Greetings Fellow Cobbers! I hope you had a wonderful weekend with the beautiful weather. It’s expected to get pretty chilly this week…

This issue will highlight last week’s Commissioners Meeting, progress towards a transit referendum, and early voting.

Early Voting Has Started!

If you are registered to vote in Cobb County, you can start voting this week! I’m sure everyone is aware of the statewide races by now, but pay attention to some of the local races (Cobb Commissioner District 3 and Mableton Cityhood are the biggest local races).

More than 7,000 people voted on the first day of early voting, and the early voters trended much older.

Some notes about early voting (general info flyer):

  • Cobb has opened up 12 Early Voting locations throughout the county that are open Mon-Fri 7AM-7PM, Sat (Oct 22 and 29) 8AM-5PM.
  • A 13th location at the Jim R Miller Fairgrounds will be open Mon Oct 31-Fri Nov 4th 7AM-7PM.
  • Sunday voting will be for only one day (Oct 30th 12PM-4PM) and only at the Main Office location.
  • The Main Office has moved from Whitlock Avenue to a new facility at 995 Roswell Street Marietta GA 30060.
  • Dropboxes are only available at 6 locations and open during voting hours.
  • I’ve been watching the wait times today and the longest waits have been at the Smyrna Community Center, Ward Recreation Center (West Cobb), South Cobb Regional Library, and East Cobb Government Center. Other locations have had wait times between 0-15 minutes for the majority of the day. Even at the busy locations, I’ve rarely seen wait times more than 40 minutes.
  • Check out the live wait times here:
  • One thing that I love to see about the map linked above is that they included the CobbLinc Bus Network. Seems like such a small and trivial thing, but it’s so important to highlight the transit options!
  • Of the 12 early voting locations, 3 of them are located on fixed routes: The new Main Office location is on Route 50 (and near Route 10/Rapid 10), South Cobb Regional Library is on Route 30 and South Cobb Recreation Center is on Route 30. The Smyrna Community Center location is about a 10-15 minute walk from Route 25.

Although voting access has dropped, Cobb Elections is doing a great job to have enough resources and staff to make voting as easy as possible. Make a plan, look up waiting times, and VOTE!

Commissioners’ Board Meeting Recap

So I know in last week’s issue, I said that it didn’t seem like there was a lot on the agenda.

I was wrong. It was one of the most passionate, divisive meetings I’ve seen to date.

The first public hearing was about the SPLOST program for Parks, and there were four people who made public comment: Christine Rozman, Craig Harfoot, Debbie Fisher, and Pamela Reardon. All of these comments were consistent in their opposition to the SPLOST projects moving forward and were consistent with the public comments they have made in the past. Basically, these commenters are trying to be a roadblock to any basic progress and process.

The second public hearing was about the 5-year Update to the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. There were 6 public comments, 4 of which were the same negative group, one was a neutral civic leader, and one commenter had a great response. Some of the negative comments brought up “concrete jungle” of bike lanes and sidewalks (but not roads?!) and are we building bike lanes without anyone riding bikes?! The positive comment came from a Marietta resident and called out the NIMBYs and thanked the county for being pragmatic and careful with consideration for everyone.

Commissioner Sheffield and Chairwoman Cupid had pointed responses to some of the public comment, including the accusation that there was “woke language” in the plan (LOL).

It’s important to note that the Plan Update must be approved by October 31st for the county to continue to be eligible for state and federal funds.

The motion was approved 5-0.

Public comment was focused on one primary issue: the home rule issue with regards to Jerica Richardson being drawn out of her district during the redistricting process. The first three commenters spoke in support of Jerica Richardson and county Home Rule powers and that was followed by three commenters who are against the county redrawing their own maps.

It has to be asked what their position would be if the letter next to Commissioner Richardson’s name was an “R” instead of a “D”. I digress…

This was followed by a lot of back and forth between Commissioners, specifically Chairwoman Cupid and Commissioner Gambrill.

The consent and regular agenda went by pretty quickly with highlights being funding for Alabama Rd Sidewalk, a public hearing for SPLOST projects including river trails, and accepting land donation of 4 acres that will serve as a trailhead for the Noonday Creek Trail.

