Hey there Cobblers!

Here’s the agenda for this issue:

  • A Better Cobb Highlights
  • Federal Grant Review
  • Board of Commissioners Preview
  • News and updates

A Better Cobb Highlights

January was a great month for A Better Cobb! In summary, we launched our first city-focused advocacy group in Create Austell and had our first Community Social connecting advocates across our four core issues.

February is also kicking off to a great start with a very positive Austell City Council meeting and we hosted a Brews & Land Use event!

We also reached the 100 subscriber milestone! So thank you to everyone for sharing with your friends and neighbors!

Here’s a little update on each of our key areas:

  • Create Austell: Launched in January with our Launch Party. Had our first monthly social last week to discuss upcoming development projects. First City Council meetup was this past Monday and we had good attendance! Highlights included a downtown parking lot being converted to a park and the Threadmill Complex going to an RFP for a live-work-play development. Website is launched and Facebook group is thriving!
  • Sustainability: Conversations are taking place to launch a Sustainability-focused group for Cobb. Met with GT Students who worked on the Climate Vulnerability Assessment to determine next steps towards achieving goals. We are partnering with My Green Earth, Inc to host a Climate & Cocktails at Third Door in Marietta on March 9th!
  • Cobb 4 Transit: Upcoming meeting to be scheduled in the near future with a focus on public outreach and coalition building.
  • Land Use: Hosted Brews & Land Use at Glover Park Brewery and it was a great success! We’ll be scheduling an upcoming event at the Battery soon.
  • Safe Streets: Great news! The Connect the Comet leadership met recently and are looking to revitalize the organization to help push the project past the finish line. There’s already funding for the portion in Cobb County and things are being held up in legalities between CSX and GDOT.

Federal Grants: Cobb Strikes Out Again

With the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) recently passed at the Federal level, there is a wide range of new funding resources available to the county.

On February 1st, 510 communities across the country were awarded planning or implementation grants under the competitive Safe Streets for America program. Numerous cities and counties in the Atlanta area won grants, highlighted by the city of Atlanta receiving $30 million for improved bike routes in South Downtown.

Unfortunately, you can see in the map below that Cobb received nothing.

This continues a pattern of Cobb County either not submitting proposals to receive Federal grants or submitting proposals that are not competitive, such as going 0-for-3 in our RAISE grant proposals last year.

With the deadline approaching for RAISE grants at the end of February, we submitted projects that are far too similar to the three projects that failed last year. I highlighted the RAISE grant proposals in a previous issue, but here is a quick recap of the 3 proposals Cobb submitted:

  • $4.4 Million Planning grant for McCollum Parkway realignment, and other improvements to Hwy 41, Old Hwy 41, and Kennesaw-Due West Road: This is a traffic flow and freight project and any transit or trail improvements are secondary.
  • $7.1 Million Planning grant for the Cumberland Core Loop/SWEEP project: This is a 3 mile multi-modal loop around Cumberland which would include an autonomous shuttle.
  • $4.5 Million Planning grant for East-West Connector Corridor Improvement project which is entirely focused on more car throughput with a direct connection to the new highway lanes being built on I-285.

Reviewing both the NOFO (Notice Of Funding Opportunity) and the supporting Justice 40 Environmental Justice document, these three projects will not score very high in the following 8 merit categories: Safety, Environmental Sustainability, Quality of Life, Improves Mobility & Community Connectivity, Economic Connectedness & Opportunity, State of Good Repair, Partnership & Collaboration, and Innovation.

The Cumberland Core Loop/SWEEP project is probably the most competitive of the three, and I’m truly hoping it passes.

Below is a calendar of all of the grant opportunities from the IIJA. All of these are opportunities Cobb could be competing for but our county’s transportation priorities and strategies do not align with the merit-based evaluations the Department of Transportation uses to award grants.

These are all grants that could go to funding more transit, bike lanes, and other mobility improvements:

  • RAISE: 0-for-3 in 2022, submitted 3 proposals for 2023
  • MEGA: Would need regional coordination and a “big project” (i.e. MARTA)
  • Safe Streets for America: Didn’t apply in 2022, will we in 2023?
  • Clean School Bus Program (this would be the school board): Didn’t apply in 2022
  • Reconnecting Communities: Applied for East-West Connector last September, which isn’t a good fit for this grant.
  • Railroad Crossing Elimination Grants: Are there any crossings we are applying for?
  • Pilot program for Transit Oriented Development

That’s just a short list of what’s available with the IIJA and you can see that so far, we are not competitive in our grants.

That’s something that has to improve as we move forward as a county.

Commissioners Meeting Preview

It’s been a minute since we had our last Commissioners meeting, which explains why this meeting is 65 items long!

