MARIETTA — Commissioner Lisa Cupid was unapologetic for her decision to remove a prominent anti-tax activist from a committee providing oversight of the county’s special one percent sales tax.
At a sparsely attended public information meeting for the proposed 2016 special purpose local option sales tax, Cupid said she expected there to be a response from both sides after she removed Lance Lamberton, chairman of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, from the SPLOST Oversight Committee. Still, Cupid said she remains confident in her decision.
“We have a diverse district, and I respect that not everybody who lives here thinks the same,” Cupid said. “But when you step up into leadership, you are moved into a role where you have to consider all the values at the table and not work in an effort to undermine the reason why you have come together with others.”
Lamberton’s organization opposed the 2005 and 2011 SPLOSTs and has announced it will oppose the proposed 2016 SPLOST, expected to raise $750 million over its six-year life if approved by voters on Nov. 4.
Cupid said Lamberton could have been a “great influence,” but his role as one of the leaders of the anti-SPLOST movement “undervalues” his perspective. The commissioner said those who serve on the committee should represent the district first and should consider the impact of being “extreme” on either end of the issue.
Lamberton said Thursday night Cupid’s explanation for removing him from the committee is “absurd,” saying the commissioner knew he was anti-SPLOST when he was appointed to the committee last year.
“My role on that committee was to make sure, to oversee that the money that was voted on by the taxpayers to spend in the 2011 SPLOST is spent in the manner in which … the voters voted for,” he said. “And so my advocacy for SPLOST not continuing for another six years is totally comparing apples to oranges. They’re not related. This is clearly a case of political retribution, and I think that Lisa really messed up on this one.”
Lamberton said while he respects Cupid, he thinks the commissioner let her pro-SPLOST emotions get the best of her.
“Can she cite anything specifically that I did in my job on that committee that in any way was a conflict of interest with my advocacy for the defeat of the SPLOST? No.”
Lamberton is scheduled to debate Justin O’Dell, a Marietta attorney and co-chair of the SPLOST advocacy group known as “Secure Cobb’s Future,” at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Board of Commissioners chamber at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta.
Another co-chair of Secure Cobb’s Future, Darhyl Watkins, was in attendance at Thursday’s meeting and said he thinks the proposed SPLOST will pass in November. Watkins said citizens he has spoken with seem to be in favor of the tax after they understand the proposed 2016 SPLOST is a continuation of the existing tax, rather than a new one.
“I think once they understand the nature of the SPLOST and what it’s doing, people are very supportive,” he said.
Watkins, who also serves on the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority and Cobb Board of Elections, said without the SPLOST, the county would have to find alternate forms of revenue to address its needs, particularly involving the county’s infrastructure and public safety services.
“It’s a positive thing for our county, he said. “We keep our property taxes lower. We continue to grow the county; we do a lot of the foundational things to grow the county. And we keep it safe.”