Byrne Proposes 'City of East Cobb'
The Cobb commission chairman candidate, who's in a runoff with incumbent Tim Lee, said he wants to begin a discussion on the topic.
Imagine if you will: Johnson Ferry Road becoming the official heartbeat of a true City of East Cobb.
Imagine once again a real East Cobb City Hall, most likely in that corridor -- no, not Whole Foods -- where citizens could pay for municipally-provided services and keep tabs on their mayor and city council.
And finally, imagine East Cobb police and fire departments providing community-focused public safety protection, instead of being part of larger, more sprawling county forces that may be understaffed.
This is the City of East Cobb that Bill Byrne wants you to imagine. Or something like it.
The Cobb Commission Chairman candidate unveiled a proposal Wednesday that would do just that, if East Cobb citizens fancy it.
Byrne, who's in a battle with incumbent Tim Lee in the Aug. 21 Republican runoff, meant his proposal as an election ploy as he seeks votes in some of Cobb's most affluent and politically influential precincts.
But he also expressed the desire for a community-wide discussion on a topic that is taking off in other communities.
Would you support a City of East Cobb? Do you think it would cost you more money to have it? Who should be the Mayor of East Cobb? Tell us in the comments.
Byrne's proposal comes just after voters in the Brookhaven community of DeKalb voted to become a city, following a north metro Atlanta incorporation trend in recent years that has included Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton.
"East Cobb has always been involved in the decision-making process," Byrne told The Marietta Daily Journal. "So I thought this was a very good time to energize a discussion to create a City of East Cobb and allow the people there to say yes or no to it."
Byrne's plan would call for the legislature to draw up municipal boundaries -- he didn't get specific -- for a City of East Cobb that would have an elected mayor and five city council members. Those six elected officials, in fact, would be one more than the entire makeup of the five-member Cobb Board of Commissioners.
The City of East Cobb, presuming it would take in all or most of ZIP codes 30062, 30067 and 30068, would be the second-largest city in metro Atlanta, with a population nearing 150,000.
According to Byrne's outline, it would have its own police, fire, water and sewer services, purchased from the county for what Byrne said would cost $1 a year. The county also would be required to spend $1 million to build an East Cobb City Hall.
Byrne didn't run his idea by the two commissioners representing East Cobb, JoAnn Birrell and Bob Ott. Ott told the MDJ he'd be receptive to hearing more about what Byrne has in mind, as long as such a change wouldn't put a financial burden on East Cobb citizens.
But former Cobb Commission chairman and current Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, an East Cobb resident, told the newspaper he's against the idea.
South Cobb Patch blogger Larry King called Byrne's proposal "a dangerous initiative" that would relegate economic development and other priorities for South Cobb to "the back burner."
"For too long decisions for the entire county have been disproportionally influenced by East Cobb interests," King wrote. "This is one of the factors that have contributed to the lack of enforcement of zoning regulations and the lack of incentives for developer investment in South Cobb."
Over the years, East Cobb incorporation hasn't stirred much interest. Other cityhood efforts were galvanized by frustration with larger county governments, especially over economic development, as was the case in Brookhaven.
During the campaign, Byrne has repeatedly hammered Lee for his vote last year to raise the Cobb property tax millage rate; Lee has countered that Cobb's tax rates still remain among the lowest in metro Atlanta and that the size of county government has been reduced during his tenure.
In 2009, as the economic recession hit, a group called "Citizens for the City of East Cobb" formed and created a website, asserting that incorporation would aid business growth, improve public safety and foster beautification and greater family-oriented community cohesion.
But that group, whose individuals never publicly identified themselves, fizzled. The East Cobb economy has rebounded to include the redeveloped Merchant's Walk Shopping Center, which was unveiled last year.