Cobb government, business and community leaders and elected officials will be appearing in an online forum Tuesday afternoon to discuss issues of policing and racism in the wake of protests and violence that has broken out around the country in the last week.
The forum is free and is open for the public to view starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, and you can sign up here.
As you’re registering, you can submit questions for the panelists to answer and discuss.
Those participating in the forum include Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce and commissioner Lisa Cupid, Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox, Cobb school board members Charisse Davis, Jaha Howard and Brad Wheeler, Cobb legislative members and mayors and Cobb Chamber of Commerce officials, as well as leaders from the Cobb NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In message she sent out Monday, Cupid, the lone black Cobb commissioner, said “we will discuss protests stemming from the death of George Floyd and ways we can address racism locally.”
Protests began after George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, died in police custody, facing the ground and handcuffed, with a white officer seen pushing his knee on his neck.
Demonstrations started out peacefully but turned violent in Minneapolis and other cities, including Atlanta, which has been under a curfew for the last three days, as looting, burning and property destruction has ensued.
On Saturday, the Cobb, Marietta and Smyrna police departments issued a joint statementabout protests being planned in the county. On Sunday, peaceful protests took place in Kennesaw and in Marietta, during which protesters marched from Cobb Police headquarters to the Square.
On Sunday night, Howard and Davis participated in a peaceful protest in Smyrna. Another protest is taking place in the city of Marietta on Monday.
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The Cobb County School District announced Monday that it’s in the process of scheduling in-person graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020, following new COVID-19 health guidance in Georgia.
But those commencement exercises will be for students only, “with strict Department of Public Health protocols in place,” and at only two venues: Wheeler High School in East Cobb and Harrison High School in West Cobb.
The district said in a release Monday afternoon more details will be announced by Friday, and did not indicate when the graduations will take place. Each ceremony will be livestreamed for parents and the public.
The district said 3,000-seat gyms at Wheeler and Harrison “will allow for proper social distance protocols, predictable weather, and technical ability to livestream.”
Health protocols include temperature checks and symptom screening for all students before they’re allowed entry to the gyms. All attendees will be asked to wear masks and there will be multiple hand hygiene stations.
Cobb County Tax Commissioner Carl Jackson said Monday all tag offices in the county will be reopening next Monday, June 8, at their usual Monday-Friday times from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
That includes the location at the East Cobb Government Service Center (above) at 4400 Lower Roswell Road.
If you choose to renew your tag in person, they’re asking you to check in with your name or mobile number. Instead of staying in the waiting area, you’ll wait in your car and receive a text message notifying you to come in for service:
“For businesses requiring an in-person visit, the office staff will follow recommendations of social distancing for safe interactions and use personal protective equipment. We are also encouraging visitors to wear a face mask for in-office visits.”
June 15 is the extended deadline for vehicle registrations that were due to expire when COVID-19 prompted closures in March, so Jackson warned that wait times are expected to be longer than usual.
Jackson said Cobb processes around 40,000 in-person tag renewals every month, and encourages vehicle owners to use e-services, tag kiosks, drop boxes, and mail.
Due date for all checked-out library materials extended to June 10. There are no late fees on materials originally due during the library system’s closure. The due date for all checked-out materials is extended to June 10. Upcoming reopening phases also include curbside services weekdays at seven libraries starting June 10 to enable patrons to pick up reserved holds. The locations are the Mountain View, East Cobb, South Cobb, West Cobb, North Cobb, Sewell Mill and Vinings libraries. You can call our customer service department at (770) 528-2326 or email your question or comments to our customer service department at [email protected]
This is part of what the Cobb library system is calling Library Express, in which patrons can return materials to outdoor book drops at most branches and place holds for materials online.
Those curbside pickup hours will be from 10-8 Monday and 10-6 Tuesday-Friday, and you’re asked to call at least an hour ahead before coming to pick up materials. You’ll also need to have an ID and your library card once you arrive at your branch.
One other note: If you’re a Gritters Library patron, you can order holds online and pick up those materials at the Mountain View branch.
The Cobb Police Department issued a statement Saturday night with the Marietta Police Department and the Smyrna Police Department about planned protests in the county stemming from the death of a black man in police custody in Minnesota earlier this week.
The death of George Floyd, who was shown face down on the ground handcuffed, with a white officer kneeling on his neck for nearly 10 minutes, sparked violent protests in several major cities, including Minneapolis, where the incident took place.