Finally, the meeting culminated in Item no. 41, where the discussion of County Home Rule to overrule the maps signed into law by the state. It led to A LOT of discussion. Commissioners Birrell and Gambrill were against it and spoke about it being illegal and unconstitutional. Commissioner Richardson spoke briefly that the process is not codified and the concern has little to do about whether the map is proper, it’s whether the county has the power or not to rewrite the maps. Long story short, there was a lot of legal talk back and forth and the result will be determined by the courts.

The commissioners then went to a vote to challenge the State map and replace it with the county map using Home Rule. The result was 3-2 with Birrell and Gambrill voting against it.

There was one last round of public comment. Again, 3 people spoke in support of the county’s Home Rule powers. 3 people who spoke against were Debbie Fisher, Judy Boyce, and Craig Harfoot. Mr. Harfoot started his comment with “This lawsuit is what men would do, not a very woman thing. All you have to do is move back to your district.” Here’s the video. Oof.

Chairwoman Cupid wrapped everything up with the quote of the times: “History will be the final judge for what is occurring at this time”.

Commissioners addresses and a zoning appeal hearing followed to close out the meeting.

It appears that there will be more discussion and another vote regarding home rule at next week’s commissioner meeting.

Transit Referendum Update

So with Commissioner Richardson potentially being removed from her position in January, it is putting some extra pressure on the county to move forward with a future referendum.

Long story short, back in March and April, it was decided to not pursue a referendum this year and instead progress towards a referendum in 2024. Not much has happened since that decision was made and county staff would like a resolution to be adopted that gives them direction to pursue a referendum in 2024.

If Jerica is removed from office in January, the Board of Commissioners will likely consist of two members that support transit and two members that oppose transit which will paralyze progress. We will find ourselves in the same position in 2024, scrambling with a plan with little political support.

Cobb 4 Transit will be meeting Friday, October 21st at Reformation Brewery (Smyrna) at 6PM to discuss the short and long term planning and strategy to achieve a successful referendum.

In the short-term, our focus will be to ensure that county staff moves forward with preparation and planning. In the long-term, our strategy will be to ensure that the proposed plan is the right one for the county and eventually passes.

Data shows that voters in the county are supportive of transit, but the tax utilized and the inclusion of MARTA will be key. As much as we keep hearing the county doesn’t want MARTA or regional rail, data and surveys have shown otherwise. See the slide below that recaps some high-level takeaways from these sources.

Upcoming Events

  • Friday, October 21st at 6PM at Reformation Brewery Smyrna: Cobb 4 Transit Referendum Roundtable (Note: This will replace the scheduled Virtual Y’all Aboard meeting held Wednesday)
  • Tuesday, October 25th at 7PM: Cobb County Commissioners Meeting (this is expected to be a big one, so I highly encourage everyone to attend)
  • November 4th & 5th: GA Bikes Bike+Walk+Live Summit

News & Updates

Good recap that updates a few different projects including East/West Connector, Cumberland Sweep, Chattahoochee Riverlands, and Noonday Creek Trail

A Better Cobb reader Tyler attended a Mableton Cityhood Debate and left a recap on our A Better Cobb, Y’all Facebook group. Patricia commented with a lot of good resources, including this Cobb Courier article and a video recap

Last week, I met with Caleb Stubbs, the engineer behind the ATL Trains plan for Regional Rail. I will be doing an overview of the plan in the near future, but I highly recommend checking it out.

Map of proposed regional rail in Cobb County/Northwest Atlanta.

We also met with Atlanta Regional Commission and I’d like to highlight the Regional Trail Vision which includes a plan, an interactive map, and a regular roundtable meetup.

Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Trail Plan showing Cobb very close to completing our part!

In response to some rising costs with the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Biden Administration has launched programs to deliver projects on time and under budget.

Welcome to the War on Cars, Secretary Pete!

NotJustBikes did a Youtube Video about how crossing the street shouldn’t be deadly, Secretary Pete tweeted about how we need to increase pedestrian safety, Trunk or Treating is a symptom of poor road safety, and even the Onion chimed in on pedestrian safety.

Cobb County celebrated the opening of a new road, the Windy Hill Terrell Mill Connector which includes a multi-use trail through the corridor. The project cost over $48 million.

I’ll be doing issues in the near future highlighting the ATL Trains and Trails plans, but we have a long way to go for regional connectivity that doesn’t depend on the car.

‘til next week!