Cobb Chamber fires back at Byrne
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
April 29, 2014 04:00 AM | 6024 views | 14 14 comments | 87 87 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COBB CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Chairman Ben Mathis is calling on District 1 Cobb Commission candidate Bill Byrne to apologize for his comments about the Chamber. Saturday’s Around Town noted Byrne, in response to an issues questionnaire sent to the candidates from the Chamber, accused the Chamber of overtly backing candidate Bob Weatherford of Acworth and refused to fill it out.

“I will not respond to your questionnaire nor will I participate in any Chamber sponsored event, now or in the future,” he emailed back to the Chamber, copying it to Around Town.

Mathis replied via a letter to the editor of the MDJ (its full text can be read nearby), accusing Byrne of attacking the Chamber’s 2,500 local business members and their more than 100,000 employees.

“This threat of retaliation against private citizens by someone seeking government office simply is wrong,” Mathis wrote.

Responding to another Byrne allegation — that the Chamber had promised the Atlanta Braves to support the county’s proposed $492 million BRT/express bus line, Mathis said it was “utterly false, and there is not a shred of accuracy to it.”

“In the end, we recognize that candidates can get carried away in their comments trying to score political points. Still, such shrill talk of retribution and harsh, anti-business sentiment are far beyond typical political hyperbole one expects from a candidate seeking public office in Cobb County. Byrne owes the Chamber and its dedicated members, volunteers and employees an apology for his reckless rhetoric,” Mathis concluded.

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IT WILL BE showdown time for Cobb Commission candidates this evening. That’s when the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club holds its final forum of the primary season, featuring candidates for the two seats up for election on the commission this year.

All five candidates for District 1 — Angela Barner, Byrne, Glenn Melson, Scott Tucker and Weatherford — have committed to attend, says CCRW spokeswoman Rose Wing. But incumbent District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell will not be there, claiming a scheduling conflict, Wing says. Challengers Michael Opitz and Joseph Pond will be there.

Claiming a scheduling conflict is a common tactic used by politicians perceived to have a wide lead over the opponent or opponents, the feeling being they have little to gain by appearing and much to lose. There’s always the possibility the “leader” will misspeak or be confronted with uncomfortable questions. And the lesser known candidate(s) are perceived as gaining stature in voters’ eyes by sharing the stage with well-known incumbents.

Opitz and Pond have both been critical of aspects of the Commission’s handling of the Atlanta Braves’ move to Cobb, which Birrell voted to support last fall.

Retired Cobb Chief Sheriff’s Deputy and former state Rep. Lynda Coker will moderate Tuesday’s forum, with questions coming from a panel consisting of Toria Scott, former Cobb GOP chair Scott Johnson and Leo Smith.

The forum runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Cobb Commission Meeting Room, 100 Cherokee St., right off Marietta Square. It will be televised live on Channel 23.

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EVENTS: More than 20 candidates are expected to be on hand for Wednesday night’s 10th annual non-partisan candidate forum at the Parc at Piedmont in east Cobb, sponsored as usual by Oliver Halle and Don Jenacova. The casual 7 to 9 p.m. outdoor event features no speeches, just a meet-and-greet format for the public. Confirmed attendees include state Attorney General Sam Olens, gubernatorial candidates John Barge and David Pennington, U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel, 11th District Congressional candidate Bob Barr, Cobb Solicitor candidates Barry Morgan and Cindi Yeager, judicial candidates Ann Harris, Juanita Stedman and Nathan Wade, school board candidates Kevin Nicholas, Scott Sweeney and Bill Scott and District 3 Cobb Commission candidates Birrell and Opitz.

Halle is predicting a turnout of several hundred people and says from what he’s heard, many of the attendees plan to give the candidates an earful about the proposed Isakson Senior Center on Roswell Road.

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U.S. SENATE candidate Michelle Nunn will be featured speaker at this year’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner sponsored by the Cobb Democratic Party on May 17. The event will take place at the Courtyard Marriott off Windy Hill Road and as it will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, will be titled “From Brown to Barack: Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education,” according to Cobb Democratic chief Melissa Pike.

For info call (770) 420-7133 or go to www.cobbdemocrats.org.

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THE KENNESAW BUSINESS ASSOCIATION plans a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Ben Robertson Community Center in Kennesaw. Moderator will be Pete Combs of WSB Radio.

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U.S. SENATE candidate Art Gardner and gubernatorial candidates Barge and Pennington will speak at Saturday’s Cobb Republican Party Breakfast. The event runs from 8:15 to 10 a.m. at party HQ, 799 Roswell St., Marietta.

