Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s closing remarks at the state-mandated public hearing on the proposed millage rate increase highlighted the effects of past millage rate cuts on services and employees. She defended the proposed 1.7 mill increase and responded to some of the comments that were made during the public hearing. Below is a transcript of her closing. The video of her closing statement is at the bottom of this article.
Lisa Cupid’s closing remarks
I appreciate everyone who’s here today. I have thoroughly appreciated all the comments that have been shared, with respect to our millage, with respect to everyone’s heart towards Cobb County, with everyone’s heart toward the prosperity of the county, with everyone’s heart towards the sustainability of Cobb County, with everyone’s heart towards the future of Cobb County.
And it makes my heart full that you would take time out of your day. You could be concerned about what’s going on under the roof of your own home, but you but you’re here today, and that means something to me.
I’m here and compelled to think that those of you who are here today are here because someone invested in you. And because someone invested in you, you care enough to invest in this process.
And I believe because of the investments being made in Cobb, that no one had to worry about getting here on their own today. For anyone who drove here, they didn’t have to pave the road to get here. For anyone that came into this building, they didn’t have to worry about how the heat and lights here going to come on today. For those who are viewing this at home, you didn’t have to worry about how you’re going to see this on TV or televised.
It takes a lot of people to make this work. It takes a lot of investment to make this work.
Saddened and disheartened
As much as my heart is full to hear the input of everyone here, I’m somewhat saddened I’m saddened because I hear a sentiment in this room repeated over and over again that reflects that because you don’t see something with your own eyes, or because something may not be of significance or of value in your own home, that it must have no purpose or value. Or it’s of limited purpose to the function of our community here in Cobb.
I’m disheartened by the limited thought we have towards how the wondrous things that make life work, and make this work.
I’m disheartened by that, and disappointed.
Past arbitrary millage rate cuts
I’ve been serving … this is my sixth year. When I came on board, I was told that the commissioners made a commitment to cut the millage rate point two every year, when the budget was cut in 2011.
We didn’t do that with the painstaking detail that’s being made on how we arrived at this 1.7. We were just told this number: point two, cut point two. Nobody said point two is going to be associated with this service, point two’s going to have this impact. I don’t know, I wasn’t here, and I don’t know how painful it was to have increased the millage the way that it was increased during the recession.
But I do know that the arbitrariness of not tying that to direct services has caused people to believe that somehow, there’s an arbitrariness to us valuing the level of services that we’re trying preserve with this 1.7.
The chairman went through a lot of work, paying for the sins perhaps of those in years prior.
But I do know when we were cutting back millage, we didn’t have this room filled with people, even cheerleading us on. It was just business as usual, as we cut the millage and cut the millage.
There was no regard for how the employees were going to continue to provide the same level of services that people expected here in Cobb. No consideration for them.
There was no consideration for the degradation of services when everybody was excited about the Braves stadium. We weren’t even back to restoring things to the service levels that were around prior to the recession. I remember people of district 4 coming to me and asking ‘Commissioner Cupid, why didn’t you ask for this … why aren’t you doing that? Why aren’t you asking for this? …’
And people would come and ask for basic services, but we weren’t back to pre-recession levels as far as Cobb County services are concerned.
But all of a sudden we had the ability to fund a new stadium.
I’m am not knocking the choice that we made. But what I believe is that when we want to do something, when something really is of value to us up here, we will do it. We will do it.
So I’m beginning to wonder what we really value up here. I’m tired … I’m really just… This whole process gets to be very frustrating to me, year after year.
People say, “Where are the cuts?” Drive through my district. See the grass that comes to your waist or your shoulders. Those are the cuts.
Where are the cuts? The cuts are the children that have assignments, or mothers like me when I finally pick up my children from school, and I can’t make it to the library on time.
Where are the cuts? The cuts are in the promise of police vehicles that we have promised to our officers and they haven’t gotten them yet.
Where are the cuts? The cuts are the body cameras that do not outfit all of our police officers.
