Candidates debate bond, road projects
by Rachel Miller
September 25, 2013 12:17 AM | 2680 views | 1 1 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, who is seeking another term, works with his administrative assistant Betsy Kelley on city business.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, who is seeking another term, works with his administrative assistant Betsy Kelley on city business.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Helen Swift enjoys a lighthearted moment with mayoral challenger Charley Levinson at the East Cobb Democratic dinner at the Delkwood Grill. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Helen Swift enjoys a lighthearted moment with mayoral challenger Charley Levinson at the East Cobb Democratic dinner at the Delkwood Grill.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — Mayor Steve Tumlin and the man who wants to unseat him in the Nov. 5 election have drastically different views of the “blighted” Franklin Road corridor.

Tumlin, a Marietta native and member of Marietta High’s Class of 1965, said it will take government intervention to create jobs here.

The mayor has pushed for a $68 million bond that would redevelop Franklin Road by converting aging apartment buildings into vacant lots ready to market to developers. He hopes to make nearby abandoned office space more attractive for businesses.

One reason Tumlin listed for passing the bond is that 12.6 percent of Cobb’s population lives in poverty, while the state unemployment rate is 8.7 percent.

Tumlin said he urged the City Council to take an in-depth look at redeveloping the corridor to see “how wonderful (Franklin Road) could be.”

If the referendum fails, the effort will not be a waste.

“There is a mindset that this city wants to be better, to reinvest in itself,” he said.

Another view on Franklin Road

Tumlin’s opponent, Charley Levinson, is also a Cobb native who was home-schooled before taking over the family printing business in 1994.

Levinson, who worked off of Franklin Road from 2008 until 2011, said there are entrepreneurs investing in apartment buildings to renovate them, with shopping centers and strip malls starting to fill up again along the corridor.

“I am very well aware of what’s there, what isn’t there and what the challenges are there,” Levinson said.

Levinson admits many of the businesses might be nightclubs, but they are operating businesses and not vacant buildings, which are found in other areas of the city.

The poor state of Franklin Road could have been mitigated with smaller, targeted initiatives like expanding Cobb Community Transit to run a city bus route on Sundays, he said.

Levinson, who does not own a car and rides a city bus nearly every day, said the addition could stimulate the economy by providing transportation for an extra work or shopping day.

This would give the working class a better opportunity to make money and spend it in the area, he said.

“It is a bottom-up approach, instead of my opponent’s top-down approach,” Levinson said.

Commercial and residential approval

One of the strengths of Franklin Road “is the incredible racial diversity in the area,” Levinson said.

Having mixed-income developments is important to Levinson, who would require any Marietta development to include in their plans a range of pricing from low income to high, he said.

Levinson said new residential developments have been too focused on enticing young professionals to move into Marietta.

His attention would be on job training to build-up the local workforce that is eager to fill jobs in the green technology industry, which the redevelopment bond is supposed to create.

Levinson said he would raise the city’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour.

“As mayor, my obligation is to serve the people who are here, not the people who might be here,” he said.

Due to the down economy, Tumlin said since he took office four years ago he has probably heard the smallest amount of rezoning cases of any Marietta mayor in the last 100 years.

There has been so few projects, Tumlin said, that many residential housing subdivisions have been “over-discussed.”

The mayor urged the City Council to quickly respond when a developer is complying with city guidelines to build a development.

But commercial development is picking up, Tumlin said, with the city’s Planning Commission having at least three applications a month.

Though he supports locally owned restaurants on the Square, Tumlin said there is a need in Marietta for chains, like TGI Fridays and LongHorn Steakhouse.

“I will fight for our local merchants, but we have to have both,” Tumlin said.

Tumlin said he is also tired of losing big-box retailers like Apple Stores and LensCrafters to The Avenue outdoor shopping centers in east and west Cobb.

A new road map

Improving the city’s traffic patterns is an ongoing effort for the mayor, who says congestion comes from a variety of sources, whether it’s parents driving children to school, patients driving to Kennestone Hospital or commuters from other counties.

“The Square is a ridiculous place to have all that traffic go through,” he said.

Tumlin has what he called a “recycled idea” sitting on his desk in City Hall, which is a traffic study from 1979 that outlines ways to bypass the Square.

One option is expanding Waverly Way west of Powder Springs Street to run through the Meeting Park development and curve up to connect with Roswell Street at the Cobb Public Library.

Tumlin said he is always planting the seeds for change to grow.

If re-elected, Tumlin said he will ask the City Council to order city engineers to complete a traffic study of downtown by 2015, which could be the basis for a major road project to be funded by a new SPLOST fund.

Levinson said he supports efforts to steer traffic from traveling through downtown, and he is “intrigued” by another one of Tumlin’s ideas to change the Square into a roundabout.

Levinson said he supports the $4 million for improvements to Whitlock Avenue earmarked in the proposed redevelopment bond, but thinks money raised by special taxes has been used too much.

“I think the Mayor and the council should have the guts to raise the millage rate to pay for a project in cash,” Levinson said.

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September 26, 2013
So Tumlin’s plan to handle the people in poverty in Marietta is to tear down their homes and force them to move out of the City? This appears to be the plan so far. The City has systematically been removing all lower income areas throughout town. Is the end goal to improve the growth of the City or to keep taxes low for white Whitlock Heights?
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