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11TH DISTRICT Congressional candidate Barr hosted publisher Steve Forbes at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at The City Club of Buckhead in Atlanta on Monday.

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AN ATLANTA BAR ASSOCIATION members’ poll ranking candidates for the open seat on the Cobb Superior Court bench being vacated by the retirement of Judge James Bodiford has been released. Stedman was judged “Best Qualified” by 44 respondents, Wade “Best Qualified” by 26 and Harris “Best Qualified” by 16.

Stedman last week picked up the endorsements this week of Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and retired Sheriff Bill Hutson.

THE “Save the Acworth Depot” Board will make a presentation at Thursday evening’s Acworth Board of Aldermen meeting. The decaying depot was moved decades ago from its original location on Main Street to a site on Winn Street. The City and non profit board, headed by Richard Boyer, are proposing to move the now privately owned depot to a city-owned site just yards from its original location. Although the structure is in “fair” to “poor” condition, the interior heart pine and oak timbers and rafters remain.

“Although it is our intent to ‘Save the Acworth Depot,’ the structure and its historical significance — reality, logistical and economic concerns would suggest the city’s offer of an alternate location, with alterations to the depot, is genuine and a welcome step in the right direction,” the group’s historian/advisor Davis McCollum told AT on Monday.

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AROUND TOWN noted in a recent column that mega-developer John Williams had moved his business headquarters across the Chattahoochee into Fulton County after being spurned by the Cobb school board in his request for a 10-year tax abatement for his “Riverwalk” project, and warned that he was not willing to be “kicked in the ass” again. He also complained that the board had kept him waiting for two hours at a public meeting and then had refused to let him address them.

Not so, two board members tell AT.

“He never asked to speak to us,” said one. “I would have let him if he had.”

Said another, “All he did was sit there using loud profanities in our meeting room.”

Added another public official close to the situation, “(John) is a good enough businessman. If the demand for his product was there, he could (still) build it (without the subsidy) and capitalize on the opportunity.”

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WHIPPING UP VOTES: 11th District Congressional candidate Ed Lindsey of Buckhead honed his political skills as majority whip in the Georgia House. But he had words of caution about that at last week’s Cobb Chamber candidate forum.

“Being whip is not usually about arm-twisting people for their votes, which is what you usually hear,” he quipped. “More often than not, it’s about begging.”

Comments
(14)
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THE TRUTH
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April 30, 2014
The Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates. No official announcement or endorsement from the Chamber for any particular candidate exists. To claim that it does, is to peddle fiction to the public. What individuals do with their personal money and their personal endorsement of a particular candidate is their personal business.
anonymous
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April 30, 2014
What I don't see as a problem is growth in Cobb County and housing, jobs, etc. moving here is the problem that code enforcement, etc. is not being invoked as to what is already here. That is plain as day to me. Why isn't it plain as day to those in charge of code enforement, etc.? Somebody on my homeowner's board asked that we give assistance to those homeowners that couldn't afford to pay the $40 monthly dues that include grass cutting, etc. I replied, if somebody cannot afford $40 a month to get their grass cut, they most certainly cannot afford home ownership. That is not being a snob. That is waking people up to the fact that not all people are meant to own homes and that is not a slander against them or a bad thing. People are meant to rent sometimes. I know a disabled person that in her world thinks home ownership is the epitamy of success, yet she is on disability income and does not have the means whatsoever to pay for home maintenance. I have pointed out to her the blessing of just picking up the phone when her disposal dies; she sees termites; etc. Yet, I do expect the owner of her residence to conform to our bylaws by the owner of the property.
Joseph Pond
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April 29, 2014
It is disrespectful to the Voters that the District 3 Incumbent is ducking the Forums. Shame on her!
anonymous
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April 29, 2014
Mr. Pond, I bet that's because she is CHICKEN!
anonymous
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April 30, 2014
And Mr. Pond, please do enlighten all of us on all your qualifications other than being a chicken advocate. You are cluck cluck stealing votes from qualified candidates. Cluck cluck away into the sunset. Without a rooster. And, Mr. Pond, please do duck all televised forums, so that you don't give any proof to those out there that still believe the south is still backwards.
Fine Line
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April 29, 2014


