The proposed law would have required all contractors, subcontractors and independent contractors doing business with the county government to provide proof that they had applied for federal IMAGE certification. The IMAGE program is designed to ensure jobs funded with tax dollars go to those in the country legally.
The battle pitted a majority of the commission and at least one of the county’s biggest employers against Georgia’s best-known advocate for tighter enforcement of our immigration laws, east Cobb’s D.A. King, and played out against a county unemployment rate that has been consistently on the north side of 7.5 percent for the past four years.
The Commission ultimately rejected the proposal by a 2-3 vote on Tuesday, with Chairman Tim Lee and Commissioners Helen Goreham and Lisa Cupid voting against it and sponsors Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell in favor.
YES, THE CHAIRMAN came out a winner, in that he held his coalition together to doom the measure. Some might say he was hurt by his admission at the Commission meeting that he would vote against the measure because WellStar was strongly against its passage. (WellStar provides health services to the Cobb jail, and at reduced cost, according to Lee, and would not apply for IMAGE certification, meaning the county would have had to find a new provider.)
So was Lee a loser for admitting that he was dancing to WellStar’s tune? Yes, one could say that, but one could argue just as convincingly that his decision saved taxpayer dollars and also that what’s best for one of the county’s biggest employers is probably best for the county at large. Local leaders have cast those kinds of votes on behalf of Lockheed for decades, for example, and without a hint of public criticism.
GOREHAM WAS INITIALLY VIEWED by many as the swing vote on the issue and was seen as torn between the pressures of Lee and his supporters at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce (which did not take an official position on IMAGE) on the one hand; and the wide-spread support among residents in her district for tougher measures against those in the county illegally.
Goreham’s public comments in January seemed to indicate she favored passage of the IMAGE proposal. They not only caught Lee off guard, but perhaps fed a perception among the public, fairly or not, that she was flip-flopping on the issue when she moved back into Lee’s camp.
Lee campaigned for re-election last summer on a pro-IMAGE platform, so it came as a shock when he suddenly changed course. Not only that, he mostly kept a low profile on the question in recent weeks and let Goreham serve as the lightning rod. It wasn’t a role she much enjoyed, and she didn’t endear herself to her critics by offering an inaccurate description of the program, saying that it would require all Cobb businesses to comply with IMAGE, not just those seeking to do business with the county government.
DUSTIN INMAN SOCIETY founder D.A. King also picked up his share of bruises in the IMAGE fight. He had little trouble rallying public support for the proposal, but this was his first notable Cobb setback on what has been fertile territory for him. Earlier victories have included seeing Sheriff Neil Warren become the first in Georgia to implement the highly controversial 287(g) program that checks the immigration status of those brought to the county jail, and helping reveal that contractors were using illegal aliens as laborers on the new Cobb County Courthouse in 2009-10.
King also made a point of claiming credit for helping wordsmith Cobb’s proposed IMAGE ordinance, which he says he did at the behest of Ott and Birrell. But the other three commissioners claimed to be outraged that he did so — even though getting that kind of detailed input from outsiders, activists and lobbyists is par for the course for just about every law-making body in the country.
The commission has been supportive of most of King’s agenda in recent years. But it will be interesting to see if the IMAGE fight causes that support to hinge in the other direction on things like continued support for the sheriff and 287(g).
WELLSTAR, the Cobb-based health-care behemoth, has never been perceived as a hiring haven for illegals. Rather, its stance on IMAGE stemmed from what it described as the hefty time that would be needed to comb through past hiring records to ensure it could pass an IMAGE audit. Lee, Goreham and Cupid made the same claim on behalf of the county government. But is that because of the sheer volume of personnel records involved, or as King argued, because the records are in such spotty shape? The latter, according to King.
SO WILL GOREHAM’S VOTE on IMAGE come back to haunt her next year if she should seek another four-year term on the commission? It very well might. Her opponents also will probably dredge up her vote with Lee in 2011 to raise the county’s tax rate, rather than cut spending, in order to balance the budget.
Accountant Keli Gambrill, who heads People Looking After Neighborhoods, one of west Cobb’s largest homeowner organizations, and one that has tangled with Goreham on various issues, told Around Town last month she is strongly considering challenging the incumbent at the polls.
And a former opponent also has a finger to the wind. That would be former Kennesaw Mayor Leonard Church, who has noted on his Facebook page that he has “been asked” to consider a run for the commission.
“So I am considering it,” he added.
Church challenged Goreham in the 2010 GOP primary, but she bested him by a comfortable 54.2-to-45.7 percent margin.
Those with long political memories will also remember that Goreham defeated five challengers in the 2006 GOP Primary — and without a runoff, a nearly unheard of feat. And she’ll have 16 months or so following today’s vote to mend fences before she has to face voters again.
So will the IMAGE vote hurt her? In the short term, yes. In the long run? We’ll find out next summer.
COUNT HIM IN: Marietta Ward 4 Councilman Andy Morris says his name will be on the ballot in this fall’s municipal election. Morris, 65, was elected in a July special election to fill out the remainder of Councilman Van Pearlberg’s term when Pearlberg resigned to run (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) for Cobb Superior Court judge. He says if re-elected, his top goal will be trying to address city traffic concerns. Morris served a full term on the council from 2002-05, then chose not to run again for personal reasons.
Meanwhile, Pearlberg says neither he nor his wife Patti, who ran against Morris in last summer’s special election, has plans to run for the seat this fall.
PEOPLE: C.B. Fair has been named regional president for United Community Bank in Marietta for the west Metro Atlanta area.
THE YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s 2013 Tribute to Women of Achievement will be March 15 at the Cobb Galleria Centre, according to head Holly Tuchman. Co-chairing are First Landmark Bank VP Terri Bunten Guthrie and First Century Bank’s Jim Guthrie. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and wife Lisa, sales exec with Georgia Power, will be honorary co-chairs. Tickets are $125. Call Hope Felshaw at (770) 423-3562 for more.
More than 400 Cobb women have been honored by the Y through the years. This year’s honorees are: Cassandra Buckalew, CEO of Historic Marietta Trolley; Karen Caro, marketing manager of the Cobb Galleria Center; Terri Cole, homemaker and volunteer; Debra Day, director of Development, Bagwell College of Education, Kennesaw State University; Nicole Faulk, Metro West Regional manager for Georgia Power; Phyllis Gingrey Collins, attorney; Meredith Hodges, VP HR and External Affairs, Gas South; Cheryl Hungerford, deputy superintendent of Cobb Schools; Angela Hyatt, electronics engineer senior staff at Lockheed Martin; Theresa Jenkins, executive director of the Marietta Welcome Center; Carol King, Harry Norman Realtors; Ellen Langford, VP & COO WellStar Medical Group; Karen Lockhart, associate principal at Walton High School; Jacqueline Payne, supervising attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Cobb; and Pattie Pearlberg, VP of Coro Realty Advisors.