Cobb Commission: I’m Voting For “Healthy Conflict”

I’m writing about this race instead of some others that I can vote for specifically because it is local.  I’ve long since advocated that people need to spend more time looking at those who govern us at the State and Local levels, and less about our President.  It’s the State and Local elected officials that have a much greater opportunity to affect our every day lives.  We also have more power to change these races. I’ve spent the last ten years drilling well into the state scene. I’ve been in Cobb County for the better part of seven years now, and am just figuring out how the local government works. Time to fix that.

We have two contested races for our 5 member County Commission.  Our Chairman, Tim Lee, faces two opponents in a county wide race.  My district Commissioner, Bob Ott, is also facing a primary.

Lee and Ott are often on the opposite ends of votes. They’ve disagreed quite a bit, with their disagreements sometimes spilling over into public.  Such is politics with high stakes.  How big is Cobb County after all?  It has a population that puts it larger than Wyoming, Vermont the District of Columbia and Alaska.  Thus, the issues and the budget dollars involved in these disagreements are not trivial, and affect about three quarters of a million people.

How much this affected not only those of us who call Cobb home, but the rest of Metro Atlanta and the State, became clear when a deal to bring the Braves to almost my doorstep was announced. It is “the” issue of this race.

That said, what Cobb is like ten and fifty years from now will depend on how the County chooses to manage our next chapter. The Braves will be part of that chapter. This decision has already been made.

With that in mind that I approached a forum I was asked to moderate several weeks back for the Cobb County Republican Women. While the number of questions I got to ask was limited, I was able to approach both races for once at an undecided voter. I didn’t know Bob Ott’s challenger and was open to his case. Sadly, he chose not to make one.

Jonathan Page’s answers were straight from Donald Trump’s script. Had he been Donald Trump, that may have been appropriate. Instead, on a question from the AJC’s Jim Galloway, his vision for Cobb’s transportation future was “to hire smart people”. Sometimes lawyers make great candidates. Sometimes their training to be able to answer a question by being willfully evasive is off putting. The latter was the case with Mr. Page.

His main gripe with Bob Ott was that he was tired of his commissioner being on the losing end of 4-1 votes. He was less than successful at explaining how he would bring others to his viewpoint, given that he wasn’t willing to directly share any of his exact views. I’m told Page is smart. He’s also young, so he’ll likely be around for a while. I’m hoping that should he stay in politics he ditch his overly consulted yet meaningless answers and tell voters what he would actually like to accomplish should he run for office again, whether he is elected this time or not.

Page has also tried to question Ott’s commitment to public safety, mostly over Ott’s votes against various budgets (that he believed spent too much). Yet Ott has received the endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police. That’s not the kind of thing usually thrown out to someone that is anti-law enforcement.

In short, Ott has a good conservative record. One may argue that it is “too conservative”, but it’s a record, and it is one that you can see is of a man who takes his job seriously, counts the pennies, and demands answers to tough questions. His opponent…wants Cobb to win again, or something. Ott is an easy choice.

The race for Chairman is a bit tougher. Four years ago I voted for Boyce in the primary, only to vote for Lee in the runoff. The runoff choice then was to vote for Lee or Bill Byrne. I decided to stick with Lee, and someone who at least projected he would be looking forward.

If there’s been a constant knock on Lee during his full term in office, it’s that even when he did the right thing, he often seemed to do that in the wrong way. In politics, perception is reality and Lee’s own accomplishments continue to be dogged by the perception of how they have been done.

Lee’s opponents have both made the Braves stadium an issue. Larry Savage made it clear at the forum I participated in that he still believed the stadium financing is illegal and he will continue to fight it. That is now a settled question, both by the county and by the Supreme Court of Georgia. I considered his answer disqualifying.

Which brings me back to another question of Lee vs. Boyce. I specifically asked a question of the three for “what’s next?”. The stadium is coming, so how do we maximize the advantages and/or minimize the risk to taxpayers going forward? Boyce, unfortunately, decided to dismiss the question and use his time to again complain about how the stadium was approved. Cobb will have too many issues on the table in the next four years to spend it lamenting the last.

Cobb County is a dynamic, growing county. Since I first came to work here out of college, the county has almost doubled in size. We have elements of rural farmland (at least a little left) and urban office/industrial. We have pockets of wealth and those of poverty. We have tremendous opportunity ahead of us, but we need not take excessive risks for taxpayers.

For me, the best solution to maximize the opportunity and minimize the risk is to return both incumbents to the commission. Tim Lee can continue to push the envelope for Cobb to achieve, while Ott can continue to ask the tough question that taxpayers need to have answers to. The two of them can push each other, and hopefully make each other a better commissioner by doing so.

It is my hope that both have learned from this term that the two of them share similar goals, but quite differing approaches. Chairman Lee would serve himself and the people of Cobb much better by working with, not around Ott. If the two can grow toward mutual trust, Cobb can not only achieve it’s full potential, but do so with the perception that we did it the right way as well.


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