ATLANTA — Chattanooga city officials waded into the border war between Tennessee and Georgia Wednesday when they delivered about 2,000 bottles of water to lawmakers in the drought-parched Peach State.
Dressed in a coonskin hat and 19th century frontiersman garb, Matt Lea, special assistant to Mayor Ron Littlefield, described the gesture as “a humorous political joke.”
But Georgia Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, said lawmakers accepted the bottled water as “a small down payment on the billions of gallons of Georgia water that flows from our creeks and streams into the Tennessee River every year.”
The trip was billed as a light-hearted response to Georgia legislators’ effort to push the state line roughly a mile to the north in hopes of tapping into the Tennessee River. Peach State lawmakers, who along with millions of residents are experiencing the effects of an historic drought, contend the border was drawn inaccurately.
Chattanooga city representatives made a splash at the Georgia state Capitol Wednesday morning, bringing about 2,000 bottles of water to Georgia lawmakers. The trip was billed as a light-hearted response to Georgia legislators’ collective interest in pushing the state line roughly a mile to the north in hopes of tapping into part of the Tennessee River.
“I sure hope Georgia people don’t think this is rubbing salt in the wounds,” said Chattanooga Councilman Manny Rico, who delivered the bottled water with Mr. Lea.
Mr. Rico, whose district sits on the state line and would be affected by Georgia’s desired annexation, told reporters it is not feasible to shift the border.
The Georgia House and Senate each have approved a resolution to establish a border commission to examine the issue.
Sen. Shafer, sponsor of the Senate resolution, said the delivery of bottled water “really has nothing to do with the legal arguments or historical claims that the state’s making with respect to the border.”
Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, greeted Mr. Rico and Mr. Lea at the Capitol.
“We make light of this congenial effort today. However, we just want to make sure that the law is properly settled,” he said. “Kind and friendly negotiations will continue.”
A proclamation by Mr. Littlefield states that it is “better to offer a cool, wet kiss of friendship rather than face a hot and angry legislator gone mad from thirst.”
Georgia officials had fun with their Tennessee visitors on Wednesday, which the mayor proclaimed as “Give our Georgia Friends a Drink Day.”
Upon the Chattanooga delegation’s arrival, Sgt. Ryan Newman of the Georgia State Patrol — who met the visitors on Interstate 75 and led them to the Capitol — light-heartedly handcuffed Mr. Lea amid jokes that the Scenic City representatives were transporting illicit liquor. He then cuffed Sen. Mullis as an “accomplice” while a swarm of reporters and other lawmakers looked on.
Sen. Shafer said both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly would have to pass a single version of the resolution and it would have to be signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue before a border commission is set up.
“Hopefully Tennessee will do the same, and we can begin a serious discussion about the location of the border,” Sen. Shafer said.
Mr. Lea later handed out bottled water from a red “Mayor Ron” tote bag.
News reporters followed the Scenic City duo through the Capitol as students and other curious visitors watched. Meanwhile, Mr. Rico peppered the visit with references to Davy Crockett and the Alamo.
“Davy Crockett is not going to give up the fight,” Mr. Rico joked as he motioned to Mr. Lea.
On the drive back to Chattanooga in a truck loaned to the city by a local auto dealer, Mr. Lea said the delivery of donated water was meant to call attention to what he said is a need for Georgians to think more about planning and conservation.
He said Georgia officials handled the gag well.
“All in all, I think they were very friendly,” said Mr. Lea, who took a personal leave day to drive to Atlanta. “I think they realize this was a joke.”