Cobb County’s $2.5 million dollar report
As voters, we often see political candidates crafting clever slogans to catch our attention or for us to remember them when we go to the polls to vote. You see this occurring with many at the top levels of government, be it the local, state, or federal level. Candidates with little to no skills boast about their leadership skills, how they are the ones to make the tough decisions, and how if a difficult call comes in the middle of the night, you want them to be the person answering it. The hard part in all of this is following through with those promises when you get elected and have to make those ‘hard’ decisions.
A call came into Cobb County, but it wasn’t in the middle of the night. It probably came in the middle of the day. It was from the federal government saying they had $127 million for Cobb citizens and would direct the funds to Cobb County government to dispense it for the needs of the people. Instead of Cobb doing as they were told to do by the feds when they accepted the funds, they immediately shaved off $2.5 million from funds that belong to Cobb and its citizens to give to a consultant to tell them what to do.
Yes, Cupid and others needed someone else, anyone else, to tell them what to do with the money so they went out and found a consultant. This was not any regular consultant. This was one that was already in the door after having allegedly provided free governance lessons to Cobb Chair Lisa Cupid. Many in the community wonder if somewhere in those free lesson plans for Cupid there was a subliminal message to her to (1) say that you need a consultant to tell you how to spend the funds, (2) pick the consultant that gave you free governance lessons, and (3) secure a part of those funds, to the tune of $2.5 million, for “said consultant”.
The insulting part to voters and taxpayers is not the money being allocated to a consultant or the Cobb government’s inability to make decisions on behalf of the county. It is the consultant returning with a report that says Cupid and Cobb need to spend the coronavirus relief funds equally on mental health care, housing assistance, substance abuse prevention, public health disparities, and stormwater improvements, among other things. These are the same issues before Cupid and her board on a day-to-day basis. Did they really need a consultant to tell them these were the pressing issues in Cobb County government? These have been the main issues for years.
By the way, whatever happened to the persons who campaigned on the promises that they could lead and make tough decisions if elected? Calling on a consultant and paying them $2.5 million dollars for information you should already have to come to you from well-paid department heads does not show leadership. It makes no sense to the average taxpayer who is watching this play out in the County government.
Cobb County received the first half of the $147 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation last year and is slated to receive the next half of the money in May. Of the $147 million check, Cobb has spent more than $7 million on a handful of “exigent” items; $10 million for administrative fees, and $10 million more as a reserve to replace revenue lost during the pandemic. I am not sure under which umbrella of funds the consultant’s fee falls, but does it matter at this point? The money has been spent and a ‘report’ has been presented.
The consultants recommended dividing the $120 million nearly evenly across all five categories, with line-item spending under each broad category. Did we really have to spend millions to know that this was probably the best way to go to make sure every area gets funding?
The consultants say the recommendations in their report are general guidelines for the county, while commissioners and the community can decide specific projects and spending themselves. Again, did we need to spend millions to be told that the person elected should make those decisions and not farm out the decisions to others?
As families struggle to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and gas in their cars, it is insulting to see Cobb waste funds in such a manner.
The board will vote in April on the adoption of the consultants’ recommendations. Meanwhile, the consultants will sit back, count their good fortunes, and figure out how they can get a few more millions off the top of Cobb’s next allotment of federal funds.
So much for leadership and being able to make the tough decisions. It does not exist here in Cobb.
What does exist is a future allocation of funds for Cobb County from the federal government. Many in the community want to know if funds have already been allocated for consultants to continue telling Cupid and other members of the commission how to do their jobs, including making decisions around spending, which is part of their job description.