Commission Chairman Tim Lee has been pushing hard for the increase. Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham has been publicly non-committal in recent days, but this spring surprised many conservative supporters by outspokenly favoring a tax increase to close the budget gap. Southeast Cobb's Bob Ott is the sole member of the board to publicly oppose it, saying the county has not done enough to cut spending.
Sources say phones at the commission offices were ringing off the hook in recent days on the matter, and that Cobb Chamber of Commerce officials were lobbying especially hard to get Birrell and or Thompson into the fold to support the tax. Birrell, who had the strong support of Lee and Chamber insiders during her election campaign last year, is said to be wary of the political fallout from supporting a tax hike. Thompson is thought to be leaning against the tax hike personally, but tells the MDJ that most of the 130 people who attended a town hall meeting he called on the subject in Austell on Wednesday favored the tax increase.
The two are said to have been barraged with calls from the likes of Chamber Chairman Rob Garcia, CEO David Connell, Chairman-elect Tony Britton, Council for Quality Growth President Michael E. Paris and Georgian Club President Jim Rhoden, who serves on the Cobb Citizen Oversight Committee charged with making county government more cost-effective. In fact Garcia, Connell and Paris called Thompson on Monday from Puerto Rico, where they were attending a meeting.
"It is important for everyone to understand that while there may be over 2,100 inmates in my custody, the vast majority are not available to work outside the confines of the facility," he said. "For example, on July 15, there were 529 inmates under sentence in my custody. Of those, 177 were awaiting transfer to the Georgia Department of Corrections and therefore generally not available for work detail. Forty-eight other inmates were too great of a security risk or had serious medical problems that prevented them from performing work assignments. The remaining 304 inmates (or less than 15 percent of the total jail population) were either on work release assignments or participating on County work details inside and outside the jail. ..." That's not to say that Warren has not been trying to cut costs.
"While the cost of housing inmates is significant, through the use of inmate labor we have eliminated in excess of $2 million a year in costs that would otherwise have been incurred to hire staff to perform these duties."
THE FIRST Judge Debra Halpern Bernes "Day at the Park" Fundraiser is planned Oct. 15 to raise money to fund perpetual endowment scholarships at the University of Georgia and Georgia State University schools of law in honor of late Georgia Appellate Judge Debra Halpern Bernes of east Cobb, who died last year of cancer at age 54.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens of Cobb are honorary co-chairs and Nancy Ingram Jordan and Scott Jacobson are event co-chairs.
"Debbie's passions were love of the law and helping others to succeed. The family is attempting to carry out her mission by rewarding the service of these future lawyers as a lasting tribute to her life," said husband Gary Bernes.
The fundraiser will be from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. and feature BBQ, live music from "Bert Reeves and His Band" at East Cobb Park on Roswell Road. Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $10 for children and all donations are tax-deductible. Guests should RSVP to Sheri Kell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information can be found at www.judgebernes.org.
The club will hold a live auction to sell off favorite desserts offered by six of its senior-most members and officers, according to auction chairwoman Beth Eckford of the club. On tap are "Davis Walker's Deep Dark Secret Chocolate Cake," baked by his niece Tricia Wilson; "E.W. Chastain's Favorite Coconut Cake," as baked by club member Gail Downing; club President Mike Hebdon's butter creams, (his mother's recipe, prepared by his whole family); "Liz Owens' Beer Cake" (prepared by Ms. Owens herself); Pat Huey's Favorite German Chocolate Cake" (prepared by Ms. Downing); and "Fran's Fudge" as chosen by Bill Kinney and prepared by Fran Kirby.
Silent auction items will include "Reece's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake" from Earl and Terri Reece, carrot cake from Barbara Hickey, rum cake from Scott Chadwick, a "bite-size decadent dessert tray" from Adriane Larson, breakfast muffins by Rosann Hall, German chocolate angel pie by Patty Kendrick, pecan pie from Ed Hammock, peach cobbler by Edith Boy and brownies by Sally Macauley. Auctioneer will be club member Shelby Robert,.
DEBATE OVER TODAY'S TAX HIKE proposal revolves over whether to keep the county's service level as-is or cut it. But it's usually easier to persuade the public to raise taxes if officials can target a specific use or need for the new tax. That was certainly the case in Cobb in the summer of 1940.
An MDJ editor going back through old copies of the MDJ this past weekend happened onto the June 26, 1940 edition of the newspaper, which bore a startling headline atop Page 1: "Half Mill Levy To Finance County Veneral (sic) Disease War Proposed." That headline (even without the misspelling) would prompt double-takes today and probably prompted triple takes back then.
It seems The Progressive Mens Club of Powder Springs had passed a resolution to that effect and sent it to County Commissioner C.M. Head (Cobb had a sole-commissioner form of government back then).
Said the resolution, in part, "Syphilis and tuberculosis are expensive to the taxpayers because many of their victims become public charges."
The Cobb grand jury picked up the ball, with the July 16 Marietta Journal trumpeting, "Grand Jury Informed of Movement to Curb Venereal Disease Spread." Cobb Superior Court Judge Harold Hawkins told the jury there had been 800 cases of venereal diseases in the county. (He also told the jury, in an unrelated matter, that many of the driveways along Cobb Parkway, then under construction, were often blocked by motorists "who are parked for immoral purposes.")
The newspaper then reported July 25 that the grand jury had recommended the county raise taxes by one-half mill to fund its fight against "appalling and dangerous" communicable and venereal diseases, with the money to be used to help pay for the hiring of a trio of public-health nurses.
"In view of the fact that we feel it imperative to make funds available to fight T.B. and syphilis, especially syphilis, we recommend without reservation an additional one-half mill to be levied by the board of commissioners for this purpose," read the jury presentments.
Serving as foreman of the jury was Marietta Journal publisher W.L. Harris, with lumber company executive W.L. Tumlin (uncle of current Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin) as clerk. Other members of the 23-person jury included those with such familiar Cobb names as Pitner, Petree, Mabry, Manning, Blair, Brantley and Moore.
So how much did that half-mill tax levy bring the county? A whopping $3,000 - a microscopic fraction of what it would bring in today, when a 1 mill increase translates to about $23 million, according to county finance director Jim Pehrson. Looked at another way, today's $23 million would have been enough to fund the county operations perhaps a hundred times over.