Authored by state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), HB 1028 has upset state Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta), who believes it racially segregates the districts.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell doesn’t like the map either, saying it carves out her base of supporters at her place of worship, the Catholic Church of St. Ann on Roswell Road in east Cobb.
Thompson said the bill takes 11,000 minorities out of District 2 represented by Bob Ott, a Republican, and puts them in Democrat Lisa Cupid’s District 4.
“So that keeps one Democratic commissioner, and it makes Ott safer. And having said that the voting age people, the VAP itself, which they pay more attention to, slumped by 8 percent, so the population was 11,000. The VAP was 8 percent, and so it will be a long time before Lisa Cupid’s got a partner on there from the Democratic Party,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he was surprised Cupid, the lone Democrat on the Board of Commissioners, didn’t object to the map.
“Yeah, you’re going to be safe, but you’re going to be part of this new segregation,” Thompson said. “It’s like these new cities they’re introducing all over north Atlanta. What they’re doing, we’re going to have lily white districts and black districts. And whether we debate the lunch counter again 20 years from now, I don’t know. It may not be racial on some people’s part, but the net effect is.”
Birrell objected because the map draws Ott’s east Cobb district north and drags her northeast Cobb district south through Marietta.
“I am as conservative Republican as you can get, and I’m all for having more Republican districts on board, but the way they did this one, it’s at my expense, because I’m losing a lot of my base, my support base,” Birrell said.
Birrell acknowledged lawmakers made two concessions she asked for, which was that the map doesn’t take effect until 2016 and it keeps the Mable House Arts Center in Cupid’s district.
Yet, “I’m losing a lot of my supporters, where I practice my faith, you know, where I have a lot of friends and family, but I don’t know that there’s anything I can really do about it at this point,” she said.
Four of Cobb’s 15 state representatives voted against the bill: Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw), Michael Smith (D-Marietta), David Wilkerson (D-Austell) and Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna). Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) was marked excused and did not vote. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) did not vote either.
State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) carried the bill in the Senate and Cobb’s four Republican senators voted in its favor. Thompson and Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) voted no.
Thompson said Hill never bothered to ask him whether he wanted to vote for or against the bill before bringing it to the floor of the Senate. Instead, Thompson said Hill quietly asked the four Republican Cobb senators to sign it without his input.
“From the well, I said it’s kind of shocking to me that the senator from the 32nd, who I’ve kept from making mistakes, would do this, and quite frankly I’m ashamed of you, and I hope you’re embarrassed. It’s just not the thing to do,” Thompson said.
Hill said Thompson was offered an opportunity to review the bill, while Setzler defended the map as a fair one.
“We wanted to maintain clear communities of interest that you have an east Cobb district, a north Cobb and Marietta district, a west Cobb district and a south Cobb district, and that’s what we’ve done,” Setzler said. “Smyrna and east Cobb have been a commission seat for some time. The courts drew a map because the Legislature failed to pass it two years ago and they were clear in their order saying it was our job to do it, so we did it.”