Several nights of protests in that city included burning property and police cars, vandalizing stores and storming a police precinct.
Atlanta was the scene of protests Friday night that included vandalizing and looting CNN Center and other businesses in Centennial Olympic Park and in Buckhead.
On Saturday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms imposed a curfew that began at 9 p.m. and expires at sunrise Sunday and Georgia National Guard troops have been called in. Similar curfews have been ordered in other cities.
In the joint statement, the three police departments said this about possible protests in Cobb County:
“We have been in contact with a few individuals representing groups that are planning peaceful protests within our jurisdictions. Some of the organizers have expressed concern that outside agitators may try to hijack their plans for a peaceful event. Therefore we recommend anyone else planning protests to communicate and partner with their local law enforcement agencies to maintain the safety of all involved.”
The statement didn’t specify where and when any protests may take place.
East Cobb News has asked Cobb Police if any protests are planned in its jurisdiction and will update that when/if we hear back.
The Cobb police departments said they cannot discuss with the media or the public how they’re preparing for possible violence:
“We have plans in place and we want to remind any who plan to use the peaceful protests as a means to break the law, we will be ready to protect peaceful protestors, residents, and business owners and to arrest and charge any and all who break the law within our respective jurisdictions.”
They urged anyone seeing criminal activity to call 911. “Rest assured, all three departments are and remain passionate about protecting our residents and business owners. Any criminal acts will result in arrest and prosecution according to the law.”
The four Minneapolis officers on the scene at the time of Floyd’s death were terminated, and the officer seen kneeling on the victim was charged with third-degree murder. It’s the latest in a series of deaths of black men by police in recent years that have resulted in protests around the country.
But little has been as violent as what’s taken place this week.
In Brunswick, in south Georgia, three men, including a former investigator with the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office, have been charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was jogging in a neighborhood when he was killed in February.
Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes has been appointed to take over the prosecution of the case that, like the George Floyd case, took on national importance when video footage emerged.
Among the violent episodes Saturday include police deploying tear gas near the White House to stave off protestors in Washington, D.C., and demonstrators setting City Hall on fire in Nashville. On Friday, two police officers were shot in Oakland, Calif., one of them fatally.
Protestors appeared near the Georgia governor’s mansion in Atlanta Saturday but were dispersed by police before the curfew began.
The Cobb police departments also said this Saturday night:
“For the record, all three of our departments remain strongly opposed to any form of injustice, racism, or brutality. We are deeply concerned and have taken steps to not only protect everyone’s first amendment right to free speech and peaceful protest, but also to protect the life and liberty of our local citizens as well. Our three departments are working in conjunction to make sure the safety of everyone is maintained.”
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If you were eager to break the tedium of waiting out a public health emergency, it would have been hard to top the rumors of a sex shop possibly lining Johnson Ferry Road—our main thoroughfare here in fair East Cobb—that swirled about over the Memorial Day holiday.
My phone lines, inbox and text and social media messaging apps were on fire just as the exact people you’d need to contact to check out the story were disappearing for the long weekend.
I got what I could from publicly available sources, heard from plenty of East Cobbers who were hopping mad and even got an exasperated “what?” from the individual supposedly in the middle of all this.
On Memorial Day, Commissioner Bob Ott, hounded by what he said were more than 500 messages about the subject, cloaked his response to the Tokyo Valentinto rumors in a “Memorial Day Message” subject line.
He said that as long as the business opened as what it indicated—a clothing store—and met code requirements, there was nothing the county could do.
Nor could it do much if it later opened as an adult store, as happened last December in Sandy Springs. Local governments, he added, can’t come back retroactively and change their zoning codes to stop something like this.
When we broke the story on that holiday, it wasn’t all that I wanted that story to be, but it was more than enough to stoke an even bigger fury from some East Cobb citizens.
But do they speak for the entire community? While many of us come here for safe neighborhoods, good schools and a family-oriented way of life, who’s to say there’s not a market for an adult store?
When I started checking reader comments to this story—always a good idea when you’re running a family community news site—I found some intriguing views. Including this little exchange on the East Cobb NewsFacebook page:
“Perhaps if customers of the store had photos of their cars or their photo taken as they exited the store and the photos were posted on social media it might embarrass them and discourage them from shopping there.”
Rebuffed, in a flash:
“Sure—let’s get Amazon to release what they send to your house, mmmkay?”
