Cobb County Government
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Cobb government: Above the board

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District Three Commissioner Jo Ann Birrell addresses the public gathered at a town hall meeting in the Mountain View Regional Library. Members of the commission typically hold about three meetings each month in various districts to help keep the public informed.

By Gary A. Witte
CobbLine Staff

Open government doesn’t just mean the doors are unlocked during business hours.

Rather than simply follow the minimum required by law, Cobb County government demonstrates its daily commitment to public information through a variety of programs.

This includes the Cobb County Web site at cobbcounty.org, which just received a third “Sunny” award honoring it as one of the best sites for government transparency in the nation.

Only eight other Web sites in Georgia earned the recognition by Sunshine Review, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting open government. The organization reviewed about 6,000 sites and only 214 across the nation won.

“The Sunny Awards recognizes governments that are doing an exemplary job at proactively disclosing information to taxpayers,” said Michael Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review.
“There are so many organizations and associations that highlight what is wrong with government. We at Sunshine Review are proud to acknowledge those who are doing it right and setting a transparency standard that all governments can, and should, meet.”

The organization’s “transparency checklist” analyzes Web sites for information about budgets, meetings, elected and administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records and taxes. The “checklist” measures what content is available on government Web sites against what should be provided.

Ross King, executive director of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, recently praised Cobb’s open government policies.

“Cobb County is definitely a leader in providing an open and transparent government through the use of public forums, local cable access television, Web site, community newsletter and other communications outreach,” he said in a statement.

“They have a customer service orientation that is clear through the actions of both the Board of Commissioners and the staff.”

The Cobb Web site not only connects users to individual county departments, but also offers free live streaming of various meetings – including the Board of Commissioners and bid openings. The overall site brings about a quarter-million visitors each month and the live streaming has more than 13,000 views during the same time.

TV23, Cobb County’s government access channel, also broadcasts these meetings to 200,000 households, allowing the public to watch government business conducted without ever leaving their homes.

Meanwhile, county commissioners average about three town hall meetings a month, where their constituents can meet them face-to-face and ask questions of county department heads.

“We believe that having an informed and engaged public can lead to better decision making,” King said. “Town hall meetings and other forums give citizens an opportunity to express their opinion and allows county commissioners to broaden their perspective on issues.”

Summer reading to help dreams grow

Staff Reports

The Cobb County Public Library System has launched its 2012 Summer Reading Program, and dreamers of all ages are invited to participate. This year’s theme is "Dream Big – READ!" alt

The 2012 Summer Reading Program begins June 1 and ends on July 31, with an end-of-summer reading celebration scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 4. The library system has scheduled more than 700 programs and activities this summer to celebrate reading and to encourage the development of lifelong literacy skills. Special programs include the following event and more information can be found at www.cobbcat.org/calendar:

• Native Dreams, July 18, 2 p.m., Vinings Library. All ages are invited to hear Cherokee folklore from artist and Etowah Indian Mound staff member Jeri Beckham. Call (770) 801-5330 for more information.

In addition to hosting fun, educational and family-friendly events, the library system also encourages everyone to make reading an important part of their summer with incentives sponsored by Cobb EMC, OverDrive and Stevi B’s.alt

Children up to 5th grade should register to participate in the Summer Reading Program at any library. During registration, they will receive folders to log the books they have read; they are encouraged to bring their folder back to the library to receive certificates and to be eligible to win prizes.

Stevi B’s has also sponsored a pizza giveaway for participants, and the first 5,000 children to return their folders any time after July 4 can receive a coupon for a free kid’s buffet at any local location.

Adults and young adults in grades 6-12 are encouraged to submit book reviews. Forms can be picked up at the branches, downloaded from the Web site at www.cobbcat.org/srp, or submitted online. Each person who enters a book review will be eligible to win a Sony eReader, courtesy of OverDrive, a provider of downloadable books and audiobooks.

Every person, regardless of age, who completes the library’s reading program will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad 2, courtesy of Cobb EMC.

All winners will be announced at the End of Summer Reading Party, which will be held 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Central Library. Any winners not in attendance can pick up their prizes at the Cobb County Public Library System branch of their choice.

For information on how to obtain a Cobb County Public Library System card, please visit www.cobbcat.org/GetCard1_R.html. Cobb County library cards are free to all Cobb County residents as well as people who own property or businesses within Cobb County. CCPLS also issues library cards to schools (principals) and businesses (owners) in Cobb County, and current Cobb County employees.

Participation in the Summer Reading Program is open to the public and is free of charge. For more information, please visit www.cobbcat.org/srp.
 

New safety class offered to seniors

Cobb County Public Safety will hold a free safety class designed for Cobb’s senior citizens at the Safety Education Center and Village. The class will incorporate fire and police safety topics. Seniors 55 and older can attend any one of the four classes. Participants must be county residents. The available classes are as follows: 10 a.m.-noon, June 13; 1-3 p.m. June 26, 10 a.m.-noon, July 10 and 1-3 p.m. July 26. Participation will be limited to 25 people per class and reservations are required by calling 770-528-3270. The Safety Village is located at 1220 Al Bishop Drive, Marietta.