That was the sound of Progress Marietta, Inc.'s first rallying point.
The citizens committee promoting the passage of the $25 million parks bond conducted its first public meeting Wednesday night at City Hall - and if the mere handful of citizens who turned out is any indication of public support, the $25 million parks bond is in serious trouble on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Also conspicuously missing were the city's elected officials - namely Mayor Bill Dunaway, who has pushed for the parks bond, and the City Council.
The only council member who attended was Holly Walquist, who has spearheaded the parks bond.The parks bond commitee members were selected by Dunaway and Walquist.
"Isn't that a shame?" said Kim Gresh, co-chair of the citizens committee, in reference to the dismal turnout at the meeting.
Aside from city officials and committee members, only two or three residents attended.
"It was an information meeting for voters to come and decide if they were for or against - to make an informed decision if they should vote for this $25 million or not. We're holding another information meeting on the 29th, so hopefully more people will come," Gresh said.
Walquist said, to be fair, the citizens committee is still in its formative stage.
But, "I'm always disappointed when you have a meeting and there aren't a lot of people that show up. I know you guys videotaped it. Hopefully that will be on the Web and people can look at it," she said.
Even most of the 18 members Gresh claims are on her committee didn't turn out, among them former Congressman Buddy Darden, Will Goodman, a former member of the Marietta Board of Historic Review, attorney Chuck Clay and Cobb NAACP president Deane Bonner.
The meeting began with Parks Director Rich Buss giving a brief overview on the evolution of the parks bond.
In fall 2006, the City Council directed staff to conduct a citizen survey regarding parks and recreation offerings in the city of Marietta. A telephone survey of more than 600 respondents was conducted early in 2007 by the A.L. Burruss Institute at Kennesaw State University. The council then asked staff to issue Request for Proposals (RFP) to engage the services of a consultant to prepare a parks master plan, and in fall 2007, a consultant was hired. Over the next few months, a number of public meetings were held to garner more citizen input. After which, the consultant drafted the master plan, which was given to the council at a retreat in winter 2008. The plan continues to be revised and remains yet to be adopted. The council voted in August 4-3 to place the $25 million parks bond on the ballot.
Buss left after giving an overview, at which time Gresh and her co-chair, Arthur Vaughn, and treasurer Steve Imler, talked about why it's important to support the bond to improve Marietta's parks.
State law says governments cannot promote a bond issue or a special purpose local option sales tax, but can provide neutral information about it. Even so, several council members, such as Philip Goldstein and Anthony Coleman, say before such literature is printed up and released to the public at taxpayers' expense, the council needs to take a formal vote to approve the expenditure.
Dunaway announced Sunday that he was going to send a direct mail piece on the parks bond out to Marietta voters and that a city-designed brochure would be placed at strategic locations.
Moreover, questions have been raised over the fact that Vaughn, a member of the Marietta Board of Lights and Water, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the city, is serving as co-chair of the citizens committee to pass the bond.
Vaughn said after the meeting he didn't believe there was a conflict.
"How my participation of co-chairing Progress Marietta for the bond referendum and my service on the Board of Lights and Water are not a conflict is: One, I'm a parent, a citizen, a homeowner in the city of Marietta, and the importance of parks in no way will impact or impede the decision-making at Marietta Board of Lights and Water. And at no time has anything related to this bond referendum been discussed on the agenda or even a part of decision-making of anything we've done at Marietta Power," Vaughn said.
Walquist doesn't see a conflict either.
"I would have to say that I don't see this group as being a conflict of interest with the job that he does on the BLW. On the BLW, you know, we're talking about infrastructure and utilities. This is about parks and rec. So I would have to say he is probably taking off his BLW hat and is coming in as a private citizen of the committee that would like to see parks improved," Walquist said.
Gresh responded to the question by saying: "I'm not even going to begin to answer that."
On Wednesday, the Journal learned that city attorney Doug Haynie did the incorporation paperwork for the group at the request of the group's officers, and without charge - and confirmed he is the registered agent for the corporation. Though he is the city's attorney, Haynie told the Journal, "There is no connection between the city and this private group, and no endorsement."
Gresh said the group's treasurer, Imler, asked Haynie to do the incorporation paperwork while she was in New York.
Then she said, "I'm kind of at the point where I'm done talking actually."
Walquist said she saw no conflict with Haynie, noting Haynie was doing the work pro bono.
"It's really not a lot of work," Walquist said.
The only others in attendance at the meeting were committee members Dawn McEachern, the daughter of Mayor Bill Dunaway; committee member Mary Ansley Southerland, daughter of the late Mayor Ansley Meaders, with her husband and son; Marietta Housing Authority executive director Ray Buday, and a young woman whom Buday recently helped locate out of the Boston Homes federal housing project; and Cindy Crane Suto, daughter of former Marietta City Manager "Cactus Jack" Crane.
Walquist provided the Journal with a hand out at the meeting that breaks down the $25 million parks bond into $5 million for land acquisition; $11 million for improvements to existing parks and facilities; $5 million for the development of new and existing parks, facilities and trails; and $4 million for planning and design costs.