BoC candidates put focus on low taxes, public safety in GOP primary
by Hilary Butschek
May 20, 2014 04:00 AM | 2561 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Republican candidates hoping to fill two of the five seats on the Cobb Board of Commissioners say they are confident their name will come out on top in today’s primary election.

Five GOP candidates are competing for the northwest District 1 seat being vacated by retiring Commissioner Helen Goreham.

The winner will face Democrat Derrick Crump in November.

Candidates for District 1:

Angela Barner, a Re/Max broker associate who lives in Acworth, said improving public safety by providing better funding to police is her top priority. Barner said she also plans to focus on redesigning roadways to improve traffic and encourage new business growth as a commissioner.

“I’m feeling really good. Our polling looks good,” Barner said.

Barner believes voters want “new blood and not a career politician.”

Bill Byrne of Marietta, who has extensive experience in politics as a former county chairman, also listed public safety as a top priority. Byrne is endorsed by the Cobb Fraternal Order of Police.

The former chairman has a history of opposing tax hikes and said he will not vote to increase any taxes if elected.

Because the election is crowded, Byrne expects a runoff for the District 1 seat, but he said he is “very, very pleased” with his campaign.

Byrne said he is relying on his experience of running in past elections and will make it a priority to find more funding to pay public safety officials should he win.

“I think the voters are very in tune and very happy the Braves are coming to town, but they’re thinking, ‘How are we going to pay for it?’” Byrne said. “If we can’t afford to pay the public safety personnel a living wage, how can we afford to bring the Braves to Cobb County?”

Byrne said the result is now the “voter’s responsibility.”

Candidate Glenn Melson, who owns his own insurance firm, is running on a platform to uphold property rights and give homeowners a voice.

“I feel good. We’ve worked hard. We’ve tried to bring forth a plan that is good for Cobb County,” he said.

Melson is excited to hear who voters choose, and he is thankful to have made it this far in the race.

“I thank everyone who supported me,” Melson said. “I had a lot of people who supported me in this race, and that’s very humbling.”

He plans to make advocating for more funding for public safety officers his first priority if he wins.

Candidate Scott Tucker, a retired fire marshal and assistant fire chief who lives in Kennesaw, is running to strengthen public safety.

Tucker said he feels confident about the election.

“It’s not confidence because I’m confident I’m going to win. It’s confidence because I know I did the right thing,” Tucker said.

Candidate Bob Weatherford, who resigned his seat on the Acworth Board of Aldermen to run for the District 1 position, also said he running to make public safety a top priority and make sure the Braves’ arrival in Cobb County is a success.

“I’m confident and reserved — cautiously optimistic,” Weatherford said.

He added everything is in the hands of the voters now.

“I’ve given everything I’ve got. I have nothing to be ashamed of. As always, I’ll leave it up to voters,” Weatherford said.

In response to polls by the Marietta Daily Journal in previous months, Barner, Byrne, Tucker and Weatherford all said they would vote to stop the county’s practice of transferring water funds to the county’s general fund. Melson said he was undecided on the issue.

In response to a proposal to start a permanent 1-cent on the dollar homestead-option tax, Tucker and Weatherford said they were open to the proposal. Byrne and Melson said they would be against the tax, and Barner said she had no opinion and would leave the decision up to the voters.

A proposal to use special purpose local option sales tax dollars to help pay for a bus-rapid transit system connecting Kennesaw State University with Midtown Atlanta produced mixed responses when candidates were polled. Barner, Byrne, Melson and Tucker were opposed to spending SPLOST dollars on a BRT system. Weatherford said he was undecided and that voters should make the decision.

Candidates for District 3:

JoAnn Birrell, the incumbent commissioner for District 3, is running on a promise to continue delivering her support of public safety and responsible tax dollar spending.

Birrell said while she is ready for the results, she is campaigning until the last minute.

“I’m still out there working hard and making phone calls and attending events up until the last day,” she said.

Birrell plans to continue programs she started during her previous four years in office, such as the “Keep it in Cobb” program. She will also focus on public safety.

“Whenever you have two opponents, you can’t take that for granted,” Birrell said. “I feel my track record and my experience and the positive things I’ve done the first four years will counteract any of the negative rumors or statements that are out there. But I’m not taking anything for granted.”

Michael Opitz, a mediator who lives in east Cobb, is running on a campaign of promoting public safety and strengthening the local police, fire and education departments.

Opitz said he felt positive about the election and believes voters would agree with his goals.

“I’m addressing the real problems in Cobb County — problems that have been ignored, such as police and fireman pay, public funding for the Braves stadium,” Opitz said.

He said he had a goal to make local government transparent.

“When I take office, I will insist on total transparency for all Cobb County Commission actions and negotiations,” Opitz said. “Voters have the right to know.”

District 3 candidate Joseph Pond, a plumber, has run on a campaign of smaller government and lowering taxes.

“I’m feeling really good,” he said. I’ve got a lot of positive response from the people I’ve spoken to. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction, and tomorrow they’re going to be able to voice their opinions at the polls.”

Pond said he felt confident by his presence at local debates and forums, mentioning the absence of incumbent Birrell, who he said has not attended public debates.

“It’s hard to challenge someone who won’t rise up and meet the challenge,” he said.

In response to polls from the MDJ, all three candidates for the District 3 seat said they opposed the transfer of water funds to the general fund of Cobb County.

The three candidates also said they oppose raising taxes. Opitz and Pond said they oppose spending SPLOST revenues on a bus-rapid transit system, while Birrell said she wanted more information about the transit system before making a decision.

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