“Cobb and Marietta are at a crossroads as a community,” said Garrett, who was the speaker at the club’s weekly meeting. “It was easy to compete with the city of Atlanta because for about four decades Atlanta did everything possible to run businesses out of that city, due to (over-) regulation and other issues. So a lot of people think they’re the smartest people in the world because they happen to own land and have a business in Cobb.”
Cobb boasted low taxes, had plenty of room to grow, a well-educated workforce and two strong public school systems, he said.
“But there were a lot of people here like the turtle on the fence post, thinking that it had gotten there by itself,” he warned. “And, at the end of the day, a lot of that’s changed. We’re now at 700,000-plus people here and we’re facing the same things that urban cores experienced in the 1980s and ’90s. All those new, glistening, dense developments we built. Well, we didn’t do a lot of zoning and planning in the ’70s and ’80s, and our chickens are now coming home to roost.
“We now have versions of suburban blight in Cobb and Marietta that equal the urban blight that you see in inner-city Chicago, New York or Atlanta, and it just didn’t happen overnight. It’s been happening for a decade and a half and we’ve tried to come together as a community to come to grips with it, but we haven’t been successful.”
GARRETT’S TALK came against the backdrop of Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin’s push to persuade city residents to approve a $35 million bond issue with which to purchase several of the most rundown apartment complexes along Franklin Road and package them for redevelopment.
Garrett spent a decade as Washington chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and in January launched an organization called “Revitalize Marietta.”
“It’s 200-plus individuals and businesses that recognize that our community is at a crossroads and particularly around Franklin Road and Six Flags Drive, and if we don’t address suburban blight in those areas, we’re not going to continue to succeed as a community,” he said. “The perception of our community is being driven by the crime statistics, by the uncompensated health care, and by the companies that are leaving these corridors to go to neighboring communities or other places.”
Cobb and Marietta still have plenty going for them, like having the state’s most highly educated workforce and proximity to Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, he said.
“But there is no such thing as a static community,” Garrett cautioned. “Communities are either growing and vibrant or they’re aging and dying. So we need to learn from our neighboring counties, when they had issues like Franklin Road and Six Flags Drive and they chose not to address them on the front end, they ended up almost going out of existence as communities for the next 20 or 30 years. And it’s a lot more expensive and difficult to come back from, and some of those communities never have.
“So, we’re at the crossroads, and we have the opportunity do something about that. We’re going to support our local officials and inform the public and if we do some difficult things but some smart things and address the issues, our future is just as bright as it used to be.”
Concluded Garrett, “Nothing will affect your pocketbook more than whether we address these issues of suburban blight here in Cobb and Marietta over the next 12 to 24 months.”
MARIETTA POLICE are looking for old photos of the city’s police force and other local police memorabilia, especially photos of old-style MPD police cars.
“This idea has caught fire around here,” Chief Dan Flynn tells Around Town.
The next step would be to put together an authentic-looking replica of an MDP cruiser from the 1940s or ’50s, he said.
“Our P.I.O. Dave Baldwin and Officer Don Smith will be accumulating whatever comes in before we move on the next step of acquiring a vehicle,” Flynn said.
EVENTS: Dedication of Joe Mack Wilson Park at 190 Roswell St. in downtown Marietta is set for 3 p.m. May 23. The park honors late Marietta Mayor and longtime state legislator Wilson, who died in office in 1993. The park is on the south side of the street and just down the hill from the National Cemetery and main Cobb Library and is already the site of the Marietta Kiwanis Club’s “Forever Remember” statue. The park dedication is being sponsored by the Club’s Business & Public Affairs Committee and keynote speaker will be former Gov. Roy Barnes.
THE COBB LIBRARY FOUNDATION will celebrate its 10th anniversary this week with a cocktail reception at the Georgian Club on Thursday. The group has raised tens of thousands of dollars in the past decade for The Cobb Library System, according to Foundation head Ellen Smith and System director Helen Poyer. Up next in terms of fundraising will be the annual “Booked for the Evening” gala Oct. 17 at the Marietta Country Club. Featured author will be mystery writer Stuart Woods.
PEOPLE: Look for a personnel change in the MDJ newsroom to be announced in Wednesday’s edition.
MARIETTA insurance agent and former Marietta High football star Steve Norris is featured in the latest issue of “Buzz,” the quarterly publication of the Georgia Tech Athletic Association, in connection with his having been one of “The Lost Dodd Boys.”
Norris was quarterback of the MHS state runner-up team in 1966 and later signed to play for Tech. The main attraction? The opportunity to play for legendary Tech Coach Bobby Dodd. But the story did not have a happy ending. Dodd abruptly retired just before the 1967 season due to kidney and prostate problems that later accelerated into cancer. The 50 members of his final recruiting class (which also included fellow MHS players David Hunter and Rick Evatt) played for mostly mediocre Tech teams under Coach Bud Carson. Norris’s high point came in 1969 when he caught a TD pass to beat the hated UGA Bulldogs for the first time in five years.
SOURCES TELL Around Town that the planned purchase of a 150-acre undeveloped tract on Lost Mountain by an Atlanta-area nonprofit land trust is still on track. Closing had been set for May 6 but has been rescheduled for later this month, they say. The land would become a “passive park” open to the public.
Cobb voters agreed overwhelmingly to approve a $40 million parks bond referendum in 2008, and the committee set up by the county to analyze which properties should be acquired ranked the Lost Mountain acreage as the most desirable. But the county commission ultimately chose not to issue the bonds with which to buy any of the properties, citing their earlier pledge that the bond would not result in an increase in property taxes — although the increase in this case would have been microscopic.
MAYOR TUMLIN made the first public announcement of his candidacy for re-election at Thursday’s evening meeting of the Marietta Lions Club.
“As the Lions Club is an outstanding service organization that has served our city for over 70 years, it was a great venue in which to announce,” he said.
MARIETTA KIWANIANS customarily present a children’s book to a local charity in the name of each weekly speaker, and at the conclusion of Heath Garrett’s talk, club “thanker” Liz Cole presented Garrett with a copy of “King of Outer Space.”
A grinning Garrett held up the book and quipped “‘King of Outer Space.’ Sounds like Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.”
Added Garrett, “There’s nothing like a parting shot, is there!”