“Clutch those pearls, ladies! How many of you read 50 Shades of Grey?”
I checked out some other local social media channels, which certainly are dens of trolling. There’s Nextdoor, which is even more unhinged than Facebook, even though users are required to identify their neighborhood.
An opponent of an adult store asked a simple, age-old question that goes to the classic argument over how to determine community standards:
“What would it add to the community?”
A sampling of the replies:
“A great sex life.”
“Live and let live.”
“Find something better to do with your time.”
“I’m all for it. Why drive all the way down to Fulton and DeKalb county to get your gear? Keep the sales taxes here in Cobb.”
“I might just have to go to the grand opening of this place solely because everyone is acting like this is a 1620s Puritan village whose morals would undoubtedly be destroyed by a store that sells porn and adult toys to adults.”
“It’s a date. I’ll wear my scarlet letter.”
What some East Cobbers may not know is that we’ve had a sex shop in our area for quite a few years now, and seemingly without incident.
No, not the Tokyo Valentino store pictured at the top that opened on Cobb Parkway two years ago, not far from the Big Chicken.
But even closer than that. It’s called Elations, and it’s on Powers Ferry Road near Roswell Road, facing the shopping center where Harry’s Farmers Market once was. It’s also in the city of Marietta and has been there for years. Before that, another adult store was in the same location for a number of years.
Judging by the car traffic when I passed by on Saturday, Elations does a pretty good business. It makes no bones about the adult erotica items it sells, but also prominently promotes CBD items and “smoking accessories,” which as one of my readers pointed out to me, probably keeps it in business.
An East Cobb resident I talked to this week says if something like that comes to Johnson Ferry, it will “spread like the Coronavirus.”
While Elations is in a commercial area that’s been run-down, it’s actually closer to a nearby residential community than 1290 Johnson Ferry Road.
Those homes may not be in the same price range as Princeton Walk, but it’s where people live and are raising families.
Nothing else like Elations has spread in the vicinity. It sits across a parking lot from the Marietta Burger Bar, and Williamson Bros. BBQ and Hoyle’s Kitchen & Bar are nearby.
Another reader who mentioned Elations chimed in thusly:
“If they don’t shop there; it’ll go OUT of business. Pretty straightforward. Maybe stop making up imaginary crises and focus on real things that need to be dealt with.”
To which he got this response:
“I’m not against these stores, I just don’t like them in my neighborhood. It’s a fair opinion.”
Tokyo Valentino also sells “smoking accessories” at its Marietta store and five others owned by Atlanta adult retail impresario Michael Morrison. Since 1995 he’s had an adult store on Cheshire Bridge Road and Piedmont Road, and he’s battled the city of Atlanta almost as long.
It’s where video rooms and private bedrooms and massage suites can be rented out—on top of an admission charge of $20 minimum (all of his other stores are strictly retail).
When I reached Morrison last week—as he was hiking in Arizona—about an East Cobb store, he said he had no idea what I was referring to. When I asked him about the 1290 Clothing Store application, he said he knew nothing about it.
He’s said elsewhere that business associates may have been working on a “sub project” without his knowledge, and he doesn’t know what may go in the old Mattress Firm space.
That story clearly doesn’t sit well with a lot of East Cobbers. Morrison’s name is on the business incorporation documents. The new owner of the old mattress store building is a Miami entrepreneur who has adult retail business interests. Morrison’s past includes prison time for tax evasion.
His Sandy Springs store also was originally going to be for dancers’ clothing, but now is a Tokyo Valentino store.
Cobb commissioners got an earful about this during the public comment session at their regular meeting Tuesday, but none of them responded. Even to allegations that 1290 Clothing may have gotten its business license in dubious fashion.
When I asked Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce this week if it’s possible the county could invalidate the business license, he said “We’re looking into it.”
A factor for the county also would be whether it would want to get entangled with Morrison, who has a continuing lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and disputes with other local governments.
That might be the biggest headache associated with having an adult store in East Cobb. It would be a new jurisdiction for him to test in the courts, as well as a new retail market.
At the East Cobb SNOBs Facebook page, some were trying to put this into perspective, and just have a little social media fun:
“In a world where men are murdered for their skin color, I’m not going to lose any sleep for having to lie to my kid about what ‘adult toys’ are.”
“Hey at least it will be considered an essential business for the next lockdown.”
“Isn’t Johnson Ferry tacky enough?”
