Keeping Cobb colorful — ‘Low on Taxes, Big on Business’
by Roger Hines
March 03, 2013 12:00 AM | 2772 views | 4 4 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Let us say that Cobb County, Georgia is a small nation-state or civilization. Quite a few ancient and early modern civilizations have been just as small. Let’s also consider the continued path of prosperity that Cobb has experienced for the last half century or more. Then let’s ask the question: Why has Cobb continued to thrive while other metropolitan Atlanta counties (other same-size “civilizations”) have begun to falter governmentally, educationally and socially?

Cobb has been spared neither the foreclosure crisis nor the job market slowdown.

Like other counties with equal tax base, Cobb has felt the economic recession. Cobb has had its share of political infighting, public debate, and differences amongst its leaders and citizens. For instance, Cobb citizens have been debating the immigration issue, particularly the IMAGE program. As usual, the upcoming SPLOST vote is also a contentious topic.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, this normal flow of political give and take which can sometimes get very heated, Cobb County has enjoyed, for the most part, effective government. For the four decades I have lived here, I have observed, essentially, an era of good feeling, a few flourishes of political animosity notwithstanding.

Cobb County has also provided leadership for the entire state. Within the past 12 years, Cobb has supplied Georgia with a governor and a state attorney general. Over the years in the General Assembly, Cobb has consistently provided leadership, and its legislative delegation has always enjoyed the respect of other General Assembly members. In short, while nearby counties struggle, Cobb remains strong.

Is it our leaders? Our educational system? The presence and the many contributions of Home Depot, Lockheed and other companies? The Chamber of Commerce? The influence of churches and synagogues? Kiwanis, Rotary and other service organizations? An active, alert press? Is it simply good fortune and chance that 700,000 people of particular talents, skills and civic pride landed in the same spot?

Obviously, the answer is all of the above, except for the chance part. Let’s replace the chance thought with MUST Ministries and Cobb Center for Family Resources. No matter who, or what, is responsible for Cobb County’s vitality, the big question is: How long can it/will it be so? Or, what will keep us from going the way of other once well-functioning counties that now wallow in constant controversy?

Of course, we are not a tiny civilization unto ourselves. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, in a speech in Cobb County, remarked that if Cobb is a golden egg, Atlanta is the goose that laid it. This may be true, but it isn’t the whole truth. Cobb’s vibrancy is mostly of her own doing. In fact, if the goose called Atlanta laid the Cobb egg, she also laid the egg of some counties that are faltering.

Cobb is comprised of seven governmental units: a county government and six cities. These local governmental units are our policy setters and rule enforcers. On the whole, during my years here, they have governed openly, ruled wisely and have understood and practiced my favorite Calvin Coolidge tenet: “The business of America is business.”

Our little civilization is also marked by two Community Improvement Districts — specified geographical areas which, believe it or not, tax themselves for the purpose of community improvement projects. Add to this structure many private homeowners associations and business associations and you begin to see what makes us run smoothly. Yes, our opinions on various issues aside for a moment, our civilization’s engine is well built, well oiled and running.

I wish that America were functioning as well, but she isn’t. I wish that her motto were Cobb County’s motto: “Low on taxes. Big on Business,” but it isn’t. I wish that we could view our national capital the way we view Marietta, but we can’t. I wish that most national leaders bore the personalities and the can-do spirit of our six mayors, but they don’t.

And what could make our little civilization “fall,” or America too, for that matter? According to British historian Arnold Toynbee, a civilization’s “fall” is not inevitable, as we are prone to think, unless we allow “selfish men” to have their way.

So let’s keep selfish men — and women — out of Cobb and kick some out of Washington. And let’s re-read a little of Toynbee who, in the final pages of his famous work, A Study of History, sounds like a Georgia evangelical preacher: “We must pray that a reprieve which God has granted to our society once will not be refused if we ask for it again in a humble spirit and with a contrite heart.”

Toynbee was referring to his beloved Britain, but if his notion about the fall of civilizations is correct, then both Cobb and America have a prayer.

Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Kevin Foley
March 03, 2013
Ah, yes, Cobb County, that little enlightened "city on the hill," a beacon of tolerance, success, and goodwill for all America to emulate. Please.

I'm afraid you need to get out more, Roger. Take a ride around unicorporated Cobb and you'll see what low taxes has produced. Crumbling roads and bridges, traffic jams, overcrowded schools, trash piled up on street corners, and on and on. The good folks of Cobb are getting exactly what they pay for.

Then visit a prosperous county like the one where I lived in Illinois. Lake County has some of the finest public schools, infrastructure, and county services in America. That's why Lake County is home to many major corporations like All State and Baxter. And Lake County votes Democratic.

Sorry to say, this notion that paying taxes is a bad thing is terribly self-defeating.

Yes Indeed
March 03, 2013
What a nice, positive column. We are a great county. Not perfect, but where my wife and I chose to be for last 45 years with no regret at all. Is it our leaders? Our educational system? The presence and the many contributions of Home Depot, Lockheed and other companies? The Chamber of Commerce? The influence of churches and synagogues? Kiwanis, Rotary and other service organizations? An active, alert press? MUST, CCFR, two Community Improvement Districts. As you said, "all of the above" help provide even for those who remain mostly unhappy or negative.

Laura Armstrong
March 03, 2013
Nice column, Roger. I would suggest Cobb has continued to grow and thrive significantly due to the light beam wielded by the MDJ, which has helped keep our officials somewhat on the straight and narrow. Look at other metro their newspapers failed, things got worse. Clayton, Dekalb... In Gwinnet, for example, former MDJ editor Fowler buys the Gwinnett Daily News in 1965, combining with two other weeklies. That paper was award-winning, and documented Gwinnett's best days of promise and growth. After the Fowlers sold to the NYTimes in 1987 (and the paper shut down in '92) it could be argued that Gwinnett's star began to be tarnished by corruption and other problems.

Cobb movers and shakers have their criticisms of the press and the MDJ, but one should not underestimate the MDJ's (and Otis Brumby Jr's) role in growing a better Cobb. His influence, imo, kept many a Cobb politician from straying towards the Dark Side. Let's hope that tradition continues. Good people are rooting for the MDJ's continued health.
Harry Hagan
March 04, 2013
Great column, Sir, as always. Your words have become favorites of mine; thanks. Columns of veritable treasure.

I second Laura's excellent comments. Very insightful and so true.

As to the question "what makes Cobb different," I would suggest perhaps, IQ. It is an immutable and irrefutable force, despite what many revisionists claim. In a PC world, however, the topic can't even be approached.

Be well!
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