So, we find ourselves asking yet again, what’s next for Commissioner Jerica Richardson?
Last week’s news was that the county commission plans to take on the General Assembly and rewrite the bill drawing the commission maps set to take effect in 2023. The “unprecedented” move – that word remains a constant throughout this saga – is likely to end up in the courts.
A source tells us that Attorney General Chris Carr's office isn’t likely to get involved just yet, however. Once the commission adopts the maps with two consecutive votes in October, it’ll send them to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. Should the SoS decide to try to block the move, the county could then sue.
That’s the point, we hear, at which Carr and co. would join the fray.
(A spokesperson for the AG simply said, “It is the responsibility of Georgia’s Attorney General to defend the laws of the state in court, just as he has done and will continue to do.”)
Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs, unsurprisingly, was nonplussed by the announcement.
“I think it's awfully curious that she waited until the 11th hour to do anything about it. It's ironic to me that she's talking about her role when the three (Democratic) commissioners … they want to dictate what garbage service you can use, but she doesn't accept what happened with the legislature on the commission map. So I found them to be very hypocritical,” Grubbs said.
(The garbage proposal was spiked until next year at the board’s last meeting.)
Across the aisle, Jacquelyn Bettadapur, chair of the Cobb Democratic Committee, said, “From what I understand, they’ve had good legal minds in a huddle over this since March … and they’ve determined that this is the best path forward. I think everyone understands that it will probably end up being decided by the courts.”
Who are these legal minds?
Richardson told us last week Cobb retained “outside counsel” to assist in drafting the plan of action, but referred questions about that to the county. The county, however, told MDJ reporter Chart Riggall that Richardson “misunderstood a conversation with the County Attorney.”
“The attorney he referenced in that conversation is in our county attorney's office,” the county added. “There is no outside counsel involved.”
But Mindy Seger, the former anti-East Cobb cityhood activist helming a new nonprofit to aid in Richardson’s quest, said there is in fact outside counsel.
Riggall circled back with Richardson who confirmed there are other lawyers involved besides the county’s, but they’re not on the county payroll. As to who they are, Richardson is not yet ready to say.
Bettadapur, by the by, proffered a theory as to why the GOP drew Richardson out of her seat but ended up with a District 2 that appears – following the Interstate 75 corridor from Smyrna to Kennesaw – to be just as Democratic-leaning, if not more.
“The Republicans were shocked, dismayed, whatever you want to call it, in 2020, when the Democrats took the majority of the Cobb County commission,” she said. “They can’t go after Lisa Cupid … they can’t go after Monique Sheffield … so they pick off Jerica Richardson.”
Bettadapur believes the move – which may have shored up District 3’s Republican lean (to be determined) – was more about appeasing voters than earnestly trying to win back the commission.
“They’ve taken the blue parts of Smyrna on up the I-75 corridor. But it’s all about east Cobb, right? People out here in east Cobb didn’t want Democratic representation, so they’ve given it all over for the most part to JoAnn Birrell,” she said. “If there was ever a case for gerrymandering, that was it. I mean, the community of interest is the I-75 transportation corridor? Excuse me?”
FOR LEASE: One of the hottest spots on the Marietta Square is up for lease.
Hamilton Jewelers at 9 West Park Square permanently closed following the death of its owner-operator, Ivan Holden, who passed on Aug. 3, age 71.
The space is located at the corner of West Park Square and Whitlock Avenue. It has 2,100 square feet of retail space, 800 square feet of storage in the basement, showcase windows on the east and south sides of the building and historic features such as exposed brick and hardwood floors.
But it’s the location that has the property’s owner, David Coppedge, flooded with inquiries from “tire-kickers.”
“People are beating the doors down … It's just a little sign in the door and I’m getting more calls than I imagined,” he told AT.
Coppedge calls it “the best corner on the Square,” and says no other storefront offers as much foot traffic and visibility.
Coppedge hasn’t decided on a tenant yet, but hopes to do so in the next month or so. He said the space could be used for fine dining, or could become another retail operation. He’s been approached by some larger restaurant groups that have shown interest, but stressed it wouldn’t become a fast food joint.
“There’s no sense in putting bad food on the best corner,” he said.
Whatever occupies the space, the building owner said he wants it to fit in with the rest of the Square, succeed “spectacularly” and be there for a long time.
Coppedge’s family has owned the building for decades. It once housed Coggins Shoes, which opened in 1925 and moved in the ’80s to East Lake Shopping Center on Roswell Road. Coppedge still owns the shoe store.
Prior to it being Hamilton Jewelers, a different store called Jeweler on the Square operated there for about 25 years, Coppedge said.
9 West Park Square also includes four second-floor suites, all of which are occupied, and the first-floor space occupied by Doodlebugz gift shop.
Coppedge said the building dates to the 19th century. In previous renovations, he found a newspaper from the 1890s in a stovepipe and an old photograph in the walls.
BACK IN TIME: A new museum planned in Cobb would take visitors on a journey back in time to explore African-American history.
The Before Slavery Museum, as would be known, would present exhibits detailing the years before the transatlantic slave trade began. According to its founder, Pat Snipes, the museum's purpose would be to connect African Americans with the heritage of their ancestors.
“Most Black history museums and events are centered around civil rights, slavery, Jim Crow, or they highlight famous figures in sports, politics, entertainment,” Snipes said. “But the Before Slavery Museum starts in the 1600s and progressively goes backward in time to show the societies that African Americans came from and how they lived before the slave trade.”
The museum would include artifacts from Ghana and Nigeria, Snipes told the MDJ. However, she said most of the museum will be experiential and consist of maps, animatronics and kiosks with information about life in west Africa in the 17th century and earlier.
While Snipes said she hopes the museum will open in spring 2023, she added that funds from donors, which she declined to name, were not yet available. She also said the purchase of a space to house the museum has not been finalized.
In a press release, Snipes said the museum will host the Sankofa Festival on Sunday, Sept. 25, at Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna. Cobb Commissioner Jerica Richardson publicized the event in her newsletter, and she and Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid are advertised to speak at the festival, though Cupid told the MDJ last week, “My role in that is still being determined.”
“I was asked to attend because there will be a dignitary from Africa here and I was asked to come greet him,” Cupid said.
On the museum’s website, Andrew Young, the civil rights legend and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is listed as one of the museum’s supporters. Snipes said Young helped advise her on planning the museum.
When the MDJ caught up with Young last week, he said, “I have probably been advising her, but I don’t remember, really, what I said. I’m saying that we probably had a discussion of the museum.”
However, Young said he supported the mission of a museum seeking to connect African Americans to their roots.
“I’ve been around museums all my life and what I find is that we don’t know nearly enough about our past, and that’s one of the things that makes us make mistakes about our present and our future,” Young said. “...One of the best ways to learn your history is to take a good tour through a museum, and it’s important for every community to have a museum that tells its history.”