At the EAST COBBER, which was kind enough to link to our story that broke this all out into the open:
“This can’t happen in East Cobb!! They should put in a cute little bakery/coffee shop. That is what we need!!”
“Sounds like some of y’all need a sex shop in the area so you can loosen up a little bit.”
“I smell a rat. Funny how this shop wants to move in (in the middle of a pandemic) *just* as there is a push for East Cobb cityhood. Could this be a ploy to get people to support cityhood, ergo stricter zoning?”
“Sex is healthy. I feel for your partners.”
“Not all of us need a sex shop to be happy with our partners. I feel sad for your partner that you need more.”
You get the drift. As I said, social media invites this sort of thing, although I do think it shows that there’s not unanimous condemnation of an adult store.
A few more business reopenings to note, as more restaurants are now serving in their dining rooms, gyms are welcoming back clients for in-person classes and more.
Dan Edmonds, general manager of the East Cobb Tavern (Shallowford Corners) says starting Monday, you can sit down and eat inside, with regular hours back to 11 a.m. to p.m.. They’re also continuing takeout and curbside service, which continues from 3-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Also on Monday, Mezza Luna Pasta & Seafood (Pavilions at East Lake) is reopening its dining room with limited seating and reservations only
The CycleBar East Cobb (Parkaire Landing) reopened over the Memorial Day weekend, and is gradually adding classes and offering summer specials to students and teachers;
At Paradise Grille (Highland Plaza), the indoor dining room is closed, but starting tonight they’re having weekly live music on the patio. South of the Border’s dining room has reopened.
The dining rooms of all 3 East Cobb locations of J. Christopher’s have reopened, for usual breakfast-lunch-brunch service between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.;
When the pandemic struck McCray’s Tavern was making plans to move into the former Loyal Q space at Parkaire Landing. After several weeks, there’s no specific opening date that’s been announced yet but they’ve been conducting interviews and are saying for now they’re opening soon.
Proprietor Scott McCray also has been busy preparing his new Marietta Square restaurant, Mac’s Chophouse, to open in the former Shilling’s space.
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After more than three decades as a police officer in Cobb County, Ricci Mason believes the time for supporting public safety workers has been long overdue.
After retiring from the Cobb County Police Department last year, Mason has decided to push for that change as a first-time candidate for political office.
A former officer in Precinct 4 in East Cobb, Mason is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Mike Boyce (profile here) in the Republican primary June 9 for Cobb Commission Chairman, along with Larry Savage (profile here).
“There’s a lot of wasteful spending,” Mason said. “But my biggest reason [for running] is public safety. It’s just not been a priority.”
Mason lives in Acworth and is a member of Eastside Baptist Church in East Cobb.
During his campaign, he has recited many of the arguments public safety advocates have been making in pushing for support for police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel.
“New officers are leaving in droves,” Masson said in impassioned tones. “Police hadn’t had raise in 10 years. We’ve been taken advantage of.”
The police department is around 100 officers short, “and we’ve failed to fill those positions.”
Salary and benefit packages as well as retention issues have been festering for years, he said, undermining the message on a patch officers wear that’s visible to the public: “We lead, others follow.”
“Right now, that’s being mocked,” said Mason, who also was an officer in the Marietta Police Department.
Cobb commissioners have taken initial steps to address some of those concerns with a one-time bonus and approval of a step-and-grade salary structure for public safety personnel, but Mason isn’t impressed.
He said a Cobb police sergeant he knows said his raise amount to eight cents an hour.
“That’s a slap in the face,” Mason said, adding that step-and-grade is “irrelevant. Until you can give younger officers some motivation to stay, it’s not going to matter.”
Among the public safety concerns is that Cobb, which has a highly-praised police training center, spends a lot of money training officers, then losing them to nearby cities and counties that offer better pay and benefits.
“It costs $80,000 to train an officer, and it ends up costing us more when we lose them,” Mason said.
He said Boyce has had three years to address the problem and thinks he’s coming along too late to do much good.
“You deserve to be protected,” Mason said. “But that promise has dissolved like a dirty rag in water.”
To address the issue, Mason said he would look across the county budget to find more financial resources, and thinks “there are a lot of things that are wants ahead of needs.”
He pointed to things like libraries, which got some expanded hours after the 2018 budget was approved with a millage rate increase.
