In her remarks at the start of the two-hour meeting, Cooper assured the more than 100 audience members that Ott would continue to represent the east Cobb area. Cooper said there were no maps before the Legislature that would force Ott out of his district, but there had been concerns that others on the Cobb Board of Commissioners might try to force through a map that could.
“Over my dead, cold body will they move Bob Ott out,” she said to applause. “Because he’s the person that you have chosen to have this seat.”
The commission districts are redrawn every 10 years after Census results are released. With Cobb’s population listed at 688,078, each of the four districts must be within a 1 percent deviation of 172,019 people.
While she said the map that was signed by Republicans in Cobb’s legislative delegation, created by Reps. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) and Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), was a good one, Cooper said she signed an amendment to the map Wednesday that would keep the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre in southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson’s district.
“It has nothing to do with (Ott), it hurts him in no way,” Cooper said of the amendment.
Cooper also took issue with Thompson and northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s efforts to place a vote on a map that would place all of Mableton back in Thompson’s district as a last-minute agenda item at Tuesday’s commission meeting. Ott referred to the map as the “Barnes map,” suggesting former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Mableton native and Democrat, was heavily involved in drawing it.
“You will hear a lot going back and forth about who has the right to draw the maps,” Cooper said. “It is the duty of the Legislature to draw the maps. It is our sole responsibility. In the past, when things have been going fine and everybody’s been working together, we have taken the input from the commissioners; we have taken the input from the school board. But when things are up in the air, and they don’t seem to be able to agree with each other, it falls back on us, and it’s our responsibility in the first place.”
Cooper said the map proposed by Setzler and Golick, which she calls the “Golick map,” could pass the full House as early as Friday. It would then have to pass the Senate and get approval from the federal Department of Justice.
“I think we’re going to have good, fair, constitutional maps, and that’s the goal,” she said. “To have the best representation for the citizens and have, as close as possible, the person they elected still represent most of his district.”
Ott said he has avoided going to the redistricting office near the state capitol since last summer because he feels those responsibilities belong to the Legislature.
“The fact of the matter is, we talk about Republican and Democrat, everybody’s around long enough to know that whoever’s in charge draws the maps, and whoever’s in charge has historically drawn a map that’s favorable to them,” Ott said. “The Barnes map … if he was in favor of the map yesterday, and he’s in a particular party, you probably have to figure that it’s beneficial to their side. It’s a process that has happened probably since the dawn of time, and that’s what you’re seeing. It is probably politics in its rawest form, and it shouldn’t have to be that way.”
Cooper also said the Legislature should not have pushed off the responsibility of voting on a transportation plan to the voters. She called the vote on projects funded by the Transportation Investment Act, which will take place July 31 in regions across the state including a 10-county Atlanta region, an effort to appease rural legislators, especially in south Georgia.
“There is still a feeling that Atlanta gets everything and the only thing the Legislature cares about is the metro area,” Cooper said. “And that is not true.”
The regional votes came about because of the failure to pass a statewide transportation measure, Cooper said.
“That’s why it came about, not because we didn’t want to do a whole statewide one, but because that’s the only thing we could get through,” she said. “And if we don’t take care of the transportation problem in the metro area, we are the economic engine to the state of Georgia, and Georgia will decline.”
Cooper said that Setzler’s actions have doomed a bill he introduced that would postpone the TIA referendum for two years in order to fix what Setzler called “fatal flaws.”
“You want the honest answer?” she said. “I think Ed has made everybody so mad that I don’t think it has any chance. Whether it’s right or wrong … He has so aggravated the leadership, and has been so verbal in opposition, I really don’t think it has a chance of going anywhere. The leadership in the House and the Senate and the Governor all seem to be steadfast in the fact that they’re going to vote on it in (July).”
During the meeting, Ott touted the changes to the county’s development standards that commissioners passed Tuesday, changes he pushed for. He said that changes to rules for stromwater drainage would have saved developers of a new LA Fitness at 1453 Terrell Mill Road $1 million had they been in place when the site was redeveloped.
Ott added that Christos Pizza will soon move from the Publix shopping center across the street to the LA Fitness shopping center. He is hopeful that the changes in redevelopment rules will lead to other property owners making their sites more competitive in what they charge tenants and in keeping the sites up.
“Publix talks to Regency, which owns the shopping center, and says ‘You need to get your act together,’ ” Ott said. “And I can tell you that’s what’s going on.”
Ott said he believes that once one corner of an intersection adds new business, the other ones will follow.
This was Ott’s second town hall meeting in less than a week. He took questions from an audience in Smyrna Feb. 9. He said that the size and number of communities in his district sets up a need to have multiple town halls. He is also planning one for Vinings Estates.
Ott was voted as the board of commissioners’ new vice chairman at its meeting Tuesday, but he won’t take over the role from northwest Cobb’s Helen Goreham until May 1 because of concerns he will have to miss meetings because of training for his job as a pilot at Delta Air Lines.
George Weers of east Cobb was thankful that Ott holds regular town halls.
“He’s seriously working at holding the rest of the commissioners’ feet to the fire, and saying, ‘Let’s talk about this,’” Weers said. “Even though it’s not his full-time job, he’s very dedicated.”
Richard E. Hodges of east Cobb said he was concerned that Ott had written off light rail as a way to deal with Cobb’s transportation issues.
“I’m sure he’s doing what he thinks is best,” Hodges said. “As long as he’s intellectually honest, I have no problem with him.”
If you live in the northern part of east Cobb, you can catch Birrell’s first town hall meeting of 2012 tonight. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Mountain View Community Center, 3400 Sandy Plains Road.