A group pushing for the creation of a city in east Cobb has hired two new lobbyists, according to state filings.
Don Bolia and Laura Norton of Peachtree Government Relations have been retained by the Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb for more than $10,000 apiece, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. The duration of their services is not detailed in the filings.
Representatives of the Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb, which became active in late 2018, say incorporation would lead to more local control and stronger municipal services.
Bolia has been named one of Georgia’s top lobbyists by digital publication Insider Advantage, whose CEO is Phil Kent, who has served as the committee’s spokesman.
According to PGR’s website, Bolia and Norton have played prominent roles in Georgia Republican politics.
Bolia began his career working for Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and has served as the political and the executive director of the Georgia Republican Party.
Norton began her career as a fundraising assistant for then-Gov. Sonny Perdue and moved onto fundraising for the Georgia Republican Party, where she was eventually promoted to finance director.
At one of east Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott’s town halls earlier this year, an audience member suggested there were political motives to cityhood, alluding to comments made by proponents such as Kent.
In a Feb. 2 Facebook post, Kent wrote that east Cobb would “be in the cross-hairs” when “the Cobb Commission government flips to tax-and-spend Democrat control in 2020 or 2022. … Neighborhoods will need to protect themselves and, remember, a city can opt out of unnecessary Cobb County bond issues.”
In order for cityhood to move forward, both chambers of the General Assembly will have to approve a bill establishing the referendum. State Rep. Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb, sponsored such a bill in April.
At the earliest, voters could decide the matter in the general primary on May 19, 2020, with the approval of cityhood triggering a vote to fill municipal offices in that year’s November general election.
The boundaries as proposed would be the northern portion of Cobb County District 2, starting above the Wildwood office park, Cumberland CID, and excluding any portion of incorporated Marietta. It would cover about 40 square miles with a population of about 97,000, making it the county’s largest city by population and land area. Marietta currently leads in both categories with a population of about 61,000, according to 2017 U.S. Census data, and an area of about 23 square miles.
A $36,000 cityhood feasibility study the committee commissioned was released almost a year ago. Conducted by the Center for State and Local Finance at Georgia State University, it concluded that the area could incorporate without raising taxes, but some have questioned that study’s analysis.
Bolia and Norton are not the first lobbyists the committee has hired.
In January, it retained lobbyists Cynthia Garst and Jared Thomas of legislative lobbying group Garst Thomas Public Affairs, according to state records. The organization ended its relationship with them Nov. 2 and 5, respectively.
The Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb is hosting a town hall Monday at Wheeler High School.
Tuesday, the East Cobb Business Association will host a debate between those for and against cityhood, according to East Cobb News. The committee is expected to attend, as is the East Cobb Alliance, a group opposing cityhood.