Mason said he’s not against libraries, but wondered about recent decisions to being reopening libraries “when officers on the street, who are considered essential workers, aren’t getting anything.”
He was referencing a proposal before the commissioners to provide hazard pay for public safety and other county employees on frontline COVID-19 duty. That proposal has been put on hold while the number of workers and the amount of funding is determined.
The county will soon have to deal with the financial impact of much lower tax revenues, making public safety funding even more acute, as Mason sees it. Budgeting figures to become even more painful, but “you have to go across the board and sit down with all of the department heads.
“We are definitely in uncharted waters, but we’ve got to stabilize the cornerstone of the county [meaning public safety] before we can do anything else.”
Addressing county transportation issues is another priority for Mason, especially the condition of county roads.
As a former motorcycle officer, Mason said “I know where all the potholes are” and says “I can’t remember when the roads were really taken care of.”
A referendum on the November ballot to extend the Cobb SPLOST is devoted to road resurfacing projects, but Mason says other road maintenance and transportation issues also aren’t being properly addressed.
On zoning matters, Mason thinks that given current circumstances, “we need to slow down on building” at least for the time being.
“I want people to be safe and healthy and thrive for themselves,” he said. “We need to help people get back on their feet again and show them that they care.”
In a 2010 special election, Savage pulled 38 percent of the vote against Lee, who was elected to fill the last two years of former chairman Sam Olens’ term. In a four-man GOP field in 2012, Savage was last with 10 percent, trailing Lee, Boyce and another former chairman Bill Byrne.
In 2016, Savage also got 10 percent, enough to force a runoff between Lee and Boyce.
Savage was especially critical of how Lee handled the Atlanta Braves deal, filing a lawsuit, later dismissed, over the bond financing for what is now Truist Park.
But he thinks Boyce has not been fiscally responsible.
“Paramount is the money part—spending has gone up $100 million since he took office,” Savage said. “Those are big numbers.”
He’s dubbing his campaign “The Savage Truth,” and claims to be the true conservative in the Republican primary.
“He is probably the most politically liberal person on the board,” Savage said, referring to Boyce, and including Lisa Cupid, who will face the Republican nominee for chairman in November.
“If you look at their records, it’s almost indistinguishable,” Savage said. “Both emerged with the idea that government can do things that I don’t think government should do.”
(On his campaign website, Savage has highlighted comments he made to a Cobb Republican caucus meeting in February: “Let’s not run our liberal Republican against their liberal Democrat.”)
More than anything, Savage said Boyce hasn’t handled the financial management of county government very well.
He disputes Boyce’s contention that he came into office with a $30 million deficit, thanks to a millage rate reduction by the board on the day Boyce defeated Lee in the 2016 runoff. “He overspent the budget he had and that created the hole.”
As for the 2018 millage rate increase that Boyce pushed through on a 3-2 vote, Savage said “that wasn’t just a little nudge. I think that that increase could have been smaller or not at all.”
On an initiative that Savage supports, better pay and retention for police officers and firefighters, he said Boyce ended up promising raises to many more employees than he first announced.
“He’s got a problem telling people we’ve got a lot in reserve,” Savage said, adding that situation is more acute now with economic losses due to COVID-19 closures.
“One of the glories of government is that nobody is losing their jobs,” he said. “At the very least, just stop hiring” until a more clarified budget and economic picture emerges.
Savage said if he’s elected he’d also defer purchasing some equipment and halt some non-essential maintenance projects until conducting a thorough budget review.
“You’ve got to look at every department,” he said.
Savage also has been critical of tax abatements issued by the Development Authority of Cobb County. In 2018, he filed suit to stop the issuance of bonds sought by Kroger for a superstore at the MarketPlace Terrell Mill project that’s in progress.
A judge agreed with Savage that the tax breaks for Kroger didn’t meet the authority’s definition of an essential project. But last summer, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the bonds.
On broader development and zoning issues, Savage thinks the county land use plan isn’t followed like it should be, and he would work to limit high-density projects, including apartments in areas where single-family neighborhoods dominate.
The mixed-use trend that is being seeing in commercial areas like Powers Ferry Road is spreading to areas where he thinks it’s not compatible.
“Some parts of it I like, some I don’t like,” he said. “And when you have to address things like schools and traffic that add complexities to a development, it’s just turned zoning upside down.
“So many things about it contradict the zoning code, and it’s jumped in there all at once, without much of a debate or discussion.”
