Cobb lawmakers weigh de-annexation options for Mableton

Credit: Taylor Croft

Credit: Taylor Croft

Residents flood Cobb delegation meeting at the state Capitol, pushing to exit new city

Residents in the northern part of Mableton made their case for a quick exit from the city at the state Capitol Monday, hoping to convince Cobb County lawmakers to support a bill removing them from the city boundaries.

State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs) plans to introduce a bill that could go in several different directions, depending on how other lawmakers want to address the issue — if they choose to address it at all.

Wilkerson represents a small portion of Mableton and said the Legislature could de-annex by neighborhood, or by voting precinct, or they could have the cityhood vote redone completely. The latter option, however, is the least likely to gain traction with lawmakers, said State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, the Cobb Delegation chair.

She said there are solutions at the city council level, too. If candidates who support de-annexation are elected, they could do so themselves by adopting a different map and redrawing the districts.

“There’s a slate of city council candidates who are opposed to cityhood,” Anulewicz said.

The de-annexation efforts began the day after Mableton voters approved the new city in November. While the referendum passed 53% to 47%, some areas in the northern precincts voted overwhelmingly against it. Residents have gone door-to-door getting thousands of signatures on petitions, and hundreds of people came out for a town hall meeting to support de-annexation.

Some lawmakers expressed concern over the timing, given that early voting in Mableton’s mayor and council elections begins in less than three weeks. Others questioned how removing certain areas from the city would affect voters in those areas that voted in favor of cityhood.

State Rep. Terry Cummings lives in Mableton and represents most of the city, but has not said whether she voted for or against cityhood. She needs to know what’s in the bill before supporting de-annexation. Her main concern, she said, is disenfranchising voters.

“If I voted yes, then the question is, along with the other ‘yes’ people: will my vote be disenfranchised?” Cummings said. “It’s one thing to take out, to de-annex, a neighborhood, and it’s another to de-annex an entire voting precinct.”

Residents lining the walls in the delegation’s meeting room said the best thing for the new city will be to remove them from it.

Credit: Taylor Croft

Credit: Taylor Croft

“You’re going to have a city torn by radically different needs, and we’re going to end up exactly where we are now, with an area that needs help and is not getting it because they’ve included such a big area,” said resident Richard Hembree.

State Rep. Michael Smith’s district includes a portion of the area that could be removed. Smith said he supports de-annexation for the good of the entire area: “I believe that if we do not act, this could destroy this part of the county.“

Lawmakers discussed the complications of de-annexing by voting precinct versus neighborhoods, and whether to remove residential areas while keeping commercial areas in the city limits for tax revenue, but they did not establish a path forward.

Many of the other lawmakers were non-committal until they see the bill, which Wilkerson said will come in the next few weeks.