Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Last week, the Cobb Board of Commissioners had its first non-emergency meeting in over a month. The county’s declaration of emergency related to the coronavirus had expired. But things did not return to normal.

The building in which the meetings are held remained closed, and so the agenda to the meeting read, “Public comment will be part of the Board of Commissioner’s virtual meeting on Tuesday, April 28th at 1:30 p.m. Participation will be by phone only.”

So AT, watching the meeting at home, was surprised to see four people address the board from a dais only a couple feet away. They each told the board that demand for the services offered by county nonprofits had surged in the wake of mass unemployment that itself followed government-imposed shelter-in-place orders. They added to the chorus of people, most of them pastors, who had called in that morning urging the board to approve a proposal to make $1 million available to nonprofits for the purchase of food for the needy.

AT wasn’t alone in finding it curious that some were allowed into the building to speak that afternoon.

“I could understand how Ike Reighard was allowed in the building because he did the prayer, but I said, how did the three additional speakers get in?” Keli Gambrill, the commissioner representing west Cobb, told AT.

Keli Gambrill

Gambrill went looking for an answer. She asked county attorney Bill Rowling, but he didn’t know how they got in. She eventually got her answer from County Manager Jackie McMorris.

“They were invited by (board Chairman Mike Boyce) to speak, and they were told to give them access to the facility,” Gambrill said.

Boyce confirmed this in an interview Tuesday.

“I wanted to make sure the board saw all sides of the discussion,” he said. “We still weren’t sure about the technology working. I was concerned that if we couldn’t have two-way communication with the technology that it would only be one person that the board would have seen, and that would have been Shari Martin.”

Martin, the head of the nonprofit Cobb Community Foundation, gave a presentation before the board at their agenda prep session April 27. She was allowed in the building and spoke from the dais.

The decision to let people into the building did not sit well with Gambrill, however.

“I’m sorry, that was a setup by the chairman,” she said. “That’s more reason why to sit there and go, ‘Is the funding truly needed, or is the chairman trying to use taxpayer dollars to fulfill campaign promises?’”

Boyce, who is up for reelection this year, said he would have been accused of malfeasance had his worries about the technology come to pass.

Mike Boyce

“We are still trying to find a way to meet the intent and spirit of open and transparent government,” he said, “and if we only had one person address this issue, because the technology didn’t work, we would have been accused of rigging it so nobody else could speak on the issue.”

In related news, Boyce said the proposal to help nonprofits would be put on the agenda of the board’s May 12 meeting.

CITYHOOD DEBATE: Speaking of politicians, one of the funnier songs in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," the 1980s musical comedy starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, is performed by Charles Durning, who plays the role of the scheming governor.

In his song "The Sidestep,” Durning shares platitudes in front of the crowd, only to reveal what he really thinks behind the scenes with this jingle:

"Ohhhh I love to dance a little side step,

“Now they see me now they don't I've come and gone

“And ohhhh I love to sweep around the wide step

“Cut a little swath and lead the people on."

Politicians have been leading the people on since the dawn of man, obfuscating and waffling their way into office.

So it was gratifying to hear Kevin Nicholas, candidate for the seat held by retiring Commissioner Bob Ott, actually take a position on the city of East Cobb debate rather than hem and haw with the “I need more information” dodge so popular among candidates.

Kevin Nicholas

Nicholas announced his position during the Cobb GOP’s online meeting Saturday, saying he was not in support of east Cobb cityhood.

“I do not support additional layers of government that have the potential for higher taxes, and quite frankly, I think our services we’re getting currently from our Cobb PD and fire department are the best in the nation,” he said. “I think I might be one of the only people who’s running for the commission who does not support cityhood, and I think that’s probably a good decision.”

Ott has declined to take a position on the matter (at least publicly), saying instead the District 2 residents should decide. And indeed they should.

Residents should also know who it is they’re putting in office and where that person stands on the issues of the day before granting him or her governing powers.

Nicholas, vice president at Ingenious Med, a hospital software company headquartered in the Cobb Galleria, also said he would not support construction of rail lines to Cobb County, which he said would cost $300 million per mile.

“I think we need to first invest in Cobb County and our infrastructure and our roads,” he said, adding that the county’s voter-approved special 1% sales tax, or SPLOST, may need a second look. “We can’t really just continue to pay for our road maintenance out of SPLOST.”

If approved in November, the SPLOST would take effect in 2022, and could bring in $810 million over the next six years.

About a quarter of the revenue the tax would bring in would be dedicated to repaving county roads.

Other items of interest to Nicholas were properly paying public safety staff, sticking to the county’s land use plan with new developments and keeping Cobb’s “high-density development in check.”

DRIVEN BY FEAR? During his keynote address at the Cobb GOP meeting, U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, seemed to throw his support behind the use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as treatment for the new coronavirus. Loudermilk said the support for or opposition to the drug has fallen largely along party lines.

"I think it shows the difference in one aspect between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans — we're willing to take the risk for the better good," he said. "We're willing to go out front, and a lot of our colleagues on the other side ... they don't want to do anything that, first of all, isn't 100% safe, isn't 100% secure. They're driven by fear and, quite frankly, a lust for power."

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk

He said the country is "very close" to having some treatments, and some are already going to trials. If you've got a way to treat the disease, Loudermilk said, that will combat the fear surrounding the virus.

"And as long as we have the capacity to treat it, then it becomes like a really bad case of the flu, (from what) a lot in the medical community are telling us," he said.

He also praised Gov. Brian Kemp for his efforts to reopen the state’s economy, and said the same day he’d suggested it to the governor, Kemp told him he’d already been planning to do so.

CELEBRATION: Friends of Chris Waldman gave her a birthday surprise at her Acworth home last week with a car parade and a cake in the driveway, observing social distancing guidelines. Around Town was instructed to leave Ms. Waldman's age out, but we wish her a happy birthday all the same.  

Friends surprised Chris Waldman on her birthday. Back row from left: Herb Waldman, Wanda Becker, Sue Everhart, Chris Waldman, Penny Warren, Toria Morgan and Helen Story; center: Caroline Bruce and Nancy Couch; front left: Rose Wing and Dorothy Baskin.

Kim Sherk, left, was among those to show up and surprise Chris Waldman on her birthday.

The Republican and Democratic parties want to know where you stand on certain issues, and to that end, they've listed nonbinding questions on the June 9 primary ballot.

“It’s really to see where the membership is on certain issues,” said Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd. “We have dues-paying members at the local county party, but anyone who considers themselves a Republican voter in the state of Georgia is a member of the Republican Party since in Georgia we don’t have registration by party. So it’s kind of a looser definition. Typically speaking on the primary ballot we like to engage the memberships views on certain issues, and you don’t get a poll that’s any more accurate than the actual voters who show up on Election Day.”

Jason Shepherd

Results are used by elected officials and policymakers as guides on what to pursue in the future, he said. 

“Do they have public support or is this something even Republicans are going the opposite way? We also will get the results of the Democratic primary and their questions as well to see where their electorate is headed. Are they more center than the Democratic leadership or are they just as far to the left on some of these issues or are we too far to the right? It works both ways.”

There are four questions you can answer if you choose a Republican ballot next month. 

The state party added the first three and the Cobb GOP added the last one. They are:

  • Should Georgia lawmakers expand education options by allowing a student's state education dollars to follow to the school that best fits their needs, whether that is public, private, magnet, charter, virtual or homeschool?
  • Should voting in the Republican Primary be limited to voters who have registered as Republicans?
  • Should candidates for Board of Education be required to declare their political party?
  • In light of the recent and continued attacks on the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, would you support Cobb County becoming a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County to preserve and defend our constitutional right to keep and bear arms?

The 11 questions that will appear on the Cobb Democrat primary ballot are:

  • Should Georgians work to stop climate change and listen to the scientific community, which recommends immediate action to combat this serious threat to our planet?
  • Should Georgia enact basic standards to protect our environment from wasteful plastic items that pollute our state?
  • Should every eligible Georgian be allowed to register to vote on Election Day to make sure everyone can exercise their right to vote?
  • Should Georgia take partisanship out of the redistricting process and have an independent commission draw district lines instead of politicians?
  • Should our criminal justice system end the discriminatory cash bail state that allows the wealthy to buy their way out of jail while disadvantaging lower-income Georgians?
  • Should every Georgian that has served their sentence for a crime they committed be allowed to have their voting rights restored?
  • Do you support a countywide one cent transportation special sales tax?
  • Do you support MARTA expansion into Cobb County?
  • Do you support requiring background checks for all gun purchases, including those made privately from someone other than a federally licensed firearms dealer?
  • Should the age-based school property tax exemption be restored to its original intent of assisting lower income seniors to stay in their homes while providing needed financial support to our schools by limiting the exemption to the first $400,000 of property value?
  • Because Georgia does not have any nondiscrimination protections for any group of people, should Cobb County join other jurisdictions in Georgia and pass a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that would protect people against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on their race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status?
  • Should the Cobb County Board of Commissioners prioritize affordable housing options for the elderly, low wage earners, first responders and public school faculty and staff?

EAST COBB NEWS: Cynthia Rozzo, founder and publisher of the East Cobber magazine, announced she would not be publishing a May print edition.

“Like many of you, we have been trying to deal with the turmoil that COVID-19 has caused over the past few weeks,” she wrote, noting she would evaluate the situation to determine if a June/July print edition will be viable.

“We don’t take the health risks of COVID-19 lightly, and you shouldn’t either. But we also recognize the impact that these restrictions are having on our economy. We simply all must play with the cards we have been dealt and do what we feel is best while looking out for the well-being of ourselves and others, too. Meanwhile, please continue to shop local in safe ways. Our local businesses need your support now more than ever."

