In a rare occurrence, someone addressed the Marietta Board of Education to denounce the proposed $35 million redevelopment bond during the public comment portion of its meeting Tuesday.
The board also approved its fiscal 2014 tentative budget 4-0-3 with Stuart Fleming, Brett Bittner and Vice Chair Tom Cheater abstaining. The final budget is set to be voted on in mid-June.
Lance Lamberton, an Austell resident and president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, said he wanted to speak to the board about comments board Chairman Randy Weiner made about the proposed bond as published in an April 14 MDJ article.
The Marietta City Council is eyeing a $35 million Nov. 5 bond referendum. Most of the proceeds would be used to buy up aging apartment complexes along Franklin Road and raze those buildings, clearing the way for new development.
Lamberton said what bothered him was Weiner’s claim that razing the apartment complexes would reduce the number of transient students enrolled in Marietta City Schools.
“I think the mission of the district should be to provide quality education as a public institution for everybody in this community and not try to skew things so that we drive out transients,” Lamberton said.
Lamberton said “driving” out transients would force them to move to other cities or counties.
“They are going to have to get an education someplace else,” he said.
Weiner said while he stands by his previous comments, he clarified that he was speaking on behalf of himself and not the full board.
“It was my personal opinion, not the board’s,” Weiner said.
After the meeting, Weiner said the bond is about stabilizing a very dense and transient area of the city and not enticing transient behavior with the lure of free rent and no background checks.
“Having a dense, transient population not only increases the likelihood of increased crime, it makes it very hard for kids to receive a quality education and graduate high school, therefore continuing a cycle of poverty,” he said.
“Real cruelty comes in by ignoring the reality, looking away while young kids are raised in a crime-ridden, drug-dealing and unstable environment,” Weiner continued. “With people constantly moving in and out of Franklin Road, this problem is bigger than assigning additional police patrols.
“Government helped to create this problem many years ago by zoning in many high-density rental units in a very small area. It’s going to take today’s government to help fix it.”
In other business, three of Marietta’s seven board members abstained from voting on the $81.8 million tentative budget after a recommendation by Fleming to increase the amount budgeted for the Marietta Mentoring for Leadership program by $25,000 was rejected.
The mentoring program serves students in sixth through 12th grades enrolled in Marietta City Schools, connecting them with community mentors. The program runs on a $15,000 budget. That expense was picked up by the district this year after the federal government stopped paying for it.
“This program represents a good demonstration of what we can do with our students,” Fleming said.
Those who opposed the recommendation, but approved the tentative budget — Weiner, Jill Mutimer, Tony Fasola and Irene Berens — said they’d rather wait until the mentoring program’s board decides what additional funding it might need and how it would be used.
Mutimer said the school board could come back at any time during the year and adjust the budget if needed.
Yet Bittner said he supported Fleming because his recommendation would publicly show that the school board was supportive of the mentoring program.