I agree Mr. Byrne should be held accountable for his comments, however it should be the voters that do so, not the "Chamber". The Chamber does represent many different businesses and by doing so it should not endorse one candidate, it should offer equal forum for its members to judge the individual. If an individual chooses not to respond, or makes disparaging remarks, this individual will be answerable to the voters. The Chamber needs to remain neutral for it to represent ALL of its membership. There may be some or even one member that may support Mr. Byrne, if so the respect of representing without bias is the place of the Chamber. The information source should be the direction of the service of the Chamber, not the political control of our county. For the Chamber to individually endorse Mr. Weatherford is unfair and bias to AlL of its membership. The Chamber also should apologize for its support for only one candidate. The Chamber is a tool, a source of information, a gathering of businesses to visualize the future of the county, not to determine who is next in its leadership, this is up to the voter, by crossing this fine line, we endorse an unfair, distorted or even cloudy view of the voters responsibility to decide for themselves.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Byrne should apologize for attack on Cobb Chamber
Vinings rez
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April 29, 2014
There's another sign up on the Williams property NE corner of Cobb Galleria Parkway and Cumberland Blvd, yes? -- variance or zoning change or special agenda item for the BOC? Check into it.
AmericanMale
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April 29, 2014
Kudos to Bill Byrne for striking a nerve in the Chamber's so-called leadership!

The reality is that most business people join the Chamber simply to network with others and build their own business. A small handful of self-indulgent so-called leaders use the clout of that membership to try to get their way in the community. I expect Byrne's comments were directed at them, not the members themselves.

Cobb's Chamber leadership has deteriorated into a cesspool of money-grabbing John Williams types seeking to line their pockets at every turn. Most people in Cobb have come to realize this (the T-SPLOST helped establish this as fact) and now view the Chamber in this way.

I hope Bill wins his seat. We need someone who will step out on behalf of "the little guy" and take on that corrupt powerhouse known as the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce "Leadership"!
anonymous
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April 29, 2014
DITTO!

Made me giddy to see that BILL BYRNE has gotten so far under the Chamber hacks skin that they decided to whine out loud for everyone to hear. Pissy little mama dogs, they are.

May BILL BYRNE find a seat on the Cobb board of commissioners
CBG
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April 30, 2014
I am not a member of the chamber and have no ties to the chamber but the fact that Bill Byrne stated he will not support any activities by the Chamber is unconscionable. The Chamber's main purpose is to promote Cobb County and for a candidate running for Cobb County Commissioner to make such a statement , to me, is spiteful. Maybe the Chamber should not be promoting a particular candidate but I don't want someone as my commissioner who picks up his toys and goes home every time he doesn't like what happened and who is proud to state he will not support the Chamber who's function is to promote the county he's supposed to represent. I wonder what Mr Byrne would. be saying had the chamber chosen to promote him?! BYE BYE BILL we don't need a spiteful anti everything person in office.

AmericanMale
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April 30, 2014
CBG, your premise is incorrect. The INTENT of the Chamber is as you say, but their leadership's actions have been self-serving, not in the interest of all Cobb Countians!

I expect Bill's comment was aimed at their current actions, not the intended purpose of a Chamber.
anonymous
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April 30, 2014
CBG said: "The Chamber's main purpose is to promote Cobb County "...

CBG, you clearly don't have a clue. The Cobb Chamber is about the Cobb Chamber getting into your and my pockets via SPLOSTS/TSPLOSTS/CIDs/special tax concessions to developers/purchases of land for subsequent sale to developers, etc.

Perhaps you would consider waking your self up and paying a bit of attention to what is going on in Cobb county. A whole lotta Chamber of Commerce folks are not about free markets and capitalism. No, they think the key to success in Cobb is another (ridiculous)project footed by the Cobb citizens.

Am not a Bill Bryne fan, but if he can torque the Chamber into whining like sissy girls, I am glad to have him around.

anonymous
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April 29, 2014
RE: --Added another public official close to the situation, “(John) is a good enough businessman. If the demand for his product was there, he could (still) build it (without the subsidy) and capitalize on the opportunity.”--

PLEASE!, name that public official ---We have so few of them left in Cobb County that actually understand just that. Want to make sure they do not get kicked out when all the kickin' starts here in a few weeks.
CBG
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May 01, 2014
To American Male: Mr Byrne has been a member of the chamber and he is just mad because they are in an "anybody but BILL Byrne" mode. I'm not saying I agree with what the chamber has done and frankly for them to state they don't "endorse" is more of a semantic issue. It is an insult for them to make that statement and then name a candidate they think is best, AND accompany that candidate to forums, etc. Clearly you are a Byrne supporter so to you I ask too...what would you be saying had the chamber chosen to "support" Mr. Byrne??. I'm inclined to believe you would all be on the roof tops announcing it! It's bitter Bill who has shown me that he is NOT the type of leader we need Representing Cobb County. Saying no to everything does not a good leader make!.
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