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Shari Martin, president and the CEO of Cobb Community Foundation, will speak at an online meeting of the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club on Monday at noon. Martin will be speaking about how non-profits are surviving the pandemic. For more information or to make a reservation for the meeting, email and provide your name and email address to obtain the access code to the meeting.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY: A date for Georgia’s legislative session to resume is on the minds of many Cobb leaders, discussed at both the recent video conference meetings of the Cumberland Community Improvement District and the Development Authority of Cobb County.

During the Cumberland CID meeting on April 23, Elizabeth Miller, an independent contract lobbyist representing the CID, said the House was looking at resuming the legislative session, which was suspended March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, in the third or fourth week of May and the Senate was considering the second week.

“There’s about 12 days left (in the session) but they’re saying it is going to be four or five days and it is mainly going to be about the budget,” Miller said.

The topic was further discussed later that morning in the county’s development authority meeting, when counsel Dan McRae said the legislative session was likely to resume on June 11.

“I think they’re going to come in, pass the budget because they have to, consider maybe a few local things and then go home,” McRae said. “There’s about 11 days left in the session, and I don’t think they’re going to use all the days.”

It seems McRae was on the money, with Georgia House Speaker David Ralston telling House members and staff Thursday he anticipates Georgia's legislative session to resume June 11, although the date has not been finalized.

Miller was also right, according to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who said this week he would like to see the session begin May 14.

"At the end of the day, both the Speaker and Lieutenant Governor must agree on the date of return," a note from Duncan's office to Senate members stated Thursday. "Unfortunately for us, time is not on our side. The House can simply withhold consent past our proposed May 14 start date and force us to agree to their June 11 date.”

BOSS BIRRELL: Do NOT use your phone while driving. Well, not unless you really need to.

JoAnn Birrell

After a testy discussion over hazard pay at a Monday meeting of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, Commissioner JoAnn Birrell interjected to tell Cobb County Police Department Chief Tim Cox to … follow the law.

Most of the department heads had called into the meeting via a videoconference app.

“This is not anything to do with this policy, but as the liaison for public safety, I’m ordering Chief Cox to pull over,” Birrell said. Then, looking down at her phone: “Pull over, Chief.” And, in case the other commissioners were unclear: “He’s driving!”

A CUT ABOVE THE REST: Local attorney Fred Bentley Jr. never would have guessed that his grooming habits would be front-page news. Yet, there he was.

When Gov. Brian Kemp lifted the closure of barbershops April 24, Bentley, of the firm Bentley, Bentley and (you guessed it) Bentley, said his tresses were long overdue for a shearing. He immediately called Tommy of the famed Tommy's Barber Shop on West Paces Ferry in Buckhead for an appointment.

“It was either a bush hog, pinking shears or a trip to go see Tommy.”

By chance, a photographer for Reuters was covering Georgia’s reopening and snapped a pic of Bentley in the barber chair.

The photograph was picked up by Reuters clients around the globe. Bentley made the front page of the Washington Post and the New York Post. CNN picked up the photo, as did Business Insider, the Epoch Times, Bloomberg, MSNBC and the National Post in Canada. Even the Khaleej Times in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, published the photo. Bentley told Around Town the image of his mane being trimmed even made Spanish television.

The episode brought additional notoriety to his distinguished locks, which account for his nickname “Red Fred.”

Bentley called it his “15 seconds of fame.”

“There are very few times you become the poster child for history. These are crazy times we’re living in.”

“Red Fred” Bentley’s haircut photo as shown on the New York Post website.

The last time the popular Marietta Farmers Market was open on Marietta Square was March 14.

“This is the first time in 18 years that we've had to put it on hold,” said market founder Johnny Fulmer, who opened it in 2002.

During its winter months, the market usually attracts a crowd of 1,200 on a Saturday and probably half that on a Sunday.

“Now that we’re getting into the high tomato season where growers really start producing, we’ll have 1,500 to 1,800 on a Saturday and on a Sunday we’ll have about a thousand,” he said.

That’s all closed down now because of the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean Fulmer hasn’t heard from vendors.

“Daily,” he said. “It's a struggle. For a lot of these growers in particular, the produce has a short life. Our vendors and growers are no different from the people that are in California growing all the lettuce and all that stuff that are having to plow it under.”

The problem has been on the mind of Mayor Steve Tumlin.

Steve Tumlin

On Tuesday, Tumlin emailed Gary Black, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, telling him of Marietta’s successful farmers market that has been on hold, and of the agricultural community’s need to sell its harvest.

“That said, can the Agricultural Commissioner help formulate ‘safe’ farmers market guidelines for our City for exclusive Georgia agricultural products,” Tumlin wrote in his email. “We could not only enlist the use of our square but also the nearby parking lots of our Churches for elbow room and safety. The Georgia farmer has endured storms, drought, etc. and this is just another curve ball. Personally, Being hungry early for a ’mater sandwich and heart broken when I see milk poured on the ground, look forward to a healthy outdoor farmers’ market, any suggestions on a compliant celebration of Georgia produce and City folk delight. Is May 2nd too soon?; We’re ready when the State is!! Gary, appreciate your service to our State and your friendship.”

Gary Black 

Around Town caught up with Tumlin later in the day.

Hizzoner said he was motivated to contact Black after reading about all the food distribution challenges in the news. Why not create a direct path for Georgia produce to arrive on Marietta Square, he said.

Black is putting his marketing coordinator in touch with Fulmer to discuss the matter. Naturally, it won’t be business as usual. Safety measures will be put in place, it just remains to be seen what the plan will be, Tumlin said.

Much will depend on any future orders Gov. Brian Kemp issues and how restrictive they are.

“Does he have a third less tents? Do we do more of the Square on Saturday morning? There’s a way,” Tumlin said.

Johnny Fulmer 

Fulmer said as long as it can be done safely, he’s on board.

“If Thunder has confidence in what Gary’s going to tell him, I’m on Team Marietta, so whatever the team says, and the leader of the pack, which is Thunder, I’m going to do. I think it's going to have to be a team effort for the community to bounce back.”

TAX INCENTIVES: A bonds request from Home Depot is dividing members of the Development Authority of Cobb County in regards to whether the Cobb-headquartered home improvement retailer’s latest project is worthy of financial help.

Home Depot recently secured a bonds inducement resolution from the development authority, showing the authority is willing to consider granting the company up to $46 million in bonds to help finance the refurbishment of Home Depot’s latest office building acquisition.

This would mean Home Depot would use the bonds money to complete the project and then pay back the authority, with interest, before an agreed deadline. Such arrangements generally enable some form of tax savings for the recipient company.

Dr. J.C. Bradbury

Two of the Cobb development authority board members, J.C. Bradbury and Karen Hallacy, voted ‘no’ on the Home Depot inducement resolution, but they were outnumbered by the other five board members who voted ‘yes.’

Bradbury, a professor of economics, finance and quantitative analysis at Kennesaw State University, told the MDJ he doesn’t think the Home Depot project is an appropriate one for the authority to grant bonds to.

“Home Depot is a fine organization and I’m happy it’s in Cobb, but these types of initiatives are for new businesses and new jobs,” Bradbury said. “Home Depot has already purchased their building. This is not the type of thing we should be cutting taxes for.”

Bradbury said if Home Depot wanted to save tax money on another office building in Cobb, it should have chosen one in a cheaper tax area. Instead, it bought an office building near its headquarters in Vinings, within the Cumberland CID, which adds extra taxes for enhancements.

“There are other opportunities here,” Bradbury said. “I think there are also concerns about the uncertainty of the economy. It all seems very speculative, the way it was presented.”

Kevin Nicholas, an authority board member who is vying for a seat on the Cobb Board of Commissioners in this year’s election, voted ‘yes,’ and highlighted to the MDJ the preliminary nature of the inducement resolution.

Kevin Nicholas

“The vote is only to allow for a formal application to be made by HD (Home Depot) including the economic impact study that is usually done by GA Tech,” said Nicholas. “It is very important to note that this vote was not to approve bonds or any incentive at this time. Once the application comes back with more detail and the economic study analysis is presented and reviewed then another vote will occur to approve or not approve the bonds.”

Nicholas said this process could take several months, adding that development authority bonds are paid in full with interest by the companies that receive them.

ENDORSEMENTS: The Cobb County Republican Assembly has endorsed Republican Larry Savage in the race to lead the county’s governing board.

The CCRA is the local chapter of the Georgia Republican Assembly, which is, in turn, a member of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies - a group dedicated to electing Republicans who adhere to core conservative principles.

Larry Savage

In 2016, the newly formed organization endorsed Mike Boyce in his campaign against then-incumbent Tim Lee “due in large part to Lee’s involvement in designing the Braves stadium deal in which a billionaire had his private business venture subsidized by taxpayer funds to the tune of upwards of $400 million,” according to the assembly’s news release.

“Mike Boyce has since fallen out of favor with many grassroots Republican activists after he pushed the Cobb County Commission to pass a real estate millage rate increase in 2018 in spite of the Cobb GOP passing a resolution condemning the tax increase,” the release states.

It goes on to note the CCRA also endorsed west Cobb Commissioner Keli Gambrill in her 2018 race to oust Bob Weatherford, who had voted in favor of the tax increase.

Twice the CCRA has endorsed a candidate in a Cobb County race, and each time that candidate has won, the release notes. Its members “intend to see Larry Savage’s success become their third win in a row.”

ACT OF KINDNESS: Saturday morning, Paul Sullivan read a story in that day’s MDJ which detailed the plight of Jazmine White, a mother of two and employee at Marietta’s Hawg and Ale Smokehouse.

White attended Cobb Magistrate Court for an eviction hearing March 13, the day before Georgia’s chief justice declared a judicial state of emergency. The declaration put a hold on evictions, but White couldn’t take advantage of the moratorium to make up the rent she owed: Hawg and Ale closed that same weekend due to the coronavirus.

Sullivan, a regular at the restaurant — which has since reopened — drove to Hawg and Ale on Saturday to see whether the folks working there could pass White’s number along.

Turns out, she was working that morning.

