“Because it’s just two of us. We had seven or eight debates (during the primary), and I think we’ve only got one scheduled,” he said.
Byrne and Weatherford will debate July 8 at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw at 6 p.m.
Weatherford said he spent about $40,000 on the primary.
He believes he will draw from many of the supporters who voted for retired Marietta Fire Marshal Scott Tucker in the primary.
“I had a long talk with Scott, probably three hours before I decided to get in the race,” Weatherford said. “I said, ‘Scott, you’re a great guy. I like you. You’ve got the same values.’ And I said basically ‘You can’t beat Bill Byrne.’ I said, ‘You’re too nice.’”
Weatherford called challenger Angela Barner after the primary, but said she never returned his calls.
His campaign chairman, John Loud, was assured by Barner’s husband and by her campaign treasurer she would not endorse Byrne.
“All of them assured him that they would not endorse Bill because all their campaign strategy was ‘anybody but Bill,’” Weatherford said.
As it turned out, Barner did endorse Byrne.
“So you read between the lines,” Weatherford said. “Somebody offered them something I wouldn’t. I mean, I’m not saying they did and I’m not saying they didn’t. I’m just saying I don’t do deals. And all of a sudden, it just went that way.”
Weatherford: ‘Why is the chamber a bad thing?’
Byrne has attempted to frame Weatherford as a rubber stamp for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. Weatherford said it’s a subject he hears quite a bit about on the campaign trail.
“I think it will hurt me to a certain extent, but I’m not ashamed of being part of the chamber,” Weatherford said. “I’m not going to run from that. I’ve been a member for 12 years. I’ve been on the board. I’ve been on Leadership Cobb Honorary Commanders. They have small business seminars. Why is all of a sudden the chamber a bad thing? I just don’t understand that. And I don’t run from my friends. I’m not ashamed of being part of the chamber. I’m not ashamed at what they do. I’m not ashamed at what they have done and what they will do. The only thing I will tell you again is I will do what I think is best, regardless of who is putting it up.”
Weatherford said his support for consensus building doesn’t mean he won’t stand up for what is right.
“The thing that upsets me the most is people think that I’m a yes man, that I’ll rubber stamp Tim Lee,” Weatherford said. “One of the things that I told him is that I will not be a yes man, I will be my own man, and more than likely I will agree with him most of the time. But if I don’t, it will be my vote is what’s best for everybody, and if you don’t believe that, ask (Acworth Mayor) Tommy Allegood.”
Questioning Byrne’s police endorsement
Weatherford shared how he believes Byrne came to be endorsed by the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter.
Weatherford said he initially learned through the grapevine, not by invitation, the group was holding a candidate forum in March. All the candidates spoke before the group with the exception of Glenn Melson, who Weatherford said wasn’t present.
“They voted on Barry Morgan, and they voted on the others — Opitz — which tells you something right there, right?”
Weatherford is referring to Michael Opitz, who lost in the primary to Commissioner JoAnn Birrell.
Weatherford said the entire 500-plus membership didn’t vote, but just the 30 or so who attended the meeting. He alleged Bob Pierce, the group’s first vice president and a Byrne supporter, was running the event. Pierce announced there would be no endorsement in the primary, Weatherford said, yet the very next month, the group called to let him know a new candidate forum was scheduled, in which an endorsement would be made after all.
“This time, there’s like 35 people there. People I haven’t seen before,” Weatherford said. “And they had questions and answers. They asked Bill some questions. They didn’t ask me anything. Asked Bill questions about David Hankerson. They hate David Hankerson.”
At that meeting, the group endorsed Byrne.
“So, seven votes. You take that the way you want. He’s been touting it and touting it and touting it. There’s a select group there that all they want to do is get up there and stir things up. And he’ll do that, no doubt. But he won’t get anything done.”
Weatherford aligned with Lee, chamber, FOP president says
Bill Mull, who retired after a 42-year career with the Cobb Police Department, is president of the Cobb Fraternal Order of Police. Mull called Weatherford a friend, but said he had to respect the wishes of his membership.
“The membership felt like Bob was more aligned with the chamber and the chairman, and we don’t have a lot of confidence in the chamber, Tim Lee, and that was really the issues that was discussed by my board and a number of the membership. So that’s really how that came about,” Mull said.
Mull believes the chamber gives Lee marching orders.
“We pointed out to him that with this stadium that’s going to be built, it’s going to require a lot more public safety down in the Cumberland area, and they don’t want to address that at the present time,” Mull said.
Like Byrne, Weatherford said if elected, public safety will be his No. 1 priority. He suggested 30 percent of the proposed 2016 special purpose local option sales tax, if approved, should go toward public safety improvements. Officers should be given patrol cars to take home at the five-year mark and need to be properly equipped with rifles, radios and vests, he said.
The county’s pay structure doesn’t distinguish pay between a police officer and firefighter. That should change, Weatherford said.
“It shouldn’t be the same. It should be based on what your job is, not what some HR person decided public safety is.”
Development Authority of Cobb County
When used properly, a development authority is a tool for economic development, Weatherford said. But the former Acworth alderman said he is troubled over reports about how the Development Authority of Cobb County tried to give a tax break to a Cumberland development backed by John Williams last fall.
