May 30, 2014
By Field Searcy, TrafficTruth.net
Last Tuesday night, the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a contract for $168,000 to the local firm Garrett McNatt Hennessey & Carpenter to lobby for federal government grants and influence at the state capitol. Moments earlier the BOC had closed out public comment on any topic after hearing 12 supporters shower praise, admiration and thanks on the Cobb BOC for negotiating the funding for public financing of a private sports team. Not one dissenting comment could be heard on any other county business because the BOC had closed out any further public comment. Even after asking the county manager and two commissioners for permission to speak on the lobbyist contract, Chairman Lee wanted to know why I waited until that night and that he’d “think about it”. I told him that the agenda was not dropped until after business hours on Friday. This shows a lack of leadership and disenfranchises citizens of their right to speak, period.
Under the Georgia Constitution, Section I, Paragraph IX, the people have a right to petition those vested with the powers of government for redress of grievances. That is, in all counties except Cobb, where the people were also blocked from opposing comment on a seemingly small outsourced contract for lobbying services.
The $168,000 contract seems insignificant in comparison to the larger Braves financing deal but the impact could be just as big. One of the main lobbying efforts for the county would be for federal assistance on a $500 billion dollar bus rapid transit (BRT) system that would run from the Arts Center in downtown Atlanta to Kennesaw State University. The BRT system will likely require additional tax revenue to subsidize the total cost and ongoing operation of the project.
That’s the problem. Taking federal grants and incentives in the first place usually obligate taxpayers to additional unfunded expenditures. It’s not appropriate to spend taxpayer money to lobby for incentives that will ultimately cost the taxpayer more money on projects they may not want. But then again, Chairman Lee is not concerned about what the citizens want, just as long as the Chamber of Commerce and Cumberland CID (both unelected organizations) get their agenda passed.
Research handed out by the Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC), a group which fought the TSPLOST in 2012 and was successful in blocking passage in 9 out of 12 regions, shows that taxpayers are already paying elected officials a combined $10,027,596 annually for elected representation at the federal, state and local level.