Monday, June 24, 2019

Armadillos on the rise

While most associate the armadillo with places such as Austin, Texas, more of the armour-plated mammals are calling Cobb County home.

Kennesaw resident Brittany Hamilton was out for a walk with one of her dogs on the evening of Father’s Day when the duo came across a family of armadillos in the grass along the sidewalk next to Barrett Parkway close to Old 41. Hamilton photographed the sighting.

Although armadillos aren’t spotted frequently in Cobb, their population is on the rise. Field Operations Manager Seanna Abbott of Cobb County Animal Services said her unit is seeing a definite increase in encounters, especially in the last two or three years.

Abbott advises if you come up on a “roll” of armadillos, do not engage. When threatened their response is to roll into a protective ball. Still, the animals have sharp teeth and long claws used for digging. Best if left to themselves.

Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, has a message.

“I beg women to please, please have their mammography. They are a lifesaver,” said Jackson, who recently underwent a double mastectomy at WellStar Kennestone Hospital. The procedure also required having the first layer of her chest wall muscle removed.

Connie Jackson

Jackson, who knew genetics made her a high risk, said since turning 40 she’s had a mammogram every six months. That’s how doctors discovered the cancer. Had she not had the exam, the cancer likely would have spread.

“That’s the problem. Once it spreads it becomes a whole different problem. Having a mastectomy, it’s not fun, but it’s an operation and you go home. Having cancer spread throughout your body is a totally different thing,” she said.

Jackson said her June 10 surgery took about two and a half hours and she was released from the hospital after two and a half days on the condition that someone would be at home to help her.

“I’m feeling hopeful,” Jackson told Around Town on Thursday. “The Women’s Center at Kennestone is amazing. They were wonderful. I have nothing but incredible praise for them.”

Her treatment plan requires Jackson to see her doctor every two days.

“They’ve already told me I’m 90 percent certain that I’m not going to need chemo, but we still have to talk about radiation, so I may have to do radiation. They can’t be certain that there’s not some cancer cells. There’s no big clumps of cancer. They got those, but there are chances that there are cancer cells,” she said.

Her next appointment is Wednesday and she hopes to learn what the next step will be.

“My plan is the second they clear me from there, hopefully I’ll be able to drive, but I will be back to work, maybe not 100 percent, but I’ll be back.”

Jackson said the estimate for the cost of the surgery just arrived and it’s $45,000.

“For just the surgery!” she said, adding that while she has insurance through the Affordable Care Act, it will not cover all the expenses. And to that point, she’s launched a GoFundMe, asking for $8,000 of which $5,204 has been raised.

Jackson said she was unrealistic about the $8,000 and expects expenses will be much more.

Meantime, she’s anxious to get back to work.

“I was so upset about not being at the school board meeting because you know I don’t miss any. It killed me,” she said.

At the end of Thursday’s Cobb Board of Education meeting, board member Charisse Davis gave her a shoutout.

“I think we’re going to give a well-message to Connie Jackson, but we need her around here, so I hope to see her very soon,” Davis said.

Added Superintendent Chris Ragsdale: “We certainly have well-wishes for Connie Jackson. She’s obviously posted the battle with cancer that she is going through. So we wish her the best, and we keep her in our thoughts and prayers as well.”

Roy Barnes

FUNERAL DIRECTIONS: One of the best storytellers alive, former Gov. Roy Barnes had the Kiwanis Club of Marietta spellbound Thursday, sharing with them the changes the county and state have undergone since he was a boy.

Prior to launching into that talk, the governor said he wanted to put a clock on the lectern or he’d carry on too long.

“I talked to a church years ago and the preacher said, ‘The most important thing in the whole service is right in the middle of the pulpit.’ I said ‘OK.’ He said it time and time again. I went out there and there was a big clock right in the middle.”

While a member of the Kiwanis club, Barnes acknowledged his irregular attendance.

“I’m going to admit to you I had to look up on Google if we met at the same time and same place,” he said, noting he has been known to show up at the wrong place.

This led him to share an incident involving a funeral.

“Years ago — I’ve always tried a lot of cases, and there were a lot more cases tried back in my early years than there are now. Seems like everybody needs continuances and discovery and all this other stuff. But anyway, I was trying this civil case before Judge Luther Hames and my good friend Paul Morton down in Mableton had died.”

Barnes had struck a jury and was putting up his witness. The funeral was the next day.

“I said ‘Judge, Paul’s funeral is at 11 o’clock.’ I said ‘If you can take an early lunch and bring them back early about 1 o’clock I can go to Paul’s funeral.’ He said that’d be fine. He knew Paul, too. Well, you know how judges are. They don’t like to keep juries waiting. And so Luther would tell me ‘Just call one more witness.’ Well, by the time he let me go I knew I was going to be late going to Gene Davis’ funeral home down there in Mableton. They were having it in the little chapel. And I opened the back door, and the lady was already up singing. And you know, I was going to sit in the back where I generally sit in the Methodist church, but everybody in the back was full so I scrooched down, you know, I don’t know why we do that. They can still see us anyway. And I got down near the front.”

That’s when the preacher rose to begin the funeral service.

“And it didn’t take me long sitting there to realize we were not burying Paul Morton at this particular funeral,” Barnes said. “I had never heard of this fellow before I went to his funeral, but he seemed like a pretty nice guy. And I found out he’d been in World War II, and he gone across Europe with (Gen. George) Patton, and then the preacher told me the reason I didn’t know him. He said ‘You know he only moved down here about six months ago in his last illness to be close to his daughter so she could take care of him.’ Well, being a politician, which I was at that time before I went straight, I had someone point out the widow to me, and I went up to the widow, and I said ‘I’m Roy Barnes, and I am so sorry about your husband’s death,’ and in one movement she grabbed my neck and said ‘Honey, he loved you so much!’ And I said ‘And I loved him too!’ So I’m glad to be at least at the right place at the right time,” he told the Kiwanians, who roared with laughter.

Ernest Bell

WARD 5 CHALLENGE: Ernest Bell is getting an early start on things. Bell announced Friday he’s thrown his hat in the ring for the Marietta Ward 5 council seat. That election comes in November 2021, a mere 28 months away.

“I feel I can bring a fresh approach to working with City Council members, the mayor and business leaders, the original inhabitants and new in preserving the history and improving even more with the vibrant growth of the area,” Bell said in a statement.

The seat is currently occupied by Reggie Copeland.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’s Monday tweet that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States” next week has everyone talking.

Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd said Trump understands the country’s immigration situation is an issue about fairness.

Jason Shepherd

“With so many immigrants trying to do the right thing and follow the rules to become part of our American family, how can we as a nation have a different set of rules or ignore the rules for those who decided to ignore our laws?” Shepherd asked. “These deportations are not random operations or roundups like the left will try to spin them as, but carrying out lawful deportation decisions issued against individuals by judges which have been ignored and which we haven’t, as a nation, followed through with or enforced. We are the most welcoming nation in the world, but we only ask that if you come here, you follow the rules. It should be no different for anyone else as it was for my wife and I when she immigrated to this nation. A nation that values fairness and equality under the law should do no less.”

State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, takes a different view.

Wilkerson said the Trump administration is “leading by fear” and “I don’t think any leader should lead by fear.”

Regardless of what ICE’s plans are, Wilkerson believes Trump doesn’t need to be sharing them with the world through Twitter.

“That happens too many times where government agencies have plans that are supposed to be secret and the president tweets because he thinks it helps him with his base,” Wilkerson said. “He’s going to be announcing his reelection bid, I guess, so he wanted to have something to run on, and scary illegal immigrants seem to work with his base. Granted, it’s hurting everybody else in his party, but it’s helping him.”

If you’re in this country illegally and you’re a dangerous criminal, Wilkerson agrees that deportation should occur.

David Wilkerson

With this new directive from Trump, however, “unless they significantly increase their law enforcement personnel, what is taking the backseat to going after families? What high priority projects are no longer being targeted because we have decided to go after parents and kids?” Wilkerson wondered.

As people look back at history, Wilkerson said they always regret where they didn’t have a better understanding of the situation people where coming from.

“None of our ancestors were probably native to this country. They all came here for different reasons. Now you’re going to throw families into turmoil. As we start the new school year, you could potentially have children who are born here where one of their parents or maybe both are ripped from their homes. What does that do not only to the criminal justice system but the education system?”

BIPARTISAN BBQ: U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson recently hosted his 11th annual bipartisan barbecue lunch for U.S. senators and staff from both sides of the political aisle. Following the lunch, he also spoke on the Senate floor to thank the team at South 40 Smokehouse in Marietta, a full-service catering company who served nearly 230 senators and staff members.

“For more than a decade, I’ve been honored to provide a summer barbecue lunch to my fellow senators and the staff who keep the Senate running,” Isakson said. “It’s a small thanks to each one of them as we enjoy each other’s company over some of our favorite Southern foods.”

In his floor remarks, Isakson recognized owners Dale and Tracey Thornton, along with the entire team at South 40 Smokehouse for food, fellowship and the opportunities sharing the meal may bring in the long run for the American people.

“[South 40 Smokehouse] prepared the best food we’ve ever had to eat. Republicans and Democrats shared and ate it all. And I hope the byproduct is us working together to find solutions for the American people’s problems,” Isakson said. “After all, our job is about … what’s right for the American people, and you can always find that when you’re working together.”

South 40 Smokehouse smoked meats and prepared the sides for the luncheon overnight in Arlington and drove it to Capitol Hill. Lunch was served to nearly 70 senators in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. The tradition is part of Senate Republicans’ “Thursday Lunch Group,” where a different host senator treats his or her Republican colleagues to lunch each week featuring their home state cuisine.

The menu included pulled pork, Texas beef brisket, Saint Louis pork ribs, South 40 baked beans, cranberry pecan broccoli salad, dinner rolls and Kansas City BBQ sauce, along with sweet tea.

POLITICAL PLATTER: Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon has drawn a challenger with Laura Mireles Anzures, who describes herself on her website as a Smyrna resident, former law enforcement officer, Air Force veteran, entrepreneur and community volunteer.

In an interview with Larry Johnson on the Cobb Courier news site, Anzures takes issue with Smyrna’s relationship with Croy Engineering.

“Croy Engineering is managing all of the SPLOST projects. So everything has to go through them,” Johnson quotes her as saying. “If you want to bid on a SPLOST project, you have to submit a check to Croy Engineering and they get a part of that and I guess the city gets a part of that. … Every day when I’m driving around, I see surveyors from Croy Engineering out surveying in all these different areas, and I’m like, I’m guessing the city’s paying for all of that … We’re covering a lot of their overhead … and operations on city projects when other cities are doing it in-house. We do have a city engineer, but perhaps we need to build up our engineer staff in the city of Smyrna, so that instead of outsourcing that to a big company, we can hire people through the city, and pay them through the city, and save the money that we’re paying to Croy Engineering. … That is a huge issue to me. And I’ve heard other people complaining about the amount of waste, and the amount that they charge for smaller projects that they do.”