They chatted, Sullivan paid for his food and approached Buddy Finethy, the restaurant’s owner to tell him he’d left White a generous tip.

“He said ‘This is for real, this is the real thing and I wanted to make sure that she got it all,” Finethy said. “He left before she came back out.”

Finethy took a look at the $11 bill. Sullivan had left White a $3,000 tip, the amount of back rent she still owed.

“Literally she went from not knowing how she and her two kids were going to survive, basically, to having a glimmer of hope,” Finethy said.

In his four decades in the restaurant industry, Finethy has never seen anything like it, he said. And yet, it was par for the course in Marietta.

“What I found since we moved Hawg and Ale to Marietta (two years ago) is that people are – they’re just different here. People are real and they’re personal and connected,” Finethy said. “It just makes my faith in humanity reaffirmed when good things happen to good people.”

Jazmine White, left, and Paul Sullivan, right, at Hawg and Ale Saturday.

You can’t reopen what you never closed.

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, used that argument in rising to Gov. Brian Kemp’s defense on Friday.

Lindsey Tippins

Kemp has been ridiculed by national media and others for his executive order which allowed certain businesses like hair salons to reopen this week.

Brian Kemp

Tippins said he’s heard the argument 30 times by now. Folks ask why Kemp is allowing tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to reopen before retail stores.

Even his wife asked him the question.

“She asked, ‘Why was Belk closed?’” the senator said.

Tippins, who had read the governor’s order, said he didn’t believe the order closed Belk, but just to be sure, he called the governor’s staff to confirm the question. The answer: The executive order of April 3 didn't close retail stores like Belk. Belk closed on its own accord.

“He cannot reopen Belk because he didn’t close Belk. The only businesses that the state had to close were those 20 categories of business, of which 18 of them will be open Monday morning if the owners so choose, and you’ll only have two that are still closed: bars and nightclubs,” Tippins said.

The logic in opening those smaller businesses is that small businesses by and large don’t have the capitalization some bigger businesses have.

As a businessman, Tippins said Kemp understands the implications of going from an unemployment rate of 3.9% to over 21% in a month.

“When you have that part of the people out of work — that is not a situation that is sustainable. This is not a conversation of health versus jobs because the health issue is going to be a health issue. You’ve got just as much of a health issue going out to the grocery store as you do going to work, and is it a risk we’re going assume? We’re going to have to determine are we going to wear a face mask every time we go out? Or do we trust the government to say ‘You’ve got to stay at home until we have a completely safe environment’? We have never had a completely safe environment."

Bear in mind, Tippins said, the reason Kemp issued the order to begin with was to flatten the curve of demand on the state’s health system to allow it to build the capacity to take care of the influx of cases. It was not a matter of closing everything down until, for instance, every Georgian could be tested, as no one knew how soon testing would be available. It was to buy time. And Tippins said Kemp’s plan worked. He said Georgia now has about three times the medical capacity than that which is currently being utilized.

“So really his objective to build that capacity is either in place or it’s very, very close to coming to fruition within another week or two. We don’t have the demand right now.”

Tippins said he wanted to make it clear that COVID-19 is more contagious than the typical flu based on everything he’s read.

“But flu kills a lot of people every year that we don’t even hear a peep about. All that being said, the virus is something we’re going to have to live with. We’re going to have to be able to manage our affairs and everybody is going to have to operate more safely in terms of contagion.”

The United States is not a risk-free environment, he said.

“We’re not in a nanny state where you dictate every action people take and where it’s the government's responsibility to do everything, so we just need to clearly understand what the governor has and has not done, and I think he’s catching undeserved grief over actions that he really did not take. I just wish people would completely read the executive order of 4/3.”

Roy Barnes

HEARING THAT former Gov. Roy Barnes had made an endorsement in the Cobb County sheriff's race, Around Town rang him up to see how the Govna was fairing in the pandemic. 

“Well, I come to the office, but I’m here by myself, and I lock the front door. You know, I’ve got all my files in here and I can work. But I'm ready for this to be over. I’m used to picking up my satchel, getting in my pickup truck and driving to the courthouse every day. I’m having withdrawals.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Kemp made the decision to allow certain businesses closed due to the pandemic to reopen. After making that announcement, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said his personal calendar involved getting a haircut and workout on Friday when those establishments reopened, and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at Marietta restaurants on Monday when Kemp allowed restaurants to begin dine-in service again.

Would Barnes be following a similar routine? Not for a while, he said.

“I’m in that group — and so is Thunder — that’s at risk, and I’m not opening back up until we have a better idea of what to do,” Barnes said, noting that would likely be a month to six weeks.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t able to work. He had several Zoom hearings Tuesday where the judge was in Tennessee, one of the lawyers was in Alabama and he was at his Marietta office.

“(The judge) went on the bench, he had his robe on, and we argued the case before him, and he made the decision, so we’re still working. A month ago I didn’t even know what Zoom was, now I’ve become its best friend.”

But how will Barnes get his ears lowered?

“Well, I don’t have much to cut and Marie (his wife) can trim around it. I’m going to be very cautious,” he said.

His advice?

“Be very careful. You know, I love history and if you study the Spanish flu, what happened in the Spanish flu is that they opened up too quickly, and the second wave that came back in the fall was more deadly than the first wave, and I think history teaches you things. And I understand it’s difficult for business and everything else. It’s even affected farming. I still raise cows. We were supposed to have a sale last Saturday and we did it all online, the whole sale all online.”

Barnes isn’t even risking having his grandchildren over.

“We do Facetime with them. On Easter we went by and drove in the front yard and waved at everybody. All of that stuff. I am being very careful and when I leave here I go directly home, but if I have to go somewhere like to the bank yesterday, I put on a mask and gloves, and I go through the drive-in.”

As for his endorsement in the sheriff’s race, Barnes first had nice things to say about Sheriff Neil Warren and his wife Penny.

Craig Owens

“I’m very fond of Neil Warren and particularly his wife who I think is a saint on the face of the earth. But I’m a Democrat and I think that Craig Owens is the best candidate in the Democratic primary, and I’m going to vote for him, I’m going to be for him, and I’m going to be for him in all of the election.”

Owens is one of three Democrats running in the primary, along with Gregory Gilstrap and Jimmy Herndon, for a chance to face Warren in the general election.

AT couldn’t recall Barnes endorsing Warren’s opponent in previous elections. Why now?

“When Neil did not have Democratic opposition or if I considered the Democrat to be less qualified, I have supported and contributed to Neil, and I am very fond of him 'cause I’ve known him forever, but I think the county is turning Democratic and I think Craig Owens is an exceptional candidate,” Barnes said.

Owens is campaigning on a promise to bring “truth, trust and transparency” to the sheriff’s office and said he hopes to make Barnes and all Cobb residents proud.

“As a longtime Cobb County resident, I am humbled to have the support of one of our most prominent and engaged citizens in Roy Barnes,” Owens said. “As a Democrat, I am honored to have the endorsement of the last Democrat to serve as governor and one who has worked tirelessly to get Democrats elected across the state.”

A MARK, A YEN, A BUCK OR A POUND: On Tuesday, Cobb commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to make $1 million available to county nonprofits.

Shari B. Martin

Shari Martin, the head of the Cobb Community Foundation, told the MDJ earlier this week that nonprofits have been inundated with requests for food ever since a statewide lockdown sent more than a million people to the Georgia Department of Labor to claim unemployment benefits.

The money, she said, would be used only to reimburse nonprofits for their purchase of food or supplies used in the storage or distribution of food, such as refrigerated trucks.

At least one Cobb commissioner is skeptical.

“Personally, I think this is just a way to get the county to be funding nonprofits again,” said west Cobb Commissioner Keli Gambrill. “It's not necessarily for everything that they said it was.”

Gambrill said there has been no shortage of giving during the crisis, citing Freedom Church, which collected $1.6 million in donations to forgive medical debt recently.

Keli Gambrill

“So why isn't the Cobb Community Foundation raising money like everybody else is?” Gambrill asked.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill Congress passed at the end of March, the CARES Act, made billions available to small businesses to help keep them afloat in these early stages of state-imposed lockdowns.

But it also made money available to nonprofits, Gambrill said.

If (the foundation) didn't put in an application the day that opened, why not? Gambrill asks.

AT asked Martin about Gambrill’s concerns. Following is her response:

“As you all reported, we opened our Cobb COVID-19 Community Response Fund on March 16 and have raised $225,000 to date. We have distributed $30,000 in grants and will be announcing more next week.

“While the PPP loans that we and others have applied for will be forgiven if used for payroll and a few other things, they will not be forgiven if used for food. The request on Tuesday is strictly for the purchase of food and payment of expenses associated with its procurement, storage and distribution. It is not to cover anyone’s operating expenses.

“The number of people seeking help from nonprofit food providers right now is over 3 1/2 times the norm. Over 1 million unemployment claims have been filed in the past four weeks in Georgia, 30X the norm, and most of the people whose jobs were impacted by the COVID-19 crisis were in lower paying jobs to start with. The need for food is truly unimaginable, but it is also undeniable.”

AROUND TOWN: Partisanship in the pandemic

If you’ve dipped into social media or the 24-hour cable news circus while under quarantine, you can’t help but have noticed the partisan divide is greater than ever, pandemic or no.

Dr. Kerwin Swint, director of the School of Government and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, has observed it.

Kerwin Swint

“I have noticed this partisanship all along, way back in February before the shutdowns, the lockdowns took place, there’s a partisan divide even then where Democrats were pushing for total lockdowns and grinding everything to a halt and Republicans seemed more likely to want to avoid that and try to have things run more normally,” Swint said.

While it’s tough to assign motives, Swint says Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to shatter the economy thus ensuring President Donald Trump is bounced from office.

“I don’t know if that’s their motivation or not, but that seems to be the ideological signals that both parties are calling here to their troops,” he said.

