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Two public events on East Cobb cityhood stir emotions

Representatives from opposing groups met Tuesday for the first public debate over cityhood.

EAST COBB, Ga. — The debate over cityhood for East Cobb is heating up once again. A town hall meeting was held Monday evening at Wheeler High School. More than 100 people showed up, but many walked away disappointed.

“I moved to East Cobb two years ago from Sandy Springs,” Valerie Yellin said. “I’m just a concerned citizen who came into this meeting not wanting cityhood, and I'm not convinced after the meeting that I want cityhood. I would like to believe some of the things that they said about not wanting high-density development, but this whole thing was pushed through in a very sneaky, underhanded and secretive way.

She says she feels mislead and does not believe everything the cityhood proponents are saying.

“The bill was pushed through the day before the legislative session ended,” Yellin said. “In Sandy Springs, there were lots of meetings before any referendum, but here, this bill was pushed through without anything going to the public.”

Yellin says the language of the bill is confusing which is another concern for her.

“They bundled three different concepts - term limits, prohibition against conflicts of interest, and cityhood all in one sentence,” she said. “So that can be very misleading, especially if people aren't educated on the issues.”

Joe Porto also lives in East Cobb, and says he’s still not convinced that a new city would be beneficial.

“My concern with the county is that the city of East Cobb, of over 100,000 people, is going to siphon money away from the county,” he said. “So how is that going to affect our millage rate, our general fund in the county? And is it going to detrimentally affect any other parts of Cobb County?”

Credit: WXIA

Caroline Holko says she 100 percent opposed to cityhood and says she feels like the proponents have a hidden agenda.

“It does seem extremely suspicious that no one is willing to answer any questions how about who funded the feasibility study or where the money is coming from, and I find that very sketchy,” she said. “I'm very pro-transparency, and that is one of the issues I fight for in my community is transparency from our government officials. I also have concerns about the way they're talking about Cobb County in general, this idea that only part of Cobb County is worthwhile and the rest of it is somehow trash. I don't really care for that.”

Representatives from both sides of the issue got together Tuesday for a debate which was held during East Cobb Business Association’s regular luncheon.

“Today was the first opportunity for both groups to be presented in public, and we were thankful for that opportunity,” Mindy Seger said. “It was a shortened version, but we were able to scratch the surface a little bit and hopefully just start some curiosity going around this and get people involved.”

Seger is with East Cobb Alliance, the group in opposition to cityhood. She debated with David Birdwell, co-chair for the Committee for cityhood in East Cobb. In regard to the questions about transparency, Birdwell says this:

“We’ve done a number of these town hall meetings. We've done a number of presentations to community groups - HOAs to realtor groups and businesses,” Birdwell said. “Anybody that's contacted us and wants us to come talk about it, we've been open and honest and gone to speak with them. I've had coffee and breakfast in every shop in East Cobb and beyond, just meeting people to hear what they think about this. We try to be as transparent as we possibly can. We don't have anything to hide.”

Many people were surprised Monday evening when Birdwell and his team presented a new map showing boundary lines that had been redrawn.

“It's clear in East Cobb, people live here for the schools,” Birdwell said. “That's by far the reason they come here. And so, by having certain schools that were partly in and some that were mostly out, particularly schools that people think of as East Cobb, we've gotten feedback and Representative Dollar agrees with that feedback, that we should expand the lines. And that would include more of Lassiter, more of Pope, and tweaking some of the lines where some neighborhoods were kind of cut in half.”

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