Where are the cuts? The cuts are in a fleet that when they presented their budget to us they said that they were in jeopardy of not being able to renew certain licenses to run all their vehicles.
Where are the cuts? The cuts are in senior buses that we were told have holes in the bottom of them … our senior vans.
Where are the cuts? The cuts are in those that ride those empty buses that you can’t see anybody in, who are there waiting in the dark, who walk a mile with their two children in tow, at night, without lights. Because … we just haven’t even put the money into investing into our service enough for that bus to run regularly … for there to even be reliability beyond 60 percent of the time.
Where are the cuts? We feel them every day.
The commissioners get calls because of the cuts every day.
There are over 1.9 mills of services that were requested with this budget that will go unmet. There’s 1.7 mills on the table. And there’s an additional 1.9 mills of services and requests.
These were not fluff requests. These were unmet things that were being done year after year after year.
People say, “Run Cobb County like a business.”
Who would work for a company that couldn’t even promise you a raise when you busted your behind when you came to work. Who would work for that kind of company? Who would work for that company? And have pride in the work that you do.
These Cobb County employees work for that company. You’re saying cut … I almost want to stand up … “cut cut cut. ‘Cause you got people here doing nothing but fuff.”
But when we were making cuts, they were the ones who were exhausting themselves to provide the same level of services that you expect … no … demand. Without any more. Being asked to turn straw into gold. And they do it with a smile on their face. They do it to the best of their ability. But it’s not enough.
Because “I can’t see what they do, and there must be somebody who’s not doing enough.”
I’m frustrated, as much as many other people are because we want to do the best that we can.
And it’s very difficult when you want to do your best, and you have limited time, limited money, and limited resources.
And we can’t even stand here and talk about Cobb County beyond the limited time that we have here on this Earth. We are not just talking about Cobb County for the next five, ten years. We’re talking about Cobb County for the next two, five generations.
So many of us can’t see past our noses. Where is Cobb County going to be?
Cobb County is changing, Cobb County has changed. This is not the same old sleepy town that some people remember of Cobb County. We are becoming an urbanized county every day. We have a stadium now, we have to accept that.
But what we don’t want to accept is that it comes with a diverity of services and of clients, and of needs and pressures on this county every day.
And we continue to fall short of providing the basic things. The basic things that we’ve been overlooking year after year after year.
I’m upset when we talk about let’s cut 1.7 mills. ‘Cause I have to think about how are we going to continue, to even provide the same level of service, when we have employees leaving every day who know they are better and can do better somewhere else.
You think you’re going to get the same level of service, at the same commitment level, when you don’t even pay them what they were worth, from several years back? It don’t work that way.
Cobb County run like a business. What kind of business functions when you don’t invest in it?
(Looks to Chairman Boyce) … I’m sorry, Chairman, I’m so frustrated by this process. We shouldn’t be here, Cobb County. We shouldn’t be here, Cobb County. People tell me, “what are you going to do about those poor people, Commissioner Cupid, who can’t pay?”
And my constituents call me and say, “Lisa Cupid, we will pay for the services that we need. We will pay. We want the extra library hours.”
‘Oh, you can cut libraries.’ Proximity means something … I have a car. But when I have two children, driving twenty minutes to the closest library is not necessarily an option when I’m trying to juggle my life. And I feel bad for those that have much less. Proximity means something.
Somebody said, “Well what does Cobb County invest in? What does Cobb County mean?”
I prefer that we have a county where people say they don’t just live here, that they don’t just want to be here, but they enjoy it. We are here to create a vibrant Cobb County. And I’m sorry, 1.7 mills, as much as the Chairman is providing, is not even going to get us there. ‘Cause there’s 1.9 left out there, and a lot that’s not going on today.
I’m going to leave it there, Chairman. I’m supportive of you, I don’t think it gets us to where we really need to be. But it’s sure a heck of a far way than what we were doing when we were cutting point two mills every year.