Count state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, among those critical of Gov. Brian Kemp‘s decision this week to open back up parts of the state.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Wilkerson, who chairs the Cobb Legislative Delegation.

The businesses that are being reopened, like hair salons, are those where one touches the customers.

“So they’re taking the jobs where people have to touch somebody and then opening those up first.”

David Wilkerson

Wilkerson said the businesses that Kemp is allowing to reopen also employ the workers who are least likely to have insurance.

“They’re the lowest wage workers, they have the lowest burden probably on the unemployment system, and so now you’re forcing them back to work, and on top of that then they lose the ability to collect unemployment if they’re scared — and the federal match, so it’s the worst of all situations.”

Why not first open businesses that require one to come into less contact, like department stores, Wilkerson asked.

“But they’re not going to because large corporations are not going to let them,” he said.

If it’s such a bad idea to reopen, then why is Kemp doing it?

“Because the president told him too. That’s the bottom line,” Wilkerson said. “The president has said we need to open back up the economy so what you do is you open it back up with those who have the least voice. They’re the least likely to have a voice in the political process, the people you’re sending back to work. It lacks morals. Because we know that we need testing. If there was adequate testing, that would be one thing, but there is no adequate testing.”

When you start to see the NBA return to work, that’s when you can judge it will likely be safe to stop sheltering in place, he said.

Wilkerson said back in early March Kemp blamed Democrats for trying to shut down the Capitol. But later that day the NBA announced it was shutting down.

“That changed their tune when they saw businesses shutting down, they had to take the lead, so unfortunately our political leaders are not taking the lead when it comes to this,” he said. “When you see businesses willing to put their businesses at risk that are actually high-value employees, then I think that’s the time to come back out, but I would just tell my constituents to use common sense. I mean, if you see the governor out, if you see us back in the session then you might feel more comfortable, but until you see us back at the Capitol, I wouldn’t even consider coming out.”

TAKING A DIFFERENT position is state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Kennesaw, who serves as Kemp’s floor leader. Reeves has come to know Kemp well both professionally and personally over the last few years and says the governor does what he believes is best and right, regardless of political implications.

Bert Reeves

“Right now the last thing on his mind are those who seek to use this situation to score political points,” Reeves said. “I know for a fact how he has labored over the difficult and complex decisions that he has had to make over the last several weeks, including the decision about phasing in re-opening some of the limited businesses that were ordered to close. I know that none of these decisions have been made lightly. While there is certainly no shortage of criticism and opinions to be handed out, Gov. Kemp is approaching this situation in a balanced and reasoned way.”

In what is a no-win political situation, Reeves said Kemp is making decisions that are measured, and that call for Georgians to exercise personal responsibility in how they conduct themselves moving forward.

“There is no crystal ball that anyone holds, and time will certainly be the arbiter, but if Georgians can adopt responsible attitudes and practices with this re-opening, then we can continue to fight this virus and simultaneously cease the interruption that has cost so many working Georgians their livelihoods. I believe we are up for the task,” Reeves said.

As far as the enormous political divide, Reeves called it disheartening.

“While I understand it is consistent with the times we live in, I refuse to engage in it or accept the accusations being made on both ends,” he said. “This virus has impacted the health of Republicans and Democrats and all in between, and has upended the livelihood of both Republicans and Democrats and all in between. There is no guidebook for how to navigate this, but there is an ideal that we can all put down our swords and look for a resolution that is not partisan, but one that finds balance to the health and economic consequences of this unprecedented event.”

ENDORSEMENTS: State Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett, D-Marietta, has endorsed Mableton Democrat Shelia Edwards in her campaign to become the next Cobb County District 4 commissioner.

Edwards is one of seven Democrats vying to take over from Lisa Cupid, who is vacating her seat on the Cobb Board of Commissioners to try to oust Mike Boyce and become the county chair.

Shelia Edwards

In a news release, Edwards and Rhett announced his endorsement of her.

“I am wholeheartedly endorsing Shelia Edwards and think that she will do a great job as Cobb County Commissioner for District 4,” said Rhett, whose Senate District 33 includes much of south Cobb as well as Marietta.

DONATIONS: State Rep. Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb, issued a news release announcing he and state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, recently helped secure a donation of 100,000 medical face masks from Taiwan for the state’s response efforts regarding the virus.

“These medical face masks will allow Georgians who are working on the front lines to combat COVID-19 to continue to serve our state. This donation from the Taiwanese people is an important reminder that no matter where we are, we are all in this fight together,” Dollar said.

The masks were delivered to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

MAYORAL CALENDAR: Curious about Mayor Steve Tumlin’s upcoming schedule? Hizzoner has posted his upcoming plans on Facebook. Friday calls for a haircut and workout. Monday, meanwhile, he will “begin eating everyday, breakfast, lunch and dinner at a MARIETTA RESTAURANT.”

Steve Tumlin

Tumlin thanked Gov. Kemp, state health leaders and the Georgia National Guard for their efforts in the pandemic.

“Buy, hire, trade and dine in MARIETTA. GODSPEED. Seek out Marietta businesses, restaurants and professionals to (patronize). Worship in Marietta respecting Social Distancing. Let’s be careful and have testing,” he wrote, adding “Godspeed! Marietta will keep the light on for you as We respect the restrictions to protect and save each other.”

Lucy McBath

As the clock ticks down to the June 9 primary in the race to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, maintains her fundraising lead over Republican rivals. The latest campaign disclosure reports were publicly revealed by the Federal Election Commission this week, showing each candidate’s contributions, expenditures, loans and cash on hand through March 31.

McBath remains the financial frontrunner, reporting total contributions of just over $3.3 million, of which almost $500,000 came from committees.

Having spent almost $1.4 million on her campaign, McBath ended the first quarter of 2020 with around $2.6 million on hand, per reports.

Her nearest rival is former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, whom McBath ousted in 2018 by just under 3,000 votes to take the traditionally Republican seat.

Karen Handel

Handel reported total contributions of almost $1.3 million, including committee donations of almost $150,000.

With operating expenditures of just over $400,000, Handel ended the quarter with around $966,000.

Handel is one of five Republican challengers hoping to square off against McBath in the November general election. Others include Joe Profit, Mykel Lynn Barthelemy, Blake Harbin and Paulette Smith.

Profit, a former Atlanta Falcons running back, is third in the financial stakes, reporting total contributions of just over $200,000, including $61,200 in personal loans. He spent just over $173,000 on his campaign to date and reported about $196,000 on hand at the end of March, as well as $177,000 in campaign committee debts and loans.

Barthelemy reported contributions of $6,020 and expenditures of $5,644, leaving just over $300 on hand.

Harbin and Smith had no financial data reported through the Federal Election Commission as of Friday.

A SQUARE MEAL: While the coronavirus has shut down shops and restaurants, save for curbside hand-offs, the soon-to-be Mac’s Chophouse, in the former Shillings on the Square building, has begun to take shape.

The Shillings awning has come down, and a new “MACS” sign hangs off the side of the brick building on the corner of North Park Square and Church Street. New signs in the window also introduce the dining establishment under construction.

Notably, the tiled “Schillings” that decorates the ground at the entrance to the building still remains (an ode to the original Schillings Hardware Store that stood there before the Shillings restaurant). Brown butcher paper still covers the windows.

New signage has gone up at the former Shillings on the Square.

New signage has gone up at the former Shillings on the Square.

Restaurant owner Randy McCray tells Around Town he’ll be giving the MDJ the scoop next week on the latest announcements and how the coronavirus has affected the project. Stay tuned.

DEBATABLE: With traditional campaigning ruled out given the coronavirus-related shutdown of large gatherings, Cobb residents will have one of their few opportunities to get a live glimpse of congressional candidates early next month.

The Atlanta Press Club will host a series of primary election debates May 3 and May 4. Debates featuring candidates vying to represent parts of Cobb County are Monday, May 4.

Democrats running for the District 13 seat currently held by Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, will debate at 11:45 a.m. Republicans also running for that seat will debate at 11 a.m. The news release issued by the Atlanta Press Club did not say which candidates have agreed to debate.

Democrats running for Georgia’s 13th District are Michael Owens, Jannquell Peters, Keisha Sean Waites and incumbent Scott.

Republicans running for Georgia’s 13th District are Caesar Gonzales and Becky E. Hites.

Republicans vying to replace U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, as representative of Georgia’s 6th District will debate at 1:30 p.m.

They are Mykel Lynn Berthelemy, Karen Handel, Blake Harbin, Joe Profit and Paulette Smith.

The debates can be viewed online, live or on-demand, via Facebook at and at

ON THE LEFT: Cobb Democrats have been conducting a virtual town hall series on Facebook. They are recorded and may be watched at your leisure by visiting the group’s Facebook page.

The first two were held this week: one with the candidates running to fill the seat held by retiring Judge Lark Ingram. The two non partisan candidates are Magistrate Judge Kellie Hill and attorney Daniele Johnson. A second held this week was with three Democrats vying to unseat Republican state Rep. Ed Setzler: Lisa Campbell, Kyle Rinaudo and Elizabeth Webster.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Dems will host the two Democrats hoping to unseat Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn: Lynn Lafferty and Vickie Williams-Benson. On Wednesday, Cobb Dems will host the two Democrats hoping to unseat Cobb school board member David Banks: Tammy Andress and Julia Hurtado.

ON THE RIGHT: The Cobb Republican Assembly will be conducting zoom interviews with two of the three Republican candidates running for chair of the Cobb Board of Commissioners. The first will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, with Ricci Mason followed by Larry Savage at 11 a.m.

“We are still trying to confirm an interview with Mike Boyce,” said group treasurer Kerry Kee.

Kee says the interviews will be made available to all of their members who will then electronically vote on the candidate of their choice. Following that, the group plans to make an endorsement.

DREAM WEAVER: A recent study conducted by online sleep-industry review and information site, Sleepopolis, found that Acworth residents who are now working from home during the coronavirus lockdown are sleeping an extra 18.9 hours per month.