SCHOLARSHIP: Commissioner JoAnn Birrell sends word that a reception and fundraiser will be held for the Janet and David Hankerson Scholarship from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday at the KSU Center. For information, contact Inger Eberthart at 770-528-3317.

POLITICAL PLATTER: Just before last Saturday’s Cobb “Donuts with Democrats” monthly meeting was scheduled to begin, it was canceled for scheduling reasons, causing many to show up for no program. The party says the meeting has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. this Saturday at the Smyrna Community Center. Featured speakers include Richard Keatley, 2018 candidate for state labor commissioner, who will be discussing labor policy and campaign support; and Barbara Ann Luttrell, communications VP for Planned Parenthood SE, who will talk about Georgia’s new heartbeat law.

Timing is everything.

Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce and other members of the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority members were out in Denver earlier this week attending the American Water Works Association Conference. It was at this point in time, while Cobb’s water expertise was 1,400 miles away, that a 36-inch water line chose to break early Tuesday, prompting Cobb County to issue its first boil water advisory in memory.

“Talk about true irony,” Boyce told the MDJ Friday. “I was there learning about pipes and surges … butterfly valves. I’ve been on this board since I came into office by virtue of my elected position, and the first two years I didn’t go out (to this conference). Last year, it was in Las Vegas, and I told people, ‘You’ll never see this chairman in Las Vegas for anything.’ But this year it was Denver and it was advertised as a convention where you need to learn about a lot of things we talk about in the board meetings.”

“There were some huge pipes there,” the chairman exclaimed.

“I’m not a water guy,” he admitted, “so I thought after two years, this is something I ought to go to and learn about.”

The broken pipe had been noted in a May 21 report as needing repairs or replacement. Thin spots are detected by robots that travel the lines via water flow and determine the thickness of the pipe’s wall, Boyce said. Located near Maner and Plant Atkinson roads in the far eastern part of Cobb County, the line was buried in an area with particularly “corrosive soils.” A permanent fix is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $200,000, but the county is also considering repairs to about 1,200 feet of pipe in the surrounding area.

Relocation or repair of that length of pipe, equivalent to close to a quarter of a mile, could bring a price tag between $500,000 and $1 million.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that a pipe that has only been in the ground for 10 years would be so corroded because of the nature of the soil that you’ve got to replace those pipes, because that’s a million-dollar job,” Boyce said.

Tuesday’s boil water advisory that affected areas of south Cobb was lifted just before midday Wednesday and is believed to be the first such warning for county water customers in at least 30 years. The advisory was issued as a precaution, and test results ultimately showed no contamination to Cobb’s water supply from the water line break and subsequent repair

“Hopefully that won’t happen again,” Boyce said, “but I just think it’s important to realize that you’re going to have bad days, and you just have to own them and do the best you can to make sure the health and safety of the public is not impacted.”

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT? The Miss Georgia Scholarship Competition is in full swing in Columbus and Miss Cobb County Alexa Gilomen is already taking home a trophy.

On Thursday night, Gilomen wowed the audience while singing “Lovesong” by The Cure, securing her title as the preliminary talent winner. Gilomen competed in her on-stage interview on Friday. The new Miss Georgia — perhaps Gilomen? — will be crowned tonight.

Gilomen has been tireless in her duties as Miss Cobb County over the past year, making more than 50 volunteer appearances, and continues her duties as the digital marketing strategist for Marietta’s RE/MAX PURE office.

The final night and crowning of the new Miss Georgia starts at 7 tonight and can be watched live at

Alexa, know Cobb is rooting for you to bring home the crown. With talent being 50 percent of the overall score, you’re halfway home.

WEDDING BELLS ... AT THE LIBRARY? When William Tanks and Lee Ann Jean were looking to “book” a wedding venue … they took that job literally. Tanks, Cobb’s public services agency director, wed Lee Ann Jean, an employee with Cobb County Public Safety on Friday ... at a library.

Among the departments Tanks oversees is the county library system, so the venue for Friday’s wedding could not have been better — the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center. The private ceremony for the couple featured the traditional wedding accouterments, from the cake to the tossing of the bouquet and garter, dancing and the sendoff of the bride and groom.

The couple met on the job when Tanks previously worked at the Cobb Fire Department, from which he retired after 26 years. Tanks was brought back to the county to head public services in April of last year.

The wedding was a first for the Sewell Mill facility.

COBB FILLS THE BAR: Why the State Bar of Georgia feels it necessary to leave the state to elect its officers is another question for another day. Regardless, Cobb County ruled at the group’s annual meeting last weekend in Orlando.

Darrell Sutton of the Sutton Law Group in Marietta was installed as the 57th president of the 50,000-member bar. Sutton, who operates a civil litigation practice, is a former member and past chair of the Cobb County Board of Ethics and is a board member of the Georgia Legal Services Foundation, the Cobb Justice Foundation and Lawyers for Equal Justice. A native of Marietta, Sutton is a graduate of Berry College and earned his J.D. degree from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He and his wife Meredith have two children, Louise and Wilson.

Attorney Dawn M. Jones, a resident of Cobb County and managing member of The Firm of Dawn M. Jones LLC in Atlanta, was installed as president-elect of the group.

Jones’ plaintiff-focused personal injury law practice includes medical negligence, wrongful death, motor vehicle collisions, serious slip and falls, and nursing home abuse and negligence matters. Jones, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, is a graduate of the Georgia State University College of Law and was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 2000. Prior to pursuing her law degree, she worked for 14 years as a critical care registered nurse in various hospital intensive care unit settings. Jones will be sworn in as the 58th president of the State Bar of Georgia in June 2020.

Marietta native Elissa B. Haynes, a partner in Goodman McGuffey LLP’s Atlanta office, was installed as treasurer of the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the State Bar.

A resident of Chamblee, Haynes earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and her law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

MEDALS OF MERIT: Congressman Barry Loudermilk and his chief of staff, Rob Adkerson, were among those receiving the Medal of Merit from the U.S. Capitol Police. The department’s highest honor was awarded for actions taken two years ago when on June 14, 2017, a man driven by political divisiveness opened fire on Republican Congressmen and staff members as they practiced for their annual charity baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia.

“There were many acts of courage at the field that day, from law enforcement, our teammates, and others. This recognition brought back so many emotions I haven’t felt for a while,” said Loudermilk, whose 6th district includes all of Bartow and Cherokee counties and portions of Cobb and Fulton counties.

LET IT BE KNOWN that Nicole Rodden, a Cobb County Republican running for the 6th Congressional seat, does not cotton to being called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. Democratic congresswoman from New York.

Nicole Rodden

Over the weekend, Cobb Republican activist Pamela Reardon did just that, posting a photo of Rodden on Facebook with the following statement: “Look AOC came to our Republican event!”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

(This is the same Reardon, mind, who rose to defend Republican candidate DeAnna Harris when Harris issued a strange press release last fall claiming that Cobb NAACP President Jeriene Bonner-Grimes had endorsed her in her unsuccessful effort to unseat state Rep. Michael Smith, D-Marietta. (A stunned Bonner-Grimes said she had done no such thing and Smith went on to a new term.)

Reardon’s post about Nicole Rodden prompted Rodden to take to her Facebook page.

“A member of the GAGOP State Committee likened me to a socialist Democrat today for no other reason than the way I look. This type of behavior does nothing but push people away from our party. I will continue to work hard to ensure the Republican Party is a place where anyone who loves this country and shares our values is welcome. Let’s be better than this.”

That set off a tidal wave of comments, most denouncing Reardon’s post, but some defending it.

“Highly inappropriate. I do hope she calls you, apologizes, and posts how detrimental her antics and sentiments are to the Republican Party,” posted Republican activist Leonardo Smith.

East Cobb’s Debbie Fisher took a temporary break from complaining about the Cobb Board of Commissioners to post: “Politics are not for sissies or thin skin. I’m sorry if this offends you but that picture of you does resemble AOC who is a beautiful woman. Take it for what it is worth. Playing the victim card isn’t a good strategy in GA-6 nor is calling out your own party!”

Pam Reardon

After attempting to explain it away as a mere joke, Reardon posted that she made a mistake.

“I own it. I can’t take back my temporary lapse of judgement. I would like to formally apologize to Nicole Rodden ... Nicole, you are a beautiful woman, and your look last night at the event was very appropriate for the occasion. I in no way associate your ‘look’ in a negative light. You are striking. As you know, I have always passionately fought for inclusion and diversity in my party. So much so, that I started MARS, Metro Atlanta Republicans, to foster diversity within my party. I applaud anyone who is brave enough to run for office. I was simply joking that you bear a striking resemblance to AOC when your hair is back, and you have your glasses on. I in no way associate that with negativity towards women of color, or women in general. I humbly hope you will accept my apology, if not for me, for the solidarity of our party. Circular firing squads are never the answer for victory.”

For her part, Rodden responded that she appreciated and accepted her apology.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Gov. Brian Kemp has submitted the name of former state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna, a former rival in last year’s Republican primary, for a seat on the State Charter Commission.

“Hunter has long been a leader in advocating for parents and students to have better educational outcomes. His work in the state Senate paved the way for greater innovation and choice in the classroom and I look forward to the work Hunter will do on the Charter School Commission to put Georgia students first,” Kemp tells Around Town.

Hunter Hill

Hill said the commission approves or denies charters and is also instrumental once a charter is approved in ensuring that the school is operating according to the approved charter.

“I appreciate the governor appointing me to the position and getting a chance to continue my advocacy for charter schools and to also have accountability because accountability in the charter school environment will make charter schools better,” Hill said. “I’m honored to serve and continue my advocacy for choices and options in education.”

Hill works for SignatureFD in Atlanta, a wealth management firm, and says it’s far too early to consider a return to politics.

“I’m really enjoying being in the private sector and helping our clients reach their financial goals, so I’m not at all rushing back into politics, but of course I still have a passion for the issues and glad I get to serve the state in this capacity,” he said.

Certainly his former Republican constituency is undoubtedly dismayed to hear this considering his successor to the state Senate seat is arch-liberal Jen Jordan, D-Buckhead, whose raison d’être is fighting Kemp’s pro-life heartbeat law.

“It is interesting. You know even though it’s a moderate district the primary process on both sides tends to deliver a vastly different candidate,” Hill said.

SICKBAY: In a GoFundMe post, Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, announced she was diagnosed with breast cancer and that on Monday was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Most know her in her role as president, a job she loves, Jackson wrote.

