On July 31, voters in southwest Cobb will select their next county commissioner from among six Democrats: Lisa Cupid, Monica DeLancy, Ruth Negron, Dr. Michael Rhett, Connie Taylor and incumbent Woody Thompson. No Republicans qualified to run for the post, so the winner of the primary will most likely be the one taking office in January.
Ruth Negron did not return her answers to the Journal.
Dr. Michael Rhett
Occupation: United States Air Force Reserve / Educator
Previous political experience: Secretary for Cobb County Transportation SPLOST Tax Oversight Committee / State of Georgia Democratic Committee Representative for South Cobb /City of Powder Springs Economic Development Committee / Six Flags Drive Stakeholder Economic Community Development Committee
Education: Doctorate, UGA; Specialist Degree, Georgia State University; Masters, University of Central Oklahoma, Bachelor’s, State University of New York; Associate, Community College of the U.S. Air Force
Do you plan to vote for the TIA on July 31?
I doubt if south Cobb contractors will make money from the projects. Most bids will go to large out of state contractors. The details are not quite clear about the needs for South Cobb. However we do need to take a close look at our future needs for rapid transportation to relieve traffic congestion and compete with cities like Birmingham and Charlotte for future business.
If Cobb voters reject TIA but it passes metro-wide, would you spend county money to sue in an effort to block it?
It is premature to say. The horse is not out of the barn yet. If you agree or disagree with the plan it is up to the citizens of South Cobb to use the ballot box to hold accountable their current elected officials who decided to craft the TIA in its present form.
Can the scope of county government, and thus county expenses, be reduced further? If so, what would you cut?
You cannot reduce deficits and provide necessary services by continuing to raise people property taxes. We must reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new economic growth. We should continue to support the South Cobb Business Association to expand business we currently have and promote a climate that is conducive for new business to relocate in South Cobb.
Is the practice of “walking the halls” to gauge commissioners’ feelings on issues before they vote in public efficient government, or does it circumvent open meetings laws?
Speaking with fellow commissioners and engaging their opinion does not necessarily violate or circumvents open meeting laws. Another commissioner may offer an important suggestion. However I do not believe in swapping votes. A good commissioner should concentrate on walking from door to door in South Cobb and organizing town hall meetings with their constituents not the other commissioners.
Does Cobb offer too little, too much or the right amount of financial incentives to lure new jobs?
We have to be careful here. We want to do everything fiscally responsible to attract business and jobs to South Cobb. A significant number of people are really hurting. However we cannot afford to offer ridiculous tax incentives that we will later regret. We need to plan for and offer smart tax incentives that will return good dividends to South Cobb.
Should the commission have stronger oversight of the two Community Improvement Districts? If so, what type of oversight do you envision?
Community Improvement Districts were authorized by a constitutional amendment voted on by the people of Georgia in 1980s. Both the Town Center and Cumberland CIDs seem to be prospering. Cobb County Government already collects the taxes and distributes the funds to the CID which in turn provides funding to start necessary planning to improve local infrastructure.
Do you promise not to vote for a tax increase during this term, if elected?
I will not ask anyone to “Read My Lips, no new taxes” or promise to sign a Norquist pledge. However, the people of Cobb County are taxed too much and tax increases are the last thing we want to see. We need to use restraint when it comes to government fiscal spending and attract new business and jobs to South Cobb working with the South Cobb County Business Association.
When the county SPLOST expires, would you support an extension for four, five or six years?
I would support the Special Local Option Sales Tax ballot and let the people vote on it. After all, they are the ones who are footing the bill. Currently, SPLOST is the only mechanism by which we can afford to make needed improvements to our schools and to address other financial expenses.
Do you favor changing the law to allow SPLOST money to support the arts?
I truly appreciate the arts and how it enhances the quality of our lives. In better economic times, I might support this. However, I would question the current timing. People who are without jobs might not endorse the idea of paying an additional sales tax to support the arts. Other county services have a vital priority in their lives.
Should Cobb spend tax dollars on the Chamber’s EDGE program?
Would tax incentives accomplish the same goal for business to relocate to South Cobb? We are talking about contributing a large sum of money to the Chamber’s EDGE Program. I would entertain the idea but I have to be absolutely convinced that EDGE would create and attract jobs for the people of South Cobb and not just the elite at a reasonable cost per job.
Do you favor outsourcing more economic-development work to the Chamber?
Generally speaking, I would not be in favor of outsourcing governmental efforts to the Chamber of Commerce unless it could be shown to me that the Chamber has a proven track record of outperforming Cobb agencies tasked with the same job for the same amount of money or less.
What should the county do to encourage redevelopment in south Cobb?
The circular flow of economics affects our communities. Money needs to exchange hands, several times (reinvested) before leaving the community. When you spend a dollar in South Cobb, it immediately exits our community. Tax Allocation Districts & Business Improvement Districts help business grow and invest in the community’s infrastructure. Businesses then join our circular flow of economics.
What is the biggest problem you want to solve, if elected, and how would you do it?
South Cobb needs Lower Taxes, Form Base Zoning to develop communities, and jobs creation by investing in Tax Allocation Districts (TAD) & Community Improvement Districts (CID). CID & TAD programs help business to grow and invest in our community’s infrastructure. Business growth helps them to share the property tax burden with the residential homeowner and leads to our lower millage