Even Tumlin’s sometime rival on the City Council, Philip Goldstein, seemed pleased with the talk.
“It was a good, positive speech,” Goldstein said. “The thrust of it was positive, very pro city, very upbeat, which it should be. Very reflective of how things are in the city.”
Tumlin broke the ice by announcing that on Dec. 31 on Marietta Square, instead of a ball drop to mark the New Year, he and Goldstein would be lowered from the top of the Strand Theatre in a Dumpster.
Crediting Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn, Tumlin spoke of how in January the city was the first in the state to place restrictions on businesses that dispense addictive prescription drugs.
“The states around us are tightening up on these people that like to dispense Oxycontin like they dispense cough drops, and we just don’t want those folks in our community,” Tumlin said.
Crediting Economic Development Manager Beth Sessoms, Tumlin said Marietta was also the first in Cobb County to create opportunity zones, in which the city encourages businesses to locate or expand in parts of the city through the use of state tax credits.
“We were the first in the state that created three,” Tumlin said, noting that the computer-oriented business TASQ brought 350 jobs to the city when it located in an opportunity zone along Canton Road.
Regarding business permits, Tumlin said for a three-year period business licenses were going down from a high of 9,000, but this last year they increased from 7,300 to 8,000.
Tumlin said in the last four years the city’s general fund has dropped from $52 million down to $48 million due to the recession. But even with a decrease in revenues, the city has not had to cut its services, he said.
“Right now our income is flat and one of the reasons is we’re not solely dependent on property tax,” he said. “It’s around 20 percent of our total revenue. We have the lowest tax rate of any county or city in the metro area, and we’re very, very proud of that, and we’ve kept it. But even though our property values have fallen, it’s not devastating to our budget.”
A big reason for the city’s low tax rate is that the city-owned utility, Marietta Power and Water, contributes $11.5 million to the city’s general fund each year.
In the last 10 years, Tumlin said the city has spent more than $97 million from SPLOST proceeds and state stimulus money to improve the city.
“You see the results in our trails, more sidewalks, brick sidewalks and brick crosswalks,” he said.
The city has concentrated on its four main gateways — Roswell and Franklin roads, and Fairground and Powder Springs streets — to make them more attractive and safer with medians and curb cuts. Preliminary construction work is underway for a roundabout at the corner of Fairground and Allgood Road.
“I think you’re going to see the traffic flow in that area much better,” he said.
As one of 49 cities in Georgia that belong to the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, Marietta Power has the most competitive rates in the county, Tumlin said. And with coal plants under fire, the city has invested in cleaner, more efficient nuclear energy as a source of electricity for residents, he said.
Tumlin also spoke at length on the city’s plans for the $25 million parks bond voters approved in November 2009.
And he touted his push for greater transparency by moving all council meetings from the cramped fourth-floor conference room of City Hall to the spacious council chamber, as well as placing all meetings on the city’s website for public viewing.
Additionally in 2010, Tumlin said he was glad leaders sided with him on a push to reduce the time frame for demolition permits from three years to 18 months.
“That was something I pushed, and I was greatly rewarded,” he said. “Two days after I did it we had a building demolished on the Square.”
Tumlin said he was pleased with efforts of downtown shopkeepers, who have united to form an eight-member non-profit board called The Branding Project, to brainstorm ways to attract visitors to downtown Marietta.
“When (MDJ columnist) Dick Yarbrough says something positive, I think that’s worthy noting,” he said.
Tumlin said he was also pleased that Traton Homes was moving forward on its proposed 60-home development south of Marietta High School next to Lee’s Crossing called Rockford Township.
“Traton Corporation started building Saturday a week ago,” he said.
Already they have seven homes started and possibly four under contract, bringing in young families into homes in the $300,000 range.
And the Meeting Park development, the 12-acre property near Marietta Square that was hailed as the cornerstone of the city’s downtown development efforts until the economy crashed, also has a new owner in Marietta-based Walton Communities.
Meantime, the Marietta Redevelopment Corporation, which has amassed acres of real estate across from the Conference Center, has positioned itself to hold out for the next three years until the economy turns, he said. Speaking of that area, the city is planning on building a road and hanging a traffic light in front of the Conference Center to make it a safer location whenever it receives the funding to do so, he said.
“Marietta’s committed to offer you the best in service,” Tumlin said. “We want to protect you … We’re going to enhance our history and promote our tourism, but we’re also looking forward to the future. Marietta wants to stay a town that offers a small town atmosphere, but with big town opportunity.”
Former county commission chairman Earl Smith applauded Tumlin’s speech.
“I thought it was remarkable in that he took the time to cover almost everything in detail, and he’s very proud of what he’s doing, and what he’s doing for the community, so I thought it was a very good speech about where we’re at today and where we’re going in the future,” Smith said.
Cassandra Buckalew, owner of The Historic Marietta Trolley, said she was excited to hear from Tumlin about all the great things going on in the city.
“Especially working on The Branding Project, I’m excited to hear that they’re embracing that,” she said. “That was one of the biggest things for me since I’m personally involved in that. And all the development with Meeting Park and especially Manget, I love all the boulevards that are going in, I think that’s really going to go a long way to beautify our city.”