Connie Jackson

“What you may not know is that I had to quit my job, teaching special education, with the school district nine years ago to do this. That meant giving up all my benefits. I now have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and am grateful to have health insurance, but it is not great. I also have none of the other benefits that being with the school district provides.”

In her post, Jackson said she has three sons living with her and several others near and far.

“I only gave birth to 2, but God gave me many others through different means,” Jackson wrote.

“The bills have started coming already. … Please don’t feel you have to do anything or give anything. Most of my friends are teachers, bus drivers, or work in schools, so I know how much you DON’T make. If you can, and are comfortable with it, I and my sons (the dogs and cats don’t really care) would appreciate it beyond words,” she wrote.

As of early Tuesday, $3,800 of the $8,000 had been raised.

Around Town wishes Ms. Jackson a speedy recovery.

SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL: Cobb Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster and associate county attorney Mark Adelman are in the Holy Land. As they climbed Masada, who did they run into but Cobb State Court Judge Marsha Lake.

“All of us supporting Israel,” Schuster said.

Pictured from left are Randy Harris, head of circuit defender; Cobb Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster; Cobb State Court Judge Marsha Lake, circuit defender Carrie Harris Wilson and associate county attorney Mark Adelman.

THIS WEEK, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson led a bipartisan Senate delegation to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by Allied forces during World War II.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Isakson said he could think of no better way to honor our World War II veterans than to be with them for the milestone occasion at the spot where many of them, their friends and fellow comrades landed 75 years ago.

“It is an especially important time to reflect on the sacrifices made by the greatest generation during World War II. The defeat of fascism in Europe and imperialism in the Pacific liberated millions of people across the globe from oppression. Those brave service members fought in the face of great adversity to defend the principles of democracy, and because of their valor and sacrifice, they set a high standard for future generations to follow,” he said.

During the event, Isakson met with American World War II veterans who made the trip for the special occasion. The delegation also met with Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

SpecialSen. Johnny Isakson greets a World War II veteran on June 6 at the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, France, before a ceremony commemorating D-Day’s 75th anniversary.

JUDICIAL OBJECTION: Last month AT wrote of Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren’s objection to DeKalb State Court Judge Dax Lopez being elevated to the Stone Mountain Circuit Superior Court, a position for which he was shortlisted.

Warren penned a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp outlining his concerns about Lopez’ association with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials “an organization that suggests a prejudice toward law-abiding citizens and law enforcement,” Warren wrote.

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren

As it turns out, Kemp passed over Lopez and appointed Shondeana C. Morris to the seat.

“Shondeana Morris’ impressive legal career and public service make her the right choice for the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court. Given her experience on the DeKalb County State Court and successful track record as a Fulton County prosecutor, I believe that Shondeana offers the ideal set of legal expertise and leadership skills for this critically important position,” Kemp said of the appointment.

Warren’s thoughts on the appointment?

“The governor made the right choice,” Warren said.

Speaking of the Sheriff’s Office, in March, the MDJ ran a story on Cobb Sheriff Chief Deputy Milton Beck, who had announced his retirement for March 29.

Seeing Beck around town still going about the business of the sheriff’s department confused some. We contacted Sheriff Warren to inquire what was up.

Warren said there are several ongoing projects Beck was working on and he agreed to delay his departure and continue to assist and complete some of them.

“Some of the projects he is a part of is health care transition at the Detention Center, a reevaluation of the agency’s staffing plan, implementation of new civilian uniforms as well as working with Chairman Boyce, County Manager Hosack, Director Register and other county officials on efforts to retain good employees,” Warren said.

And what about Beck’s successor?

“As to naming a chief deputy, I am in no big hurry so long as I can keep Chief Beck around; we are fortunate to have him … ” Warren responded.

In one more sheriff-related note, Warren has announced the continuation of the controversial 287(g) program that allows department personnel to be deputized to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Warren’s department can check to determine the immigration status of those in custody they suspect are in the country illegally.

THE ASIAN AMERICAN GOP PERSPECTIVE: This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and for this and other reasons, the Cobb GOP invited Johns Creek City Council member Jay Lin to speak at its monthly breakfast meeting.

A general contractor who moved to Johns Creek from Taiwan in 1999 and who serves as an advisory board member of the Chinese-American Entrepreneur Alliance, Lin spoke about how Chinese Americans are helping to influence and shape the GOP.

Jay Lin

Lin said he’s often asked by elected officials and candidates how to engage the Asian American community. There are quite a number of Asian Americans who are Democrats, he said.

“Right now, the community is kind of divided in two different camps. But if you dissect what they believe, if you remove social justice and immigration, these two major issues, out of Asian Democrats, you can convert 80 percent of Asian Americans, Asian Democrats into Republicans, because family values, the way they handle finance, every bit of those core values that they believe in, line up with Republican core values,” Lin told the crowd gathered Saturday at the Cobb GOP headquarters.

But how to convert not only Asian American Democrats, but all Democrats to the GOP cause?

“Democrats are not our enemy. The ideas that they believe in is,” Lin said, urging the crowd to think of it in terms of the Christian idea of God hating the sin, but loving the sinner.

“We must love Democrats. I always say Democrats are my friends who have been deceived. So let’s be nice, let’s be nice to them and be their friends because I would venture to say your conversion rate is very low if you’re being very confrontational,” he said.

Could any in the crowd cite a successful example of converting a Democrat through confrontation? Lin could not.

“So it’s important that we have civic engagement at the level that we can still talk to each other,” he said.

For to view a political opponent as an enemy is to want to destroy them, he said.

“We need to be ambassadors in order to grow the conservative base in metro Atlanta area. Being confrontational will never yield a desirable result,” he said.

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, an audience member said she was attending a transit meeting in February in the Peachtree Industrial area, describing the number of left wing activists present at that meeting as pervasive.

“How do we approach our fellow sisters and brothers who are part of the liberal Asian community?” the questioner wanted to know.

Transit, Lin responded, is a unique issue because some who came from Asia know the meaning of high density.

“I know some of my friends in Johns Creek say ‘That’s high density.’ I’m just shaking my head. You don’t know what high density is,” he said. “So that’s a very unique issue and from that I like to say when I talk about messaging — you need to be simple. There are so many issues. I would say let’s not take on every issue. It’s unnecessary.”

As to the question, “I really can’t answer that question because even among Asians there’s no agreement. But I can just tell you Asians as a whole, traffic issue doesn’t bother them that much. High density even residential commercial development don’t really bother them that much.”

POLITICAL PLATTER: The Cobb Democratic Party’s monthly Donuts with Democrats meeting is 10 a.m. Saturday at the Smyrna Community Center. The party reports it is gearing up for 2019 municipal elections and 2020 federal/state/county elections.

Richard Keatley, 2018 candidate for state labor commissioner, will be speaking about organized labor — the policies for which they advocate and the support they provide to candidates seeking office. Barbara Ann Luttrell, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood Southeast and Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, will talk about HB 481, the “heartbeat bill,” and what the future holds.

And Cobb school board member Charisse Davis will give an update on the role of the school board and school funding.

TOWN HALL: Commissioner Keli Gambrill will hold a town hall meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Claire of Assisi Catholic Church in Acworth.

CARROT & STICK: Before Chuck Clay spoke on local connections to the invasion of Normandy on the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Kiwanis Club of Marietta weekly luncheon Thursday, he employed a bit of self-deprecating humor.

Clay had been introduced as the former Republican Senate leader in the Georgia General Assembly.

“My title was actually maybe more mellifluous but much less important ... minority leader, not the majority leader. I learned very quickly, minority leader — while you get a flashy uniform and a title — is the only job in politics that has neither carrot nor stick.”

AROUND TOWN: Five Republicans, so far, eyeing 6th District seat

The race to challenge McBath heats up

Lucy McBath

AS THE POOL of Republicans vying to challenge Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, begins to fill, it’s clear Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” will not be observed.

At least not by businesswoman Marjorie Greene of Milton, who announced her candidacy at the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast on Saturday.

“The difference between me and the other candidates that you’re going to see in the race is I speak the truth,” Greene told AT.

A mother of three, Greene is the owner of Alpharetta-based Taylor Commercial, a construction company she bought from her father in 2002. She says the company has since managed a quarter of a billion dollars in construction projects. Greene also has a large following on social media with a whopping 54,000 Facebook followers.

Marjorie Greene

She has made it clear on numerous media outlets that former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, whom McBath ousted last year, is the wrong candidate to challenge McBath on Nov. 3, 2020.

“I always think in a business perspective,” she said. “So a candidate — we invest our dollars and donations, and we invest our votes in them. So we want a return on our investment. What is our return on investment with Karen Handel? It’s less than 50 percent because she continuously loses. She lost the governor’s race. She lost the Senate race and she lost our Republican-held 6th seat that has been held since 1979. She’s an uninspiring candidate, OK?”

AT asked Handel if she cared to respond. She sent over the following quote: “The people of GA-06 know my heart for serving them and my conservative record of accomplishments. I look forward to working hard to earn their vote.”

Karen Handel

Greene is equally unimpressed with another candidate in the race, state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, executive director of the North Fulton Community Improvement District.

“Brandon Beach is for big government,” Greene said. “He sponsored the big MARTA rail legislation here in Georgia. That’s massive spending that would have asked the federal government to invest tons of money into this rail project and it would have just cost Georgia so much money, and we have enough empty buses driving around north Fulton. We have enough empty trains going back and forth. It’s not a time to spend on things like that. We have got to get our spending under control. So if people want to support Brandon Beach, they’re supporting more big government, more big spending, and that’s not what we need right now.”

For his part, Beach said his record shows he’s “anything but big government.

“We’ve been the No. 1 state to do business six years running. That doesn’t happen by accident,” Beach said. “That happens because of Republican principles and Republican policies of cutting taxes, cutting the income tax, less government, less regulation and making sure we have an educated workforce to make sure we can continue to grow the economy, and that doesn’t happen by big government. That happens by less government creating a conducive environment for business growth and that’s what we’ve done here in Georgia and that’s what I will do in Washington.”

Brandon Beach

A fourth Republican candidate who has announced for the 6th District race is Nicole Rodden of Vinings, a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy who spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy Reserves and went to work for Transocean where, according to her website, she “facilitated the collaboration of international teams, implemented safety operations and procedures on large shipping vessels, and oversaw navigation, operational safety, drilling, and well control in the Black Sea.”

Nicole Rodden

She also lives outside of the 6th District. And Greene said that’s a problem, referencing how Handel used the fact against Democrat Jon Ossoff in the 2017 race.

Ossoff didn’t live in the 6th District either.

