Around Town: Cobb legislators have ‘zero tolerance’ law in their sights
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
September 28, 2013 12:00 AM | 4146 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LOOK FOR Cobb legislators to lead an effort to modify the state’s harsh “zero-tolerance” law when the Legislature goes back into session in January.

Like most such laws, Georgia’s law mandates predetermined punishments for specific offenses that must be applied regardless of whether the behavior was serious or accidental or whether there are mitigating circumstances. It criminalizes the possession of weapons and potential weapons on school grounds — everything from firearms down to small knives — and even baseball bats, if you’re not a member of the baseball team.

It’s a law with plenty of teeth — but zero common sense.

Cases in point: the two Cobb teens who have run afoul of it this fall.


ALLATOONA HIGH SCHOOL student Andrew Williams, 18, was charged under the law after a search by school officials found a knife in the console of his locked car. But it was not a Bowie knife or switchblade. Rather, it was a specialized EMT rescue knife he kept there with his parents’ permission in case he were to get in a wreck and have to cut through his safety belt. In fact, Williams had acted heroically in a similar case earlier this year, pulling his friends from a wrecked car that he feared was about to explode. He could get up to 10 years in jail plus get smacked with a $10,000 fine if found guilty under the law. He told the MDJ he’s also facing expulsion if found guilty.

The other student was Lassiter High senior Cody Chitwood, 17. Lassiter officials who ordered a K-9 sweep of the parking lot found four knives in his locked, parked car on campus after the dogs picked up the scent of some legal leftover fireworks in his trunk. The knives were leftover from an earlier fishing trip, Chitwood says, and also in the car were two fishing rods and his tackle box. He probably should feel glad he wasn’t charged for illegal possession of fishhooks and bait, too. As it is, he’s facing up to 10 years in prison and the big fine and says he was suspended for 10 days from school.

Cobb lawmakers Around Town has spoken to late this week say they will work to modify the law in question to give school officials and district attorneys more discretion in how it is applied.


THE COBB EMC Board of Directors has elected David Tennant as chairman to succeed Ed Crowell, who chose not to seek another term.

The board, meeting Tuesday night at the EMC HQ on the Church Street Extension, also selected Bryan Boyd as vice chairman and David McClellan as secretary/treasurer.

Tennant and the others came into office as reformers in the wake of the Dwight Brown/Cobb Energy-related turmoil. He has a master’s degree in technology and science policy from Georgia Tech and an executive MBA from Kennesaw State University and lives in Kennesaw with his wife and two children.

McClellan is a CPA and Boyd is VP at Pacesetter Graphics.


11TH DISTRICT congressional candidate Tricia Pridemore lists George Washington as one of her political role models.

She was asked in the course of a meeting with the MDJ edit board this week who she might model herself after if elected, and answered Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Washington.

“(He) was a humble servant who was intelligent and tough and would never ask his followers to do something he wouldn’t do — like passing Obamacare and then exempting himself from it, like Congress is trying to do,” she said.


POLITICS: Dalton Mayor David Pennington, who’s running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination against incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal, will be guest speaker at The Madison Forum breakfast today at 9 a.m. at the Rib Ranch on Canton Road in east Cobb, reports Forum head Michael Opitz. Sharing the platform will be retired Army Col. Larry Mrozinski, a Republican who is running for the 11th District seat being vacated by Phil Gingrey.


CITY BEAT: Ward 1 Marietta Council candidate Stuart Fleming plans a $50-a-person fundraiser from 5:30-7:30 Oct. 10 at the dk Gallery on Marietta Square. … Ward 4 Marietta Council candidate Marshall Dye now says he was quoted inaccurately in a Sept. 8 MDJ story in which he said passage of the Franklin Road redevelopment bond would allow existing apartments to be razed and replaced by better apartments to allow young professionals to move into the city.

“The best use of that area is no longer residential, given its location and growth of the surrounding area,” he said this week. “A light industrial, mixed-use development would be ideal for that location today and would strengthen the tax base of the Franklin Road area immensely. I believe this plan will be the catalyst that will push Marietta into the future as a thriving city.”


KENNESAW CITY COUNCIL Post 3 candidate Briggett Washington will host a meet-and-greet from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 9 at 2148 Ector Place, N.W.


STATE Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) will host a town hall meeting on Common Core from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Presbyterian Village Church. Wilkerson has invited state School Superintendent (and gubernatorial candidate) Dr. John Barge to attend as a guest panelist. ...

Former state Rep. Roger Hines (R-Kennesaw) tells AT he plans to sit out the upcoming race for state school super. Incumbent Barge of Smyrna plans to run against Gov. Nathan Deal, and Hines, who ran hard for the super’s job in 2010 before eventually bowing out, admits that he finds the prospect of another race enticing.

“My decision not to run is primarily a financial one,” Hines, a retired high school teacher who now writes a Sunday column for the MDJ, told us. “Anyhow, I’m not gonna do it, and my heart is breaking a little, but office seekers get lots of broken hearts.”


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The Cobb Chamber will host its annual banquet Jan. 25 at the Cobb Galleria Centre. That’s also the night on which 2013 Chairman Greg Morgan of Mauldin & Jenkins will pass the baton to 2014 Chairman Ben Mathis of Freeman Mathis & Gary. For more info, contact Amy Goggins at or (770) 859-2335.


PEOPLE: Richard Morris of Mableton, who died last week, is being remembered by his many Cobb friends as one of the most distinguished organists of his generation.

The Atlanta native first soloed at 12 with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra and at 13 was named head post organist and choir master at Fort McPherson. He later became a Fulbright Scholar studying in France with the legendary Nadia Boulanger and then in this country under iconic organist Virgil Fox. Morris was one of the very few organists ever to solo at Carnegie Hall and also appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., during the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter.

He later was organist-in-residence at Spivey Hall in Atlanta, as well as organist / choirmaster at St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church in east Cobb and organist/Gregorian Chant/Polyphonic director at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Mableton


BBQ: Lithonia had its issues this week with wild hogs running loose through town. Well, Marietta Square will enjoy The Whole Hawg Happenin’ BBQ and Music Fest on the Square from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Beneficiaries are The Strand Theatre and the city’s downtown museums. ...

Tickets are still available to “Strandelicious,” Thursday’s fundraiser for The Strand Theatre on the Square. The event showcases downtown restaurants. Tickets ($75 each) are available from the Strand box office.


SICK BAY: Longtime MDJ Associate Publisher Jay Whorton was admitted to WellStar Kennestone hospital for tests late this week. He remains in good spirits in ICU and is improving. On behalf of AT and the entire MDJ staff, we wish “Dr. Jay” a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back at the office very soon.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides