Cobb lawmakers plan to redraw county districts
by Jon Gillooly
February 16, 2014 12:00 AM | 3903 views | 7 7 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County Commission map
Cobb County Commission map
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MARIETTA — Republican state Reps. John Carson and Matt Dollar predict lawmakers will redraw the boundaries of the four district commissioners this year, but the new lines won’t take effect until 2016.

“The Cobb Delegation worked with the commission so that the timing of the new maps would not affect this upcoming election,” Dollar said Friday.

The districts represented by commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Helen Goreham are up for election this year. While Birrell plans to run for another term, Goreham has announced this will be her last year on the board.

Carson said the idea is to have new district maps drawn by lawmakers with input from commissioners rather than the existing lines, which were drawn by a federal judge.

“I’m comfortable with putting together something that makes the maps effective for 2016,” Carson said.

Commissioners adopted a resolution Tuesday asking the Legislature to delay any redrawing of Cobb’s commission districts until 2015 when no commissioners will be up for re-election.

The resolution, spearheaded by Birrell, was adopted in a 4-1 vote with Bob Ott opposed. Ott believes it’s the Legislature’s job to redraw district lines, not the commissioners.

“That is a legislative function that is defined in the Constitution,” he said.

Birrell said state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), chairman of the 21-member Cobb Legislative Delegation, sent her a copy of a possible new map. But Hill has not returned calls or emails asking about his proposed changes.

In a Jan. 26 email from Hill to Birrell with the subject line “Cobb County Commission map,” Hill writes: “Sorry for the delay — today is the first day I have been home in a while.”

Hill attached a new map in his email to Birrell, which can be found on the MDJ’s website.

Some critics say Birrell’s reason for opposing a new map is that she wants to keep her church, the Catholic Church of St. Ann on Roswell Road in east Cobb, within her district. Birrell doesn’t deny the allegation.

“Well, I’d like to have the church that I attend and congregation that I’m a member of, I’d like to represent them. I mean, it’s not a do-or-die thing, but it’s kind of like where you live and where you worship,” she said.

But that’s not her only reason for opposing a redistricting.

Passing a map that affects the May 20 primary is “an injustice and a hardship to the voters” because it won’t give them much time to become acquainted with their new district, she said.

Carson agrees with Birrell’s timing argument, which is why he says the new map wouldn’t activate until 2016.

But Birrell has other concerns.

“There are some things I don’t like about the redistricting on the map that I’ve seen,” she said Friday. “It still splits the Mableton community, and that was a big fight last time, and it takes everything north of Roswell Road where a lot of my support and constituency is.”

The last time commissioners and the Cobb Legislative Delegation tackled redistricting, it ended up in court. In 2012, lawmakers proposed a map that divided the community of Mableton, then represented by District 4 Commissioner Woody Thompson, placing some of it in Ott’s District 2.

Thompson, who went on to be defeated by Lisa Cupid, objected to the change at the time, as did Birrell and Goreham.

Thompson, Birrell and Goreham proposed their own map, although when it came to a vote, Ott and Tim Lee voted against it.

Lawmakers never approved either option before the deadline, so the process went before a federal judge who redrew the map in 2012.

Cupid, the lone Democrat on the board, said she also opposes a new map.

“There’s a lot of pride and ownership in that (Mable House Arts Center), and for that to be taken and moved to a district that I think has a lot of resources . . . it could have a negative impact on our district,” she said.

Cupid, who has shared her opinion with lawmakers, said the proposed map would increase the number of Republican voters in Ott’s district. Ott said his district was 53 percent Republican in the 2012 election.

State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) is also critical of the proposal.

“It looks like Mableton is just a casualty of a partisan redistricting process,” Wilkerson said. “It has nothing to do with Mableton. It purely has to do with the demographic of the voters they think would be more friendly to a Republican so they’re trying to draw it into Ott’s district.”

Wilkerson believes lawmakers should have commissioners on board with the redrawing of boundary lines. If they move ahead with a new map without commissioners on board, “It’s a disregard for local control,” he said.

Comments
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Typical Cobb county
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February 16, 2014
NO politician in our county should be involved in drawing new districts. Commissioners or legislative. And WHY hasn't this problem been handled before?

There are enough smart people living in Cobb county who with their past experince and knowledge should do the new district lines.

And do a much better job - what we have today is a disaster.
Rick Z
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February 16, 2014
To MDJ: Could you also post the current district map with this, so we could compare it to the proposed one?
The truth
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February 16, 2014
Ott was behind the mess the last time and he is this time. Why hasn't the MDJ flat out ask him. When this story first came out, his response was "that's not my map" or something like that. Didn't have to be his map but he was pulling the strings with the law maker buddies and then left them holding the bag. He can't stand up and speak his mind; he has to hid behind others.
Joseph Pond
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February 16, 2014
If you read between the lines, Birrell’s focus is clear- “it takes…a lot of my support”

Redistricting puts the pressure on the Candidate, not the Constituency. The voters do not become acquainted with their new district- they become acquainted with their new Commissioner. The Candidate however must study the new district to find new support.

Gerrymandering at its finest, folks. Some things never change.

As usual
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February 16, 2014
I agree - gerrymandering as usual.
Lib in Cobb
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February 16, 2014
The very same thing is occurring in many parts of the country. The GOP was also attempting to change how votes are counted in national elections after the beat down of 2008 and 2012. At the same tine the GOP was attempting to legislate a mandatory government issued ID in order to vote. My suggestion to the GOP is to find a less flawed candidate and running mate in presidential elections.
D.G. in Clarkdale
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February 16, 2014
"My suggestion to the GOP is to find a less flawed candidate and running mate in presidential elections." You mean those who are better at deception like Barack Obama and bumbling Joe Biden? No thanks, that's a trait Democrats and Rino- Republicans can keep.

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