“It is a major issue for the 6th District. We don’t like outsiders. That’s why people were supporting Karen Handel over Jon Ossoff because he was an outsider. Now we have the issue with Lucy McBath that isn’t even a Georgia resident. She filed her Homestead Exemption in Tennessee three years in a row. Outsiders are an issue to the 6th District,” Greene said.

While this is her first time running for elected office, Greene hasn’t escaped criticism herself. The political website recently posted a piece titled “Las Vegas Shooting Conspiracist Running in GA-6,” concerning a Facebook video Greene posted about the September 2017 shooting.

“In a video posted to Facebook on the American Truth Seekers page, she raised doubts that the shooter acted alone,” the article states. “She also posed a question and provided additional commentary that insinuated that the shooting was a conspiracy to rob people of their Second Amendment rights. All of these were raised despite the fact that the shooting happened under a Republican President, a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and a Republican Governor in Nevada.”

Greene’s response to being painted as a conspiracy theorist?

“Let me pose this question to you: is it a conspiracy to talk about 500 people, 500 Americans being shot at a concert? Is it a conspiracy to talk about 58 Americans being killed at a Las Vegas shooting? Is that considered conspiracy to talk about that and ask questions? I don’t think so. I think that’s what we should be doing as Americans.”

One won’t get Handel to speak about such things, Greene said.

“She would never do that. If you go to her social media she’s going to post something fluffy and feel good constantly because all she cares about is getting reelected. So there’s a giant difference between someone like me and Karen Handel,” she said.

Ken Brown

In addition to Handel, Beach, Greene and Rodden, Ken Brown of Cherokee County, a former Naval officer who is president and CEO of eWeb2Sales, a sales, profit and business development company, has announced for the Republican primary. Brown, who lives in Woodstock, doesn’t live in the 6th District either.

Qualifying for the seat is March 2-6 with the primary May 19, the runoff, if there is one, July 21 and the general election Nov. 3 of 2020, reports Janine Eveler, director of the Cobb Board of Elections.

THE 75TH: U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia and U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, are among those traveling to France this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II.

“I am extremely honored to represent the United States of America, as a veteran and a congressman,” said Loudermilk, “and to stand in place of my father and countless other patriots who once stepped on those shores in defense of freedom. Many Americans gave their last full measure of devotion during these battles; and, of those that did survive, most are no longer with us, but the memory of what they did there should never be forgotten.”

In June of 1944, Loudermilk’s father, SC Loudermilk, an Army medic, was one of the thousands of U.S. soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy. Assigned to the 100th Medical Evacuation Hospital, he moved through France and into Holland, where he took part in the Battle of the Bulge. During the Battle of the Bulge, he was attached to Patton’s 3rd Army.

Jason Shepherd

AT A RECENT Cobb County Republican Women’s Club luncheon, Cobb GOP chair Jason Shepherd took the lectern and said his party’s strategy for upcoming elections would get a boost from the Democrats’ own “playbook.” He gave few details other than to say the GOP had gotten hold of the intelligence and that it would give GOP strategists an edge in 2020.

When Around Town followed up, Shepherd explained that a link to the Democrats’ data was posted on a media website.

“Very quickly that link was shut down, but not before we were able to pull off the document,” Shepherd said.

Titled the “2019-2024 Georgia Voter Guide Phase One,” the Democrat spreadsheet’s tabs start with Congressional, State Legislature, Statewide and drill down through County, Municipal, Criminal Justice and Judicial.

An “About Us” section reads, “This guide was coordinated by Necessary Trouble Indivisible and compiled by dedicated volunteers from many other grassroots groups, including other Georgia Indivisible groups, 159 Georgia Together, No Safe Seats, Pave it Blue, March Onwards DeKalb, and others. We were also greatly assisted by interns provided by our nonprofit partners at RedGA and Georgia Engaged.”

Shepherd said he’s forwarded the document to state GOP Chairman David Shafer and other Republican state and county party leaders.

“There really were no surprises, just confirmation of what we expected,” Shepherd said.

In Cobb County, the document identifies Republican state Reps. Ed Setzler’s District 35 and Sharon Cooper’s District 43 as “flippable.” Seats labeled “District to protect” include Democrats Mary Frances Williams’ 37th and Erick Allen’s 40th.

In the state Senate, Kay Kirkpatrick’s 32nd District is “flippable,” according to the Democrats’ spreadsheet, while Sen. Jen Jordan’s 6th is a “district to protect.”

At the county level, the information is not as cut and dried. The 2020 race for Cobb chairman is broken into each House district inside the county as areas to flip or protect. Similarly, Cobb school board seats have not been labeled in Phase 1 of this effort.

So how valuable is this intel?

“Extremely,” Shepherd said. “Part of it is confirmation. The other part is there was a lot of effort that was put in it. We have a much broader view now of the field … things they think we weren’t thinking about. Jane Manning (State Court judge) is out there along with all the other Cobb judicial races. They’re not partisan, but they want to flip people perceived as Republicans to Democrats wherever they can.”

Reggie Copeland

POLITICIANS IN THE POKEY: It’s beginning to feel like every time one turns around, the Ward 5 Marietta City council member du jour is in the slammer.

This week it was Councilman Reggie “Gamechanger” Copeland’s turn in the big house. Copeland was arrested and booked on charges of obstructing law enforcement after police arrived at the scene of a wreck he was involved in. News of his arrest sparked calls for his removal on social media.

“He needs to step down. He has disgraced his office. He is not above the law. He acted like some sort of dictator. The officer needed the info for the report and by what I read he wasn’t even at fault. It is normal procedure for ANY accident that both parties provide valid license and insurance. The insurance company would require that report to process the claim. Hope they don’t pay,” Eric Hummel posted on Facebook.

“He has no business being in government,” added Craig Barfield.

“Time to swear in the next candidate in line,” posted Don Schrampfer

“Such an embarrassment to our community,” wrote Chris Nuzum.

“I think this arrest may be a ‘game changer,’ posted Brittney Nash Runnion.

Copeland’s predecessor, former Councilman Anthony Coleman, was indeed removed from office after his 2016 felony conviction for making false statements related to his girlfriend’s community service hours. State law requires an elected official to be suspended from office if convicted of a felony. Following Coleman’s conviction, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Ruben Sands to the seat, although Sands was quickly defeated by Copeland in 2017.

It wasn’t much of an election though. Of the 4,798 registered voters in Ward 5 at the time, only 419 bothered to vote with Copeland receiving a mere 218 votes, Sands, 160, and a third candidate, Ben Lyman, 30.

“If the people fail to vote, a government will be developed which is not their government,” said Calvin Coolidge. “The whole system of American government rests on the ballot box. Unless citizens perform their duties there, such a system of government is doomed to failure.”

Aside from a citizen-led recall effort, legal eagles tell AT the only way an elected official can be removed from office in Georgia is by a superior court judge or the governor. And the only way the governor can remove the official is if there’s a felony conviction. Since Copeland’s charges are misdemeanors, the governor cannot remove him. And as for a citizen-led recall effort, a constituency as apathetic as Ward 5’s was in the 2017 election isn’t likely to put in the elbow grease required for a successful recall effort. Which means that barring his resignation, the council and city are stuck with “Gamechanger” Copeland.

PLAY BALL: Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred came to the Battery Atlanta this past week to announce SunTrust Park will host the 2021 All-Star Game.

AT asked the man who brought the Braves to Cobb, former County Chairman Tim Lee, what he thought about the news.

“I am very excited for the announcement that the All-Star game will be played at SunTrust Park in 2021. The Atlanta Braves have, time after time, over-delivered on every commitment made to Cobb County, the Atlanta region and the state. I am grateful for the bold leadership of the Atlanta Braves for choosing Cobb County for their new home and investments. It is good for Cobb!” Lee said.

Tim Lee

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Buckhead, took to Twitter to complain that neither she nor state Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, were invited to the announcement ceremony.

“So, how did Cobb’s Republican county commissioner get invited to big reveal but not Dem women who represent area in Ga House & Senate. Right, @tanulewicz? I sure hope that @Braves or @BrianKempGA didn’t just assume that we don’t like sports? #HitLikeAGirl #2020 #2022,” Jordan posted in her tweet, referencing Republican County Commissioner Bob Ott, who was front and center during the announcement.

In her tweet, Jordan shared a photo of her daughter Cokie standing in the batter’s box on a ball field, preparing for a pitch.

“Oh, and one more thing”: responded Anulewicz, sharing a photo of her daughter, Sylvia, carrying a bat. Sylvia, who is an All Star this year, plays for Rhyne Park 10U League.



Ott took a different view.

“When I look at who I was on the stage with, what I saw were all the people who have worked for the last six to eight months to get the All Star game here to SunTrust Park. It’s not about politics, it’s about what’s good for Cobb County,” Ott said.

And Braves spokesperson Beth Marshall provided the following response to Jordan’s tweet.

“The Braves were honored to have the governor, the mayor of Atlanta and a Cobb County Commissioner attend the 2021 All Star Game announcement. Each of these people, and the entities they represent, directly assisted in helping to achieve this successful bid.”

KING’S ENGLISH: In a recent column bemoaning the increasingly poor use of the English language, Roger Hines decided to have a little fun with his headline, titling his May 19 piece “Between you and I,” instead of the grammatically correct “between you and me.” Not all MDJ readers cottoned to the former English teacher’s joke.

“Regarding Roger Hines’s column about modern discourse and its regrettable dependence on cliches, hackneyed phrases, pretension and sloppy misuses, I have to think the headline, “Between You and I,” was written by an editor, and not the English teacher writer himself,” one reader wrote in.

“I wonder how many dozens (hundreds?) of letters to the Editor, just like this one, Mr. Hines’ column has spawned. Talk about low hanging fruit!” wrote another.

Still another wondered “when proper grammar was stopped being taught.”

Now while Around Town could pick out errors in some of these sentences, we don’t want to kick the “humor-impaired” — as another MDJ columnist would call them — while they’re down. Or is that their? There?

POLITICAL PLATTER: Johns Creek City Councilman Jay Lin is the speaker at Saturday’s Cobb County Republican Breakfast.

“With trade wars making the news daily and as June 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in the People’s Republic of China, Johns Creek City Council member Jay Lin will join us for a talk on how Chinese Americans are helping to influence and shape the Republican Party,” reports Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd.

The program begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Cobb GOP HQ, 799 Roswell Street NE, Marietta.

Grant Rivera

IN THIS WORLD of social media where everyone is a publisher, the MDJ spends a lot of time tracking down false leads. Callers hear rumors or see posts and ask why the story hasn’t been covered.

Q: Where’s the story on the schoolbus hitting the dog and then taking off?

A: It didn’t happen.

Q: Why don’t you have anything on Town Center Mall being on fire?

A: The controlled burn was a quarter of a mile from the mall.