Before I get into the agenda, here are the highlights:

  • Over $98 million in ARPA funding allocated to 90 projects
  • Funding for construction of Phase 1 and engineering of Phase 2 of the Chattahoochee Riverlands project!
  • Mobility on Demand Review

American Rescue Plan Act Funding

So after giving Deloitte $5 million to figure out where to spend our $147.6 million in ARPA funding, we now have a good idea of where that money is going across five areas:

  • County Infrastructure: $19 million on 9 projects across Facilities, Storm Water, and Broadband
  • County Health: $24 million on 28 projects across Mental Health, Public Health, Substance Abuse, Healthcare Capacity, and COVID-19 Mitigation
  • Economic Development: $22 million on 10 projects across Workforce Development, Small and Minority Owned Businesses, Employee Retention, and Travel & Tourism
  • Public Safety: $10 million on 8 projects across Mental Health Response, Court Backlog, and First Response
  • Support Services: $23 million on 35 projects across Affordable Housing, Homelessness, Rental & Mortgage Assistance, and Food Security

There is still a little money left of the ARPA funding, but this is the vast majority of funds now allocated. I’ve created a document that combines all of the projects here.

Mobility on Demand Review

This recap for this much needed review is straight from the agenda item:

“Currently, Cobb County operates four different on-demand transportation service programs, which include FLEX, Paratransit, Transportation Voucher Program, and Senior Transportation Services. Each program operates its own fleet utilizing different rules and eligibility requirements. Under existing procedures, each patron requiring on-demand transportation service is assigned to a specific program based on eligibility criteria, not by their transportation needs.

The Transit Division recommends a formal review of all on-demand services currently provided to develop programs, processes, and coordination procedures that will better meet customer needs and expectations. Additionally, the study will assist with the identification of system efficiencies and service improvements that would result in cost savings and further enhance overall customer service”

Chattahoochee Riverlands Build and Engineering

Items no. 47, 56, and 58 are all related to moving the initial Chattahoochee Riverlands Pilot forward.

Item 47 funds $3.4 million for the construction of phase 1 of the Chattahoochee Riverlands project mapped below. Item 58 is an agreement with the Trust for Public Lands to allow them to help with financing the project.

Item 56 is related to engineering for Phase 2 of the project, which connects to the southern terminus of Phase 1, as mapped below. It has about $600k local funds being matched by $2.5 million of federal funds awarded from Congressional Directed awards.

Rest of Agenda

Here’s the rundown of tomorrow’s agenda (or today depending on when you read it)

  • Presentation (1): February is American Heart Month
  • Public Hearing (2): A house proposed in the Chattahoochee Corridor & engineering for some SPLOST projects including the Cumberland Core Loop
  • Public Comment Round One
  • Consent Agenda
    • District Attorney (1): Grant application
    • Superior Court Admin (3): Grant funds
    • Juvenile Court (2): Grant funds
    • Solicitor General (1): Authorize budget savings
    • Magistrate Court (1): Approve appointment of new Senior Magistrate Judge
    • Water (6): Multiple funding & approvals and one public hearing for consultant services
    • Transportation (2): Approval of 3 street light districts and the demand service study mentioned earlier
    • Elections (1): Change in precinct map for Norton Park to align with Mableton City Limits
    • Police (1): In-car/body-worn cameras
    • Fire (1): Accepting a FEMA grant
    • Emergency Management (1): Acceptance of funds
    • Commercial Development (3): 2 annexation proposals and accepting the fee schedule for inspections
    • Risk Management (1): Approve interfund transfers for claims
    • Finance (1): Approve budget
    • Cobb Works (1): Accept a workforce and opportunity act grant
    • County Attorney (1): Authorize filing a lawsuit for what appears to be a gas line…?
  • Regular Agenda
    • ARPA funds (as outlined above)
    • Transportation (23 items):
      • Drainage projects: 9 items
      • Resurfacing: 7 items
      • Traffic Signals: 2 items
      • CCTV installation: 1 item
      • Condemnation for Mableton Parkway Pedestrian improvements: 1 item
      • Chattahoochee Trail: 3 Items, as outlined above
  • 3 Appointments to Advisory Boards
  • Final Public Comment

So yeah, that’s a lot. And I didn’t even mention the drama about Home Rule/Jerica Richardson/Redistricting. Hopefully, we are moving past that when it comes to County Operations.

News & Updates

Atlanta was awarded $30 million to implement better bike corridors in south downtown

MARTA’s More MARTA program is receiving heat for having to cut the project list

MARTA is hosting public meetings to get public feedback for one of those projects, the Clifton Corridor

Decatur leading the way by allowing more “missing middle housing” in the city, including duplexes and triplexes

Two articles about how fear is holding back many from mode shifting: Women are reluctant to take NYC subway due to safety fears and The Biggest Barrier to Biking is the Fear of Cars

Vice did an article about the opposition of the 15 minute city and y’all, I joined one of these Facebook groups to see what was happening and it is SCARY. It’s basically the anti-vax conspiracy theorist crowd are now shifting their attention to bike lanes and the 15-minute city concept. We know that energy all too well here, but it’s getting mainstream…

The Store Front Safety Council has done research showing there are 100 car crashes into storefronts every day, resulting in 16,000 injuries and over 2,500 deaths every year. That’s cars crashing into large storefronts, we can only imagine how difficult it is to drive with moving pedestrians and bicyclists.

On that note, for the 5,297,928th time, enforcing jaywalking predominantly impacts minorities and lower income individuals.

I’ll end this issue with something that made me laugh last week. On Friday, I spent two minutes creating a quick meme filled with sarcasm that caused a bit of chaos. Almost 80k views later, the comments still make me laugh.

‘til next time everyone!