the City of East Cobb by outsiders, and it stinks.
Boring Byrna
August 11, 2012
Is anyone paying attention? This is just a desperate ploy to get attention in east Cobb. Byrne has no interest in the city of East Cobb. His support in this area is paltry at best. The issue is not a new city. The issue is that Byrne is once again trying to manipulate people to gain an advantage. Don't forget that he was the commission chairman for a decade. Why didn't he push this issue then? Why does he suddenly care so much about east Cobb independence??? He needs votes. Why does he suddenly want to regain power in Cobb after a 10-year hiatus?? He needs a paycheck. I voted for Mike Boyce, but I will be voting for Tim Lee next week.
Peace Lover
August 11, 2012
Why would anyone want to divide a county and not unite it? I live closest to the Smyrna library, yet when I got a library card it was preached to me that I could use the card anywhere in the county except for the Smyrna library because I have a Marietta address and only people with a Smyrna address can use the Smyrna library--yet again, anywhere else in Cobb except Smyrna. Go figure.
August 10, 2012
Bill Byrne once a BOY SCOUT, ALWAYS PREPARED, can't even get the support of a fellow scout.


Put your uniform back on and go back to POLK COUNTY.

PLEASE TAKE PBSJ, MA, ATKINSand others with you.
August 10, 2012
One million will barely pay for the land for a city hall. Expect with the building, land, parking, etc to cost 3-5 million. 1 million might work in Paulding where Byrne lives but not in heavily populated East Cobb.

And who pays for the staff and lawyers? That will cost a million plus a year not counting insurance and pensions. How much will travel for the councilmen cost? How much for police protection, or power and water bills? How much to join municipal organizations? Mailing costs? Election costs? And on and on. I am against the proposed city where the taxpayers will get Byrned.
write in Mike Boyce
August 10, 2012
You see where Lee's affection lies- big money, big business, big government, chamber, CID and Marta

Bill Byrne- didn't he cause trouble for Cobb in the past?

The East Cobb folks need to start an aggressive 'write in Mike Boyce campaign'!

Living in Smyrna, paying MORE taxes, for what? No single stream recycling,no care for the environment, no quality developments, poor schools, etc., and a city hall that's run like a private club, where citizens aren't allowed to participate!

Cobb has not been very healthy lately, too many areas are ignored, run down and spreading an infestation of crime.

East Cobb, don't you have an active civic association? Keep that strong & keep your taxes low!
Come out, come out..
August 10, 2012
...wherever you are Mary.

No matter where you live you will likely be miserable.

If it is so bad, pick up and move.

Go west and I mean California.
Put up $ not mouth
August 11, 2012
I know Mary and she will be very happy to leave Smyrna to those who send their children to the worst schools in Cobb.

So prove your theory - buy her house. Instead of complaining and whining, why not do something positive?

I served our country for her freedom of speech as well as yours. So, stop complaining about an honest citizen with integrity exercising free speech.
August 10, 2012
I do believe there are way too many people in Cobb and in elected or appointed offices drinking way too much kool-aid.
A City Dweller
August 10, 2012
The family has changed, so we are looking for a new place. Looking at the houses in the city limits compared to county had one difference. Houses in the city limits pay more taxes. For what? We have our own police, but the Cobb police have an excellent record. We have a jail, but most criminals are handled by Cobb County jails and court system on behalf of the city. We have parks, but the bulk of sports programs for the kids are in county parks. We have city trash pick-up, but I pay a dollar less than a friend in East Cobb. Our city fire and schools are run by the county. Side streets are kept up by the city, but main roads and some side road projects are still funded by the county. There are more, but you get the point. I do appreciate the sense of community some find in a town. However, if that is it, I am trying to figure out how that offsets the thousands I have paid in city taxes in a county that provides quality services like ours and why continue paying more in our new home. I am also having a hard time trying figuring out why East Cobbers would want to change a good thing. They pay less taxes per year with similar services.
Just Wait
August 10, 2012
Just as I predicted, many east Cobb residents like the idea of their own city. Let them have it. I'd never get "papers" to be allowed in anyway.
Butler Reynolds
August 10, 2012
I'm skeptical, but I'd like to hear Byrne's reasons for why we need yet another layer of government.

If it helps to keep me from being annexed in to Marietta one day, then I'm all for not having to throw my money away on that budgetary bottomless pit called Marietta Square.

Also, as Cobb County's voter base continues to change, I see the county becoming more like Fulton, Dekalb, or Gwinnett. We might just need a city of East Cobb to protect us from the grabbing hands.
A Few ?
August 10, 2012
First of all, just where in the Cobb County budget does Bill Byrne expect to find this $1 million dollars for a new city hall? Even if the money was there and it is not, why in the world would he consider this gift from the County taxpayers to the newly formed "City of East Cobb, Cobb County?" Man that sounds horrible and on its face is just ridiculous.

Hey, what about the citizens of West Cobb, Mableton and Vinings? Where are their millions to build their resepctive City Halls at the expense of the Cobb County Taxpayer? How many more layers of Government does he want to see and help fund?

This guy is a fiscal hawk, a conservative?

I think not!
August 10, 2012
As many of the individuals in the article said, it is worth looking into.

Identify and discuss the pros and cons and then decide if it is worth taking the next logical step.

It may be another layer of government, but it this case it creates a layer that is closer to and in theory, more responsive to and more accountable to the citizens and voters.

Why not just use the existing East Cobb governmental annex into the new city hall and offices? No need to build more government buildings.
Alan in East Cobb
August 10, 2012
It is interesting how behind the times Bill Byrne's is. He still thinks we are using Bell South. It is now 'The New ATT'.

If the new city can have an open choice of cable providers for each home, might be an interesting thought.
The Observer
August 10, 2012
Terrible reporting! Reaction's not mixed, it's more negative! Only twenty-sum percent support a new city.
Observer is right
August 10, 2012
Agreed, the writer keeps getting assignments where he seems to write with a slant that tracks the papers editorial direction. That said it is obvious that most people are opposed to this and Byrne is trying a Hale Mary pass because he is poised to lose.
August 10, 2012
80/20 is still "mixed".
August 10, 2012

I agree it seems most of the people posting in this forum seem opposed to the idea.


Did it occur to you that the people the reporter interviewed (basically the political representatives and movers and shakers in the community) happened to be open to the idea of cityhood that Byrne floated?

That seems like a logical place to start.


I would be interesting to do a more "people on the street" type of poll to see what the reaction would be.

How about asking a few of the hundreds that gather at East Cobb Park on a nice Saturday or Sunday?

August 10, 2012
I'm all for it, as long as we can name it Funkytown.
Waste Waste Waste
August 10, 2012
The first million is for a city hall, what a waste. And I think you could have more balance because everyone I have talked to is opposed to spending millions in search of a problem. Why not build a refuse plant too.
Pee Wee
August 10, 2012
You think Byrne really cares? This is a gambit to split Lee's East Cobb base.
August 10, 2012
East Cobbers aren't residents of Cobb Co. Geographically they are but not psychologically. I've had conversations with them and they admit don't go beyond The Marietta Square. The west side of The Square starts the demarcation of no man's land. I have lived, worked, and shopped in this entire county and I don't get it. But then I'm not an East Snobber either.
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