Q: Why haven’t you covered the death of the pope?

A: He didn’t die.

And so on.

Which brings us to this and last week and talk that Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera was ready to announce his resignation to take a position at Atlanta City Schools.

The rumor spread far, wide and quickly. Several in the MDJ newsroom caught wind of the advertised departure.

Immediately, calls were placed to MCS Board Chair Jason Waters and to Rivera himself.

Both assured the MDJ there was nothing to it.

“I keep hearing the same thing. All I can say is it’s a rumor,” Waters told the MDJ early last week. “I texted him. There’s no truth to it. He responded, ‘Absolutely not. You’re stuck with me.’”

When MDJ education reporter Thomas Hartwell reached Rivera, his answer was the same.

But the gossip continued over the Memorial Day weekend, and through the MHS commencement ceremony Saturday, the rumor spread long and far enough that the MDJ thought it best to ask the question again.

For the record, here is Superintendent Rivera’s response:

“No truth to any rumors. I’ve been contacted in the past about multiple superintendent vacancies and I’ve told each person the same thing: I love this city and school district. I truly can’t imagine a better place to raise a family and serve as superintendent.

“My hope today remains the same as it did my first day on the job — to be the superintendent and hand my daughter her diploma when she graduates at Northcutt Stadium.

“Bottom line: as long as it’s up to me … I’m not going anywhere.”

Perhaps we can put this to bed.

FROM VAL TO SAL: It was a sweltering 90 degrees in Northcutt Stadium for Marietta High School’s graduation last Saturday, but graduates were treated to some shade courtesy of salutatorian Carrington Rogers.

The school district initially announced Rogers as valedictorian, but following what Superintendent Rivera called a clerical error, she was downgraded to salutatorian. The previously named salutatorian, Anderson Chinuntdet, was named valedictorian, a factoid Rogers opened her speech with.

“A couple of days ago, as you all know, I was named your valedictorian, but today, I proudly stand here as your salutatorian. … It’s a true testament to my lord and savior that I am here standing before you today,” she said. “This has been one of the most tumultuous times in my life, but I’m still standing, stronger and more determined than ever. Lots of hard work along with support from many of you have made it possible to get where I am today. When they knock you down, I’ve learned to get right back up.”

Rogers’ nomination drew outrage from fans of Chinuntdet, who made their displeasure known in emails sent to the MDJ and elected officials.

“Throughout his academic career, Andy Chinuntdet, has pursued every academic opportunity to be at the top of his graduation class,” wrote Chinuntdet supporter Deborah Gwinner to school board members. “Earlier this semester, Andy was denied an opportunity to pursue extra classes to distinguish himself as MHS top student. … The Marietta community influencers need to throw an uproar and demand whatever decision made is swift, right, praiseworthy and finally honoring the class of 2019. Please take responsibility, admit the mistake and determine a solution.”

Administrators announced the mixup after the public outcry.

Rogers’ speech contained the standard lines, thanking her teachers, friends and family and urging her classmates to strive for success, but it also included what appeared to be references to her fall from the top spot.

“I challenge you to go out into the world and seize the moment,” she said. “Be more, want more and do more. Make your mark on the world. Don’t take anything for granted and make the most of every moment. I’ve learned a valuable lesson that the rules aren’t always valuable or fair, but know that what God has in store for you, no man can stop. Rather than using tactics of manipulation, I strive to be my best self, work for everything I have and live my best life. Living my best life. What doesn’t hurt you will only make you stronger.”

Chinuntdet did not reference the affair in his speech, but congratulated Rogers by name.

MHS salutatorian Carrington Rogers delivers her speech.

RALLYING THE TROOPS: Fresh off a victory in his run for chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, David Shafer was key speaker at Friday’s gathering of the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club.

Shafer, who served in the Georgia Senate for 17 years, lost a July 2018 Republican primary runoff in his campaign for lieutenant governor.

At the state GOP convention in Savannah two weekends ago, Shafer garnered a wide victory over three other candidates.

Six days after taking the helm of the Georgia GOP, Shafer spoke at the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club’s luncheon at the Marietta Hilton Hotel and Conference Center on Friday. His message was clear: Years of dominance in politics had lulled the Republican Party into a false sense of security.

“Our party is on the defensive now for the first time in a decade and a half. We are losing seats that we shouldn’t lose in the suburbs of Atlanta. And I put the blame, frankly, on complacency. There’s been an attitude that started with the elected officials and it crept down into the party that the Republican majority is something that’s simply going to last forever.”

Shafer reviewed his announcement earlier in the week of the “159 Project” designed to have an active GOP organization in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. The Duluth resident said the party has lost 20 county organizations in the last four years.

“Most of the counties that aren’t organized today were carried by Donald Trump and Brian Kemp. So we know that there are Republicans there. We just haven’t planted and nurtured …”

Shafer stressed the role data will play in upcoming elections and added that the GOP has incredible data but is not using it.

“You know, we talk about how the Democrats have gotten ahead of us in technology. We are worlds ahead of the Democrats in technology. But that data has been given to the state Republican Party, which has done nothing with it. And they have not shared it with the local county parties at all.”

As an example, he said the party has a list of 3,000 people who had moved into Republican Rep. Sharon Cooper’s east Cobb district from other states where they were registered Republicans and are not registered to vote in Cobb.

“Before November of next year, there’ll be a doorknock on every one of those ... households to make sure that they are put on the voter rolls,” Shafer said.

“We have records on every single voter in the state with hundreds of data points that tell us how we think they’re likely to vote and none of that stuff is being used in any systemic way.”

That, Shafer said, will change under his watch.

The new party chairman closed with a bit of a history lesson.

“The old Democratic Party was basically a center right party. Sam Nunn, Zell Miller, Joe Frank Harris and George Busbee were centrists at a minimum and often cases, conservative. And it would’ve been difficult for us to draw contrasts with them.

“The Democratic Party (of today) that is seeking to replace us is not a conservative party. It is a radicalized Marxist party who does not even view America as a force for good in the world. And the stakes are so much higher in the elections to come then they were at anytime in the past,” he said.

Newly elected Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer speaks to the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club on Friday.

The whole of Marietta was saddened this week upon hearing of the passing of Barbara “Bobbi” Burruss.

Bobbi, beloved wife of the late A.L. Burruss, was by all accounts the most kind and generous of ladies. Beyond her friends, families and acquaintances whose lives she enriched, the Burrusses touched the lives of countless Marietta High School seniors. It was their Kennesaw Avenue home that annually served as the backdrop for MHS prom photos.

“Oh yes, the kids would gather and just have a really good time,” said Helen Hines, who with late husband P. Harris Hines were next-door neighbors with the Burrusses for 44 years. “They just got bigger and bigger each year and more and more parents came and grandparents came and, again, Bobbi was just so generous with everything she had. It was her pleasure to do this. Oh, gracious, it lasted years and years. People enjoyed being there and she enjoyed having them.”

The Burrusses hosted the gathering up until a few years ago when the tradition moved to Brumby Hall.

Said former congressman Buddy Darden: “She was the matriarch of one of Cobb County’s most accomplished and successful families. She always avoided the limelight but she shared her generosity and love with our entire community. She was totally devoted to her family. She was an equal partner in the remarkable success of her late husband Al Burruss in the financial and political affairs of this state.”

And former governor Roy Barnes: “Bobbie Burruss was the consummate southern lady. She was always kind and considerate, and a force in our community. We shall miss this great woman.”

The family will receive friends at Riverstone Church, 2005 Stilesboro Road in Kennesaw, from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday. Services will immediately follow at the church.

♦ ♦ ♦

GETTING OFFENSIVE ON OPIOIDS: The opioid crisis is sweeping the nation, but it hits home in a particularly devastating way.

“In 2017, (Cobb County) led the state and other larger counties in the reported number of overdose deaths,” reports acting Cobb District Attorney John Melvin. He made the pronouncement at a press conference announcing a $900,000 federal grant that will fund a new program in the DA’s office to address the emergency situation.

Two weeks later came the announcement that Marietta police and firefighters will team with Metro Ambulance Service and Davis Direction, a Marietta-based organization dedicated to fighting opioid addiction, to form ASSIST (Active Substance Support Intervention Solutions Team).

In 2018, 100 Marietta opioid OD victims were revived with Narcan, an injection or nasal spray carried by city police, firefighters and paramedics. But that’s where the help ended. With ASSIST, victims will be contacted in person within 24 hours of the overdose in order to encourage treatment and help put them on the path to recovery, not relapse.

Recognizing the opioid urgency, the Business and Professional Affairs Committee of the Kiwanis Club of Marietta have taken on the crisis as a key community improvement project. To that end, the group hosted Dallas (Ga.) Police Chief Joe Duvall at its meeting earlier this week. Duvall, who spent 31 years with the Marietta department before leaving for Dallas in 2018, said in addressing the scourge, authorities have had to adopt a different mind-set and Narcan plays a large role in that new strategy.

“In the past, law enforcement is looked at basically just for enforcement. And now ... what do we want to do as law enforcement with overdoses? We want to prevent death. And that’s the bottom line. You want to prevent people from dying. And that’s where the Narcan came in as our first line of defense.”

Another aspect of the war drugs that’s changed is the face of the drug addict.

“Another unique thing is one of the largest age groups where opioid addictions are happening is between 50 and 59 year olds, which most people think of it as younger kids.”

Prescriptions for opioids run out and the addict often turns to the cheapest “fix” out there: heroin.

“Back years ago, you always used to hear about heroin being real expensive. Well, now heroin is one of the cheapest drugs that you can get.”

Kiwanis B&PA chair Vance Booker said the opioid crisis is a huge, complex problem, but one the committee chose to take on based on the group’s mission statement.

“We look at major issues facing the community and select those where we can make a difference,” Booker said. “We want to identify those projects that are actionable and research them to come up with a plan that enables us to do something about it.”

The group and a smaller subcommittee of Mary Staley, Michelle Cooper-Kelly, Kem Mullins and Devan Seabough are devising strategies to attack the problem. Among several ideas under consideration is organizing a “drop-off day,” where people can clean out their medicine cabinets of unused prescription drugs — often a source that coaxes some into addiction.

It’s still a crisis, but Duvall said a changing attitude toward addicts from law enforcement and efforts by the public is key to a turnaround.

“The last couple of years, back in 2017, we had a real spike in the number of overdose and overdose deaths here in Cobb County. But through educating, and some groups working here, some nonprofits that are doing a fantastic job of really getting the public educated” there’s a better chance of turning things around.

♦ ♦ ♦

WHO’S THERE? Do you ever wonder what happened to the Do Not Call list?

Cellular interruptions become even more annoying when the caller isn’t a person, but a computer dialing your number off some data bank.

