Joe Kirby: The 'Aughts'
by Joe Kirby
Columnist
January 03, 2010 01:00 AM | 1026 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What a decade it was. The 2010s rolled into Cobb this weekend, meaning it's time for a last look at the '00s, or as some have taken to calling them, "the aughts."

On the personal side, it was a decade in which I spent six weeks in a medically induced coma in 2002 and nearly died after what was supposed to be a routine medical procedure. Fortunately (well, at least some folks think it was fortunate), I survived and went on to write innumerable editorials and columns. It also was a decade that saw me pen three books on local history in the past three years. And the best part of the decade, personally speaking, was the way it began in December 2000 with the birth of our second child, my son Miles, now 9.

On a broader front, it was a decade that saw the opening of the $145 million Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the rebirth of the Strand Theatre on Marietta Square and the unexpected demise - and now, potential resurrection - of the political fortunes of Marietta Gov. Roy Barnes, who many think has the inside track in next year's gubernatorial election.

The more things change, the more they remain the same, it seems.

That was especially true of Cobb when it came to traffic relief. The decade was spent batting proposals around for everything from HOV and HOT lanes to Bus Rapid Transit lanes and rapid rail. But the decade ended with traffic just as snarled as ever on the interstates that run through the county, and with no clear picture of where we are headed.

That was true as well regarding one of the evergreen issues of Cobb and Marietta politics: whether or not to widen congested Whitlock Avenue. Perhaps most surprising is that traffic on that road seems little worse now than it did in 2000, despite the unparalleled growth of west Cobb and Paulding County. There was little sentiment in Marietta in 2000 to widen it and there is little now. And don't expect to see its widening atop new Mayor Steve "Thunder" Tumlin's agenda.

The biggest local newsmaker of the decade was the Cobb school board, which despite a revolving cast of superintendents and board members seemed perpetually fond of feuding with each other, the public and the press. When it wasn't hiring $1,000-an-hour consultants, it was trying to foist a poorly planned $100.8 million "laptop lollapalooza" on taxpayers. And just in the past nine months it has moved the school start date practically to mid-summer and junked the traditional "A, B, C" grading system in favor of the "Standards-Based" grading system that many critics say encourages mediocrity and dumbs down the system. The decade also saw the system - once one of the most respected in the Southeast - land on the Needs Improvement List under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

Incredible.

As for Marietta, the big stories of the decade mostly stemmed from Mayor Bill Dunaway's checkered attempts to use Tax Allocation District subsidies to revitalize the city and his more successful efforts to correct the mistakes (Marietta FiberNet and the Marietta Conference Center) of the 1990s. The decade began and ended with Councilman Philip Goldstein still the "power behind the throne" at City Hall and still owning much of downtown Marietta. And something tells me that will still be true as the '10s close out a decade from now. The '20s too, for that matter.

If there was one shared similarity in the news of the '90s and '00s, it was local elected officials' fondness for secrecy. Only the faces and places were different. Where in the 1990s it was the Cobb Board of Commissioners that routinely hashed out its differences in private so that it could be in lockstep in public, in the '00s it was the Cobb school board and Marietta City Council that preferred doing the public's business in the shadows. The county commission has been public-friendly on nearly every count during the administration of Chairman Sam Olens, but the school board, especially, has repeatedly thumbed its nose at the public. Last summer the MDJ reported the board met and voted in secret in violation of the state's sunshine laws more than 50 times since January 2007. Now there's an item that belongs on the "Needs Improvement List."

The biggest one-time story of the '00s was the 21 inches of rain that fell on west Cobb in barely 24 hours in September, and the havoc the runoff wrought. I had never expected to see another weather event in Cobb comparable to "The Blizzard of '93," - but now I've been reminded that only fools use the word "never."

So what do the '10s hold for Cobb? Who knows?

But I'm looking forward to finding out - and writing another column like this as the '20s dawn.

Happy New Year!

Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and co-author of the new "Then & Now: Marietta Revisited."
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