The recently announced naming of a Sandy Springs bridge for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson was a surprise to the city—a decision made by Cobb County without first checking the ownership, officials said at a Dec. 20 City Council meeting.

The council voted to approve the tribute, but only after some pointed jokes about Cobb commuter traffic—and some dissent about whether it’s proper to name a bridge for someone still in political office.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Cobb had already arranged the naming of the Johnson Ferry Road bridge over the Chattahoochee River and planned an already announced Dec. 22 dedication ceremony, Mayor Rusty Paul explained.

“Then they did their research and discovered who owned it,” Paul said, adding that the city didn’t know it owned the bridge, either. “We have to [approve] it tonight because the party was already scheduled,” the mayor continued, while agreeing that Isakson, the longtime Republican elected official, is worthy of the tribute.

The situation had echoes of Cobb’s surprise 2014 decision to build the new traffic-attracting Braves stadium and the city’s perennial criticisms of cut-through commuter traffic, and drew some similar dark humor from the mayor and council.

“Good news is, if we don’t like Cobb County traffic…we can blow the Isakson Bridge…We own it,” Mayor Paul joked.

“Maybe we even open the Johnny Isakson Toll Booths at the bridge,” Councilmember Chris Burnett chimed in.

On a more serious note, a dissenting vote was cast by City Councilmember Andy Bauman, who said he respects Isakson, but believes bridge-naming honors should come after an official’s term in office.

“On this one, I respectfully disagree,” Bauman said. “As a general matter of policy, I think it’s a bad idea to name roads and bridges for serving elected officials.”

Councilmember Ken Dishman said he shares Bauman’s concern, but thought it was moot in this case “now that the cow’s out of the barn…It would create more of a hullabaloo than we want if we were to forestall it.”

The council approved the naming in a 5-1 vote.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.