Thank U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, for doing something about it. The Marietta cosponsored bipartisan legislation this week to combat illegal and intrusive robocalls.

Amid an ever-increasing number of robocall scams, the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, S.151, would give regulators more time to find scammers, increase penalties for those who are caught, promote call authentication technology, and bring relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address delays in the criminal prosecution of robocallers.

“Beyond being a nuisance, robocalls can be dangerous when the callers are criminals trying to steal personal data and money. This legislation would help reduce the number of unsolicited calls and hold the perpetrators of these scams accountable,” Isakson said. “It is time for Congress to take action to provide relief for consumers.”

Amen to that.

An Around Town tip: To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List at Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list. Unfortunately, the not-so-legitimate pay no heed. Perhaps Isakson’s legislation will make them think again.

♦ ♦ ♦

On this Memorial Day weekend, we leave you with this quote from Mark Twain:

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

All city and county government offices, including courts and libraries, will be closed Monday.

GEORGIA HOUSE SPEAKER DAVID RALSTON is touring the state, doing damage control. He’s been dropping in on newspapers from Savannah to Gainesville to give his side of a story that’s embroiled the Blue Ridge Republican in controversy. On Tuesday, he visited the MDJ.

In February, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and sister television station WSB reported allegations that Ralston was abusing a law that allows attorneys who also serve as state legislators to ask for continuances in their cases if they have some legislative responsibility preventing them from attending a hearing.

The story goes that Ralston, in his role as a criminal defense attorney, continually delayed his clients’ cases using the legislative leave law, essentially denying the victims their day in court and preserving his clients’ freedom.

Ralston’s stop at the MDJ offices Tuesday afternoon was the latest on his tour that included visits to newspapers and TV stations in Gainesville, Augusta, Macon, Savannah, Brunswick and Columbus. Speaker Ralston was scheduled to visit the Dalton newspaper after leaving Marietta.

He explained the intent of his tour was twofold. He said he likes going around the state to gather information and get a sense of how these communities are responding to legislation. And, he said, wants to tell his side of the legislative leave story.

“I’ve come to a realization that if you don’t tell your side of the story, nobody else will tell it,” he said.

Ralston said the reporting of his use of legislative leave was incomplete, neglecting to mention that the judges in north Georgia he practices law in front of only have small windows in which they hear criminal cases.

“The vast majority of my cases are in the Appalachian Circuit. And one of the things that has not been reported is that each of those three judges have two weeks each per year of scheduled criminal jury trials,” he said.

The House speaker said having more judges in the area could help cases move more quickly, but it costs between $400,000 and $500,000 to pay for a new judge and their staff, so local jurisdictions are reluctant to do so.

Ralston also responded to GOP organizations that have passed resolutions criticizing him or asking him to step down. The Cobb Republican Party passed such a resolution in March.

“Frankly, if I’d read some of the stuff that was described to me, I probably would’ve voted for them, too. … When I spoke to the House on Feb. 25, I think I said at least twice, maybe three times, that I’m not bitter. I’m not angry. I’m not mad at anybody. I’ve tried to grow from this experience. I’ve tried to be reminded that I can sit all day and sort of beat my head on the wall and say, ‘This is not reality. It’s not true.’ But then I have to come to grips with the fact that the perception kind of becomes the reality,” Ralston said.

While it was expected that the Georgia GOP might pass a similar resolution at its convention last weekend, Ralston said technical issues related to the rules of filing and approving resolutions prevented a vote.

Since the story broke, Ralson appointed a committee to look at the legislative leave law, and among the members was Marietta attorney Tom Cauthorn.

That committee helped draft HB 502, which imposes new reporting requirements for lawmakers requesting legislative leave. The bill was carried in the Senate by Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, who represents Smyrna, Vinings and Cumberland.

The bill eventually passed both chambers of the Legislature nearly unanimously.

He also said he pledged to House members that he would not take on any new criminal cases until four of the cases mentioned in the stories were resolved. As of Tuesday, Ralston said, one case resulted in a guilty plea, one was dismissed, one goes to trial in July and one he has withdrawn from.

Ralston acknowledged he has a busy schedule, but declined to advocate for the speakership becoming a full-time job.

“No, I don’t think so because I think that would begin to take us down the road to having a full-time Legislature. I think it would be really unhealthy for us to get away from being a part-time, citizen Legislature. ... And frankly, I think as busy as I am, and I do plead guilty to being busy, I think I’m a better speaker because I go out and I see real people every day, when I’m in my law office and around the courthouses, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

Accompanying Ralston on Tuesday were Cobb state Reps. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, Don Parsons, R-north Cobb, Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, and Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb.

When asked, all four indicated that they still support Ralston keeping his speakership.

“I’ve lived long enough to know there’s two sides to every story, and one wouldn’t get reported,” Cooper said. “I’ve heard things today that just reinforced my belief in the speaker and his explanation.”

Look for more on the speaker’s talk with the MDJ in Sunday’s edition.

NO. 1 IN NURSING: For those considering a career in nursing, now is a good time and here is a good place.

Nursing remains one of the hottest career tracks with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting the need for qualified Licensed Practical Nurses to increase 12 percent. That’s why the time is right to enter the profession.

As far as being in a good place, you can’t pick a better spot than Cobb County to learn the skills. Rankings released by name Chattahoochee Technical College’s Licensed Practical Nursing program as the best in the state of Georgia.

With an overall score of 99.30 out of 100, Chattahoochee Tech beat out 21 other Georgia schools based on a review of first-time pass rates for the LPN exam.

Chattahoochee’s Registered Nursing program came in third of 53 Georgia RN schools analyzed. Neighboring Kennesaw State University ranked next at No. 4.

Of CTC, the organization said, “Chattahoochee Technical College in Marietta, Georgia, is an extolled provider of RN training in a bustling urban environment. Graduates from CTC are highly sought after for their professional and practical skillsets.”

Of KSU, it said, “Kennesaw State University’s WellStar School of Nursing is the biggest nursing program in the northern half of the state of Georgia. Widely acclaimed for its ... graduate, and post-grad nursing programs, KSU produces graduates that outperform the national average for state licensure.”

Well put.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP announced 15 appointments to five boards and commissions, including a Powder Springs physician to the Georgia Composite Medical Board


Dr. Despina D. Dalton is Vice President of Medical Affairs and a physician adviser with Wellstar Health System.

The good doctor began her career as a pediatric emergency physician in 1992. She lives in Powder Springs with her husband, Shawn, and children: Kathryn, Harrison, and Alexander. She will be sworn-in Thursday to the medical board that is the agency that licenses physicians, physician assistants and a host of other health care professionals — perfusionists, acupuncturists, orthotists, prosthetists, etc. The Medical Board also investigates complaints and disciplines those who violate laws governing the professional behavior of its licensees.

REST IN PEACE: Tuesday morning’s zoning meeting held by the Cobb Board of Commissioners began with a moment of silence for Patricia “Trish” Hayes Steiner, an east Cobb resident who passed away Saturday at the age of 75.

Steiner’s involvement in the east Cobb community included service as a longtime member and board member of East Cobb Civic Association and as one of Commissioner Bob Ott’s appointees to the Neighborhood Safety Commission. Her obituary Monday also noted that she had been the founder of the Mt. Bethel Elementary School Foundation and a driving force in the formation of Walton High School’s Foundation and Charter Status.

Steiner is survived by her husband of 53 years, Maurice “Mo” Stiener; her children, Audra, Melissa and Brianne; and sons-in-law Steven Ritter and Yannick Bennett, according to her obituary.

Members of Steiner’s family were in attendance, which commissioners acknowledged later in the morning, with County Chairman Mike Boyce sharing the “condolences of the board.”

Also remarking on Steiner was Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who in 2012 presented her with a proclamation in recognition of her volunteer service to Cobb County.

“Your mom, and your wife, Mo, was a true advocate at our zoning hearings,” Birrell said to family members. “She’s been a treasure to work with, and we are going to miss her terribly.”

Scott Johnson

David Shafer

GEORGIA’S GRAND OLD PARTY has descended on the Hostess City of the South this weekend to elect a new party chairman.

Former Cobb GOP Chairman Scott Johnson, former state Sen. David Shafer and real estate agent Bruce Azevedo are all vying to lead the party apparatus in its efforts to ensure both U.S. Sen. David Perdue and President Donald Trump are returned to office.

Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd believes the race has come down to Shafer and Johnson, and as he’s friends with both men, he’s opted not to endorse.

“I think both would be great leaders, and the best thing to do in a county that’s going to need the help and support of the state party and having great relationships with both of the candidates is to be able to be that person who says regardless of who won we need to reunite as a county party and focus on winning in Nov. of 2020,” he said.

From what he’s heard, Shafer is in the lead at the moment, Shepherd said.

“Right now most of the insiders are saying it’s Shaffer. I think if you look at both of the campaigns, Johnson’s team has gone really negative in the last week. Usually you want to end up on a high note. You don’t want to go into the convention attacking.”

At the same time, it depends on who shows up on Saturday.

“All total, the convention could have well over 2,000 delegates, but half of the population of Georgia has at least a three-hour drive to get to Savannah if not more. From Cobb County, it’s a four-hour drive. I’ve heard from a lot of folks in Cobb County who just can’t do it.”

Jason Shepherd

Another topic that may come to a head at the convention is a resolution calling on Georgia House Speaker David Ralston to resign. At the Cobb Republican Party’s convention in March, members passed a stinging resolution demanding Ralston step down. The resolution accused Ralston of abusing the power of his office by delaying the trials of his private clients for financial gain. Shepherd said he’s heard discussion that the state party convention may take up a similar resolution.

“We’re definitely not being helped with the controversy surrounding the Speaker of the House and now the insurance commissioner,” Shepherd said, referring to Republican Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck who was indicted this week on federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.

Expect Democrats to make use of the Ralston controversy in the 2020 campaign.

“I think even if he’s not still around they’re going to use it. They’d be crazy not to. And if they can’t get the actual plaintiffs in the various cases to go on camera all they have to do is find an actor or actress to tell the story. I think it’s very damaging. And then you throw on top — I don’t know how long Jim Beck’s trial is going to last, but that’s going to be dangling out there as well,” Shepherd said.

All of which is to say that the job of grass roots Republicans has been made much more difficult.

TRAFFIC RELIEF? Commissioner Bob Ott is encouraging the public to attend a meeting on the proposed I-285 top end express lane project hosted by the Georgia Department of Transportation next week.

The project would construct express lanes along I-285 from west of Paces Ferry Road in Cobb County to Henderson Road in DeKalb County, and a section along SR 400 from south of the Glenridge Connector to the vicinity of the North Springs MARTA Station.

