The city was always supposed to change its name and tried to at the end of 2017, a few months after incorporating. The City Council chose the name "Renaissance," but the choice was vetoed by Mayor Bill Edwards.
Edwards said not only did many residents oppose the name, but he said at the time there were "more urgent issues to deal with." He still feels that way.
“I’m not against renaming the city, don’t get me wrong,” Edwards told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday, “I’m saying I got a lot of other things, like crime, that I’m head over heels into right now.”
From 2000 to 2014, Edwards was the county commissioner over southern Fulton County, representing people in southside cities like East Point and Fairburn. Many people refer to that part of the county simply as “South Fulton.” But as mayor of a new city with the same name in the same location, Edwards said things can get confusing.
“When they announce things on the TV, they say ‘South Fulton’ and people automatically assume it’s in our city,” Edwards said.
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After watching several areas in North Fulton create their own cities, South Fulton saw what was coming down the pike — Atlanta might annex the industrial parts of Fulton, robbing them of properties that bring in lots of tax dollars and leaving the rest of unincorporated Fulton behind. Voters in southern Fulton at the time felt it was a now-or-never proposition.
City residents will be more involved in picking the city’s new name than last time, said Councilwoman Helen Willis.
“Residents’ complaints were that they did not get enough input, they did not get enough consensus. Now this is in the hands of residents. And if they come back with something that is totally unreasonable, (something) we can’t live with, it’s up to us to move forward or not,” Willis said during the Sept. 10 meeting where the committee was approved.
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Councilman Khalid Kamau was the sole vote against forming the renaming committee, but said, “I do think that South Fulton is a problematic name.”
Kamau said he voted no because he felt the plan left too many questions unanswered: What happens if the mayor vetoes again? Is there enough time to get this on a ballot? What if the committee brings back unacceptable names?
“I doubt they will come back with five unreasonable names,” Willis said.
Each of the seven council members are expected to nominate two people to the committee at a Sept. 24 meeting.
Although he’s the only person in the city with veto power, the mayor said it isn’t just up to him.
“It’s not Edwardsville,” said Edwards.
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