Mableton cityhood push advances in Georgia House

Cobb County could soon have 4 new cities

Cobb County could soon have 4 new cities

The proposed city of Mableton cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday, becoming the first of four Cobb County cityhood movements to sail through a House panel without a contentious partisan fight.

If approved by both chambers and signed into law, South Cobb voters will be asked in a referendum later this year whether to form the new city government, which would become one of the largest in the county. The city would be majority African American and heavily Democratic, with an estimated population of about 78,000, according to the South Cobb Alliance, which is backing the effort.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell, received unanimous bipartisan approval from the House Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The lack of controversy came in stark contrast to three GOP-led cityhood movements that are being fast-tracked to a May vote over the objections of Democrats and county officials.

Two differences stand out: The Republican cityhood movements only gained political momentum after Democrats took control of the county commission in 2020, setting up a partisan fight. And, Mableton supporters completed their feasibility study two years ago, while the other cities completed theirs in October and November 2021, leading to complaints of a rushed process this session.

Thomas said that the Mableton incorporation has been discussed at length for years in the community.

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

In fact, it was — once upon a time.

Thomas said a city was formed for about 5 years starting in 1912, only to dissolve when catastrophic flooding left residents wishing they had county government resources to pay for disaster recovery.

Teresa Bailey, a lifelong resident of South Cobb, told lawmakers at a public hearing last week that she would love to see her community become a city again.

“We would like the privilege of being able to vote on this for ourselves,” said Bailey, who is 70.

Much like other proposed Cobb cities, Mableton would provide only limited services: community development, planning and zoning, parks and recreation, code enforcement and sanitation.

A referendum was initially planned for November, but after the three other cityhood proposals were moved up to the May primary ballot, the bill would give Cobb’s Board of Elections the option to choose whether to hold the vote during the primary or general election.