The tone of commentary from bond opponents beforehand indicated that the measure was deeply unpopular among those living in the Franklin Road corridor, where slum-like, crime-choked apartment complexes are targeted for city acquisition and then redevelopment with the bond proceeds. Opponents argued the run-down apartments were “affordable” and that those pushing redevelopment were trying to reduce the number of black and Hispanic residents in the city and its school system and therefore guilty of racism.
BUT A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on the way to the voting booth: Marietta Ward 7, which has the highest concentration of Franklin Road voters, voted for the bond by a 65-to-35 percent margin. In fact, that margin was the highest of any ward in the city (which supported the bond by 54.29 percent overall).
They apparently know some things that folks further away from Franklin don’t.
There also are some Franklin Road voters in Ward 1. And if you combine the results from Ward 7 and Ward 1, the bond still passed, 56-44.
Apparently those for whom Franklin Road’s challenges are every-day problems to be dealt with, rather than just abstract issues, decided that enough was enough and voted for the bond.
THE BOND FAILED in only one ward, Councilman Anthony Coleman’s Ward 5. Only 38.6 percent of those in Precinct 5A supported it and 45.2 percent in 5B.
There were only two other precincts in the city that voted against it. One was east Marietta’s 6A, where only 46.8 percent favored it. But turnout there was miniscule, only a total of 79 voters. Precinct 6B, on the other hand, gave it a narrow 52.1 percent majority of its 274 votes.
Marietta Ward 4B along Church and Cherokee streets and the Cherokee Heights neighborhood was the fourth and final precinct to say “no” to the bond. But it did so by only a razor-thin margin: There were 154 votes for the bond (49.84 percent) and 155 against it. The other two Ward 4 margins backed the bond by strong margins — 62.7 percent in 4A and 56.2 percent in 4C. In fact the margin in 4A (east of Burnt Hickory Road, north of Polk Street, west of Kennesaw Avenue and south of Kennesaw Mountain) was the second-highest of the city’s 12 precincts.
As for the city’s other wards and precincts, it passed in Marietta 2A by 50.87 percent and 2B by 56.54 percent; and Marietta 3A by 55.52 percent.
THE REDEVELOPMENT BOND passed by a close margin, just as most observers predicted. Yet it won by a larger margin than the city’s $25 million parks bond in 2009, which eked to victory by just a 51-49 margin and was defeated in Wards 3, 4 and 7.
The redevelopment bond results were more similar to the outcome of the 2011 county road SPLOST referendum, which passed in the city by 55.6 percent (compared to a remarkably narrow 50.1 percent overall).
“What this tells me is that local infrastructure, local projects that have broad based support can still pass. Not only in Marietta, but in the rest of the state,” said political consultant Heath Garrett, who with partner Mitch Hunter formed “Revitalize Marietta” early this year to spearhead the effort to pass such a bond. “But it’s got to tap into what the average voter wants, not be some top-down, pie-in-the-sky concept. People in Marietta understand that we have a gang problem, that we have a crime problem, that we have decreasing property values, that we’ve lost over a million square feet of business space in the Franklin corridor. Those are real numbers. We used a lot of facts, we didn’t use a lot of hyperbole or rhetoric. We just gave people a lot of data and you saw them respond to that.
GARRETT SALUTED Mayor Steve Tumlin for having shown “tremendous political courage” by lashing his re-election campaign to the effort to pass the bond.
“It’s always tough to talk about poverty and crime in your own backyard,” he said. “And he came up with a thoughtful, compassionate way to address these issues and launches the revitalization of the entire city. This will give us the chance to retain and recruit middle class families and most importantly, quality jobs back into the city limits of Marietta. Single mothers with children who live on Franklin and want to stay on Franklin will be able to stay there but they’ll be in a safer, more stabilized community thanks to the bond.”
NEXT UP will be creation of a new “visioning” process, Garrett said.
“It’s going to be called ‘One Marietta’ and be focused on uniting all demographics, all economic strata, all partisan groups and ask the community what do we want the city to be and let the bond be the catalyst for that.”
COBB Commission Chairman Tim Lee’s push to hire a state lobbyist is continuing to raise eyebrows with some local legislators. Lee has set aside a hefty $125,000 for a lobby firm to work both the federal and state levels. The commission has hired lobbyists before, but only for dealing with congressmen and federal bureaucrats. Hiring a state lobbyist would be a first.
Longtime county support services director Virgil Moon used to work the Cobb legislative delegation on the county agenda and building relationships the county could call on when needed. Now that he is retired, some argue Lee and County Manager David Hankerson should pick up the slack.
Past Cobb chairmen sometimes have taken a do-it-yourself approach to lobbying. Not only does it cost a lot less, it’s usually effective. After all, when Cobb’s chairman calls, those answering the phone in Atlanta nearly always say “yes.” Cobb is home to a huge bloc of Republican voters that no one from Gov. Nathan Deal on down can afford to ignore. And we also boast one of the largest legislative delegations under the Golden Dome, most of whom historically have been willing to work with Cobb’s chairmen.
So as a legislator put it to AT, Lee’s eagerness to hire a state lobbyist would be “a total waste of taxpayer money. ... Where is the need? It’s hard to argue Cobb hasn’t gotten its fair share of state funds over the years.”
That begs the question: What projects does Lee think he needs help with in coming years?
POLITICS: State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Cobb) is expected to announce her candidacy for state School Superintendent in a Tuesday press conference on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, according to reports. Incumbent Dr. John Barge will be running in the GOP gubernatorial primary rather than seeking another term as school super. Morgan’s husband, David Morgan, serves on the Cobb County school board.
Meanwhile, former DeKalb School Board member Nancy Jester is expected to announce on Monday that she, too, is running for state school superintendent, according to reports. BTW, Republican Jester will host a “Coffee Talk in Cobb” at Rev Coffee Roasters in Smyrna at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Joining her, she says, will be 11th District congressional candidate Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead) and state Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna).
Also running for super in the GOP Primary will be Vinings businessman Fitz Johnson, former owner of the Atlanta Beat women’s professional soccer team.
SAVE THE DATE: Next year’s Swordsman’s Ball for the American Cancer Society will be Sept. 6 at The Waverly, reports Babe Atkins-Byrne. Co-chairing the event will be Wendy Bunch,Tom Heyer and Justin and Jenni O’Dell.