In the same study, Sleepopolis identified and compiled a list of the best and worst cities for sleep in Georgia, using a variety of different factors. These were combined to create an overall sleep score out of 100 for each town on the list. Sleep factors in the study include the smoking rate, insufficient sleep rate, mentally unhealthy days, physical inactivity, air pollution levels and unemployment rate.

Acworth appeared at No. 30 on the Georgia list, with a sleep score of 83.73, meaning its residents are getting “far better quality sleep than those in other towns and cities in Georgia,” according to Sleepopolis.

The top city for sleep was Milton, with a score of 86.82. Comparatively, Albany, worst on the list at a sleep score of 79.44, stands the most to gain from working from home and catching some extra Zs. A likely factor to this would be that Albany is in Dougherty County, where the coronavirus death count has been so high.

Sleepopolis’s study showed that cities near the top of the list have minimal levels of air pollution, which is a contributing factor to sleeping habits.

“High levels of air pollution correlate with increased rates of breathing diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. These are strongly linked with obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious sleep disorder,” the company said. “Hopefully, this extended period of working from home will help to reduce air pollution and therefore add to even more sleep hours banked per month.”

Other Cobb cities and communities appeared higher on the list than Acworth. Vinings came in at No. 13 with a sleep score of 84.68, and Smyrna ranked No. 18 at 84.32. Powder Springs came in at No. 25 with 83.91, Kennesaw at No. 27 with a score of 83.9 and Mableton reached No. 29 with a score of 83.76.

Marietta (83.27) and Austell (83.19) came in at 44 and 45, respectively. Further down the list at No. 74, Fair Oaks received a score of 82.19.

To see the full list, visit

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman John Loud is the speaker at the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club’s Monday meeting, which will be held via teleconference.

Loud will be speaking about the chamber and how it is assisting the community, small businesses and non-profits during the pandemic.

The teleconference begins at noon. For more information or to make a reservation for the meeting please email and provide your name and email so the club can provide you the access code to the teleconference.

EXTENDING GRACE: State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods penned an open letter this week to school districts, parents, students and teachers urging “compassion over compliance” in an era deeply affected by the coronavirus.

Richard Woods

“My message to school districts – which I shared directly with district superintendents earlier this week – is that our focus during this time should be on compassion over compliance. To be clear, we must continue to be vigilant in support of our students. But our focus during this time should not be on test scores, accountability or percentiles. Our marker for success should be that our children got through this time healthy, safe, and nurtured. It is not a time to be rigid or inflexible – it is a time to extend grace to each other.”

Rebecca Keaton

Cobb Superior Court Clerk Rebecca Keaton is facing competition for her job in this year’s elections from a fellow Republican and three Democrats.

Keaton, of Kennesaw, was first elected to the seat in 2012 and hopes to retain her position.

Republican Sondra Rowan, of Powder Springs, is challenging Keaton in the June 9 primary.

Sondra Rowan

Rowan used to work in the Cobb Superior Court Clerk’s office as the real estate division manager and judicial program coordinator, per her LinkedIn account.

The three Democrats vying for the clerk title this year are self-employed business consultant Nicholas Simpson, of Acworth; Kennesaw attorney Nancy Syrop; and Powder Springs real estate broker Connie Taylor, who works in the city of Atlanta office.

To date, only Keaton and Rowan have filed campaign contribution disclosure reports with Cobb County regarding the race. The next round of campaign finance reporting ends April 30.

Reports on public record with the county show Keaton declared just over $28,600 in contributions and around $12,700 on expenses, including consulting services and campaign materials. Keaton had almost $16,000 on hand as of Jan. 31, records show.

At the same time, Rowan reported just $40 in contributions and almost $1,000 in expenses, leaving her with a small shortfall at the end of the year’s first reporting period.

Simpson, Syrop and Taylor have filed personal finance reports, showing their personal property and business assets. Syrop is listed as owning her own law practice, and Taylor her own realty firm.

Randy Scamihorn

Vickie Williams-Benson

SCHOOL BOARD POLITICS: Democrat Vickie Williams-Benson of Acworth hopes to challenge Post 1 Republican Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn in November. She will first, though, have to defeat her Democratic rival, Lynn Lafferty, in the primary election scheduled (for now) for June 9.

Williams-Benson, a STEM teacher in a school district on the Alabama-Georgia line, describes herself as a “poised and polished professional educator, entrepreneur and author with diverse experience in teaching and school leadership roles for over 23 years.”

She said she taught in Cobb and Fulton schools for a year and has contracted for three years as an educational consultant with Northstar Consultant Educational Group in the Clayton County School District.

Williams-Benson holds multiple degrees in education and education specialties, among them a doctorate in Educational Leadership K-12.

The Tuskegee, Alabama, native said she decided to run for the Cobb school board to bridge a “multicultural community through education diversity and cultural acceptance.” She said she felt a need to focus on equity, equality and breaking down barriers for all children in the Cobb County School District.

Also in her bio, the school board candidate laid out a campaign platform centered on investments in social, physical and emotional well-being for students and staff; more non-traditional educational programs such as entrepreneurship and project-based learning for students who do not choose college; and an increase of school-to-work programs. Among other items, she said she wants to create a “safe zone for student affirmation” and an anti-bullying program involving administration, staff, students and parents, as well as ensure equal opportunity for students, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.

How exactly she’d accomplish her campaign promises or where she stands on the issues of the day, we can’t say, as she did not respond to AT’s multiple requests for answers to direct questions. (She said she would answer them a few times, but hadn’t as of press time).

Williams-Benson has one grown daughter, and two grandsons: an elementary student in Cobb schools and a 7-months-old.

Kyle Rinaudo

ENDORSEMENTS: In his endorsement announcement by Georgia Equality this week, Democrat Kyle Rinaudo called out the man he hopes to unseat, state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth. In that statement, Rinaudo writes that the Acworth and Kennesaw community is one that is kind, diverse and growing.

“We’ve changed a lot in the past few decades. And we know that, in 2020, we deserve better representation than politicians who would vote to restrict women’s rights, discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, and cut funding from public schools,” Rinaudo said. “At the same time, we’ve had the same State Representative for the past 15 years—and he’s led dangerous efforts to encourage LGBT discrimination, criminalize women’s right to choose, limit access to healthcare, and so much more. I believe that’s wrong, and that’s why I decided to challenge him in 2018.”

Ed Setzler

AT asked Setzler if he cared to respond. He did.

“I’m sure Kyle has been waiting for this dreamy headline for months now,” Setzler said. "In my world, as business leader and citizen legislator, my focus has been to help our local small businesses stay alive, help everyday citizens get the services they need to protect themselves and their families, and to serve my own family, employees, and clients with excellence in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A teacher and musician, Rinaudo is one of three Democrats in the race.

The others include Lisa Campbell of Kennesaw and Elizabeth Webster.

Rinaudo failed in his last attempt at challenging Setzler, when he lost to Democrat Salvatore Castellana in the May 2018 primary. Setzler went on to defeat Castellana in the general election that year with 52.5% of the vote.

In addition to Rinaudo, Georgia Equality, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ Georgians and allies, endorsed state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell. Thomas is being challenged in the primary by Democrat Terry Alexis Cummings of Mableton, an attorney and retired federal law enforcement officer.

Kellie Hill

MORE ENDORSEMENTS: Magistrate Judge Kellie Hill, who is running to replace retiring Superior Court Judge Lark Ingram, says her campaign has some endorsements from Cobb County leaders in state and municipal government. Among those to have endorsed Hill, she said in a news release, are: state Reps. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, and Michael Smith, D-Marietta; Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood; Acworth Alderman Tim Houston; Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling; and Marietta council members Michelle Cooper Kelly and Johnny Walker.

Also running for Ingram’s seat is attorney Daniele Johnson, of Daniele Johnson & Associates. Johnson has practiced family law for the last 21 years.

RECOGNITION: The Board of Regents on Tuesday approved the establishment of the John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research at the University of Georgia. The chair honors the former U.S. senator by emphasizing research that analyzes and develops treatments for Parkinson’s, the disease with which Isakson was diagnosed in 2015.

Johnny Isakson

The university has raised $1.6 million so far to establish the chair, which will attract an exceptional faculty member who will engage in teaching, research and public service, or a combination of such duties, related to the study of Parkinson’s disease and other related brain disorders, according to a March 31 letter written by University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead to the Regents.

“Sen. Isakson, a native Georgian and UGA alumnus, has admirably served our state and nation in public office across four decades, while also supporting his alma mater and higher education in general throughout his career,” said Morehead. “We are pleased to establish this endowed faculty position in his honor and are confident that our new Isakson Professor will make important strides in fighting this debilitating disease.”

The endowed chair provides an area of opportunity for philanthropic support for those whose passion is the pursuit of a cure for Parkinson’s, said Kelly Kerner, the university’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “We are proud to support this important initiative honoring the life of Sen. Isakson.”

Fundraising related to the chair will continue to increase the size of the endowment to support the research activities of the chairholder as well as start-up funding needed for lab equipment, renovation and support.

EASTER was tough for many Cobb congregants this year, with churches limiting sermons to their websites and social media accounts in keeping with COVID-19 safety guidelines. But local ministry staff and members still had plenty of good humor to share.

As the MDJ was investigating Holy Week happenings throughout the county, one ministry member, who shall remain nameless, shared a funny tidbit with a reporter about the name given to those who typically don’t show up to worship except for at Easter and Christmas.

“We call them Chreasters,” the ministry member said with a smile, after preluding “Don’t put this in your paper…”

We'll keep you anonymous, pastor.

Mike Boyce

Last month, Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce declared that he would stand his ground in the face of an apparent threat from the “highest levels” of the federal government.

On March 25, Boyce had just given Sterigenics permission to reopen its embattled medical device sterilization plant in Smyrna, citing a letter the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had sent Gov. Brian Kemp the week before that said the plant could help the nation in its battle against the coronavirus.

