The MDJ on Thursday's front page pulled the veil from the Chamber's secretive effort to persuade county officials to shift the county government's Economic Development Department, and its tax-supported budget, over to the Chamber. According to e-mails obtained by the MDJ, the power grab had the apparent backing of both then-Commission Chairman Sam Olens and the front-runner to succeed him, former Northeast Cobb Commissioner Tim Lee.
But those pushing the deal seem to be having trouble keeping their stories straight.
Lame-duck Chamber CEO Don Beaver deflected most of the MDJ's questions toward County Manager David Hankerson, saying Hankerson was doing the "due diligence" on whether to go through with the proposed takeover and said he didn't know all the details. But Hankerson responds that that's news to him. Hankerson added that he's done nothing and is waiting to see who the new Chamber CEO is before taking any steps to outsource his ED department.
Meanwhile, Lee told the MDJ Beaver was the one doing the due diligence. Lee also said that Olens asked the Chamber to initiate the takeover, which Olens confirms. But it sure didn't take much coaxing for the Chamber to climb on board, Lee admitted. He told the MDJ on Thursday he now has an open mind on the deal.
Cobb's other three commissioners claim they were left out of the loop as to the details of the proposal. Documents and e-mails obtained by the MDJ via an Open Records request were circulated just among Olens, Lee, Beaver, Chamber Chairman Rob Garcia of the Bank of North Georgia and past Chamber Chair David Connell of Georgia Power and back up the other commissioners' complaints.
Also interesting is that Garcia, speaking to the Marietta Rotary Club on May 12, said that the commission had voted March 23 to "go ahead and consolidate the county's economic development effort with the Chamber of Commerce under dual management."
But that's not how the vote was interpreted at the time by at least three commissioners who claim they were unaware of the backroom negotiations leading up to the vote. Now that the Chamber's cover has been blown, two commissoners, Olens and Lee, are now claiming like their other three collegues that the March 23 vote was merely to explore outsourcing economic development work to the Chamber and would require a second vote on the details later on by the commission.
ONE OF THE REASONS cited by Olens, Beaver, Garcia and the others for the Chamber takeover are repeated bad-mouth comments by state ED bigwig Heidi Green of Marietta - deputy director of the Department of Economic Development and a confidante of Gov. Sonny Perdue - that Cobb "needs to get its act together" as regards its ED activities, and that the Hankerson-led efforts at the courthouse are not up to snuff. And the deal proponents argue the takeover would let Cobb "speak with one voice" when it comes to ED. But judging by the conflicting statements emanating from the Chamber and Lee pushing the deal, it's not the county that needs to get its act together, but the Chamber.
Interestingly, when Garcia spoke to the Rotarians he was introduced by club member Reuben Green, a federal prosecutor and current Cobb State Court judicial candidate, who just happens to be husband of Heidi Green. Small world, isn't it?
Who is it that needs to get their economic development "act" together, did you say? The Cobb government - or the Cobb Chamber?
WITH MARIETTA COUNCILMEN Grif Chalfant and Johnny Sinclair RSVPing that they won’t be attending the after council dinners at the Marietta Diner anymore, those dinners are about to go the way of the passenger pigeon.
The Journal spotlighted the dinners, which have been going on for years, earlier this year when Mayor Steve Tumlin took office and elected not to attend them.
Although they are “Dutch treat,” City Hall observers consider the dinners to be Goldstein’s post-council meeting party.
Councilmen Jim King and Anthony Coleman have already adopted a pattern of boycotting the dinners, which left Goldstein with his alter ego, Annette Lewis; along with members Van Pearlberg, Grif Chalfant and Johnny Sinclair, plus city manager Bill Bruton and city attorney Doug Haynie occasionally joining.
But Sinclair now says he will not be attending council dinners at the Diner due to media pressure. Chalfant has also decided to send his regrets rather than attend, saying it puts Bruton and Haynie in an “awkward situation,” having to decide whether to attend with Goldstein or stay away as the mayor does.
