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.