Boyce’s order only gave the plant permission to sterilize personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, and only for the duration of a state of emergency he had declared the day before.

The next day, the Cobb County government issued a statement quoting an email from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as saying Boyce’s order did not go far enough.

“My understanding is that this particular plant represented 4% of the total U.S. capacity for Ethylene Oxide Sterilization. If it remains shuttered, there are national implications,” read the HHS email as quoted by county spokesman Ross Cavitt. “Conversations on next steps from the Federal Government are occurring at the highest levels, should the situation not change.”

Yet Cavitt refused to provide MDJ reporter Aleks Gilbert with a copy of that email, instead referring him to the Governor’s Press Office.

Ross Cavitt

Gilbert in turn filed an open records request with both the county and the state for all emails from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dated March 26 that mention “Sterigenics.”

Here is how they responded:

Cobb County’s reply: “I did not find any email for the given search; Search term: Sterigenics; Domain:; Date: 3/26/2020.”

Georgia’s reply: “Absent a domain name for the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the search was performed using the keywords, “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” “HHS,” “Sterigenics,” and “medical device sterilization.” Using these keywords and the provided date, our office has not identified any records responsive to your request.”

For what it’s worth: Bloomberg Law reported that the governor’s office confirmed “it received the email from a top federal health official on Thursday” March 26.

So what’s going on here? Why were the county and the state so reluctant to provide Gilbert with the email from which the county was allegedly quoting?

Is this a matter of Hanlon’s razor at work, the old saw about never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity? Or did the late Republican California Gov. George Deukmejian put his finger on it when he observed “The difference between golf and government is that in golf you can’t improve your lie.”

SPEAKING OF STERIGENICS, a blow was dealt to people fighting for a ban on the commercial use of carcinogen ethylene oxide Wednesday, when a federal court in Atlanta decided to allow the chemical’s use in Cobb County.

Sterigenics, which uses the chemical in gas form to sterilize medical equipment and devices at its plant near Smyrna, can now do so without county intervention, at least until its March 30 court case against the Cobb government has been finalized.

Since August 2019, when Sterigenics temporarily closed its Cobb plant for emission improvements, the company has been fighting to convince local officials it is safe to reopen.

Reaction to the court order was quick to appear on social media from many opposed to ethylene oxide use in Cobb and other communities, including State Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, who has proposed legislation to tighten ethylene oxide restrictions in Georgia.

“Sterigenics is counting on apathy, they are counting on us stopping the fight, they are counting on us to give in,” Allen said on Facebook Wednesday. “They are wrong!”

Erick Allen

Stop Sterigenics Georgia, a group led by Cobb residents who live near the sterilization plant, called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of ethylene oxide in sterilizing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical gloves and face masks.

Janet Rau, the group’s president, shared a press release with the MDJ, stating PPE sterilized by ethylene oxide could be harmful to the people who use it and that safer sterilization methods are available.

The release, co-signed by three other environmental groups, claims even the manufacturer 3M does not recommend ethylene oxide for sterilization of PPE, due to “toxic off-gassing issues.”

“We need people to understand the bigger picture,” Rau said of the group’s plea to the federal government.

UNDER PRESSURE: Georgia ranks No. 2 on a list of the country’s states most stressed out by the coronavirus, according to a report from Top Data, an office outsourcing solutions company.

Top Data’s Stress Index Report used Google search data to measure the number of searches in each state and the District of Columbia from March 26 to April 2 in one of five categories: information on unemployment, sheltering in place, social distancing, food availability and medical information.

The company said the key findings of the study were:

There is a negative correlation between states that are the most stressed and whether or not they were under a statewide shelter-in-place order.

Georgia and Mississippi were not under shelter-in-place orders during the period studied, while Montana was not under shelter-in-place until two days into the study.

Out of the top 10 states, only Michigan had an existing shelter-in-place prior to the study.

The study ranked states on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the most stressed. Montana, at the top, received a 100.

Georgia, though it was second on the list, came in at 69.

Here are the top 10:

♦ Montana: 100

♦ Georgia: 69

♦ Mississippi: 63

♦ Oklahoma: 49

♦ Iowa: 49

♦ District of Columbia: 45

♦ Minnesota: 45

♦ New Hampshire: 45

♦ Arizona: 43

♦ Michigan: 42

To see the full list, visit

ELECTIONS DECISION: In response to Wednesday’s AT about Cobb Superior Court reversing the decision by the Cobb Board of Elections and reinstating Craig Owens and Gregory Gilstrap as candidates for sheriff in the Democratic primary, Janine Eveler, Cobb elections director, sent over the following statement:

“The Board used the evidence presented at the hearing, the code sections, and the advice of their attorney to make their decision. Mr. Gilstrap’s attorney did not present his adjudicated 2004 case during the hearing. Once it was presented afterwards, the Board’s attorney agreed that it applied to this case and a consent order was prepared. Regarding Mr. Owens’ case, the Board had no authority to disregard a portion of the qualifications code section. The judge had more latitude to weigh the value of that part of the code against the totality of the candidate’s qualifications; however, the Board had no choice but to follow the code as written.”

Any cat owner will likely agree with Jane Pauley that “You can not look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.”

In an interview with the MDJ this week, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler shared some of the things she was doing during the pandemic. One of the positive things about sheltering at home is that she’s gotten to see her cat more.

“I never get to see my cat, so that’s been a nice, pleasant opportunity,” she said.

Sandra the cat takes her name after Sandra Day O’Connor. Loeffler said Sandra, whom she acquired about 10 years ago, is from the Rockdale County Animal Shelter.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler's cat, Sandra

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime,” said Martin Luther King Jr.

Around Town wishes you and yours a safe and joyous Easter.

AROUND TOWN: About that 80% number ...

Wellstar Health System’s Dr. Danny Branstetter raised quite a few eyebrows last month when he told the Cobb Board of Commissioners that 80% of people would get the coronavirus.

Dr. Danny Branstetter

“Eighty percent of people standing in this room will get COVID-19 no matter what action you take today,” he warned commissioners. “Eighty percent of us will get COVID-19. Is it next week, is it six months from now?”

Branstetter went on to explain why that figure made it so important to aggressively promote social distancing.

“What we need to do is put in measures so our healthcare personnel can be available, (so) the equipment, the supplies, the testing, medications, the ventilators can be available to take care of each and every one of us,” he said. “The best measure for that to be instilled is social distancing. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to spread this out long enough, that way, when 80% of us get that, we’ll all receive the highest care possible.”

Some who were watching the meeting and commenting thought the number was an exaggeration. (“Live chat replay was turned off for this video,” per YouTube, so AT could not quote directly from the viewers in question.)

Even Gov. Brian Kemp seemed to question the number when asked about it during an interview with the MDJ March 27.

“I don’t know where Dr. Branstetter got his information,” Kemp said.

Well, here’s the answer as Branstetter has now shared the source: a team at London’s Imperial College that modeled the spread of the virus.

“In the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour, we would expect a peak in mortality (daily deaths) to occur after approximately 3 months,” they write. “In such scenarios … we predict 81% of the (Great Britain) and US populations would be infected over the course of the epidemic.”

‘BAD POLITICS’: The crusades of Jimmy Herndon, Democrat candidate for Cobb County sheriff, to disqualify two opponents in the Democratic primary hit a bump in the road with news that Gregory Gilstrap and Cobb police Major Craig Owens won appeals against their disqualifications.

Jimmy Herndon

As reported by the MDJ, Herndon was successful in convincing the Cobb Board of Elections to disqualify Owens and Gilstrap from the race.

Craig Owens

Gregory Gilstrap

Yet when both men appealed the board’s decision to Cobb Superior Court, the court reversed the elections board’s ruling, finding that in fact they are qualified to run. So much for the collective wisdom of the Cobb Board of Elections.

Without showing his hand for who he might support in the race for Cobb sheriff, Tre Hutchins, the sole candidate for Cobb school board Post 3, called Herndon’s attempts to disqualify his rivals a “witch hunt.”

“I’m glad to see that Gilstrap and Owens both are back on the ticket. … Look at how many elected officials don’t fill out paperwork correctly, and they’ve been in office for years. And if that’s your first time running, you’re not going to know everything,” Hutchins said, adding that voters should have a choice between all three men in the upcoming Democratic primary. “I just felt like that was a poor tactic. … Using those technicalities to limit those options is just bad politics. So I’m just excited we have options now.”

Tre Hutchins

Though he hasn’t chosen his candidate, Hutchins’ remarks sound similar to a statement that came from the Owens campaign on Monday, which in part said, “Voters deserve a choice.”

The sentiment is one that is shared by many Democrats. At the hearing where the Democrats were DQ’d, Herndon also took exception to how Republican incumbent Sheriff Neil Warren filed. Herndon withdrew that complaint after he was shown documents proving the sheriff indeed notarized the campaign documents Herndon claimed he hadn’t.

So had Herndon had his way, he’d have been the last man standing without anyone casting a vote. Sounds more like a monarchy than a democracy.

CANCELLATION: Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Kennesaw Chapter 241 send word that they have canceled their 2020 Confederate Memorial Day Observance which was to be held on April 25, citing coronavirus concerns.

“The members agreed the health and well-being of its members, guests and participants of the event was their utmost concern. The five military veterans who were to receive Military Service Awards will receive their certificates and medals in private ceremonies. Their military service to our great country will not go unacknowledged by the UDC,” the chapter said in an announcement.

POSTPONEMENT: The retirement party for Rabbi Steven Lebow at Temple Kol Emeth is now July 18. It was originally scheduled for April 18 but was delayed due to coronavirus concerns.

Lebow has served for over three decades as the senior rabbi at the Reform synagogue in east Cobb. In that time, he has built a legacy of civil rights and social justice. Lebow will become the rabbi emeritus at Kol Emeth and will give occasional sermons.

