I promise, the Star Wars references will come to an end VERY SOON. Promise.

This is an extra issue focused on what happened earlier this week at the Board of Commissioners’ Work Session and Regular Meeting. Both myself and Linda attended both sessions where two very important events happened:

  • Commissioners voted to challenge the state’s redistricting of District 2 and the possible removal of Commissioner Jerica Richardson
  • The county restarted the conversation to bring a mobility referendum to voters in 2024 (go directly to this section by clicking here)
I took this picture as the County Attorney was presenting his case with Jerica on the dais and the American flag directly behind her…

Home Rule

Last night’s Board of Commissioners meeting was very contentious and emotional for everyone there. Here’s a rundown of my experience:

  • Before the doors opened at 6:30, there was already a large crowd outside and all 12 public comment positions were filled (I showed up at 5PM and was the 5th person there…)
  • There was discussion to let all 12 public commenters speak before the session, but it had no support, so as usual, there were 6 public speakers before the session and 6 after (and after the all-important vote).
  • The audience filled the room and was decidedly pro-Jerica. I’d say about 60-80 people showed up in support and only 5 people were obviously against her. They had signs they held up asking her to recuse herself.
  • Unfortunately, due to the first-come, first-speak policy, the public comment was more mixed.
  • The Consent and Regular Agenda were relatively normal and straightforward and highlighted by the County approving a site selection study for the Cumberland Transit Center…
  • …UNTIL the Home Rule item…
    • County Attorney presented the resolution to challenge the redistricting of the maps using Home Rule (basically that the county has powers to overrule the state maps)
    • Each Commissioner spoke and it was obvious from the beginning that it was going to finish with a 3-2 vote

After the Commissioners comments, the vote was 3-2 and a loud cheer erupted throughout the room with many standing. Who knows what the legal outcome will be, but I believe the county is on the right side of history to challenge this obviously political redistricting and avoiding a precedent that could impact either party in the future.

Transit Discussion Restarted, Progressing Towards 2024 Referendum

Before Tuesday night’s Regular meeting, the Commissioners met in the afternoon for a Work Session where Cobb Department of Transportation Drew Raessler made a presentation to Commissioners that had a couple of goals:

  • Restart the conversation of transit by restating the needs and benefits of transit
  • Get the Commissioners to commit to a transit referendum in 2024

Here’s the entire presentation file, where you will find it lacking in concrete plans or proposed solutions. That was intentional. As I mentioned in the issue earlier this week, the goal right now is to close some doors and simplify the conversation to start progress.

Here’s a couple of highlights/screengrabs from that presentation:

By 2050, Cobb is expected to grow by about 300k residents and workers…as will the combined counties bordering Cobb (Paulding, Cherokee, Bartow, Douglas).
This will lead to heavy congestion along our high capacity and arterial roadways…

Those two slides, combined with a reference to Induced Demand, did a good job showing that our current transportation system will be overwhelmed with future growth.

This was a list showing what each of the 5 Commissioners suggested were their priorities, with the most common at the top in dark blue with Regional Transit Connectivity at the top.
Skipping to the end of the presentation, this slide shows which of the above solutions can be covered by an HB930 “transit” referendum.

It was positioned that any transportation solution, including transit, needs to satisfy three goals: Mobility within activity centers, connections to activity centers, and serve the community.

The map showing the activity centers, where mobility within them could benefit from pedestrian, bicycle, and microtransit improvements.
Regional connections between activity centers could be connected by transit yet the most important connection between Cumberland and Atlanta is missing.
How a proposed transit solution would improve access for multiple groups in the community. There was an increased focus on service for Seniors, a population expected to triple by 2050.

A few different examples were shared that detailed how transit travel could become competitive with car travel and then the presentation/discussion ended with proposed next steps that highlighted a possible vote to progress towards a referendum on November 17th.

The proposed next steps. After discussion, it was clear that November 17th is the likely date for the authorization vote.

After the Commissioners spoke, Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton made a comment representing the other mayors in the county that reiterated they wanted to be involved in conversations and an accelerated timeline of rollout.

The Transit Advisory Board earlier in the week unanimously adopted a suggestion that the county move forward with pursuing an HB 930 referendum in 2024. If the commissioners authorize this, the process will begin to finalize the plan and details for a 2024 referendum!

What can we do?

Cobb 4 Transit is coordinating two activities to rally support for moving the county forward towards HB 930:

  • Increase attendance at upcoming Board of Commissioners meetings
    • Tuesday, November 8th at 9:00 AM
    • Thursday, November 17th at 7:00 PM (likely voting date)
  • Organize communications with Board of Commissioners
    • Setting up meetings with each Commissioner
    • Coordinating emails and talking points

It’s very important that we activate and show our support for this if we want Cobb County to move forward with transit expansion in the near future.

Let us know how you want to help out!

That’s the update from a pretty interesting week! I tried to recap it the best I could and you can always reach us at abettercobb@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Have a great weekend!