Nearly all of the city officials and politicos contacted by Around Town late this week predicted the measure will pass, but none predicted a blowout. And several of them mentioned that Tumlin is his own best asset as he makes his sales pitch to the public.
“I think people feel like they can trust Thunder and his reputation,” said three-term Ward 3 Councilman Johnny Sinclair, who is stepping down after this term. “He is very well respected. And their trust in him will lead them to trust him to lead the redevelopment process if the bond passes.”
Tumlin is a native Mariettan and a relative latecomer to politics. Most who know him find his down-home manner and mangled syntax endearing qualities.
“There’s something about him that causes people to feel comfortable with him at the helm,” said Sinclair.
Opponents argue the redevelopment would mean the displacement of thousands of residents for whom “affordable” housing is hard to find.
“They want to know that the city is going to take care of those people even as their lives get jumbled up about where they live, and they trust Thunder to do that correctly,” Sinclair said. “There’s something about his personality that people trust. And they trust him to do the right thing.”
ONE OF THOSE AT talked to, Ward 4 Councilman Andy Morris, said the vote might break along generational lines.
“Most of the younger people are supporting it because they think it will help the school system,” he said. “The older people, well some of them are looking at it from a different angle.”
That analysis was echoed by architect Marshall Dye, who is running to unseat Morris on Tuesday.
“The young families with children seem to be fully supportive due to the positive impact it will have on the school system. Many older citizens, on fixed incomes, seem to be reluctant to support the bond.”
Bond proponents argue redeveloping Franklin and ridding it of the worst of its rundown apartment complexes will greatly improve the sky-high transience rate in the Marietta schools. Opponents argue passage would mean a property tax hike of up to 2 mills and would have a heavy impact on older, fixed-income residents and retirees.
“Most of the older people I have talked with are opposed to having their taxes raised and don’t care about Franklin Road,” said former Mayor Bill Dunaway, who added that he and his family all strongly support passage. “If the older voters on the west side of town turn out, and the younger ones don’t, I think it will be a close vote, but still pass.”
Sinclair, on the other hand, said he had not heard such sentiments.
“I thought I would, but what I have seen is that many people older than me say it is important for Marietta to be the kind of place their children and grandchildren would want to stay in,” he said. “My mother (Jill Sinclair), for instance, is gung ho about it. I didn’t have to give her the hard sell.”
Ward 3 Councilman-elect Johnny Walker, who will succeed Sinclair, predicted it would pass.
“The people who for it are working harder than those who aren’t for it, based on what I’ve seen with mailers and signs. I have seen about eight ‘No’ vote signs, but an awful lot of ‘Vote Yes’ signs,” he said.
Mariettans voted in favor of the 2011 county road SPLOST and the bond referendum for the Marietta High auditorium, “and I think the same people will vote yes,” Walker said. “I think my ward is very supportive.”
WARD 1 Councilwoman Annette Lewis said it will pass by as much as 65-35, but said her ward would be much closer. Her challenger, Stuart Fleming, said it would pass by about 55-45 citywide but would only squeak by in that ward. Former Ward 1 Councilwoman Betty Hunter also predicts a win.
“I’m seeing lots of ‘No’ signs. But I think people are interested in seeing the city cleaned up. We know what it did for this neighborhood to get the ‘quads’ out, so I can only imagine what cleaning up Franklin could do for the city,” she said, referring to a quadruplex of extremely shabby apartment buildings that blighted Manget Street until the mid-2000s.
MEANWHILE, Mary Ansley Southerland of W.D. Little Mortgage, daughter of late Mayor Ansley Meaders, said the bond will pass but will be close.
“If voters look at everything there is to gain from it passing, it is the clear choice. Many of the people opposed to relocating the Franklin Road residents do not fully understand, or maybe do not want to acknowledge, the severity of the problems created by the Franklin road ‘experience,’” she said. “I think that the potential good from the plan is exponential.”
EAST SIDE Ward 6 Councilman Jim King predicted it would win by a small margin.
“Those of us who pay property taxes are imposing an increase on ourselves and there are some who are against tax increases no matter what,” he said. “There also are those who think that something like this is the best thing since sliced bread, and then there are those in between — and they will make the difference,” he said.
Fellow east side Ward 7 Councilman Philip Goldstein, who has been critical of the bond, said it would “probably pass” by a “tight” margin. His ward typically produces the fewest votes of any in the city, and voted against the city parks bond.
“But I think the (current) bond will do better than parks bond did,” he said. “There are pockets that are more supportive.”
Sinclair predicted residents of the Twin Brook and St. Augustine Place condos in Ward 7 would vote heavily for the bond.
AND IF the mayor’s salesmanship is one decisive factor, the turnout in west side’s Ward 4, where Dye is mounting a strong challenge against incumbent Morris, is expected to be another. The ward typically produces more votes than any other.
“It already votes more heavily than the others and (the hot council race) will really launch things,” Sinclair said. “And as Ward 4 goes on this, so goes the city.”
SPEAKING: KSU President Dr. Dan Papp is sure to have more to say about the KSU/Southern Poly merger when he and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson headline Monday’s “First Monday” Breakfast of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
THIS AND THAT: The Marietta Kiwanis Club’s Karl Schwelm reports that more than 1,000 marchers are expected in this year’s Veterans’ Day Parade through downtown Nov. 11. ...
Have old pictures of the Marietta Country Club and its members? The Club’s History Committee will copy them while you wait Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Club. Or call photographer Steve Dinberg at (404) 307-1198. The club will publish a book to mark its centennial in 2015.
MORE POLITICS: Cindy Yeager, who’s running against incumbent Barry Morgan next year for Cobb solicitor general, will host a fundraising reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at 275 Washington Ave. The host list includes Diane Busch, Charles Engleberger, Kim Frye, Elizabeth Guerra, Reid Kennedy, Ron Lowry, John Skelton and Lee Storesund.
WARD 4 candidate Dye is taking issue with a letter sent to ward residents this week by incumbent Morris, which among other things accuses Dye of being an “obstructionist” of WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
“Absolutely untrue” retorts Dye.
“I completely understand the importance of a thriving hospital in our community. My goal is to continue to maintain harmony between WellStar and Ward 4 and not to stop growth,” he told Around Town.
SICK BAY: Retired builder Hap McNeel, who’s fighting pancreatic cancer, had checked into Tranquility hospice, but after being there weeks ordered daughter Peggy to “Pay the bill and let’s get out of here!”
He went home, celebrated his 86th birthday Monday and enjoyed a round of golf Wednesday at the Marietta Country Club with wife Pat, Peggy and her fiance, Chuck Wallace. We’re sure that was more fun than being in hospice!