In Mableton, a Cobb cityhood movement with none of the partisan rancor

021722 Mableton: Local resident Vincent Jones hits the Silver Comet Trail for a 4 mile run on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton. Jones said "I've heard a lot of talk about cityhood in the news lately but I'm not aware that Mableton was thinking about it and I'm not sure how it would effect us."  “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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021722 Mableton: Local resident Vincent Jones hits the Silver Comet Trail for a 4 mile run on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton. Jones said "I've heard a lot of talk about cityhood in the news lately but I'm not aware that Mableton was thinking about it and I'm not sure how it would effect us." “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

When state Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell) presented her bill to create a city of Mableton over the last week, the two hearings lasted just 10 minutes each.

There was no grilling from Democratic lawmakers, who have compared other proposed cities in Cobb County to glorified homeowners’ associations. And there was no testimony from county officials pleading for more time to assess the would-be city’s impact on county finances.

The case for a city of Mableton could have been lifted verbatim from the talking points for East Cobb, Lost Mountain and Vinings. Supporters want local control, better representation and a sense of community. They only want to provide a handful of services, such as community development, parks, sanitation and code enforcement, and would rely on the county for the rest.

Yet, there was none of the controversy or concern that the other cities encountered from state lawmakers.

Thomas’ bill authorizing a voter referendum on the Mableton city effort earned unanimous approval Wednesday from a House panel after little discussion, while three Republican-led efforts have been bitterly opposed by most of the General Assembly’s Democrats.

On Thursday, for instance, the state Senate passed a bill to authorize a cityhood vote on Lost Mountain in West Cobb, with 19 Democrats voting no.

The stark differences come down to process, timing and partisan politics, which have loomed increasingly large over Cobb County ever since Democrats took over its board of commissioners in the 2020 election.

That election ended Republican control in the GOP stronghold that long bolstered the political career of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

This year, the party’s lawmakers are pushing to form the three new conservative cities, even as they redraw the commission’s district lines without public input in an attempt to cling to the two seats they have left on the county board.

Backers of the three Republican-led cities dispute that their efforts are a knee jerk reaction to a single election. East Cobb, for instance, completed an initial feasibility study in 2018 that didn’t get much traction from residents or lawmakers.

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021722 Mableton: Traffic passes by the historic Mable House on Floyd Road on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

021722 Mableton: Traffic passes by the historic Mable House on Floyd Road on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
021722 Mableton: Traffic passes by the historic Mable House on Floyd Road on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

But the timing — three cityhood bills introduced in 2021 after Cobb went more than a century since the last city was formed — is difficult to ignore.

Mableton, so far, has evaded the partisan warfare. The bill is sponsored by a Democrat, and Republicans have not pushed back.

Like the other movements, supporters say they don’t feel like their voices have enough weight on the county commission. A Mableton city council would have one representative for every 13,000 residents, rather than one county commissioner per 192,000 people.

“We were hearing a lot of concerns about apartment complexes that did not have (enough) oversight when it came to code enforcement,” said Monica DeLancy, a member of the steering committee who leads the Riverside Renters Association. She hears complaints daily from neighbors frustrated with absentee landlords who won’t maintain their properties.

“You have one representative that is trying to take care of all these concerns,” she said.

Mableton’s demographics set it apart. The other proposed cities are whiter and wealthier than the county at large. Mableton is majority African American, with a median household income of $60,000 and a poverty rate north of 13%, four percentage points higher than the county as a whole.

It’s also the only one that’s been a town before.

Named after Robert Mable, a local plantation owner, Mableton was incorporated in 1912, but its government only lasted five years. Flooding in the summer of 1916 overwhelmed the town’s sewage system, leading residents to strike a deal with the county. They’d give up their charter if the county would replace their sewer pipes, according to county historical preservation documents.

Today, it still has its own post office, giving the community’s residents a Mableton address.

“Believe it or not, (residents) already believe that Mableton is a city,” Thomas said Wednesday.

The proposed city would have a population of 78,000. It stretches well beyond its historic core, covering most of South Cobb between Powder Springs and Austell to the west, Smyrna to the east and just past the East-West Connector in the north.

Home to Six Flags Over Georgia, hotels and myriad apartment complexes, a Mableton incorporation would have the second largest financial impact to the county’s tax base of any of the proposed cities, behind only East Cobb, according to a county analysis.

One mark in its favor, politically: Mableton hasn’t been pushed to a vote at nearly the speed of the others.

Its feasibility study was completed in 2020, while the other three were released less than three months before this year’s legislative session. And, unlike the three conservative areas, the election isn’t being fast-tracked to the May ballot. The bill gives the local Board of Elections the option of holding the vote in May or November.

DeLancy, for one, wants to wait to give more time to educate the voters in her area — largely renters who haven’t lived in Cobb for long.

In wealthier areas like Lost Mountain, “you have people that have more time to do the research,” she said. “You have people with the resources to understand what it means to be a city, what it means to be a county.

“We’re still in the educating process.”

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021722 Mableton: Emil Gomez, who owns a local business says "I didn't even know about it' when asked about the Mableton cityhood movement outside the Mableton Post Office on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton. Gomez said "everyone is trying to get out of the jurisdiction of Atlanta" when asked how he felt about it. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

021722 Mableton: Emil Gomez, who owns a local business says "I didn't even know about it' when asked about the Mableton cityhood movement outside the Mableton Post Office on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton. Gomez said "everyone is trying  to get out of the jurisdiction of Atlanta" when asked how he felt about it.  “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
021722 Mableton: Emil Gomez, who owns a local business says "I didn't even know about it' when asked about the Mableton cityhood movement outside the Mableton Post Office on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Mableton. Gomez said "everyone is trying to get out of the jurisdiction of Atlanta" when asked how he felt about it. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@


City of Mableton

Here is the demographic makeup of the would-be city:

Population: 78,000

Black: 52%

White: 22%

Hispanic: 21%

Asian: 2%

Median income (2016): $60,056

Source: South Cobb Alliance