“That didn’t look right to me,” Weatherford said. “I fail to see what type of incentives he needed because there was no mediation needed for the site, I don’t think. There was not the required jobs that are required by the site. There were none of the things that I thought you had to have in order to give an incentive to a developer. Now, if it’s an industrial park in south Cobb, and they’re going to bring 100 jobs, give them everything you can give them. I mean, really, shouldn’t you? But a multimillion development that is going to make millions of dollars, and he wants this money or he’s going to go over there (to Fulton County). OK, let him go over there.”
The development authority, chaired by Clark Hungerford, could also have done a better job alerting the Cobb Board of Education it planned to waive school taxes for the project, Weatherford believes.
“How could we have solved that? Communications,” he said. Weatherford said if he were in Hungerford’s position, he would have alerted Cobb school board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci prior to taking action.
“You’ve got to communicate, and that, to me, is one of the primary differences between me and my opponent is I will do things like that,” Weatherford said. “I will listen to everybody. I will try to keep lines of communication open.”
A qualified ‘yes’ on the county’s lobbying contract
Weatherford has mixed thoughts on the Board of Commissioners’ decision to pay Marietta-based Garrett McNatt Hennessey & Carpenter 360 to serve as the county’s lobbying firm at both the state and federal levels for an annual contract of $168,000. To renew the contract, Weatherford said the firm must bring in more money for Cobb than the contract amount.
“If that doesn’t happen, then they won’t be rehired,” he said.
Another factor Weatherford brought up is the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, which already does lobbying work for the county at the state level.
“So why do we need a duplication of effort for that process at the state? What that tells me is either ACCG is not doing their job, which we pay several thousand dollars to be a member of every year, then we need to get what we pay for,” he said.
As for representation at the federal level, which is where the largest sums can be obtained, the county has had no representation there.
“They flow through the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Georgia DOT,” Weatherford said. “So that part I would support. I would not support it if it was just to augment ACCG. As long as it’s federal and helps out on state, then I probably would support it as long as there is return on investment.”
The contract with the Braves
Weatherford said he is a fan of the Atlanta Braves moving to Cobb County and notes he wasn’t involved in the move.
“I don’t know what all that went around,” he said. “I do know that I’ve looked at some of the numbers and things like that, and I’ve met with (Jim Pehrson, the county’s finance director), and that man’s a whole lot smarter than I will ever be. And most of it is accurate and predictable. He’s got spreadsheets to kill for. So who am I to second guess him? That’s not my job. My job is, ‘Was it done the way it should have been done?’ with transparency or whatever. And sometimes you have to take a risk to get an investment, and that’s what they did. And I predict the next five or 10 years, everybody is going to think it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to Cobb County since the Olympics. Oh, we didn’t get the Olympics.”
Weatherford believes most Cobb residents are supportive of the deal, but the few opponents, such as Rich Pellegrino, are the ones getting media attention.
“What you all know that the Atlanta people don’t know is they’ve been there at every meeting for the last six months saying the same thing over and over again. It’s all the same six people,” Weatherford said. “I’ve listened to them on and on and on. Just the same people.”
In May, Loud organized a group of Braves supporters to turn out early to the commission meeting and fill the dozen public comment slots before the critics arrived. When Pellegrino and a few others demanded to speak, Lee and the district commissioners would not permit it.
“I know it was a bad PR mess,” Weatherford said. “I would have probably handled it differently. I would have made a motion — if I was one of the commissioners — that we allow three more people to speak. And vote on it. What would it have hurt?”
Bus rapid transit and T-SPLOST
During the primary, Weatherford held off from saying whether he supported or opposed Lee’s bus rapid transit proposal.
“I said I’m uncertain because I don’t think you should say no to everything. You need to study it and investigate it,” he said.
Lee originally pegged the system at $1.1 billion.
“The way I understood it is it went from the billion down to the $500 million, and there’s matching funds from federal and state. So any time any entity can take $100 million and parlay that into $500 million, on the surface that looks like a pretty good deal,” Weatherford said. “So why would I not want to look at — can I take $100 million and get a $500 million return? That was the reason I’m looking at it. We’ve done that in Acworth with (the) Livable Cities Initiative and Community Development Block Grants. We put in 25, they put in 75, and we get street-widening and all this kind of stuff. To me, that’s a good use of public funds.”
But the more he’s spoken with Faye DiMassimo, the county’s transportation director, the less confident he is about the cost of the system, he said.
“You need to know where every dollar is coming from. So right now, since there is no financial plan, I couldn’t support a BRT on the SPLOST,” Weatherford said.
Byrne has cited Weatherford’s support for the ill-fated T-SPLOST of 2012 as a strike against him. Weatherford explained why he voted for the T-SPLOST.
“I voted for it at the ballot box because you have to look at this versus this,” he said. “Because of that, we had a lot of projects in Acworth that we were going to get to do that we could not afford to do. So did all of Cobb County.”
The problem with the T-SPLOST, Weatherford said, is the legislators who created it arranged a super committee to pick the projects, and residents didn’t like the projects that were chosen.
“So maybe they could have done it better, but any time I can get transportation funds from what I call a fair tax, then I like it if I can,” he said.