Communities in south Cobb work to improve area
by Nikki Wiley
July 21, 2013 12:00 AM | 2975 views | 12 12 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, right, speaks to Ltanya and Benjie Nunn of Austell about their transit concerns during a Saturday meeting at the Mable House.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, right, speaks to Ltanya and Benjie Nunn of Austell about their transit concerns during a Saturday meeting at the Mable House.
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MARIETTA — Facing the highest crime rate in the county and schools that don’t live up to their affluent counterparts, southwest Cobb has obstacles to overcome, but residents say their greatest asset is the willingness of their neighbors to pitch in.

County Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents southwest Cobb, says she didn’t begin to notice the challenges the areas faces until after she moved to her home off Six Flags Drive. Seeking a suburban location with quick access to downtown Atlanta, the value of housing and low density neighborhoods piqued her interest.

“It seemed ideal,” Cupid said. “What we fell in love with once we moved here were the people.”

But soon, derelict buildings and blighted properties began to catch her eye.

“There just seems to be a lack of upkeep,” Cupid said.

She’s still in love with the community she now calls home and touts attractions like Six Flags Over Georgia and the Silver Comet Trial as assets the area can build upon. The real catalyst, though, she says, for growth and improvement will be the people.

“We need to better develop our assets and tell our story,” Cupid said.

Addressing high crime rates

Cobb County Police Department Precinct 2 covers southwest Cobb, including Austell and Powder Springs, and has the highest crime rate in the county.

Precinct Capt. Jeff Adcock told a packed room last Thursday his precinct covers 75 square miles and 61 apartment complexes. Splitting between three shifts each day and accounting for vacation and sick days leaves fewer officers on the streets than he’d prefer.

Through the end of June, the precinct received 30,757 calls for service. Officers had made 1,807 arrests by the end of June and issued 7,388 citations.

Among locations of concern are the Austell Road and Pat Mell Road area and Six Flags Drive.

Six Flags Drive has long been a source of contention for south Cobb residents.

Cupid was visibly upset at a Board of Commissioners meeting July 9 when she asked her fellow commissioners not to support transferring an alcohol license from one owner of the Marathon gas station, at 340 Six Flags Drive, to another owner.

The shopping center that is home to the Marathon has been a source of crime for years, Cupid said, and she is ready to see a change.

“You don’t live there,” Cupid told the commission. “I live off Six Flags Drive.”

Adcock recommended approval based on improvements the hopeful license holder made to the property and the alcohol license transfer passed the commission with a 4-1 vote with Cupid the lone dissenter.

It’s true that shopping center has been a hotbed for crime, Adcock told residents at the town hall meeting later that day.

Officers noticed suspicious activity at the Food Mart that shares a shopping center with the Marathon and ultimately obtained a search warrant for the store.

“We were making a lot of arrests and it wasn’t solving the problem,” Adcock said.

They found makeshift crack pipes for sale inside the store along with small bags typically used to hold marijuana, Adcock said, and learned drug dealers were paying store clerks and the store owner to allow them to sell drugs inside the store. The store’s business license was taken and the owner arrested.

Adcock told residents he wants to pursue creating a drug-free commercial zone in the Six Flags Drive area that, if approved, would mandate additional sentencing for drug related crimes and ban individuals convicted of crimes involving drugs from the area for two years.

Cupid maintains it’s going to take a holistic approach to curb crime in south Cobb. Development needs to be encouraged, schools improved and the quality of life boosted.

“To just say I want to eradicate crime is insensitive to the larger issue,” Cupid said.

Education

South Cobb schools don’t hold up to their east and north Cobb peers when looking at a new state ranking system, the College and Career Readiness Performance Index, more commonly called CCRPI, began by the Georgia Department of Education earlier this year as an alternative to the Adequate Yearly Progress system used under No Child Left Behind.

The system ranks schools on a multitude of factors including achievement of students and preparation for college or the workforce. The highest ranking high school in southwest Cobb on the state’s CCRPI scale is McEachern High School, the most western and northern school in southwest Cobb, in Powder Springs with a score of 79.5. The rest of the area high schools have rankings of 63.3 for South Cobb High School, 68.2 for Pebblebrook High School and 68.7 for Osborne High School.

That’s compared to the county’s highest ranking schools located in east Cobb, each with a 94.4, Walton High School and Lassiter High School. Other schools fall somewhere in the middle, like Wheeler High School with a 79.1 in southeast Cobb and 88.9 for Allatoona High School in north Cobb.

Cupid says it’s not fair to judge a school, or its students, based on test scores.

“It doesn’t do justice to the children who are achieving,” Cupid said, remembering a conversation she had with a constituent whose children attended southwest Cobb high schools and are now attending prestigious colleges.

Area private schools, like Whitefield Academy and the SAE School set to open this fall, are attractions for parents, Cupid said.

Development

South Cobb was the first area in the county to be developed because of its proximity to downtown Atlanta and, as a result, has some of the oldest homes and commercial buildings. Some have fallen into disrepair and are a blight on the community.

Cupid says she’s reaching for the “low hanging fruit” like enforcement of county property ordinances.

“The quality of life and quality of the people is not reflected,” Cupid said, referring to derelict properties.

Encouraging redevelopment will take creativity and public-private partnerships, Cupid said.

Getting there can be as simple as picking up the telephone.

A developer recently purchased three apartment complexes, Cupid said, and the deal all started with a phone call.

“It may seem complicated, but I think a lot of doors can be opened by simply communicating, or I’ll even go a step further and say advocating, our area,” Cupid said.

The area is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession that all but brought development to a halt, said Ford Thigpen, president of the South Cobb Business Association.

“There are less developers and the existing developers are nervous about starting new projects.” Thigpen said.

