A majority of our county commissioners showed they share this view Tuesday when they voted down Chairman Tim Lee’s attempt to funnel another $368,000 into community “outreach” on top of the $1.4 million approved in February for a purportedly comprehensive transportation plan by consulting firm Arcadis of the Netherlands.
Lee said he wanted more community involvement than was already covered in the deal with Arcadis although it provides for 12 to 15 “listening sessions” or town hall meetings with Cobb citizens. But Lee wanted an “outreach” that was “farther reaching with a deeper conversation.”
Check the things Lee tried to get approved: a “summary results” video costing $83,800; an “education” program costing $105,000 and $150,200 for a “beneficiary analysis” on future alternatives and “quantitative support of expected future vision benefits.”
Three commissioners — Bob Ott, JoAnn Birrell and Lisa Cupid — blocked Lee’s move, backed only by Commissioner Helen Goreham, to spend more for frills and what obviously was to be a public relations program under the heading of “education.” Like most Cobb citizens, Ott, Birrell and Cupid no doubt remember that “education” is code for a campaign pushing for citizen approval of such things as the ill-fated TSPLOST that went down in flames in this county. Of course, the “benefits” of the new plan would be more window dressing for “education” of the voters.
But Lee said the added money for “outreach” was “not necessarily an expense,” but “an investment.” That’s how politicians come to look at spending tax money. There’s no such thing as spending — it’s all investment. It sounds a lot better than “spending taxpayer money,” doesn’t it?
In addition to the $1.4 million Arcadis project, the county is shelling out almost $5 million for other studies including the $1.8 million “Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis” by Croy Engineering of Marietta and a $3 million environmental study by Kimley-Horn and Associates of North Carolina on Croy’s proposed billion-dollar bus system between Kennesaw State and Midtown Atlanta. Total of these studies and plans: about $6.2 million.
But according to Lee and Goreham, more money must be spent. Goreham said the additional third of a million dollars “was needed” and “appropriate.” Strangely, to this columnist, she asserted that without the extra money to reach people, the $1.4 million plan by Arcadis will sit on the shelf and not be implemented. That’s shocking, and if it’s true, the commissioners should cancel the Arcadis contract now.
A couple of other points: First, why did a Dutch firm get the study contract? Surely, there are a few firms in metro Atlanta that can do this work. Second, why don’t our elected commissioners get out and talk with their constituents and do their own “outreach” — in other words, the job they were elected to do instead of paying millions to someone else to do it?