Haynie told AT Friday he was “undecided” about attending the next dinner.
So next time they break bread at the Marietta Diner on June 9, it likely will just be Goldstein, Lewis and Pearlberg, which should hardly make for scintillating table conversation given that Pearlberg claims Goldstein is a slumlord and Goldstein has reported Pearlberg to the city “tree police” (code inspectors) for planting yard trees too close to the street.
Moreover, with only three council members, Goldstein, Lewis and Pearlberg, meeting at the Diner, a voting quorum is no longer achieved, meaning a public notice isn’t needed under the Open Meetings Act.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY? Thursday night’s school board meeting was interesting to watch on several fronts, as usual. But one thing viewers at home did not hear was any announcement that the Central Office would be closed Friday and Tuesday as a result of central office furlough days. A staffer let the cat out of the bag though, casually mentioning the news to reporter Kathryn Dobies after 8 p.m. Thursday, meaning any follow-up questions from the meeting would have to wait until Wednesday.
The furloughs are not mentioned on the district’s website at www.cobbk12.org, which purports to carry all the school-related news that fit to print, but which isn’t exactly “must-see TV” or riveting reading.
Of course, Superintendent Fred Sanderson told teachers back on Jan. 29 that they would lose three days of pay to save money. Teachers were not paid for days in September and January when the district canceled classes because of weather, and schools then also closed on President’s Day in February. He assured the community that year-round employees would also lose two more days of pay to furlough, but the dates just had not been determined yet. We’re presuming that those employees still worked and were paid for the inclement-weather days.
So the district just decided to close offices on two days surrounding a holiday weekend, giving the year-round (and mostly highest paid) employees a five-day break. We can’t say as we blame them. After all, if you have to take two more days off, why not extend a holiday weekend? And the bigwigs will surely remind everyone that this is all in the name of saving money.
POLITICAL PATTER: A bluegrass and BBQ fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) will be held June 5 in Marietta in the field at the corner of Whitlock Avenue and Whitlock Drive. Tickets for the 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. event (featuring Williamson Bros. barbecue) are $50 per person. For more information, contact Haley McConaghy at (770) 818-1493. … GOP gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel picked up endorsements this week from Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham and Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews.
MARIETTANS OF A CENTURY AGO had a saying: “If you’ve ever drunk from the well on Marietta Square, you’ll eventually come back to Marietta.” That well is long gone, but the sentiment seems to still apply. That was the case Friday for Ali Torre, wife of former Atlanta Braves catcher and manager Joe Torre, who was enjoying lunch with a friend at Schillings restaurant on North Park Square. She told Schillings owner Dave Reardon his eatery had been a favorite of her and her husband in their Atlanta days, and that she was back in town for a wedding. Husband Joe was one of the most successful managers in New York Yankees’ history and now helms the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Incidentally, next week begins Reardon’s 33rd year at the restaurant, which is housed in what formerly was a hardware store.
THIS YEAR’S MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONY at the Marietta National cemetery will take place at noon Monday. In addition, Civil War researcher Brad Quinlin will be leading free tours of the cemetery throughout the weekend, with an emphasis on his work successfully identifying Union soldiers originally buried as unknown soldiers. He also plans to use this weekend’s tours to reveal the names of five African American soldiers buried as unknowns who were members of the U.S. Colored Troops.
Quinlin’s tours will take place at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. today, 1 p.m. Sunday and at 1:30 p.m. Memorial Day. Tours will start just inside the park entrance on Washington Street.
Those who attended last year’s Memorial Day service heard one of the speakers lament the findings of a recent survey of high school students, which showed more than half thought the holiday’s purpose was to denote the beginning of summer and the opening of swimming pools.
We suspect the vast majority of readers of Around Town know better than that and plan to take at least a few moments this weekend to honor those in our history who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free.