Libraries Dodge Cobb Budget Threat
The top East Cobb local government story of 2011 galvanized patrons, librarians and citizens.
Like most state and local governments, Cobb County has been making painful cuts to its operating budget in the wake of the recession and a declining tax digest.
But a budget-cutting proposal by commission chairman Tim Lee in April that would have closed most Cobb public libraries, including the East Cobb and East Marietta branches, set off an emotional firestorm that lingered for weeks.
Some speculate that Lee was trying to get his fellow commissioners to the table to consider cutting other spending options, since he couldn't get enough votes for raising property taxes. But library patrons and workers let their elected officials know they didn't appreciate being pulled into the drama.
A Save Cobb Libaries page was started on Facebook and quickly became an online gathering spot. Cobb library director Helen Poyer sent out an e-mail message to patrons, many of whom turned out at commission budget hearings to protest the proposed cuts.
East Cobb Patch columnist Rob Maynard angrily wrote that public libraries were "the latest in the line of scapegoats blamed by the plutocracy and their friends in the media for an economy turned sour in fact by the speculative class and their willful dupes parading around in Tea Party costumes."
Another of our columnists, Tim Langley, a very strong small government conservative, wrote that Lee's library proposal was too rash, and that other areas of spending weren't being properly addressed.
Although library hours were reduced in April, and county workers, including public safety personnel, were given five furlough days to close out fiscal year 2011, the library lobby proved to be effective.
In July, library hours were scaled back again in the 2012 budget, but Lee didn't touch the library matter further. In fact, Cobb commissioners voted to increase the millage rate for the first time in nearly two decades with concerns over public safety services as a result of the furloughs.