Who’ll Be Chair? And will school board reject ‘olive branch’ on bonds?
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
January 07, 2014 12:00 AM | 6387 views | 1 1 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHO WILL BE ELECTED chairman of the Cobb Board of Education at its meeting this evening? Board-watchers give the inside track to Kathy Angelucci of east Cobb and Brad Wheeler of west Cobb — each of whom has been lobbying other members for the job and each of whom is said to believe they have lined up the needed four votes.

The board elects a new chairman each January to serve a one-year term. Last year the board was headed by first-year board member Randy Scamihorn.

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ALSO ON THE SCHOOL BOARD’S AGENDA for tonight is how to respond to the olive branch extended its way Friday by The Development Authority of Cobb County in connection with the 10-year tax abatement the DACC plans to give developer John Williams for his $103 million Riverwalk project in the Cumberland/Galleria area. The school board was blindsided by news of the abatement, even though it would cost the board millions of dollars in lost tax revenue in the short run.

The bond validation hearing for the project is slated for Friday in Cobb Superior Court before Senior Judge Mike Stoddard, with the school district challenging the bonds.

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THE DACC’S OLIVE BRANCH consists of a “Policy Statement for Transactions Involving the Valuation of Leasehold Interests” it approved Friday that refines the steps it takes when considering such tax abatements. Among the changes was a requirement that henceforth, the Authority would notify the School Board chairman and superintendent whenever it approves a developer’s abatement application to the Board of Tax Assessors.

It’s a welcome improvement that might keep the board from being blindsided by such requests in the future.

Then again, maybe not.

The board’s new policy says it will act in good faith, “yet may, for cause shown, waive this Policy, in part or in whole, or impose different or additional requirements, by adoption of a resolution in accordance with the Development Authorities Law.”

As the saying goes, “the more things change …”

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POLITICS: Former Cobb Commission Chair Bill Byrne was the first person to jump into the race to succeed northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham next year, who has announced she won’t seek another term.

Around Town’s item Saturday about his candidacy noted he “generally” is supportive of the Atlanta Braves move to Cobb pulled off by Commission Chairman Tim Lee.

But Byrne is leaving himself plenty of wiggle room. In fact, AT’s description of Byrne’s position came as a surprise to high-profile Braves move opponent Lance Lamberton.

“I was under the impression you were not (supportive), or at least were not supportive of the public financing aspect of the deal,” Lamberton emailed Byrne.

The former chair answered that he thinks the move will be a positive economic development for Cobb, and especially south Cobb, in the long run.

“However, I do not support the use of taxpayer dollars to finance ‘billionaires’ sports franchises,” he wrote Lamberton and AT. He added he won’t have a “final” position on the move until various other questions are answered.

Byrne believes the Commission cannot create a new tax district without the approval of the General Assembly.

“If I am correct, then the proposed financing of this project fails,” he predicted.

As for the .33 mill tax increase property owners would pay toward the stadium once the recreation bond expires in 2017, Byrne argues that is “clearly a tax increase.”

“The statement that this is not a tax increase is a blatant lie!!!” he wrote Lamberton.

Byrne says a rezoning application is needed for the stadium, but wonders how the county could reject it considering it has already contracted with the Braves for the move.

Byrne also notes the Atlanta Regional Commission will have to perform a Development of Regional Impact analysis on the proposed stadium.

(Lee has told AT the county won’t be submitting the site plans for stadium project until fall and that the ARC won’t have veto power over what gets built.)

And finally, Byrne wonders where the funds will come from to hire and train the additional public safety personnel connected with the development.

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GOREHAM’S DEPARTURE and a Byrne victory could point toward a rightward shift for the commission, with Byrne likely to vote with incumbent east Cobb Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell on many issues. And Goreham’s pending departure also could translate to a push by Lee for the commission to approve items this year while he still has her vote to count on.

Item A would probably be the proposed Bus Rapid Transit line in the median of Cobb Parkway from Kennesaw to Midtown Atlanta.

The BRT has been at or near the top of Lee’s wish list ever since the TSPLOST was rejected by voters in 2012. Conventional wisdom has it the Braves’ move here has made construction of the BRT line all but inevitable. The bus line got another boost when Lee and DOT head Faye DiMassimo told the MDJ on Thursday its estimated cost would be “only” $494 million, as opposed to the budget-busting $1.1 billion originally expected.

The savings would come, they say, by foregoing construction of underpasses and overpasses at a dozen major intersections along the BRT’s route (the exception being the Windy Hill Road junction).

Yet the savings might be offset by the negative impact that BRT might have on the many businesses along its route. How so?

The BRT buses might run in a “fixed guideway” in what is now the existing middle turn lane of Cobb Parkway. The “guideway” lane (in actuality, just the existing asphalt) would be separated from the other lanes by barriers to keep all other traffic out. Those barriers also would prevent those entering or exiting the businesses along Cobb Parkway from making left turns, according to frequent MDJ guest columnist Ron Sifen, who specializes in transportation issues.

And the county probably expects to reap hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington for BRT construction costs — but would still face the burden of annual operating and maintenance costs for BRT, which would eat up dollars that might be better spent addressing transportation needs elsewhere in the county, Sifen contends.

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MORE POLITICS: U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of east Cobb will be headline speaker at Saturday’s Cobb GOP Breakfast. Cost is $10 for the 8:15 a.m. event at the party headquarters, 799 Roswell St..

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dustoff
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January 08, 2014
The last thing we need is for Bill Byrne to be elected to any office in Cobb County.

He stated " I do not support the use of taxpayer dollars to finance ‘billionaires’ sports franchises"

We when he was Chairman he sure spent taxpayers money to build Cumberland Parkway and widen Paces Ferry Rd. for Home Depot's new offices.

He spent Water System revenue to run a sewer line to serve only Home Depot that included a very expensive tunnel.

And he was the developers best friend, plus he is the one that made Hankerson the Czar of the 3rd. floor.

West Cobb are you sure this in the best person for the job?????
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