Commissioner and State Rep. talk issues in town hall meeting
by Jon Gillooly
November 14, 2012 12:31 AM | 2523 views | 3 3 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bob Ott
Bob Ott
slideshow
Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb). MDJ Staff/Laura Moon
Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb). MDJ Staff/Laura Moon
slideshow
EAST COBB — Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott and state Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) on Tuesday tag-teamed a town hall meeting that touched on redistricting and the county’s $20 million water transfer.

The meeting was at the new Sterling Estates Senior Living Community off Lower Roswell Road with 84 residents in attendance, along with eight county staff.

When asked about the relationship between Cobb and Fulton counties, Cooper said the Republican-controlled state legislature made a change for the better in the redistricting process.

“For the first time ever, Republicans will control the Fulton County Delegation,” Cooper said. “What happens is each delegation of legislators, like the Cobb legislators, make decisions about Cobb on some issues.”

The trouble with the Fulton County Legislative Delegation, Cooper said, was that it was majority Democratic, and the Democrats excelled at placing roadblocks in the way of major decisions and changes.

“So during the redistricting process, any legislator in Cobb that touched Fulton County, they went over and gave that legislator one precinct. That meant that they became a voting member on the Fulton County delegation, so when we go back into session, the Fulton County delegation will be led by Republicans and hopefully … it will also lead to some major changes and some different kinds of cooperation.”

Mike Holzknecht of east Cobb, a vocal supporter of the failed TSPLOST proposal who has also been active in the Cobb Democratic Party, pointed out that that the redistricting brought two new Democrats into Cobb County: state Sen. Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) and state Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta).

“Somebody was saying the Democrats would possibly have a majority of the delegation in Cobb County — if not now, real soon — because you’ve got two more Democrats that you didn’t have before,” Holzknecht said. “A friend of mine said it looks like the Republicans outsmarted themselves.”

In response, Cooper said, “But there are more Republicans, and we don’t change the redistricting for another 10 years.”

Ott said Republicans make up 57 percent of the District 2 he represents.

Cooper said as long as Republicans were in control, they would be doing the redistricting.

“If Democrats controlled the Cobb caucus, I can tell you the first thing that they would be voting on would be to do away with the senior exemption,” she said. “We as Republicans are going to do everything we can to stay in control because we’re not doing away with the senior exemption for Cobb Countians.”

As for drawing in Tate and Bruce into Cobb County, Cooper said, “it was not tit for tat.”

“We are still under the federal law of the Civil Rights law from the feds, who say that basically there have to be so many majority-minority districts. … In order to make those districts they had to come out a bit, and South Cobb is going very Democrat, so that’s where they put it.”

Audience member Jan Barton of east Cobb thanked Ott and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell for raising concerns about the county’s practice of transferring $20 million from the Cobb Water System to the county’s general fund to help balance the budget.

“I’m hoping that we will stop that silliness in the future,” Barton said.

Yet Holzknecht spoke up in favor of the practice.

“If that water tax in the general fund was not there, it would put pressure on property taxes,” Holzknecht said. “There are some people here I believe who own some property, and the water tax is artificially keeping your property taxes low.”

Ott said under the current employee structure, Holzknecht was right.

“If you take the $21 million transfer away, you would have to raise property taxes to provide the same level of service,” Ott said. “But there are other ways in reducing the size of the government to provide the same level of service.”

There are government jobs that don’t need to be government jobs, Ott said.

“Police, fire, there are no private sector equivalents to their jobs. There is no one else that can do the jobs that those guys do … But there are some other jobs that could potentially be done by private industry,” Ott said. “Sandy Springs is an example.”

Resident Roger Wilson weighed in on the subject, saying that things should be called by their proper names.

“I don’t think we should call things ‘water’ when they’re actually ‘general funds,’” Wilson said. “Where does that end? … Property taxes are property taxes and water revenue is water revenue.”

After the meeting, Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, said she thought Ott did a good job of covering what was going on in east Cobb.

Wilson also praised Ott.

“Bob’s doing a great job of getting the balance between those who want something and those who don’t,” he said.
Comments
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SG68
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November 14, 2012
Ott hit the nail on the head when he said that there are services being provided by the county that could be done by the private sector.

Privatization works to improve certain services at a reasonable cost.

If the private firms that are hired don't do the job you revoke their contract and hire someone else.

What a novel concept!!

xray8
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November 14, 2012
You people have no idea what privatization is all about or how big a failure it has been around the country. Heck it even failed in our own county with solid waste. Sure privatize your water system and then see what happens when the rate hike comes around. They want even think twice about passing it on to you as they are in it to make a profit. Sell your parks dept. to the highest bidder and see what happens to your local recreational associations that provide your sports to your kids. Do your research. You have the lowest tax base around, enjoy it, find a way to bring business in without dropping services or people will move out of the county if you provide no services for the families to enjoy.
SG68
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November 15, 2012
@ xray8

To the contrary, privatization has been very successful when it is managed correctly.

But you are correct in one regard. That could be a problem in Cobb, because of the poor management team currently in place.

Look at our neighbor Sandy Springs. Lower cost, better and more efficient services.

You don't sell the system or county assets you simply contract out the administration and management of those services to companies that are motivated to perform in order to keep their contract.

The reason Cobb has the lowest tax rate is because they rob $20 million a year from the Water Authority.

They have also misappropriated the streetlight revenues they collect to fund other county services.

Plus they use the County transportation SPLOST to artificially fund what should be funded from the County budget.

If those ill advised "transfers" weren't manipulated to fund budget shortfalls the tax rate in Cobb would be much higher.

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