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Judge allows votes on cityhood referendum to go forward


The lawsuits challenging three cityhood elections are on hold for now as a Cobb Superior Court Judge ruled that the elections can proceed on the May 24 ballot. Chief Judge Robert Leonard Judge issued an order last week that postpones the lawsuits until after 

 the primary election day. 

Arguing that the proposed city charters of Vinings, East Cobb, and Lost Mountain violate the state constitution, Allen Lightcap, an Atlanta attorney with allegedly close ties to former Governor Roy Barnes and Chair Lisa Cupid, filed all three lawsuits on behalf of residents in the proposed cities. 

The lawsuits had sought to either delay the referendums to November or have them blocked from the ballot entirely. Cupid has been accused of trying to block communities from pursuing cityhood and many see the lawsuits as an extension of her attempts to stop the new cities from being formed. 

In his order, Chief Judge Leonard wrote, “This court declines to interfere with the legislative process and remove the referendum from the ballot,” wrote in the order. “… In the meantime, it is incumbent on the proponents, opponents, and voters — not this court — to educate one another on the issues presented in this lawsuit.” 

The cityhood movement groups had asked the court to dismiss the suits entirely, so the stay order offers a momentary victory. 

Addressing the success or failure of the three referendums, Leonard wrote that if any of the cities are approved, “the complex issues presented in this case” would be heard with full arguments from both sides, rather than on a “rushed timeline” ahead of the vote. If the cities are rejected by voters, he added, the cases are moot anyway. 

At issue is whether the city charters improperly limit the home rule powers of cities. Under the state constitution, cities are granted 14 supplementary powers that outline what services they can provide, and the authority to levy taxes. 

The charters specify that the cities will provide some services, like code enforcement and planning and zoning, but not others. And while cities in Georgia can offer limited services if they choose, the lawsuit argues the charters put forward by the legislature

unconstitutionally limit future city leaders from making that choice.

(Advance voting for the referendums and Democratic, Republican, and non-partisan primaries begins on Monday; click here for details.)

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