Novel idea: Cobb commissioners conduct own ‘outreach’ to citizens
by Don McKee
August 16, 2013 12:14 AM | 1570 views | 3 3 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
Cobb County’s transportation planning has reached the stage of being over-studied and over-spent. It’s time to put the brakes on flinging more taxpayer money into studies of various kinds.

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?

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Boot Tim Lee
August 16, 2013
Time and time again, the citizens of Cobb have said NO to MARTA and the riff raff associated with it. Time for Tim to quit shoving this up our nose again!

Time for both Tim & Helen to get booted out! Enough is enough!

Great column
August 16, 2013
Hope that people/voters read this column and remember at election time.

Cobb County certainly has enough smart people who should be involved in our transportation mess.

Buss from KSU to Midtown Atlanta? For five riders? Incredible idea.
Chris M.
August 16, 2013
Thanks, Don, for taking the same thing as I did out of Goreham's comments. Did they approve the original $1.4 million knowing that they needed more in the future, or did they approve it knowing it would sit on the shelf? Either way it is a digusting misuse of my tax dollars. If the $1.4 million study will be useless cancel the contract - NOW! If they do not and say the study is still necessary then their arguments for additional monies for a foreign company are groundless. Thanks to the three commissioners that actually used some common sense.
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