“I think it’s going to be a good project,” Ott said. “Traffic has already decreased with the northwest extension project. Commute times have been reduced. So I think this will just add to reducing travel time, especially since it will be connected to the new managed lanes. This lane has a lane in each direction, so it will be even more benefit because it will be in both directions all day long.”

Ott said he didn’t think it would have as much of an impact on the west wall, the part from I-75 toward I-20.

“Because if you look at the road improvements, they’ve rebuilt the bridges, they’ve added the space with the lanes. I think the bigger impact is going to be between 75 and 400 and then 85,” he said.

GDOT is hosting a meeting on the topic from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, May 21, at the Smyrna Community Center.

The I-285 Top End Express Lanes would add two new elevated, barrier-separated express lanes in both directions of I-285, alongside the existing general purpose lanes.

TAX BREAKS: Noble Financial, an investment and development group, is requesting a $70 million bond issuance for the development of a "dual hotel facility" next to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, according to Nelson Geter, executive director of the Development Authority of Cobb County.

The development authority of Cobb County will take up the request at its Tuesday meeting. Geter says Noble Financial is acquiring the acreage from the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, which owns and operates CEPAC and the Cobb Galleria. He said the firm is also asking the development authority for a 10-year tax abatement for the project.

The development authority meets at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, 240 Interstate North Parkway, Atlanta. The meeting is open to the public.

ARC BOARD: The next meeting of the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority is 8 a.m. Thursday. Among the items on the agenda, the board is expected to approve its fiscal 2020 budget. The board meets at 245 Peachtree Center Avenue, NE, Suite 2200 Marquis Tower One, Atlanta. The meeting is open to the public.

MARIETTA CID: The next meeting of the Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District is from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21. Among the items on the agenda is a caucus of electors, a discussion of the millage rate, and a report from the Bleakly Advisory Group. The CID board meets at Parkway Center, 1850 Parkway Place, Suite 110, Marietta, GA 30067. The meeting is open to the public.

ETHICS: County spokesman Ross Cavitt sends word of who is on the new Cobb County Ethics Board. Sheriff Neil Warren appointed Roswell Storey; Cobb Solicitor General Barry Morgan appointed Alice Summerour; Magistrate Court Chief Judge Joyette Holmes appointed Joe Atkins; Chief Probate Court Judge Kelli Wolk appointed Carlos Rodriguez; Cobb Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson appointed Janet Arnold Savage; Cobb State Court Clerk Angie Davis appointed Ron Younker; and the appointment by the Cobb Board of Commissioners is pending, Cavitt says.

RECOGNITION: State Rep. John Carson, R-northeast Cobb, received the 2018 Legislator of the Year Award from the Georgia Public Health Association for his Hands Free Bill. The award was presented this month at the Westin Buckhead Atlanta.

CUMBERLAND: Rumor has it that a major announcement is coming for future redevelopment around Cumberland Mall. When reached by AT, Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, said he was not at liberty to discuss any details. He did say that if the application is filed with the county “it would be exciting news and another example of the positive things happening in the Cumberland area.”

Construction is underway on Marketplace Terrell Mill, a nearly 24-acre development at the northwest corner of Terrell Mill and Powers Ferry roads.

THE PLANNED ANCHOR tenant of an estimated $120 million mixed-use development in east Cobb is likely to get tossed a lifeline from the Georgia Supreme Court, according to one of the developers behind the project.

Speaking to attendees at last week’s Powers Ferry Corridor Alliance meeting, Brandon Ashkouti of Eden Rock Real Estate Partners said site work and construction is underway on Marketplace Terrell Mill, a nearly 24-acre development at the northwest corner of Terrell Mill and Powers Ferry roads.

The project will include 298 apartment units, a 100,000-square-foot storage facility, four restaurant and retail outparcels and about 13,000 square feet of shops.

The recent work includes grading of the portion of the site that has been slated to become a Kroger store, which would serve as the development’s anchor.

Kroger was dealt a blow in September when Cobb Superior Court Senior Judge Adele Grubbs denied validation of $35 million in bonds and accompanying tax abatements toward the new grocery store.

Though the Development Authority of Cobb County greenlighted the bonds in May, east Cobb activist Larry Savage’s challenge of the bonds led to a Sept. 4 court hearing in which Judge Grubbs ruled against the development authority and grocer.

Larry Savage

Kroger and the development authority appealed the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court where it awaits a decision in 30-60 days, Ashkouti said.

“Until they are approved, we do not have a timeline for that store. We anticipate a favorable outcome, but it is very important to Kroger before we’ll know the timeline,” he said.

Savage tells AT he wasn’t surprised by Ashkouti’s remarks.

“I’m sure that their lawyers have told them from the outset that they expect to prevail — if they said ‘We don’t expect to prevail,’ they probably wouldn’t have appealed it,” Savage said.

As for the likelihood Kroger comes to the site?

“(Kroger) said in fact in the court in Cobb County that without the tax abatement, they wouldn’t do it. I really don’t think that’s true,” Savage said. “When you look at the magnitude of a deal like this, in reality in their terms, the amount of the tax abatement is not that big a piece of it. If their deal passes or fails based on a tax abatement, they were cutting it close to begin with.”

Though Savage previously told the MDJ that oral arguments in the Supreme Court case had been expected to occur in March, his request to hold such arguments in the case was filed late and therefore was denied by the court, according to Jane Hansen, spokesperson for the Georgia Supreme Court.

The court will therefore make its decision on the case based on the briefs that have been filed by Savage and on behalf of Kroger and the development authority.

“The decision from this court has to be out by the very beginning of July,” Hansen said Monday, which would affirm the timeline Ashkouti mentioned at last week’s meeting.

In his challenge against Kroger, Savage said the development authority incentives for Kroger would be a violation of the law and state constitution and would open the door to other grocery store projects being eligible for bonds or tax abatements.

Savage’s argument has been unsuccessful in two other development authority-related bond measures since the Kroger ruling in Cobb Superior Court, with $59 million in bonds and tax breaks to Home Depot validated in November by Senior Judge Michael Stoddard, while the next month saw Senior Judge Conley Ingram approve $35 million in bonds for developer Edison Chastain Office LLC for a 30-acre office park.

In January, however, Cobb Senior Judge Grant Brantley pointed to Grubbs’ ruling and pending decision by the state’s highest court as he floated the idea of delaying a decision on a $16 million bond and tax break for Smyrna-based Floor & Decor, which he ultimately did following a hearing on the matter.

Scott Johnson

ENDORSEMENTS: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has endorsed former Cobb GOP Chairman Scott Johnson of east Cobb, one of several candidates vying for chairman of the Georgia GOP.

“We must unite as a party to deliver this state for Donald J. Trump and get David Perdue reelected to the U.S. Senate. That’s why I’m supporting Scott Johnson for chairman. Scott knows how to win. He knows the grassroots and he knows how to run a 21st century campaign. He has served as chairman of the 11th Congressional District GOP, the Cobb GOP Republican Party and Republican Leaders Georgia. Scott is ready to lead and he has earned this opportunity!” Duncan said in a statement.

Other candidates include former state Sen. David Shafer, who Duncan defeated in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor last year, Bruce Azevedo and Mary Kay Bacallao.

DAUGHTERS: The May meeting of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Kennesaw Chapter 241, is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Kennesaw House in Marietta. This is their last meeting until September, reports Barbara Gray, chapter president

OBJECTION: Sheriff Neil Warren is calling upon Gov. Brian Kemp to follow his campaign commitment and block DeKalb State Court Judge Dax Lopez from being appointed to the Stone Mountain Circuit Superior Court. Lopez is on a short list for a gubernatorial appointment there.

In a letter to Gov. Kemp dated May 8, Warren says he has great concern over Lopez’ being considered for the position.

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren

Readers will recall this isn’t the first time concerns have been raised about Lopez. In 2016, U.S. Sen. David Perdue torpedoed Lopez’ chance to become a federal judge after he was nominated by President Barack Obama. Perdue raised concerns over Lopez’ association with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, a concern Warren also raised in his letter to Kemp.

“As you are aware Judge Lopez spent 11 years working with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) an organization that suggests a prejudice toward law abiding citizens and law enforcement,” Warren writes, adding in 2007 he was the first sheriff in Georgia and the 7th in the nation to enter into a 287g agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Since that time GALEO has made an unceasing effort to discredit, discourage and disband the partnership. In my 40-plus years of law enforcement I have never encountered an organization that works harder to undermine the interests of Georgians. GALEO has always advocated that a blind eye be turned toward the criminals that have illegally entered our country and then committed crimes against the very citizens I am sworn to protect. The fact that they continue to insult our President and those brave men and women patrolling our borders should be enough to remove Judge Lopez from consideration.”

Warren references the ad Kemp used on the campaign trail in which he spoke of rounding up illegal immigrants in his truck.

“Governor, your campaign was based on ‘rounding up’ the criminals that cross our borders and take advantage of Georgians who are here legally and paying taxes. Certainly, Judge Lopez does not seem to agree with your message. I urge you to stand firm on your campaign commitment and not appoint Judge Lopez to this or any other position. Georgians deserve better.”

Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO executive director, believes Warren is out of touch with the voters of Cobb County, saying GALEO has served the state and nation for over 15 years by promoting greater civic engagement and leadership development of the Latino community.

Jerry Gonzalez

“Our position on immigration is similar to U.S. Catholic Bishops, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, so for the sheriff to characterize us as being out of the mainstream is completely inaccurate,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said Warren has done more harm than good for public safety in the county, saying because of the 287g program, when a crime is committed people call Gonzalez.

“What that tells me is that the sheriff has undermined community policing for local law enforcement officials by engaging in partnerships with ICE and that puts all of us at greater risk in public safety,” he said.

Gonzalez also said that it was Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue who appointed Lopez to the State Court of DeKalb County to begin with.

Max Bacon

AFTER RECEIVING the greenlight from his doctor, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon says he will seek another term as mayor in this year’s election.

Elected to the Smyrna City Council in 1979, Bacon was first elected mayor in 1985, the year his father, Smyrna Mayor Arthur Bacon, died in office.

“He and I served on council together from ’81 to ’85. Those were the best days of my life with my dad. He never once showed me any favoritism. I can remember we had two meetings where there was only six council members there for some reason and it was a 3-3 tie. He voted against me every time. Now Mother got on to him, because he voted against me. I was 33, 34 then and he was 68, and I just remember us, we had a lot of great conversations, talking about things. He and I always didn’t see eye to eye on things, but the best years of my life with my dad was the last four years when he was mayor and I was on City Council.”

Being son of the mayor didn’t win him any prize committee appointments either.

“I think the best committee I had was the cemetery committee, and that was after I got upgraded from the sewer committee,” Bacon said.

