Candidates for Cobb BOC chair face off in forum

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By Caleb Groves

AUSTELL, Ga.– At Thursday’s Candidate Forum for the Chair of the Cobb County Commissioner, candidates discussed taxes and infrastructure on May 2, 2024.

Incumbent Lisa Cupid, a Democrat, went head-to-head at Grace City Church with challengers Democrat Shelia Edwards and Republican Kay Morgan, as Moderator and President of the League of Women Voters Georgia Nichola Hines posed questions to the candidates.

The three candidates at the forum explained the importance of road and stormwater maintenance for the county’s aging infrastructure. However, both communications consultant Edwards and realtor Morgan opposed recent proposals to address these challenges.

Shelia Edwards, who is challenging incumbent Chairwoman Lisa Cupid in the Democratic Primary

“The county needs to tighten its belt before it taxes the community anymore,” Edwards said.

Edwards would like to address the stormwater fee transfer to the general fund prior to taking on other county projects by cutting the transfer, if not completely, by incrementally lowering water transfer funds, she said.

Similarly, Morgan desired to halt the stormwater fund transfer.

Democratic incumbent Chairwoman Lisa Cupid

The stormwater fee proposal was a way to address Cobb’s aging infrastructure, while the county’s population continues to grow, Cupid said.

“We both have the lowest tax rate in the metro area, but it comes at a price,” Cupid said. “And it comes at the price of not maintaining the regular things that we ought to maintain well. So when people look forward to Cobb moving forward, we can’t move forward if we’re leaving basic elements of our county behind.”

“It’s easy to critique how we are funding our county infrastructure if you have not had to budget for it,” she said.

Cupid plans to continue funding through SPLOST projects. She said the county is reliant on SPLOST projects to maintain roadways.

“So for our roads, we’ll put that in our SPLOST which is voted on,” Cupid said. “But if you have to vote on something, that means it’s subject to not be supported. So they will be surprised to know that about 90% of our roads are put in through that SPLOST program.”

Later, Morgan took a different angle against taxes, including the proposed 30-year transit tax, targeting public transit ridership in Cobb.

“So why are we proposing billions for buses?” Morgan said. “That’s a 19th-century solution for a 21st-century problem.

Republican candidate Kay Morgan

Affordable Housing

Afterward, the Hines posed questions regarding affordable housing in the county.

As the cost of materials rises, so do houses. It’s a supply-and-demand issue, Cupid said. Later, she brought up the county’s responses to zoning matters.

“We are also in a county where the general response to housing is don’t build anymore,” she said. “Don’t build next to me. And we see this every month at zoning hearings. And I’ve spoken at many forums and said, all of these proponents to building housing and affordable housing, why are we not seeing you?”

Cupid would like to utilize ideas implemented by neighboring cities as well as the current county code to “make a dent in our housing affordability practices.”

In contrast, Morgan views affordable housing as a buzzword for “cheap, not very well-built housing.”

Instead, she proposed the idea of incentivizing companies to move to Cobb, with the county’s low taxes, through federal and state-run programs.

“Let’s continue being the great county that we are with our low taxes and our great lifestyle, bringing us companies that are going to pay more,” Morgan said. “That would equal really quality housing.”

Edwards focused on workforce housing and explored an array of options, such as tiny homes, borrowing ideas from other cities and utilizing public-private partnerships.

To round out the forum, the candidates discussed the county budget, where both Morgan and Edwards focused on cutting back on county spending, including cutting out consultants.

Instead of looking towards outside consultants, “we need to put our faith in the current staff that we have,” Morgan said. “They’re very talented.”

On the other hand, Cupid said, “The challenge is that they have not even reached pre-recession levels for their current funding today. And it’s easy to talk about spending, but our spending has not met the need.”

Cupid said, “I think we have a conflict with our self-identity. We want to be the best county, but at the lowest rate.”

Early voting for the May 21 primary started on April 29 and ends on May 17, 2024.

Caleb Groves is a Journalism student at Kennesaw State University, where he is a junior.

Originally from Minnesota, Caleb moved to Georgia with his family, where he now lives in Woodstock with his Father, Stepmom and numerous pets.

When he is not in writing, in class or coaching rock climbing, he spends his time listening to music and rock climbing both indoors and out