Lee was hurt badly by his advocacy of the unpopular TSPLOST referendum (which died at the polls July 31) and by his decision to raise property taxes last year rather than make deep cuts to balance the county budget. Byrne trumpeted his opposition to the TSPLOST and promised lower taxes. But Byrne was hampered, at least in some quarters, by memories of his controversy-wracked terms as chairman in the 1990s and by his blunt personal style. Ultimately, a paper-thin majority of voters in Tuesday’s runoff chose to go forward with Lee rather than return to Byrne’s politics of the past.
The hope is that Lee has learned his lessons from this episode. And those lessons would be that county residents prefer lower, not higher taxes, and that they expect a level of fiscal conservatism from Marietta Square that is missing from the State Capitol and long gone from Washington. Lee has indicated he has no plans to raise taxes in the fiscal year that starts in October. That’s good news, but frankly, that would be a great opportunity for him to lower property taxes, rather than maintain the status quo of last year’s higher rates.
In addition, most Cobb residents realize they are part of a region and know that some of those problems must be looked at from a regional perspective, and that we can’t just slam the door on the Atlanta Regional Commission and our nearby neighbors. But they also are deeply wary of the kind of lip-lock regionalism embodied in the TSPLOST that Lee tried so hard to pass. There’s a happy medium yet to be found — and it doesn’t include trying to “back-door” MARTA rail into Cobb like Lee’s TSPLOST plan did.
It’s also hoped that Lee will broaden the circle of those to whom he listens. As it is, he is often perceived as being the hand-tool of insiders at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and the Cumberland CID. Now, having won a victory at the polls, he hopefully will begin to show the independence of thought and action that has been lacking.
ALSO DESERVING OF CONGRATULATIONS is political newcomer Lisa Cupid, who in her first-ever political race unseated veteran Southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson in Tuesday’s runoff by a 76-24 percent margin. Thompson hails from one of Cobb’s best-known political families and had diligently represented that corner of the county for nearly two decades. Cupid, a Georgia Tech engineering grad now finishing up graduate degrees in law and public administration, brings new energy and fresh ideas to the commission table.
Ms. Cupid’s election is notable on another front: She gives that board a 3-2 female majority.
THIS SUMMER’S ELECTIONS are a good time to remember that Cobb is generally better-governed than its neighbors and that its residents enjoy the lowest property taxes in the metro area. And it’s now incumbent on Tuesday’s winners to help keep things that way.