Max Bacon suffered multiple heart attacks in 2016 and was waiting on his doctor to tell him whether he was healthy enough to continue in elected office.

“He said it’s good to go. Go break a leg. Talked to my family. They pretty much told me to do what I want to do. Some of them don’t want me to run. It’s too much stress. And it is. But I grew up here. I lived here all my life. I enjoy being mayor. It’s not a power trip. It’s just being able to see the new things we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said.

The 70-year-old mayor referenced the notorious National Geographic article that ran in the late 1980s, referring to Smyrna as a “redneck” town.

“People who have just moved here in the last 5 to 10 years, I don’t think they realize how it really was 20 years ago, 30 years ago. It was redneck Smyrna, Georgia. Everybody got upset when it was in National Geographic,” Bacon said. “We have really worked hard to change it around to be the No. 1 place to live anywhere, as far as I’m concerned, but I think we have to continue to maintain to provide the services, do the things our citizens want.”

Were his father alive today, Bacon said he wouldn’t recognize his hometown, which grew from 20,312 souls in 1980 to 56,685 in 2017, per the U.S. Census.

“But I think he would be very proud of what Smyrna has turned into, and I think he would be very proud to walk up the street and have a beer and walk home. My mother said, ‘The Market Village is so nice. You can just go up and have you a margarita, and then even if you have too much, you can just stagger home,’” Bacon said with a laugh.

Charisse Davis, Cobb school board member 

ONE TRICK PONY: After the Cobb Board of Education voted down school board member Charisse Davis’ Monday proposal to form a committee to investigate reforms to the county’s senior tax exemption, the Democrat wrote the following on Facebook:

“A couple of years ago, Forsyth County Schools and their Republican board members did a magical thing: they proposed a change to their senior exemption. They didn’t think that it was right that people were taking the exemption but living in a home with children that weren’t their own (for example, a family adding a parent to their deed in order to get the exemption).”

Continued Davis: “I’ve spoken with their board chair (very nice woman, BTW) and she spoke with me about their process. As this article points out: ‘The state legislation was introduced by Rep. Mike Dudgeon, Rep. Sheri Gilligan and Rep. Geoff Duncan and was dubbed House Bill 1102 in the Georgia General Assembly. The House passed the bill unanimously earlier this year. It passed the Senate with only four nays.’ So a Republican school board asked a Republican delegation to put a senior tax change up for a vote, the state legislature overwhelmingly approved it, and then the county’s voters approved it. Imagine that.”

Expect Davis to continue with her senior tax exemption obsession until east Cobb decides it wants new representation on the school board.

ABOUT THOSE COMMENTS: Carolyn Meadows of east Cobb, the new president of the National Rifle Association, attracted national headlines in a Sunday interview with the MDJ concerning remarks about U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta. Meadows vowed that McBath would lose in the next election, but it was her next comment that drew attention from all quarters of the universe.

“But it is wrong to say like McBath said, that the reason she won was because of her anti-gun stance. That didn’t have anything to do with it — it had to do with being a minority female. And the Democrats really turned out, and that’s the problem we have with conservatives — we don’t turn out as well,” Meadows told the MDJ.

Following the publication of that interview, the Washington Post reported that Meadows issued an apology through a spokesman.

“I apologize to Rep. McBath and her supporters,” WP reported her as saying. “My comments were insensitive and inappropriate. I did not intend to discredit the congresswoman or the merits of her campaign — only to reflect my view that the Second Amendment was not a prevailing factor in this election.”

Carolyn Meadows, an east Cobb native and new president of the National Rifle Association, talks to the MDJ about her goals for the NRA.

NOT SO OPEN RECORDS: About a week after Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn announced his department would be leaving the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna Organized Crime Unit, four of the county’s top law enforcement officials came to the MDJ’s offices to give their side of the story.

Flynn said he was leaving the collaborative unit to focus more on treatment, rather than prosecution. Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, acting DA John Melvin, Solicitor General Barry Morgan and Director of Public Safety Michael Register disputed Flynn’s characterization of the unit, saying treatment has always been part of its mission.

The quartet also offered another possible reason for Flynn’s departure: He didn’t want to share the assets his department confiscated with the rest of the unit.

Members of the MCS are supposed to transfer any assets seized during operations that fall under the task force’s mission, they explained. The money is kept in an account and spent on training, equipment and other expenses, and if the account’s balance breaks $2 million, the excess is distributed out to members.

Flynn, they said, didn’t like the arrangement and Marietta police had been keeping their seized assets.

So, the MDJ filed a request under Georgia’s Open Records law to get a better idea of how much the task force had seized since 2000, who had seized it and where the money went.

The response from the District Attorney’s office, which the MDJ was told kept the records, said that the office would provide forfeiture records and audits of the MCS unit, but for a price.

Finding, retrieving, reviewing and copying the records would cost a total of $49,897.61.

Now, government bodies are entitled to charge for these services — no such thing as a free lunch, etc. — but there must be quite a sizable trove of documents to justify that price tag.

FROM LUXEMBOURG TO OUTER SPACE: Lest you think former Cobb County resident Randy Evans is doing nothing more in his stint as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg than sipping wine and marvelling at the beauty of the Ardennes Forest, think again.

News from the European Union is that Luxembourg and the U.S. this week signed a memorandum of understanding designed to significantly deepen cooperation between the two countries in the field of space activities including research, exploration, defense and space commerce.

One might not associate the Grand Duchy with space exploration, but the Luxembourg Space Agency has made a mark in its efforts to cultivate entrepreneurs who see the commercial opportunities space travel holds.

Said Ambassador Evans: “This bold initiative heralds a new chapter in our bilateral relationship. Few countries are more ambitious than Luxembourg and the United States when it comes to space. It is a tremendous growth area that will serve as the platform for many important things for years to come. Together we each do so much more than apart.”

John Loud, president of Loud Security, delivered sponsor remarks during the Cobb Chamber’s Monday breakfast in the wake of the 145th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

“Loud Security, we are not changing our name to ‘Maximum Security,’ and I’m not horsing around about that,” said Loud, which led to some laughs and hee-haws from the audience.

Loud made no mention of considering a name change to “Country House Security,” however.

I just want to point out that we are not here for seniors.

— Charisse Davis, Cobb County

Board of Education member

IF NEWLY ELECTED board members Charisse Davis and Jaha Howard are anything, they are consistent.

Since joining the board in January, they have pounded the drum to “reform” the senior tax exemption. Fortunately for Cobb seniors, four board members (and maybe five if David Morgan would weigh in) oppose this. They voted to do so during a school board retreat on Monday.

To be clear, it would take more than a school board vote to change the law governing Cobb’s senior tax exemption. As state Sen. Lindsey Tippins’ explained, revising the exemption would require approval from:

♦ Four of Cobb’s six state senators;

♦ All 15 of Cobb’s representatives in the Georgia House;

♦ Two-thirds of both chambers in the General Assembly;

♦ A majority of Cobb County voters through a public referendum;

♦ And a partridge in a pear tree.

In short, the odds of winning the next Mega Millions are probably better.

In her effort to convince the rest of the board to launch an exploratory committee on the senior exemption Monday, Davis made a shocking comment when she said, “I just want to point out that we are not here for seniors.”

That might be the most tone deaf statement we’ve heard in a while. Many of Cobb’s seniors have lived here, paid taxes and supported the school system for decades. In addition, they’ve also voted for and paid the extra 1 percent sales tax for our schools through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education. The latest five-year E-SPLOST cycle approved by voters in 2017 is projected to collect $797 million for our schools.

As one politico pointed out, if Davis continues down this road, the next time you put an E-SPLOST on the ballot, the seniors may not be there for the school system.

Derailing the next E-SPLOST would put the Cobb and Marietta school districts in a much worse financial bind. Board Chairman David Chastain and board members Brad Wheeler, Randy Scamihorn and David Banks were right to shoot down this idea of an exploratory committee.

The entire school board would be well served moving on to other more important issues. Otherwise, Cobb voters may have a long memory the next time E-SPLOST comes up for renewal.

Cobb school board members Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis.

BOYCE V. EASTERLING: A new champion was crowned on Lake Allatoona Saturday following an epic Viking vs. Jedi boat race. The first event at the third annual Acworth Dragon Boat Festival on Lake Allatoona was a boat race between the cities of Kennesaw, Acworth and Powder Springs and Cobb County. Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling, County Chairman Mike Boyce and Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood sat in the back of dragon-shaped boats and beat a drum to keep time for government workers paddling.

The event was a fundraiser for Loving Arms Cancer Outreach and Dragon Boat Atlanta, two local cancer charities.

Going into Saturday’s race, Kennesaw was the team to beat, having won both previous city races. Longtime readers know Easterling has a flair for costumes. He came to previous years’ races as a bearded Viking, and Boyce donned his own Viking outfit last year in Easterling’s honor.

This year, Boyce showed up in Viking garb, once more taking up his magic plastic sword, but Easterling dressed as a Star Wars Jedi, complete with a light-up double-bladed plastic lightsaber, likely a nod to the race’s date, May the Fourth, also known as Star Wars Day.

In a scene straight out of George Lucas’ imagination, the two grown men did battle on the beach of Lake Acworth, Boyce striking out with his sword, and Easterling nimbly parrying each blow with his lightsaber.

Mayor Allegood, who wore a polo shirt and shorts, said the two men really do take the dragon boat race that seriously.

“All year long, if you’re in a meeting with them, they’re kind of poking each other about this dragon race,” Allegood said with a smile. “You know how kids like to one-up each other? That’s kind of what they do all year long.”

In the end, the force was not with Master Easterling, and after a close race, the Acworth Dragon Boat Festival cup will reside in the Cobb County Commission offices, at least until next year.

Boyce was humble in victory, as was Easterling in defeat. As he offered the trophy to Boyce, Easterling issued a challenge to Allegood.

“The pressure’s not on us for next year, the pressure’s on Tommy,” he said with a laugh. “It’s your beach.”

Responded Boyce: “Not if we annex it first!”

CANDIDACY: Michael Owens, who served as chair of the Cobb Democratic Party from November 2016 to this past March, reinvigorating the party and attracting standing-room-only crowds during the group’s monthly meetings, has announced he is running for Congress. Owens said he plans to run for Georgia’s 13th Congressional District, a seat currently held by U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.

“I am running to represent the people of the 13th District because they deserve a congressman who understands their challenges, will be an advocate for their needs and a champion for the opportunities where we live,” Owens wrote in his announcement email.

Owens launched an unsuccessful bid for the seat in 2014: Scott took more than 82% of the vote in the Democratic primary.

Scott is the only person to hold the 13th Congressional District seat. Georgia was awarded a new Congressional seat as a result of the 2000 Census, and Scott won the seat in the district’s first election in 2002.

Michael Owens

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