Saturday’s Around Town noted that two of Cobb’s five commissioners — Chairman Tim Lee and Northwest Cobb’s Helen Goreham — are considered RINOs by local Republicans in the wake of their votes this year to raise property taxes rather than cut the budget, and their support for this year’s county road SPLOST.
But what about the Republicans in the Cobb Legislative Delegation?
“We have some moderates,” said a source in the local party hierarchy. “But I wouldn’t call them RINOs. East Cobb is totally different than west Cobb as far as social issues. East Cobb you’re going to find more Republicans over there that are pro-choice. West Cobb you’re going to have a strong support for pro-life. But east Cobb and north Fulton are your more moderate, fiscal conservatives, not necessarily social conservatives. (State Reps.) Sharon Cooper and Judy Manning, they’re moderates. I wouldn’t call them RINOs. Some of your Tea Party people might, but I’d say they’re moderate.”
On the other hand, a conservative lawmaker from outside Cobb singled out Cooper (R-east Cobb).
“Absolutely a RINO,” he declared. “There are just so many issues that she is not a conservative on. You jump right out there on the abortion issue for one thing. I mean it immediately jumps out at you.”
Cooper opposes abortion but would allow exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, the same position as that of the National Right to Life. But that’s not good enough for the Georgia Right to Life, which allows exceptions only to save the life of the mother.
“I find it incredible that someone is questioning my Republican credentials; when I have been credited with being the main force behind the Republican take over of the Georgia House after 134 years of Democrat control,” she said.
The conservative who complained about Cooper also contends that Manning (R-Marietta) might be a RINO.
“I don’t really see Judy as being very conservative. She’s got a lot of leanings toward bigger government, and I think that’s reflected in a lot of the votes that she’s taken.”
Another conservative also noted Manning’s recent effort to shift the most Republican precincts out of Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott’s district into another to make him more vulnerable to defeat by a Democrat.
The state lawmaker went on to say while Georgia Republicans love to talk about smaller government, the proof is in the voting.
“It’s easy to get out there and put in a campaign ad that you’re for less government, but if you go in there and vote on legislation that’s constantly creating new commissions and new boards and new agencies and things like this and putting more and more funding into the existing governmental structure you got to question what somebody’s commitment is to limited government,” he said.
ARE SOME CONSERVATIVES making too big a deal of the RINO game? Yes, asserts Cooper, who said she was even called a RINO because she supported last year’s state referendum to expand Georgia’s trauma-care network into rural areas.
“People in the metro areas have the availability of life-saving intervention in a timely manner and I think it should be available to all Georgians,” she said. “But some people accused me of trying to ‘grow government’ because of that.”
Concludes Cooper, calling politicians RINOs “is something people do when they don’t agree with every position that you hold.”
Coming Saturday: More on legislative, mayoral and school board RINOs.
TENSIONS BETWEEN ELECTED OFFICIALS AND BUREAUCRATS are nothing new. But it’s rare that they flare up publicly. And it’s even rarer that they involve a bureaucrat lecturing an elected official rather than the other way around. But that’s what happened at Thursday’s meeting of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, during which CID executive director Malaika Rivers got snooty with Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott after Ott had the temerity to suggest the CID board schedule a field trip to Powder Springs for an in-person look at the test track and prototype passenger car built by American Maglev Technology Inc.
Ott has been sharply critical of the TSPLOST proposal strongly supported by the CID and Cobb Chamber, which calls for spending most of Cobb’s TSPLOST proceeds to build a light-rail line from Midtown to Cumberland Mall. Backers claim the Maglev train would be a cheaper alternative to build and operate than the traditional MARTA-style train envisioned for that route.
“Based on (the company’s) numbers and everything I’ve seen so far, we would be foolish not to consider at least looking at it for that reason, and No. 2, what (they’re) proposing is private dollars,” Ott said.
Then Rivers jumped in, accusing Ott of contradicting himself:
“If you could just help clarify for me, I’ve heard you indicate over the past year through what you’ve said ... is that with the (county’s) ‘alternatives analysis’ and our desire to have light rail — we’ve made no bones about that and the other modes that are out there, BRT or whatever happens — you’ve been pretty clear that nobody should rest their eggs in any one basket before the process takes place ... . The way you presented the information with this opportunity with this company, you seemed pretty specific on the alignment, and you seemed very specific on the modes, so I’m just trying to reconcile how you presented that information with what you’ve been saying over the past year.”
Ott answered that the county’s alternatives analysis study will only look at three or four transportation options, and so he is exploring others rather than duplicate what the study is working on.
Rivers telegraphed her contempt for the Maglev proposal when, rather than offering to look into the possibly cheaper or more effective option herself, she told Ott he could pass along her contact info to the Maglev group if he wanted.
Several people at the meeting told AT afterward they were taken aback by the stridency of Rivers’ remarks. And some were surprised that CCID chair Tad Leithead, a gentlemanly Washington & Lee grad, did not step in to defuse the situation or apologize to Ott, who represents the Cumberland area on the commission.
The incident served as a reminder that with total compensation of nearly $208,000 per year that Rivers is one of the highest-paid public officials in Cobb — though she oversees just three or four employees and a $2.7 million budget. She also enjoys perks galore and with three other CID staffers who have access to the CCID’s American Express account charged more than $519,000 in 2010 for upscale hotels, fancy restaurants and limo service. (None of Cobb’s 4,200 county government employees carries a county-issued credit card, BTW.) In addition, Ms. Rivers has consistently received 5 percent raises in recent years, even though pay has been capped for most county employees.
Many observers think CIDs need more transparency and more public oversight in order to bring their goals and pay scales more in line with the county government’s.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Bret Harrell (R-Snellville), is proposing that the Legislature look at ways of ensuring more government oversight of the state’s 15 CIDs, including the two in Cobb.
IN THESE DAYS when people change jobs almost as often as they change their socks, James Scott is a throwback — a reminder of the days when you got a job right out of school and stuck with it till retirement.
Scott was born at Fort McPherson in Atlanta but has spent his life in Cobb. He graduated from McEachern High, majored in accounting at UGA and went to work for Matthews Contracting on a Monday after graduating the previous Friday. That was 44½ years ago in 1967.
“When you have no car, no job, no money and a pregnant wife you need a job, and you need it now,” he told Around Town on Monday.
Matthews had 150 employees in ’67 and had grown to 1,600 prior to the recession. It’s now closer to 1,000, but remains the biggest privately owned road contracting company in the Southeast. It’s now headed by Bob Matthews, son of its late founder, C.W. Matthews.
Scott, who rose through the ranks to be the company’s secretary/treasurer and CFO as well as president of MATSCO, Matthews’ holding company, will retire Dec. 31.
He and his wife, Joy, have two married daughters and six grandchildren. He plans to spend his time traveling and hunting and visiting their vacation home on the Georgia coast. (Incidentally, James’ sister Ann is the wife of state Sen. Lindsey Tippins of west Cobb, and he and Scott are more like brothers than brothers-in-law.) Here’s wishing much health and happiness to a truly exceptional Cobb Countian.
THE NORTH COBB BUSINESS ASSOCIATION will host Dr. Ike Reighard, new head of MUST Ministries in Marietta, as its speaker at its 11:30 meeting Wednesday at Piedmont Church, 570 Piedmont Road.