The Highly Entertaining Nov. 13, 2012 Commissioner Bob Ott Town Hall Meeting

Taxes, re-districting, and misinformation about the Senior School Exemption were mentioned but without context or accuracy

A Bob Ott  Town Hall meeting reflects the personality of the warm and outgoing Commissioner. He gives Rep. Sharon Cooper a few minutes for a cameo appearance. He generally answers all questions and has the room ringed with county officials (fire, police, transportation, and development) to answer any question that he can’t off the top of his head. Generally someone will ask about zoning for chickens or Mr. Ott will bring up the subject himself. He is like someone who uses the same joke over and over because he knows it is guaranteed to bring a smile. Chicken zoning is also good time filler.

The County Commission isn’t responsible for public education and it doesn’t get mentioned often. Taxes are a different matter and Mr. Ott stays away from this potential minefield by always being against any taxes increases, especially on those who can afford it, which keeps the Tea Party and other Republican groups from getting upset. The give and take of ideas might make them better informed but Mr. Ott does not take on that civic responsibility. Debates are for campaigns, if at all.

For instance, one nice lady wanted an end to the regressive transfer of 10% of water department revenues to the general fund even though it was probably to her advantage. If the transfer of funds were eliminated, to get the same level of services that we demand, additional funds would have to be found.

Increase the property tax? That kind of talk would have started a riot. Without informed discussion, most people in the room probably did not realize that the water funds transfer was regressive and fell more on the wallets of the poor and middle class and the transfer to the general fund came to the benefit of the more affluent. The water fund transfer keeps pressure off a property tax increase because it adds funding for basic county infrastructure without asking the more affluent to contribute their fair share via the property tax.

I wouldn’t have minded if that nice lady had said, “I’m greedy and don’t want to contribute more to the community. Let the poor and middle class pay for my schools, roads, libraries, parks, and other basic infrastructure.” That would have shown some knowledge of the tax system and made some sense in a selfish sort of way but getting rid of a tax just because it is a tax makes no sense outside the Tea Party.

Commissioner Ott made sure the discussion didn’t go any further. He agreed that elimination of the water revenue to the general fund helped keep property taxes down but that he wouldn’t let our incredibly low property taxes go up. He would find savings, if needed, somewhere like privatizing some county workers, since the private sector is cheaper and more efficient than any government. The Republican audience affirmed this basic credo by replying with some softly spoken “amen’s” to this widely believed bit of misinformation.

I wonder if the public servants who surrounded the room noticed the irony of Mr. Ott’s pandering to the affluent in the room at the expense of public servants who provide the amenities that make life in East Cobb so nice.

Our dear Representative, Sharon Cooper, made her usual statement. It seems that the Republicans are incredibly cleaver and have taken every East Cobb legislator with a district that borders on Fulton County and redistricted them so that they would have a few precincts in Fulton County making them automatic members of the Fulton County legislative caucus. When the predominately Democratic Fulton legislative Caucus wakes up, they will find new people, East Cobb Republican people, in the Fulton County legislative caucus.

So what? This Sunday morning on the local news I heard again how Republicans in Fulton County wanted to divide the county with the creation of a new Milton County. The Republicans can’t do that. First, they would need a majority of the Fulton County legislative caucus to go along with the plan. Oops, that is what Rep. Cooper said and I don’t know if she knows the significance of her own words.

A large misstatement by my representative is about the Cobb senior exemption for school taxes. She said that if the Democrats get in power, the first thing that they would do is get rid of the exemption. I know more elected Democrats than Rep. Cooper and have never ever heard one talk about removing the Cobb senior exemption for school taxes. I’ve heard a few Democrats say that they were eligible for the exemption but didn’t take it because quality public education is the foundation of our strong economy in Cobb County and needs support. I’m eligible for the exemption and don’t take it because I am proud to pay my school taxes. If Rep. Cooper is on a fixed income and needs all the tax relief she can get then she should use the exemption. I wouldn’t want her new Mercedes-Benz to go without safe tires and her very large house and yard to go without landscaping or roof repair.

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