Currently, there are two Democratic districts, held by Alison Bartlett and David Morgan, among the seven member Cobb Board of Education.
The new map, which has had no public viewing and which Wilkerson claims was drawn by state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), would pack Bartlett’s central Cobb district with Republicans, leaving only Morgan’s south Cobb post as a Democratic stronghold.
Wilkerson said state Rep. Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) was scurrying around the Capitol on Friday trying to get the needed eight signatures to pass the map. And that’s a shame, Wilkerson said, since the school board already adopted a proposed map that it designed back in August in a 5-1 vote with David Banks opposed and Lynnda Eagle absent, but in favor.
But Republicans have the redistricting power, admitted Wilkerson, a former chairman of the Cobb Democratic Party and first-term representative.
“They’re in the majority, and if they want to draw a map that the school board hasn’t seen yet and make it a completely partisan map, despite the school board trying to make it non-partisan and more about the schools, they have that right, but it’s not the right thing to do even though they have the ability to do it,” he said.
Wilkerson objected to Dollar collecting signatures before the map was made available to the public. At least the county commission map drawn by state Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) was made public in December before lawmakers started to collect signatures, he said.
“It shouldn’t be something that’s done down in Atlanta behind closed doors that even fellow legislators didn’t get to see before it’s pretty much a done deal,” he said.
Another difference between the way things have been handled with the commission and school board is the commission never formally voted to endorse a map.
“The school board is a completely different situation,” Wilkerson said. “They have voted. They’ve expressed their opinion. They’ve worked together, and it’s not very often you get a vote of 5-1 on anything they do. I think this is kind of a slap in the face to the work they put into it.”
Ehrhart’s map is also odious to Wilkerson because it scoops a portion of the Osborne community and drops it in Banks’ upscale east Cobb post.
“You’re taking two completely different communities and combining them together, and one community is probably going to be at a disadvantage to the other,” he said.
Around Town has reached out to Ehrhart and Cobb Delegation Chairman Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) to obtain a copy of the map that gives Wilkerson so much heartburn. Stay tuned.
Meantime, the reapportionment theatrics bring to mind the old sign in the Capitol press room that said in effect no man’s life, liberty, property or wife is safe as long as the General Assembly is in session.
Theatre in the Square, which has been slammed by the recession and owes at least four months of back rent to landlord Philip Goldstein, took a dramatic step this week toward keeping the marquee lighted by parting ways with its managing director, Raye Varney.
Moreover, Palmer Wells, who co-founded Theatre in the Square and serves as its producing director, announced he would forgo a salary until the theater’s finances improved.
Varney told Around Town she hopes the loss of her salary will allow her team to remain employed longer.
“I wish the very best for Theatre in the Square and feel fortunate to have worked for over six years to help lead it through both good times and bad,” Varney said. “Finally, I encourage all those who love the arts to support their local arts organization with their talents and their resources.”
Wells said he earned a salary of $35,000 while Varney earned $57,000.
Now in its 30th season, Theatre in the Square has seen donors disappear in the recession, causing it to fall four months behind in rent to landlord Goldstein. The theater pays Goldstein $10,778 per month.
“We’ve worked out a payment plan where we will pay him weekly until we can pay down the amount that we’re in arrears,” Wells said.
The theater’s financial situation has been largely attributed to a fall-off in contributed support, particularly from the corporate sector, and the economic downturn that began four years ago. It didn’t help that one its larger supporters, Robert Moultrie, founder of The Facility Group, was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to making an illegal campaign payment to a Mississippi governor, leaving his company on life support.
Over the past two years, the group has eliminated staff positions, reduced staff salaries by 10 percent, and reduced the two directors salaries by 20 percent.
An urgent fundraising effort was announced last September when Wells noted that the theater and its $1.5 million budget were on the brink of financial disaster.
Wells announced a two-phase campaign to raise the funds necessary for survival. The first goal, to secure $350,000 by Dec. 31, 2011, to ensure the current season would be completed, was met six weeks late. The second is an effort to raise an additional $400,000 before June 30.
Fundraising is the main agenda item for the annual Theatre on the Square’s board retreat held at the theater today.
The bottom line is that the fate of the theater may depend on how lenient landlord Goldstein will be with late rental payments.
LONGTIME chief of chaplain services at WellStar Kennestone Hospital Phil Owens is retiring. A reception in his honor will be from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday at “Main Street 21” in the hospital.
Advanced/Absentee in-person voting began Monday in Cobb. Those ballots can be obtained at the Cobb Elec-tions Main Office, West Park Government Center at 736 Whitlock Ave., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until March 2.
Advanced/Absentee In-Person voting also will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from Feb. 27 to March 2 at the Boots Ward Recreation Center in west Cobb, the East Cobb Government Center at 4400 Lower Roswell Road, Northstar Church at 3413 Blue Springs Road in Kennesaw (a new location), and at the South Cobb Community Center at 620 Lions Club Drive in Mableton.
Cobb lost one of its most devoted advocates to public education when it said goodbye Wednesday to Dr. Henry Hill, who passed away at age 84 and who is remembered as a leader in the peaceful integration of Cobb schools in the mid-60s.
Few have ever given a more dedicated and compassionate effort to bettering Cobb schools than Dr. Hill, and he leaves a widely respected legacy as an educator who made a difference. He will be greatly missed.
NOTE: The print edition of today's Around Town incorrectly states that in-person voting begins Saturday, February 18th. In-person voting begins Saturday, February 25th. Please note that it has been changed online and accept our apologies for any confusion.