Last year a group of concerned East Cobb citizens, after announcement of a cityhood group for South Cobb, decided to conduct an informal survey about creating their own city. Among the many responses were the need for community zoning and variance issues to be determined by East Cobb citizens, and a growing dissatisfaction with the lack of police coverage.

And it wasn’t surprising that the comment most frequently received was “will I have to pay more taxes?”

Consider what happened next. After reviewing the results, this group commissioned a feasibility study— required by Georgia law– to assess the financial potential for cityhood. There were no preconceived notions and it was agreed the Georgia State University feasibility report would be made public regardless of the outcome. Well, the result showed a city could be established without a tax increase, so work began to garner input, answer questions and gain support.

A group of East Cobbers simply want to invest in maintaining the character of their neighborhoods for future generations. The result is the formation of the Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb to foster community dialogue by presenting facts and advantages about forming a city.

Much has been made in some media outlets of unnamed “secret” Committee participants. Those invited to ad hoc meetings represent a cross-section of East Cobb ranging from business professionals to community activists. Their invitation was not based on support of cityhood. Many chose to remain anonymous since this Committee was merely exploring the concept of cityhood. Creating a municipality is a complex issue and without more information and public involvement many participants could not form an initial opinion. Their task was simply to review the feasibility study with a critical eye to provide recommendations.

The result are these recommendations:

* Conduct community meetings to educate the public on the process.

* Recruit volunteers for study panels.

* Develop a communication plan.

* Develop “frequently asked questions and answers” as well as “facts vs. myths” materials.

* Develop a comparison of the GSU study data versus our study panel estimates and also comparing research with comparable cities.

* Educate citizens living in adjacent properties about requesting annexation into the city after it is created. (Changing the proposed city boundaries now would require a new feasibility study.).

Conversations with numerous East Cobb citizens also include concerns over actions taken by a majority of Cobb County commissioners who don’t reside in our community.

The recent vote on a property tax increase, for example, passed by a 3-2 vote. Our sole East Cobb commissioner was out-voted.

Indeed, there is a perception that county funds are not being spent prudently, and that public safety services and road improvements are not top priorities. If this concerns you in East Cobb, there is a solution. The answer is self-determination through cityhood!

The charter for a municipality is a blank slate. It establishes the government structure and includes whatever ordinances the citizens desire to make the government work to their benefit. Below are examples of powers that cities have included in their charters:

* Ordinances to control intensity and high-density development.

* Restrictions on removal and clear cutting of trees.

* Establishing minimum lot sizes.

* Capping the millage rate, as Milton and Johns Creek have done.

* Mandated citizen vote to approve budgets/tax increases.

Unlike the County Commission, future City Council members make a personal choice to live in East Cobb because of low density development, a family-oriented lifestyle and great schools. Local representation is far more likely to maintain these qualities which brought us to this part of Cobb County. With a city, the ratio of constituents represented is approximately 17,000 per Council member versus 175,000 per county commissioner. (It should be especially noted that nine of 10 new cities in metro Atlanta have not increased taxes since incorporation.)

Five study committees are proposed to create a charter: Tax/Finance, Planning/Zoning, Public Works/Engineering, Governance/Administration and Police/Court. We need volunteers with expertise in these areas to assist in researching and developing financially sound options and services to be part of the charter. As a committee volunteer you play an integral part in creating the vision for conservative principles and good government.

Cityhood must be initiated through a bill and passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor. It will let voters and representatives who live in our city shape our future.

To volunteer, send an email to our website eastcobbcityhood.com and include your area of expertise and qualifications.

Joe Gavalis is the president of the Cityhood of East Cobb Committee and this originally appeared in The Marietta Daily Journal. In the interest of full disclosure, Phil Kent Consulting is helping the Committee with media work and Phil Kent is the CEO & Publisher of InsiderAdvantage.

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