First the board, with two and possibly three lame ducks, decided to plunge the debt-free system head-over-heels in debt, allegedly to speed up SPLOST projects and take advantage of lower construction costs, even though the current SPLOST runs out in three years. The board wants to borrow $62 million for each of the next two years and $31 million for the third to allegedly speed up projects, although no projects to be speeded up were ever cited by the six who want to go on the borrowing binge.
Since the board would not borrow the money until January, member Alison Bartlett wisely suggested the board wait on the arrival of the two new board members (since they would be ultimately responsible for helping figure out how to pay it back) for input, but her argument fell on deaf ears.
NEXT, THE BOARD ANGUISHED over a $41,000 reimbursement to board member Dr. John Crooks over the legal bills he incurred defending himself from a recall effort prompted by a successful effort to sneak a vote onto the board agenda in favor of a highly controversial cell phone tower at Eastvalley Elementary School.
Amazingly, rather than reimburse all of Crooks' tab, or none of it, they settled on a convoluted $25,000 figure calculated by board attorney Brock Clay, stating he was responsible for the cost of having appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. Yes, the board was relying for advice in its decision on the same law firm that had told Crooks and then-Chairman Dr. John Abraham in the first place that it was not necessary to agendize the cell tower vote, as required by Georgia law. Never mind that if Glenn Brock had gotten the law right, there never would have been a recall effort or a lawsuit and no need for legal fees. But not one board member questioned why Cobb taxpayers, and not Brock, should pay the costs for his bum advice.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, our board voted to water down the so-called Strategic Plan, which was already a laughingstock for anyone who has been following the board's gyrations. With only Ms. Bartlett dissenting, they decided to hide the percentages of students "Exceeding Standards" by merging those figures with the numbers of those for students who are just "Meeting Standards." As you might guess, the percentages of Cobb students exceeding standards dropped in 2009-10, so board members cleverly - but unconvincingly - said that measurement had to go.
(We're sure that President Obama secretly wishes he could massage the numbers on the unemployment rate to try and make his performance look better, too, but good luck on that.)
Remember, when Abraham first announced the Strategic Plan in January '09, he said it would contain "stretch goals" that he hoped would get the superintendent and the central office out of their "comfort zone."
Almost two years later, the bottom line is the Strategic Plan has been hijacked by the central office, with watered-down goals for which nobody is held accountable.
Comfort zone? Despite the board's efforts - mostly lackluster, to be sure - the super and central office couldn't be any more comfy if they were relaxing in Lazy-Boy Recliners.
SO WHO IS THE INCUMBENT in the State House District 38 (Marietta) race? Democrat Pat Dooley or Republican Sam Teasley?
For the record, it's Dooley. But Residents of that district who read the latest mailer from the Dooley camp can be forgiven if they are confused. Not only does the mailer fail to mention that she is the incumbent (actually, a common ploy by office-holders everywhere this year with anti-incumbent fever at a record high). But the mailer, which is illustrated with close-ups of five football players all wearing uniforms that say, "Tax Tea 88," also accuses her opponent, Teasley, of having voted "88 times this year" to raise taxes.
"'Taxing Teasley" and his Capitol buddies raised our taxes 88 times this year. 'Taxing Teasley' has apparently never met a tax he didn't like. ... If something moved, 'Taxing Teasley' and his Big Tax Team at the Capital taxed it this year. We've had enough of that."
There's just one problem - a big one. Teasley is not the one in office - she is.
Responds an incredulous Teasley, "How did I do that as a private citizen? And if I have that much power now, why would I bother running?" ...
The tea partiers have played an undeniable role in this year's elections, and members of the Georgia Tea Party will be gathering at U.S. Play on Barrett Parkway on Election Night to watch the returns. Cost is $10 per person.
LIKE A LOCOMOTIVE slowly picking up steam as it leaves the station, the effort to impose a "Railroad Quiet Zone" in downtown Marietta is building speed. Congress mandated back in 1994 that the Federal Railroad Administration create legislation specifying how and when train engineers must sound their horns as they approach railroad crossings. An Oct. 14 guest column in the MDJ by Wharton Management spokesman James Eubanks of Marietta argued forcefully for a portion of the proceeds from the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to be used to create an RQZ in Marietta, including upgraded and safer crossing guard equipment.
Now, the pastors of three of Marietta's biggest churches - all of them within two blocks, i.e., close earshot - of the tracks, have come out in favor of Eubanks's proposal.
In a joint letter this week to Mayor Steve "Thunder" Tumlin and the city council, they wrote: "We are writing this joint letter to support the funding of a Railroad Quiet Zone through downtown Marietta. Each of our respective churches has a wide range of ministries that help build and improve our community: worship services, weddings, funerals, childcare and schooling, community outreach, and counseling. These ministries would all become more effective by removing the distraction and noise of the train horns. Not only will a Quiet Zone make the multiple railroad crossings in Marietta quieter, it will help make Marietta a safer and better place to live."
It was signed by the Rev. Mark Barbour, administrative pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Marietta, the Rev. Dr. Sam Matthews, senior minister at First United Methodist Church of Marietta; and Dr. Bill Ross, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Marietta.
And adds Eubanks: "Word on the street says that the Quiet Zones are not are the current 'in' list the City Council is creating for SPLOST, but according to www.cobbsplost2011.org, it is at least on the list of possible projects. It's a good start, as the RQZ is at least getting on people's radar. With the current economic and political environment, I am curious to see if the 2011 SPLOST passes regardless of RQZ being in or out."
Marietta wouldn't be Marietta without its trains - but it sure would be a more pleasant place at times if they weren't quite so noisy!
SO WHAT WAS UGA '91 grad Tara Guest, who bleeds red and black, doing decked out in blue and orange on Friday, the day before the annual Georgia-Florida game?
"Well, first of all, I need to tell you I'm nauseated by these colors," confessed Guest, a former airline flight attendant who now is executive assistant to MDJ advertising director Wade Stephens.
But Ms. Guest has been successfully using reverse psychology, or, more accurately, reverse prognostichology. For the preceding three Fridays she had worn the colors of the Bulldogs' opponent that week - and the Dawgs had won each game.
"I wore orange and white for the Tennessee game, then gold and black - that was a really hard combination to come up with - for Vanderbilt, and then blue and white for Kentucky. And it's been working for three weeks," she said. "I know it's stupid, but knock on wood, it works!"
TUESDAY'S AT column about the upcoming Marietta Pilgrimage tour of homes included incorrect information about one of the homes. The Archibald Howell House is owned by Ryan and Cheryl Touchton.
"JEWS AND BASEBALL: AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY," a new documentary about Jews and Major League Baseball on which longtime Mariettan Amy Linton served as editor and associate producer, opens in three NYC-area theaters on Friday for a limited engagement. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, it features interviews with Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Ron Howard and many others.