Savage acknowledged that Cobb is going to continue to attract development, “but what’s it going to be?”
He’s received endorsements from former Georgia GOP chairwoman Sue Everhart, a Cobb resident, and the Cobb County Republican Assembly, a group made up of fiscal and cultural conservatives.
Savage said he’s still running from a grassroots perspective, trying to appeal to those who favor low taxes and small government and are disenchanted with the incumbent.
“I have no natural constituencies, no big church or veterans groups behind me,” Savage said, referring to Boyce, a retired Marine colonel who attends Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church.
“People who got burned by Mike Boyce are backing me.”
Cobb County PARKS will reopen most of their facilities to residents starting June 1st, including outdoor playgrounds, restroom facilities, and Aquatic Centers. Many of these facilities will have public health restrictions in place that will help maintain recommended social distancing.
Following the Governor’s latest Executive Orders, Cobb PARKS is working with associations and athletic organizations to formulate COVID-19 response plans that will allow organized games to resume when their plans are approved. This could be as early as mid-June.
Parks rentals are still not available, but plans are underway to restart them soon. Night lighting at some facilities may not be immediately available but will be phased-in over the next several weeks.
The number of people using aquatic centers will be limited and swim lessons will not take place due to social distancing guidelines. Lanes will be available to rent for those wishing to secure a time.
Central Aquatic Center: June 1st: 15 swimmers (one per lane)
Mountain View Aquatic Center: June 1st: 25 swimmers (one per lane)
West Cobb Aquatic Center: June 1st: 10 Swimmers (one per lane and 2 in the deep water)
South Cobb Aquatic Center: June 1st: 5 swimmers (one per lane and 1 in the lazy river for exercising)
Seven Springs Waterpark: June 15th: 25% of capacity (125 swimmers per session)
Sewell Park Pool: June 15th: 20 swimmers (Splash Pad closed)
We will update the web site (www.cobbPARKS.org) and our Social Media Accounts with any changes in the pool hours and available activities.
Ever since he unseated Tim Lee as Cobb Commission Chairman in 2016, Mike Boyce has acknowledged what was behind it.
“They didn’t vote for Mike Boyce,” he says now, as he’s campaigning for re-election.
“They were ticked off by the Braves deal.”
Four years ago, Boyce, an East Cobb resident who also ran in 2012, rode anti-Lee sentiment to capture the Republican primary.
Four years ago, Boyce didn’t have a Democratic opponent, but if he should prevail in a three-way GOP primary on June 9, he would face commissioner Lisa Cupid.
His primary opponents are East Cobb resident Larry Savage, a previous chairman candidate who has challenged the county legally on the Braves deal and business tax breaks, and retired Cobb police officer Ricci Mason, a first-time candidate.
“I have to run on my record,” Boyce said. “Before, I was selling an idea.”
Boyce said he’s proud to tout that record: Preserving the county’s AAA bond rating (via a 2018 property tax increase unpopular with some Republican voters), taking the first measures toward a step-and-grade pay policy for public safety employees and enhancing quality of life with additional park land purchases and expanding library hours.
“People move here for the amenities, and look what we have done for public safety,” Boyce said, referring to three pay raises as well as the first steps in a new compensation and retention plan for police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies.
“We faced a $30 million shortfall before I ever took office,” he said. “We came within an inch of losing our AAA rating,” the highest issued by creditors and highly desired by public bodies (the Cobb County School District also is rated AAA) when it borrows for short-term loans and bond issues.
Boyce said the county’s reserves were down to $10 million as well, and now it enjoys a $125 million contingency.
For the fiscal year 2021 budget that takes effect on October, Boyce is proposing to hold the line on the millage rate and continue with public safety pay measures. A merit pay raise for county employees is off the table, due to the economic hit to come from closures related to COVID-19.
Having that money on hand now, Boyce said, is vital.
“This isn’t just a rainy day,” he said. “It’s a rainy year.”
The county’s diversified business base also should help, but Boyce acknowledges it’s still a little early to tell “what the consequences of a loss of jobs, a loss of tax revenue will be.”
Continuing the work of addressing public safety issues would be a cornerstone of a second term for Boyce, who said “we have to show our first responders that this won’t be a one and done.”
If he should advance to the November ballot, a local referendum for Cobb voters will be on there too, asking whether to extend the Cobb SPLOST, which Boyce has stressed with road resurfacing and transportation projects, as well as other parks and recreation improvements.
