Addressing a subcommittee of the Georgia House of Representatives this week, Commissioner Keli Gambrill said the failed city of Lost Mountain proposal “originated from something other than grassroots.”
Her advice to the legislature, she would later add, was to correct the mistakes of the incorporation push that went belly-up on May 24.
Asked to address the Governmental Affairs Committee by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the west Cobb commissioner’s prepared remarks laid out her perceived shortcomings of the legislative process to create a new city.
“The problem originated with the fact that the 76,000 residents did not receive any notice or requests regarding the proposed boundaries — or that they were indeed included within the proposed new city boundaries. That appears to be the opposite of a true community-driven approach,” she told the committee.
Gambrill, whose tensions with Lost Mountain supporters had become an open secret by Election Day, also leveled a few criticisms at cityhood backers — no names named, however.
“People were generally being told to be afraid of the ‘evil’ county commission,” she said, adding that the narrative “was a strategy to promote mistrust in government.”
She later added, “All of it blurred into what felt like the movement was an effort to discuss me — the district commissioner — as a proxy for extreme displeasure aimed at the county’s chairwoman (Lisa Cupid).”
Gambrill attributed the rushed, acrimonious, and ultimately futile campaign to a series of failures in the legislative process. Her recommendations to correct the process included the following:
- Strengthen the requirements of feasibility studies to examine not only the proposed city’s viability, but its impact to other jurisdictions.
- Require legislative sponsors to communicate directly with county governments.
- Hold cityhood referendums at least one year after the bills are signed by the governor (in Lost Mountain’s case, it was less than three months).
- Require a 60% threshold — a supermajority — of voters to approve the referendum for it to pass.
Two other recommendations will also hold particular salience for residents who live where two other proposed cities failed — Vinings and East Cobb. One is to firmly establish whether the “city lite” formation proposed by all three efforts is constitutional. That question, raised during legal challenges to the three referendums, was never answered in court as they were defeated before being heard.
Last, but not least — for our purposes — is to explicitly mandate cityhood committees comply with Georgia’s campaign finance law in disclosing their supporters. Readers will recall the East Cobb Cityhood Committee was accused of being in apparent violation of the law after it refused to file a contribution disclosure report.
Gambrill told the MDJ after the hearing that while the county government is on board with many of those proposals, they’d come out of her own experience — and conversations with her constituents — over the course of the last few months.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Among other news items from her town hall in east Cobb this week, Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid shared that she’s currently part of a metro Atlanta housing task force.
Among the things she’s learned in that group is that “affordable housing” doesn’t always look like what first comes to mind. Often, they are single-family houses owned by small-time landlords.
“A lot of our incentives for affordability go toward multifamily properties, but most of the properties in individual areas that are affordable enough to rent, are actually owned by people that may own one or two properties,” she said.
ON THE RIGHT: Dr. Rich McCormick, Republican nominee for Georgia's 6th Congressional District, motivated the crowd at the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club's Friday luncheon at the Hilton Atlanta Marietta Conference Center. Although he faces a Democrat in the November election, the new district map was drawn so red it spurred the current seat holder, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, not to run again for the seat. Come January, McCormick is expected to be the new congressman for the 6th.
“Very excited about what we’re going to do with this huge majority that we’re going to take back,” McCormick said. “If we take back 17 seats in Congress, it will be a larger majority than we had in 1994. If we take back 29 seats, it will be the largest majority, larger than in 2010. And if we take back 34 seats, which is obtainable, it will be the largest Republican majority since the Great Depression. And what we can obtain with that will be historical."
McCormick pointed out Republicans haven’t won the presidency in a popular election in decades.
“For the first time since 2002 – it's been 20 years since we’ve won a popular election – it’s time to take back America and the hearts of America and the patriotism we deserve with this party.”
Nancy Couch, president of the Cobb Republican Women, asked McCormick to share a little about his life with the crowd.
Born in Las Vegas, McCormick, a Marine helicopter pilot, and now an emergency room doctor, said he was supposed to go into the Army.
“Now everybody knows the Army is actually an acronym for 'Aren't Ready to be Marines Yet.' But we love our Army brethren. It’s a friendly competition,” he said.
McCormick said he had enlisted to go into the Army at the age of 17. His mom had signed a parental disclosure. But then he saw the movie "Top Gun," which he said changed his life. His mom didn’t care if he attended college or what sports he played or how much money he made.
“She kind of wanted me to be a priest. Didn’t work out. But she cared about this great nation and she understood the promise that was for all people,” he said.
McCormick said though his mother was a single parent without much money, she never let it bother her.
“She was the happiest person I knew, and we had a carpet worn down to the floor, because we had no money, but it didn’t matter. Because if we wanted money you could pursue money. That’s America.”
McCormick believes too much time is being spent teaching high school students the wrong things.
“Teaching people about how they should feel and whether they’re male or female — as if that’s a choice — and we spend all this time on things that are distracting and divisive instead of teaching them you don’t even need to go to college to make a million dollars in America. … We spend all of our time on the wrong things. But my mom didn’t do that. She said, 'you live in America. You have a dream to fulfill. You can do anything you want.'"
McCormick said he spent almost 30 years in the military as a helicopter pilot and as an ER doc in the Navy. He presently works as a physician at Northside's ER.
When McCormick decided to go to medical school, he was a single parent of three young boys, ages 2, 3, and 5. He wanted to attend the school closest to his home. So he attended Morehouse School of Medicine. His senior year, he was elected study body president at a school he said was 60% female, 80% Black and 95% liberal.
“The reason is because when you’re hungry, you feed somebody. When you’re down, you hug somebody, and this is about relationships, not about politics, and that’s how we’re going to win back minorities and immigrants and women and everybody else to this party."
Couch asked McCormick if what happens in the new "Top Gun" movie could really happen.
“Check reality at the door but enjoy the entertainment,” he advised.
TRANSITIONS: Friend of the paper Jen Brock, who handles communications for Marietta City Schools, is off to greener pastures.
Brock tells us she's leaving the district to take a job as senior vice president of communications at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She won't be moving, though. Brock will work remotely, and the college will fly her up to Western Mass for monthly visits.
AT wishes Ms. Brock the best in her new job.
SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton will deliver his State of the City address 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Smyrna Community Center.
This will be Norton’s second State of the City address, where he plans to give updates on city-wide developments, a 2021 year-in-review and future plans for Smyrna.
TOWN HALLS: Marietta Ward 5 Councilman M. Carlyle Kent will hold a town hall at 6:30 p.m. July 27 at Custer Park Sports and Fitness Center, 545 Kenneth E. Marcus Way in Marietta. Ward 6 Councilman Andre L. Sims will also hold a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 28 at Fire Station 56, 850 Sawyer Road in Marietta.