Still, there are attractions to be proud of.

There is more land available in southwest Cobb to develop and its proximity to the rest of metro Atlanta is attractive to industry and homeowners alike.

Daren Favarote owns The Snowman, a food truck based in Mableton, and says some struggles with redevelopment could be solved by making it easier to start a business.

“The process applying to get licenses to pretty much do anything is just so absolutely ridiculously unnecessary,” Favarote said. “They put up so many hurdles.”

Cupid says there could be room to explore making things easier for entrepreneurs.

Some incentives already exist. An opportunity zone is in place near Six Flags giving businesses job tax credits if they hire at least two employees. The Board of Commissioners will consider another tax incentive program at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 100 Cherokee St. when the board takes up the creation of an enterprise zone for south Cobb.

It’s the points of pride for south Cobb like Six Flags, Mable House Barnes Amphitheater and the Silver Comet Trail that should take the focus, Cupid said, and serve as a testament to what the area can become.

There’s no one answer to changing south Cobb’s image, Cupid said, calling it the “billion dollar question,” but she’s convinced a large part of that answer lies with residents.

Neighbors volunteer their time to improve where they live and civic groups take up issues trying to better the community.

“Those are the things that unite us,” Cupid said.

Comments
(12)
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C. Smith
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July 24, 2013
It is sad that a poster said We don't care what you have to say. That is sad because I care about what all people have to say.
SC Resident
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July 22, 2013
When you associate problems of crime and low test scores to black women having babies out of wedlock and black men being unemployed, you are on a "racist rant". Your "anonymous" comment is riddled with racist statements regarding black people. You are as racist as they come. Don't hide your rants behind a cloak that suggests that you are now concerned with test scores and crime in our community. You are a racist, plain and simple. Accept your title....by your comments below, and those of the person whose racist comment was removed from this site, you both have earned this title with distinction.
SC Resident
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July 22, 2013
These are racist and ignorant rants by people who obviously are not in tune to our community. I am a college educated black female. I have raised two college educated children. Like me, one is a homeowner in South Cobb. The other is in grad school with hopes of pursuing a medical degree. We support our community and promote efforts that positively impact the community's well-being. In addition to ourselves, other residents - black, white and brown - are also coming together to support our community and with Commissioner Cupid's leadership, we will change the fabric of South Cobb. As a tax payer and voter, I am truly disappointed that the other leaders did not support Cupid when she tried to stop a habitual nuisance in our community from operating. Why not stop these people who are promoting illegal behavior and serving as a safe haven for these activities that negatively impact South Cobb? This would never be allowed in East Cobb because the residents and other elected officials would fight to protect that community's well-being, yet we are left to fend for ourselves. WHY????? Where is our support and protection? The residents of South Cobb deserve better. As for the racist rants if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Go somewhere else with your racist rants - we don't care what you have to say because we know it’s coming from a place where hate resides. We reject you and your negative attitudes towards our community. I'm also concerned and disappointed that the MDJ allowed racist comments to appear on their website.
anonymous
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July 22, 2013
Crime stats and test scores aren't racist, ignorant or hateful. They are facts.
anonymous
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July 24, 2013
I notice you don't mention a baby-daddy.
anonymous
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July 24, 2013
which I guess is not in tune to your community.
anonymous
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July 24, 2013
I now hand you the answer to your questions and offer a solution.

You said, "This would never be allowed in East Cobb because the residents and other elected officials would fight to protect that community's well-being, yet we are left to fend for ourselves." Why are you left to fend for yourselves? Don't you have elected officials to fight to protect your community's well being and if the answer is no, I suggest another elected official the next time around. If you don't have residents that will fight to protect your community's well being, nobody outside of South Cobb can do a thing about that. That is what we are trying to say anyway. You don't have residents that fight for your community's well being. Go gather some.
Day Dreamer Light S
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July 24, 2013
Quote -- This would never be allowed in East Cobb because the residents and other elected officials would fight to protect that community's well-being. Say whaaa? Say whaaa? Say whaaaaa? Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa? So you DO BLAME the residents of South Cobb then is what you are saying and you are not blaming East Cobb? What you said made no sense at all to the fight you are trying to fight. Read what you said again. Replace South with East and you have the solution to the South Cobb problem .
Team Lisa
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July 21, 2013
Lisa is doing a great job. The Six Flags area has been long ignored. It is about time someone came into office with the fortitude to help lead the many challenges that area of the county faces.
anonymous
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July 21, 2013
South CobbHigh school's correct CCRPI score is 68.3
anonymous
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July 21, 2013
South Cobb did start the county's growth and it used to be a model town years ago. I'll answer the billion dollar question for you. Good families moved out of South Cobb because people moved in that got government loans and Section 8 with single moms that don't work and no-known dads to thugs that scare the daylights out of people. Fear of getting mugged at the mailbox. Fear of getting robbed. Adult children now that grew up in Mableton moving their elderly parents out of South Cobb for fear of their lives. That is the answer to your billion dollar question. Stop issuing government paychecks for every baby popped out unless the daddy is identified. Stop whining about higher education opportunities for minorities when most of South Cobb cannot even eke out a GED now, even with coaching from caring people. I remember when Six Flags (Fulton Industrial) was first developed and it was a huge career center for great jobs. The only way I would work there now is with a gun on my hip. Stop the baby-daddy-minuses and who is my baby-daddy and my baby-daddy don't give me anything, and you will see Mableton start to recover. These absent baby-daddys started a criminal revolution to desperate black women that wanted children, but black men simply for the most part don't care about or support what their night of pleasure brought them. And the baby-mammas depend on Obama to support them.

That answers your billion dollar question totally I hope.
S.C. Survivor
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July 21, 2013
Ditto!

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