“Rabbi Lebow’s Opus” is 5:30 to 11 p.m. July 18 at Temple Kol Emeth, 1415 Old Canton Road near Marietta. The event includes a dinner, tribute show and dessert reception. Nefesh Mountain, a band inspired by bluegrass and Jewish heritage, will perform a concert. The mistress of ceremonies is CNN correspondent Holly Firfer.

Tickets start at $36 for the show and reception only, and there are general admission tickets for $154, as well as VIP tickets and sponsor tickets. For more information or to register, visit

CALLING GLADYS KRAVITZ: The Cobb County Government announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that “We have received multiple calls about businesses and/or groups that may be in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order. Please report those violations at the following link rather than calling 911. These reports will be evaluated and routed to the appropriate agency.

Gladys Kravitz

Doesn’t it give you a nice warm feeling to know your fellow community members are turning you in to the authorities? Almost as neighborly as the folks hoarding mountains of toilet paper in their garages.

Commenting on the county’s post, Ricky Stevens wrote:

“This is getting ridiculous. It’s in no small part due to the constant stream of mixed messages. Stay-at-home, but please visit your local restaurants for takeout because they need your support more than ever. The county commission issues a sweeping emergency order on Thursday morning, only to have to rescind it that afternoon after the Georgia governor issues his own conflicting one. The governor says the state parks and beaches are open, please visit them to relieve your stress, but Cobb says the parks in the county are closed (through an order that the governor said was invalid) and don’t you dare go for a walk on the trails. The CDC says don’t wear masks you idiots — on second thought, yes, do wear one but you can’t wear one that’s actually effective because health care workers need them so make your own that probably won’t do you much good and if you don’t use it correctly it will do more harm than good, but hey the President isn’t going to wear one because he doesn’t think it’s necessary. And now Cobb is encouraging citizens to monitor compliance with this mess of conflicting orders and advice?”

After confining herself to her east Cobb bedroom for two weeks to recover from a COVID-19 infection, state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick said she wants people to know they will get through this pandemic and that most folks are going to be fine.

Kay Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick, who is also a physician, said she first noticed symptoms when she came down with a fever on March 14, a Saturday. She suspects she contracted the virus the prior Thursday, which was Crossover Day in the General Assembly, as she is one of five state senators to become infected.

That Saturday evening she contacted her doctor, and because she was in a high-risk age group — she’s 65 — her doctor arranged for her to be tested the next day. It took about a week for the test results to return, so they operated under the assumption that she had the virus, going into strict isolation in her bedroom to keep her husband and anyone else from getting sick.

“He then would completely put on gloves and a mask and everything if he was coming to drop off something for me to eat, and I seriously did not go out of there for the whole quarantine period. Two weeks.”

Aside from her bedroom, she confined herself to her back porch and office, where nobody else was.

“We took the isolation part of it very seriously which is probably why my husband did not get sick,” she said.

For the fever, she used Tylenol. She said ibuprofen is not recommended to use with a coronavirus fever because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

She also developed a cough.

“It’s a dry cough so you’re not coughing up anything, but just coughing a lot, and what I found is the more I talk, the more I cough. The cough is frustrating as any cough would be.”

That was pretty much it as far as symptoms went. She never felt completely wiped out as one does with the flu, but then she didn’t have a lot of energy either. The first fever went away after a couple days and she got a second one a couple days later.

“That’s apparently a common scenario, and it’s probably related to your body’s response to the virus where you get that second wave, and apparently that’s when people can get really sick even if they haven’t been sick the first week,” she said. “I never got short of breath, and any of the other things that would make me think I need to go to the hospital, so that’s why I’ve been saying I’m very lucky.”

She attributes not having a more severe reaction to being fit and healthy and not having any of the underlying conditions like diabetes or heart disease that put people in a higher risk factor.

She used cough drops for her cough until her doctor ordered her an inhaler when she couldn’t get rid of the cough. And that’s all the medicine she took.

“There’s not really any good studies yet about any of the other things that are being put out there, and there are some side effects to some of the things people are using,” she said.

For instance, many people are using or want to use hydroxychloroquine — which is used to treat malaria, among other diseases — as a preventive, even though Kirkpatrick says there’s no evidence that it works in that manner. Still, she said they’re taking in such quantities that people who need it for such things as lupus can’t get it.

Regarding procuring supplies while she and her husband were quarantined, Kirkpatrick had a bunch of neighbors checking in on them and letting the couple know when they were going to the store or pharmacy.

“Checking on people is the neighborly thing to do,” she said.

The senator said she began to feel better around day 11 or 12 after the second fever broke.

“I officially came out of isolation last Sunday and my quarantine period is over,” she said, noting she’s continuing to work from home on conference calls since there’s really no reason for her to go out. Kirkpatrick is a volunteer coordinator for the Georgia Medical Association’s Reserve Corps in addition to serving on Gov. Brian Kemp’s COVID-19 task force’s primary care subcommittee.

“I feel great, I’m just on the phone so much dealing with the different groups I’m participating in that — it just seems to aggravate the cough — but I feel fine. I mean, I’m not going to start going out and doing heavy aerobic exercise at this point because I’m going to go slow but I’m thinking about taking a walk later.”

The pandemic is causing a lot of fear among people, to whom Kirkpatrick says: Rely on the data.

“And really what we are learning is that probably for the vast majority of people, the disease is going to be mild, and it’s going to be over with, and if they have it, they’re going to be immune like I’m immune right now.”

According to everything she’s read, Kirkpatrick says she won’t get the virus again. So if you develop symptoms, follow the instructions and are in good health, you’re likely to be fine. Quarantine yourself and stay away from others, she advises.

“And if they are having shortness of breath, they need to talk to their doctor, and probably that’s the group that needs to go to the emergency room. But a fever and a cough, people don’t need to automatically go somewhere because they have that because they can recover at home,” she said. “I really want to help people understand what they need to do and that you can get through this and most people are going to be fine.”

Dr. John Knox, medical director of the Wellstar Kennestone Emergency Department, and his team: Megan Dawson, Glenda Sams, George Brunson, Dr. Knox, Dr. Derrick Ashong, Nancy Doolittle and Kimberly Dixon.

A PAUSE OF THANKS: As we endure a pandemic not seen in anyone’s memory, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the everyday heroism undertaken by those medical and public safety professionals who stand on the front lines to protect us.

The following is a message Dr. John Knox, medical director at WellStar Kennestone Emergency Department, sent out to his team that we wanted to share with you. Titled in the subject line “A pause to say thank you to our entire ED team,” Dr. Knox wrote:

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, what you are doing is heroic. While others are being instructed to stay in their homes, and rightfully so, you are asked to leave your families and come to work, providing care for patients that you know have the Covid virus. You are asked to listen to their stories and listen to their hearts and lungs, to draw their blood, take their X rays, analyze their lab samples, register them, answer phone calls from their worried families, protect us, push them on stretchers throughout the hospital, intubate and ventilate them, and clean their dirty linens. All of us are anxious about our constant exposure to this disease, yet our team shows up every day and every night to provide excellent care to our sick and anxious patients.

Our community appreciates it. People are donating food, masks and gloves, and searching for more. Nearly every day someone texts me to say that we are in their prayers. As the medical director for this challenging, often chaotic, always interesting place, where saving lives is routine, it is an honor and a privilege to serve alongside you.

These are unprecedented times. Our new ED is on the horizon, offering the opportunity to provide even better care to our grateful community. Thank you for your courageous service to our patients; we will get there.

John Knox

Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs

State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is being sued over her public Facebook page.

Midtown resident Thomas Biedermann claims Ehrhart deleted his comments from her Facebook page and blocked him as a user because he opposed her planned legislation to criminalize gender change in children.

According to Biedermann, Ehrhart has blocked as many as 60 different people from interacting with her public social media accounts, including on Facebook and Twitter.

Biedermann filed his federal lawsuit against Ehrhart on Monday, claiming his constitutional rights and freedom of speech were violated by the state legislator.

“Our First Amendment freedom of speech rights should be protected on social media platforms by our elected representatives when fulfilling their duties as a public servant to uphold the United States and Georgia constitutions,” Biedermann told the MDJ. “I reached out to Rep. Ehrhart because I oppose the Vulnerable Child Protection Act that would criminalize health care for transgender youth since I believe that credible evidenced-based science is crucial during the legislative process of open public debate.”

Biedermann seeks a jury trial, reinstated access to Ehrhart’s public Facebook page, compensation as the court sees fit and for Ehrhart to pay an undetermined amount in damages, per his complaint.

“Defendant deletes and/or hides comments and bans users because of political disagreement with the viewpoint of the messages posted,” his lawsuit states.

Ehrhart told the MDJ she has a code of conduct in place for her social media pages, which have thousands of visitors, and that violations of the code include profanity, obscenity, physical threats, demeaning or threatening conduct, inappropriate behavior and sexual remarks.

"Some individuals have been reported to law enforcement for making threats," Ehrhart told the MDJ on Tuesday, adding she is currently dealing with a "serious death threat" from an individual on social media "who has been arrested, charged with making a felony terroristic threat, and is being prosecuted."

"It is also not uncommon for self-proclaimed agitators to attack and demean other visitors," Ehrhart said.

Ehrhart, whose district includes much of west Cobb, sent the MDJ several images of abusive and threatening messages she has received on her social media accounts as an example of what some people post.

Biedermann was allegedly blocked from Ehrhart’s social media account after she had announced at the end of October 2019 her plans to introduce the Vulnerable Child Protection Act in the Georgia General Assembly, which would make it a felony to change a child’s gender through surgery or drugs.

Biedermann said he published comments on Ehrhart’s Facebook page that opposed the draft legislation, but which were not “defamatory, pornographic, obscene, or incitements to violence,” as stated in his complaint.

