MARIETTA – Tonight residents have the chance to sound off on the first of two public hearings addressing controversial code changes on the employment of illegal immigrants and owning backyard chickens.
Community development director Rob Hosack says the county always considers code changes at this time of year.
Anyone who shows up at the 7 p.m. meeting will have a chance to address the Board of Commissioners for three minutes each. In past years, such hearings have gone well into the night depending on how many people turn up to speak.
Hosack expects the IMAGE (immigration) and chicken topics to be the ones that people most want to talk about.
Immigration activist D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society says IMAGE protects jobs and involves an ICE audit of past hiring records that exposes fraudulent and stolen IDs used by illegal aliens to get hired, including Social Security numbers.
“Directly connected to illegal immigration, identity theft is one of the nation’s biggest and most costly crime problems,” he said.
The county itself is already IMAGE certified, which stands for ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers.
The code change would require all contractors doing business with the county to apply for federal IMAGE certification.
IMAGE is a voluntary partnership initiative between the federal government and private sector employers designed to strengthen overall hiring practices.
ICE has developed this initiative as a new concept for employer self-compliance within the work site enforcement program, through which employers can achieve a “lawful work force” through self-policing of their hiring practices.
Participants in the IMAGE program are required to use E-Verify, an online employment eligibility verification system operated jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration, as the first of its 12 best practices.
The other best practices go beyond electronic verification to help employers who seek to maintain the integrity of their work sites.
IMAGE places an emphasis on self-policing in a company’s hiring practices. By following the prescribed steps of IMAGE, a company could lessen the likelihood of being found in violation of employment laws.
Sides lining up
The proposal has the backing of Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell.
“If the proposal goes forward, folks will have to provide an affidavit that says they have submitted an application for the IMAGE program and that they intend to comply with all of the requirements of the IMAGE program by a date certain,” Hosack said.
Commissioner Helen Goreham has previously told the Journal while she wants to examine the exact language of the proposed code change, “in theory,” she also supports having contractors and subcontractors who do business with the county become IMAGE certified because it ensures that citizens of the U.S. are afforded job opportunities that might otherwise go to illegal immigrants, “and in today’s economy it’s very important that our citizens are gainfully employed.”
If she sides with Ott and Birrell, the code change will pass.
Newly elected Commissioner Lisa Cupid and county Chairman Tim Lee have said they are still researching the issue.
The Journal asked both Lee and Goreham at this morning’s work session if either were ready to go on record supporting or opposing the IMAGE proposal. Neither were.
Immigration activist D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society said he will be in attendance to speak in favor of the proposal, which is opposed by Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, who calls it “Big Brother at its worst.”
King said, “Like most Americans in Cobb, I still support the requirement that all contractors paid with our tax dollars take advantage of the no-cost federal IMAGE certification program. And I know why Tim Lee doesn’t. Follow the money. Exposing black-market workers that used stolen ID to take a job away from American workers is a priceless concept for most of us.”
King believes Lee is opposed to the IMAGE program and that Goreham is turning against it as well.
“On our way to becoming another DeKalb County, I am sickened to watch as Tim Lee flip-flops on his campaign promise to extend the use the IMAGE job-saving tool to all county contractors,” King said in an email. “It is also alarming that less than two years until the next election, Commissioner Gorham may have backed up on her determination to prevent a repeat of the scandal we endured on the illegal alien workers at the Cobb Courthouse. With the usual suspects, IMAGE has all the right enemies, including the contractors lobby, the Cobb and state Chamber and angry Jerry Gonzalez. Oh, and Rich Pellegrino. Way to go Tim Lee.”
Crowing about chickens
King encouraged voters who are concerned about protecting jobs in Cobb to attend tonight’s meeting.
“It will be quite an eye opener,” King said. “They can read the wording of the pending ordinance on my MDJ blog.”
Joseph Pond of east Cobb has led the movement to change the code for allowing backyard chickens. Currently, residents may only have chickens if they have two or more acres of property. The code change would require residents who want chickens and who live on less than two acres of property to apply for a special land use permit, Hosack said.
Pond said he will be speaking tonight as well.
“I applaud Bob Ott and Helen Goreham for their efforts on changing this 40 year old out of date ordinance, however the plan that the planning department has come up with is totally unreasonable requiring a special land use permit to own a chicken or a hen when we already can own as many dogs, cats, potbelly pigs as we want to,” Pond said. “That’s not a clearly reasonable ordinance as defined by the Georgia State Constitution.”
Pond said he is encouraging supporters to turn out tonight as well.
“I am encouraging everyone I know whether they are a chicken supporter or property rights supporter to come tonight,” he said. “I’m expecting a good showing. Not as much as DA King is going to have with his followers, but we’ll be there.”
Birrell, who is not a supporter of allowing backyard chickens on fewer than two acres, joked during the morning work session that she planned to call in sick with the avian flu to avoid hearing about the subject tonight.
Tonight’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the boardroom at 100 Cherokee St., Marietta.