Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

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JoAnn Birrell: Lobbyist To Represent Waste Management Interests, Not Yours

by Bill Simon

Facts have it that there are 3 individuals running for Cobb County Commission District #3. Two of these individuals (Steven Moon and Earl Stine) are, truly, just regular people who have lived and worked in their own businesses in Cobb County, paying their own money to join the Cobb Chamber, and participate in Cobb County life.

The third candidate is not a “regular person.” Though she is a nice person, the fact is that JoAnn Birrell works for Waste Management, Inc. as their “community relations specialist.

In regular-people parlance, that means JoAnn works as a LOBBYIST for Waste Management. Meaning, all those groups she is a member of (Cobb Chamber, other chambers, etc.) has been paid for out of the community relations bank account of Waste Managment, Inc.

Now, I suspect JoAnn will deny that she is a “lobbyist.” Be careful. She put her registered lobbyist status with the State Ethics Commission on the “Inactive Status” for 2010 in order to run for this District 3 position.

But, make no mistake, she still works for Waste Management in that role…and, when it comes to ANY issue where Waste Management will be on one side, and District 3 residents will be on the other side, JoAnn’s first duty will be to protect Waste Management’s interests. You, the District 3 citizen, will be S.O.L.

AND…for you curious folks, I do have proof of her lobbying and expenditures made to government officials. You can go to the Georgia State Ethics Commission Website and look-up her name under the Lobbyist section.

OR, you can simply look at these PDF snapshots I have gathered from that site for the following years that show her expenditure disclosures as a registered lobbyist for Waste Management:

2005 Birrell Lobbyist Disclosure
2006 Birrell Lobbyist Disclosure
2007 Birrell Lobbyist Disclosure
2008 Birrell Lobbyist Disclosure
2009 Birrell Lobbyist Disclosure

I will not advocate who you should vote for instead of JoAnn Birrell…because, honestly, I’ve met both of the other two gentlemen, and they are both qualified to sit on that commission because both are just “regular people” with no agenda other than to represent Cobb County’s District 3 citizens (which comprises of both residents and businesses).

And, I will reiterate this: I get along fine with JoAnn. She is a nice person. BUT..she is not qualified to be my representative on the Cobb County Commission District #3 seat. Some of the folks who have endorsed her are lobbyists themselves. Not that there is anything wrong with that profession (some of those who endorsed her are friends of mine…at least at that moment 🙂

Now, let me be clear…some of my best friends are lobbyists/government relations specialists. There is nothing wrong with being hired to advocate for a company or a cause. That is a legitimate profession.

HOWEVER…if JoAnn remains an employee of Waste Management, Inc. in any way if she gets elected, that won’t pass any smell test of “independent representation” for District #3. See, it is not just the “public votes” that go on by the commission. It is the behind-the-scenes work that the public never sees where damage to public policy in favor of one business over another can hurt the image of our county.

If you are anything like me, you are fed-up with the cronyism in your federal and state government, and you certainly don’t want it for Cobb’s District #3. We have enough problems with the cronysim between the Cobb Development Authority (which JoAnn Birrell used to sit on the board of) and the Cobb Chamber to realize that we just don’t need the lobbyist for a vendor who contracts with Cobb County government to represent US in District #3.

So, if you value your future in District 3, do not vote for a lobbyist like JoAnn Birrell. It’s that simple.

SPECIAL NOTE: I have talked to Cobb GOP Chairman Scott Johnson this morning and he confirmed with me that he has NOT endorsed Jo Ann Birrell as was wrongly printed in the MDJ.

Mr. Johnson, as Cobb GOP chair, has attended events from all three candidates…and for JoAnn to think that because he shows-up at hers means he endorses her is the wrong assumption to make.

It is against Cobb County Republican Party Rules for Mr.Johnson to endorse any candidate in a contested Republican primary, and I know Scott well enough to know he would not break that rule. So, the MDJ was fed inaccurate and incorrect information.

– Bill Simon
10-Year Resident, Cobb County Commission District #3

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