He said Ehrhart is known for blocking oppositional social media users, as evidenced by a social media group titled “#BlockedByGinny, a social media location where people blocked on social media by state representative Ginny Ehrhart have congregated to express their opposing views,” Biedermann’s complaint states.

Jen Slipakoff

In January 2019 Ehrhart was accused by her former political rival, Jen Slipakoff, and 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, Sarah Riggs Amico, of blocking them from interacting with her public Twitter account.

Sarah Riggs Amico

This was reportedly in regards to Amico’s comments about a column Ehrhart wrote, as well as Slipakoff’s questions about how Ehrhart would fund $5,000 teacher raises, per a campaign promise.

“The purpose of my pages is to serve and inform the constituents of District 36,” Ehrhart told the MDJ at the time. “My office does not permit profanity, dishonesty, personal character attacks or cyber stalking. This is the criteria we use. Out of respect for my constituents, anyone engaging in such activity will not be permitted to post on my pages.”

UP IN THE AIR: East Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, who’s spent three decades as a commercial airline pilot, said food availability and uncertainty are two things that are on his mind while flying in a pandemic.

“I would say that if there was a general feeling, it’s the uncertainty of what’s going to happen the next day or the next week,” Ott said.

In normal circumstances, Ott says he flies once a week with a plane of 293 passengers. The last flight he made was to Hawaiii last week with a passenger count of half that. And it’s continued to shrink as people shelter in place to escape the dreaded coronavirus.

Bob Ott

Airline service is also scaled back in the interest of health. Pillows and blankets are gone, while the food is more of the prepackaged variety to try to protect the health of the crew members.

“There’s just not a lot of people at the airport anymore,” he said.

Then there’s the food situation with restaurants closing their doors.

“If there isn’t takeout, then you have to go to the grocery store, but how are you going to cook it in a hotel room?”

Ott said this time of year he’d normally be making flights to Rome. That’s since changed.

“The plane I fly, we’re down to I think one international destination that is not a restricted location. Because I fly international there’s just not a lot of places to fly,” he said. “It’s been tough on the industry. It’s a lot of people’s jobs. It’s going to be a rocky road until this country turns the corner.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME?: Confusion could be forgiven in regards to the Cobb County sheriff’s election race, with two of the four candidates recently disqualified on technicalities and subsequent appeals looming in Cobb Superior Court.

Another potentially complicating factor was revealed to the MDJ on Monday, via an email from James Herndon of Marietta, who wrote, “I hope somebody at MDJ knows I am not the James Herndon that has been trashing Sheriff (Neil) Warren.”

Herndon, of Marietta, included his address and phone number in the email, presumably to distinguish him from James Herndon, a Democratic candidate in this year’s Cobb sheriff election and a 16-year former law enforcer of the Cobb sheriff’s office.

The second mentioned Herndon, now a private investigator who goes by “Jimmy,” has taken a verbal blowtorch to Warren and his sheriff’s office.

Cobb County has over 750,000 residents, living within just under 350 square miles. That’s an average of around 2,100 people per square mile.

What are the chances of two residents with the same first and last name living four miles apart? Only a math whiz could tell you.

The internet indicates there could be hundreds of James Herndons out there, and even dozens in Cobb County alone.

A few searches of public records reveals the two above-mentioned James Herndons live in the county’s northeast, an area with a Marietta postal code despite being closer to Sandy Plains and east Cobb.

Google shows these Herndons live between 3.6 and 3.9 miles apart, depending on the route.

It’s a small world after all.

REMINDER: Cobb County government reminds you that homestead exemption applications are due by Wednesday, April 1, to apply to the current 2020 tax year.

The county says it must conform to the April 1 deadline date as it is mandated by Georgia code. However, the county is flexible in terms of the mode of submission and will accept applications by mail, email or drop box. The Tax Commissioner’s Customer Care team is providing assistance via phone and email, 8 a.m-5 p.m. on weekdays. For general inquiries, call 770-528-8600 or email

POLITICAL PLATTER: The Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast meeting will be held online this Saturday, according to party chairman Jason Shepherd

Georgia National Committeeman Jason Thompson is the keynote speaker with plans to discuss the election process for delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention, what the RNC is doing to make sure the convention still goes on as planned, and other topics dealing with the party.

The program will be live-streamed on the Cobb GOP’s Facebook page. If you want to be able to ask questions, you can join via Zoom conference call. 

Jimmy Herndon

By now you may have read MDJ reporter Aleks Gilbert’s account of Democrat Jimmy Herndon’s latest ploy to become the next sheriff of Cobb County. Herndon was successful in having his opponents in the Democratic primary disqualified by the elections board, largely on technicalities.

Craig Owens

Gregory Gilstrap

Herndon critics believe it’s clear Herndon was concerned about having to run against Democrats Craig Owens and Gregory Gilstrap in the primary, so he resorted to what Steve Gaynor called “dirty pool” in having them disqualified, clearing the way for him to run against Sheriff Neil Warren this fall. Herndon, who’s picked fights with anyone who crosses his path, among them the head of the Cobb Democratic Women’s Club, also attempted to have Warren disqualified, but withdrew his complaint when he realized the accusation was baseless.

As Warren's thoughts were not included in the article, the MDJ asked him Friday if he had any comments about being hauled before the Cobb Board of Elections by Herndon.

Neil Warren

Here’s what Warren had to say:

“Having qualified to run for this office four times previously, I was very confident that my paperwork was in order. Unfortunately rather than asking to see the paperwork prior to filing the challenge, the candidate chose to force several people into a room when that is just the opposite of what everyone in the medical field is suggesting at this time. My job is to make sure our employees and those in our custody are safe and secure and that is what I am focusing on during these very trying times for our country.”

GENEROSITY: A new study has placed Cobb County among the top 10 most generous counties in the Peach State for 2019.

Cobb placed sixth on the list, with a “Most Generous Places Index” of 75.4 out of 100, according to personal finance technology company SmartAsset.

The county finished behind Oconee, Fayette, Greene, Forsyth and Fulton counties, in that order. Behind Cobb and rounding out the top 10 came Harris, Henry, Morgan and Coweta counties.

Cobb’s top 10 ranking comes about three months after Marietta was named the most generous city in the country by GoFundMe, a global crowdfunding organization. Marietta made more donations per capita than any other city in the country with a population over 50,000, the report showed, despite the fact that Georgia didn’t even make the top 10 most generous states.

POSTPONED: This year’s Cobb County Prayer Breakfast has been postponed to August 25.

“We need prayer more than anything at this difficult time, but a gathering of 1,000 people at the Cobb Galleria on May 7 did not seem prudent,” event organizers said.

Stay tuned for details about online gatherings and activities on May 7, the National Day of Prayer. Organizers asked for prayers for the doctors, nurses and health care providers on the front line combating COVID-19 and all those suffering from it. They also cited Paul’s words to the Philippians:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be apparent to all. The Lord is near.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

CUPID COMMENTARY: A reminder that even people in good health should take note of the coronavirus, courtesy of south Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid:

“On a personal note, today, I learned the wife of a professor from my law school passed away at 65 from COVID-19 within a matter of days of feeling ill. She worked in local government and from accounts I read was youthful and in good health. This is quite saddening.”

Cupid shared this on her Facebook page Tuesday toward the end of a long post about the county’s declaration of a state of emergency.

A JOB WELL DONE: News broke Thursday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would be moving out of Dobbins Air Reserve Base. For weeks, the HHS has led the quarantine of some 500 people who had been on the Grand Princess cruise ship, on which 21 people tested positive for the coronavirus. Some were from Georgia and even Cobb County, but most were not.

On Thursday, Capt. Tom Bowman, HHS deputy federal health coordinating officer, thanked Dobbins for its hospitality.

“We can’t overstate how much the cooperation and engagement of our federal, state and local partners helped us meet the enormous challenges involved in this mission. Tremendous thanks to our DoD host, Col. Craig McPike, and the outstanding staff at Dobbins ARB as well as Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden and the Georgia National Guard. We are grateful for the support we received from local hospitals where seriously ill passengers were treated, as well as the health care providers who took care of them. The Dobbins civilian and local community stepped up with donations for passengers and Pastor Ron Hughes from Johnson Ferry Baptist Church volunteered his time to offer words of comfort during Sunday afternoon calls with our guests. Princess Cruises remained a committed partner in supporting us with what we needed to make our guests more comfortable.

“Once again, federal partners representing a range of U.S. government agencies provided the staff and resources needed to meet our shared mission of ensuring the health, safety, and comfort of the Princess cruise passengers, including the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. HHS is proud of what we have accomplished here at Dobbins ARB since the first passengers arrived on March 11. With a commitment to protect and serve these passengers while protecting the American public at the forefront, everyone worked diligently to overcome the difficulties we experienced and the hurdles we climbed together. We are grateful for the support we received from our partners and the community.”

STEPPING BACK: To quote the great Mr. Miyagi from the “Karate Kid” movie franchise: “Breathe in through nose, out of mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don't forget to breathe, very important!”

In his Friday newsletter, Commissioner Bob Ott offers similar advice, urging residents to take a step back and breathe.

“Can’t get bread? Can’t get toilet paper, paper towels, butter, milk, rice, bleach and on and on and on? The problem is not with the supply chain, the problem is with us – hoarding,” Ott said.

“If we could just step back for one week, according to the grocery store managers, and stop buying in bulk and do normal shopping then the shelves would start filling up and get back to somewhat normal operations. We are not in a food crisis. Our wonderful grocery stores are doing the best they can to get the product on the shelves. Please tell them thank you for all the many hours they are putting in to keep our shelves stocked. Let’s do our part.”

SPEAKING OF commissioners, there’s been a storm of criticism that one of the first royal decrees Chairman Mike Boyce issued after the Cobb Board of Commissioners handed him over emergency powers to run the county was to reopen the controversial Sterigenics plant near Smyrna.

As one wag observed, “Boyce opened the one business everyone wanted closed.”