FILE PHOTO: David Birdwell, a backer of the proposed City of East Cobb, makes his presentation to local residents during a town hall meeting. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Is East Cobb warming to cityhood?

Last month, a representative of the East Cobb cityhood movement was met with overwhelming skepticism during a tense town hall meeting attending by hundreds.

But a panel of cityhood proponents found a slightly more receptive audience at a second event held Monday night at Walton High School. 

More than a hundred residents turned out to hear more about the proposed city, which would be Cobb’s largest with about 97,000 people. The idea has provoked strong reactions but also piqued curiosity. 

“Absolutely, people are talking,” said TJ Adams, a manager for UPS who lives in East Cobb and attended the meeting. “Some have formed opinions, some haven’t, but I would say there’s definitely some activity around it.”

Adams said cityhood is something he would consider, but he hasn’t made up his mind yet. 

Monday’s meeting included more specifics and covered more ground--largely because attendees were asked to submit their questions in writing, which cut down on yelling and speeches from the audience that characterized the first event.

But backers once more declined to say who had funded the East Cobb cityhood feasibility study from Georgia State, nor would they commit to disclosing funders going forward.

They did engage in some damage control. Phil Kent, the conservative pundit who had been hired as the official spokesperson for the movement, has been let go, months after he made partisan comments on social media suggesting Republicans in East Cobb needed to incorporate to stave off a Democratic takeover of the county.

On Monday, cityhood proponents insisted the effort was nonpartisan, arguing that the county was simply too big for a commission of five elected representatives.

Karen Hallacy, a longtime education activist from East Cobb who joined the cityhood volunteer committee, told the audience the group is seeking input from the community to refine the proposal, including shifting boundaries and services.

She also addressed the perception that the cityhood movement was being pushed through by a secretive clique to advance their own interests.

“It’s a group of people who are still just trying to figure stuff out,” she said. “We are learning as we go.”

Speaking after the event, Martina Gilly , a retired federal agent, said she was still undecided but that she appreciated the organized presentation compared to the “chaos” of last month’s town hall. 

“I feel a lot more comfortable about the proposal now,” she said. “I was totally, totally against it last time.”

Sharon Delamater, a Cobb resident since 1971, said she still felt cityhood is being rushed, with a bill for a 2020 referendum already introduced in the state legislature. The lack of transparency about the funding also continues to bother her. 

“I’m leaning more towards ‘no’ because of the fast-tracking,” she said. She suggested the county start by adding more seats to the board of commissioners to address concerns about representation.

“See if that works and then if it doesn’t you can always go into a city,” she said. 

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