November 8, 2022
(ATLANTA) – While all eyes were on the contentious gubernatorial and senate races in Georgia, the residents of Mableton, an approximately 40,000-person community on the perimeter of Atlanta, have incorporated their own town, with 53.46% of local voters saying “yes” to cityhood, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
The Committee for City of Mableton, which advocated for this result, says that, “[C]itizens of the city of Mableton would elect six Council Members along with a Mayor. Our City Council would be able to provide local control over Zoning, Code Enforcement, Economic Development, Parks and Recreation, and Sanitation. They would also be able to provide increased input regarding services provided by Cobb County. A clear vision on future projects desired can be provided to developers and the business community. For decades, Mableton has needed a plan and clear focus. The same type of focus received by the rest of the county. With local control of our resources we can identify and make changes that will positively impact the lives of our citizens.”
Only those within the proposed city limits were able to vote to incorporate Mableton, notwithstanding some human error. Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler confirmed a small mistake in giving the right ballots to the right people, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. “We had a street with about five houses that was brought to our attention,” she said. “It’s been corrected. But that’s all I’ve heard.” More consequentially, Mableton’s county extended the election deadline for over 1,000 absentee ballots to Nov. 14. However, even if all those votes were against the referendum, it would still pass.
The law now redefines how the city is taxed, transitions some power away from Cobb County (the third largest county in Georgia) to the local community, creates official positions such as “Mayor of Mableton,” as well as localizes issues of conflicting laws or code enforcement.
The state house began working on Bill 839 (the law allowing Mableton to vote for cityhood) in March of 2021. About a year later, it passed the Senate. Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill this past May.
The same month Kemp signed this bill, three other cityhood measures in Cobb County failed. The proposed city of East Cobb failed by the largest margin, with 26.6% in favor to 73.4% opposed. Lost Mountain failed 42% to 58%. Vinings almost passed 45% to 55%, decided by a mere 312 votes.
Throughout the United States, there is a lot of confusion, questions, and unclear rhetoric about how cityhood impacts a region. It is a matter of legal categorizing. Generally, towns can be incorporated (a town with city-specific government) or unincorporated (a town relying on county-level government). Structurally, this impacts every element of that area’s relationship with local government, including who shows up when they call the police, where residents’ taxes go, and what business developments will or won’t happen.
Mableton was briefly incorporated in the early 1900s, then quickly unincorporated again when it was clear the county held more resources and infrastructure.