When asked if he felt confident about the SPLOST’s chances of passing, Boyce said a 5-0 vote by commissioners this week to finalize the project list “was a big step. The board understands the importance of this. The emphasis on the roads really hits a sweet spot.”
Boyce also acknowledges he’s never been the candidate of choice by his party establishment. In 2016, Lee had GOP backing as the incumbent, as well as from business leaders.
During the tax increase debate, the Cobb Republican Party formally opposed it, and some critics have alleged all along that Boyce, a retired Marine colonel, is a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
Former Georgia GOP chairwoman Sue Everhart, a Cobb resident, and the Cobb County Republican Assembly, a group made up of fiscal and cultural conservatives, have endorsed Savage.
“I’ve just accepted the fact that they’re not in my corner,” Boyce said. “The only people who matter are all the voters.”
When he was first elected, the changes in the county’s demographics began to be revealed, as Cobb voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Democrats will be unified behind Cupid, who’s attempting to become the first Democrat to lead county government since Ernest Barrett in the early 1980s.
Boyce said he’s proud to run on a pledge to continue a set of broad-based priorities, with voters across the county in mind.
“I know I’ve done what’s in the best interests of the county,” he said.
Starting Monday and all next week, East Cobb voters will be able to cast their primary ballots in-person closer to home as early voting expands.
You’ll be able to vote at the East Cobb Government Service Center (4400 Lower Roswell Road) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. It’s one of three additional early voting locations that will be open in the county, in addition to the Cobb Elections office in Marietta.
There won’t be any early voting next Saturday, June 7, as well as Monday, June 8, the day before the election.
If you do vote next week, Cobb Elections is saying that it will be following CDC social guidelines regarding COVID-19, and to expect to wait in lines that may be longer than is typical.
Cobb Elections is strongly encouraging voters to cast absentee ballots, and you can either send yours via traditional mail or deposit it at a designated drop box at the East Cobb Government Service Center.
That can be done anytime, as long as it’s by 7 p.m. on election day, Tuesday, June 9.
However you vote, you’ll be asked for one of three ballot options: Democratic, Republican or non-partisan.
The latter is for judicial races, both local and state, and you won’t be able to vote for candidates of either major party.
Democratic and Republican ballots have the non-partisan judicial races included. Here are the sample ballots from Cobb Elections:
These ballots are countywide composites and contain candidates who may not appear on your actual ballot. You can download a precise sample ballot at the My Voter Page from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
What’s on the ballot?
East Cobb voters have several contested primaries in partisan races, including Republican primaries for Cobb Commission Chairman and Cobb Commission District 2, as well as Democratic and Republican primaries for Cobb school board Post 5.
There’s also a Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District race and a Democratic primary for State House District 46.
In countywide races, contested primaries include Democrats in the Cobb Sheriff’s race and Democrats and Republicans for Superior Court Clerk. Non-partisan races are taking place for three seats on Cobb Superior Court and one on Cobb State Court.
There’s a large field of Democrats pursuing their party’s nomination to face Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. David Perdue in November.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to succeed the retired Jiohnny Isakson, won’t be on the primary ballot. The election to determine who fills the final two years of Isakson’s term will be decided in a jungle primary in November, with candidates of both parties. She’s one of them, along with Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
The Democratic presidential primary also is scheduled, and like the local and state primaries has been delayed by COVID-19 closures. Even before that happened, however, former vice president Joe Biden had virtually wrapped up the party nomination.
He’ll be listed as one of a dozen candidates on the Democratic ballot, most of whom dropped out not long after the primaries began in February.
Party straw polls
If you choose a ballot from one of the major parties, you’ll also be asked questions that respective party leaders, either local or state, have formulated to gauge where their constituency stands on certain issues.
Democratic voters will be asked 12 questions about climate change; environmental protection; election-day registration; non-partisan redistricting; cash bail; voting rights for convicted felons; a Cobb one-cent transportation sales tax; Cobb MARTA expansion; background checks for buying firearms; senior exemption for school taxes; a Cobb non-discrimination ordinance and prioritizing affordable housing priorities for the elderly and disabled, low-income earners, teachers and first responders in Cobb County.
The Republican ballot has four questions related to educational vouchers, limiting voting in Republican primaries to registered Republican voters, partisan declarations for Cobb school board candidates and whether Cobb should be a Second Amendment “sanctuary county.”