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County leaders defend expenses for Obama memorial

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro resident David Clark provoked controversy on Monday when he complained to county commissioners about plans to spend money on a reception, held in conjunction with plans to memorialize an ancestor of Michelle Obama.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Jonesboro resident David Clark provoked controversy on Monday when he complained to county commissioners about plans to spend money on a reception, held in conjunction with plans to memorialize an ancestor of Michelle Obama.

The county’s plan to memorialize Melvinia Shields, the great-great-great-grandmother of First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, next week has become entangled in the county’s long-standing fight over last year’s property tax increases. It has brought allegations of misuse of money, and charges of racism from opposing sides on the issue.

The point of contention that has fanned passions is the plan to spend $375 for valet parking, and $2,000 for catering for a reception to be held after the memorial dedication. The money comes from hotel and motel taxes, and not property taxes, according to county leaders.

The debate obegan Monday, when Jonesboro resident David Clark e-mailed county commissioners, saying he was “appalled” by two resolutions the commission was set to vote on Tuesday night. The resolutions authorized the county to enter agreements with Boon Management, LLC (for valet parking), and The Grand Gourmet (for catering) for a June 26 reception.

Both resolutions were unanimously approved by county commissioners.

“After reviewing the Board of Commissioners Agenda for 19 June 2012, I am appalled that public monies will be allocated and spent in accordance with proposed Resolution 2012-122 and 2012-123,” Clark wrote in his e-mail to commissioners, adding that the idea “is financially negligent at best.”

Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell supports the expenses.

“It’s a sad commentary when we have to make everything political,” Bell said. “It has become entangled in politics, as do many things in this day and age. I’m not going to ignore anyone’s beliefs, but I’m simply asking them to join us in investing Clayton County’s monies in the future.”

County leaders are defending their plans for the memorial, as well as the reception, and a book signing by author Rachel L. Swarns (who wrote a book about Mrs. Obama’s genealogy) from the criticism.

Clark’s complaints prompted Clayton County NAACP President Synamon Baldwin to criticism him, according to an e-mail he provided to local media. “This smacks of racism!” the e-mail states, adding that there is “no cost involved to the Clayton taxpayer. The money is coming from hotel and motel taxes.”

County officials say the expenses is necessary to help to build up a genealogy industry in Clayton County. The national and state archives are located in Morrow, and state tourism and history officials are expected to attend the event.

Valet parking is needed for the reception, they say, because the archives property has a limited number of parking spaces. Overflow parking will be located at the vacant Ingles building across busy Ga. Hwy. 54 from the archives.

Visitors to the event are expected to come from as far as south Georgia, which means they could likely generate hotel and motel tax dollars for Clayton County while they are in town.

“This event will generate a number of people coming to stay in our hotels, and visit our county and spend their dollars in Clayton County, and that helps to further the tax base for our citizens,” Commission Vice-Chairman Wole Ralph told reporters after the commission’s vote on Tuesday. “This is a great use of money.”

Comments

Lynn 1 year, 10 months ago

while I admire our First Lady I wonder how a memorial to an ancestor will generate visitors to our county when the reputation of the county is so poor it can not even keep buisness here? How long will it take to see this memorial that would make the visitors have to stay at motels or hotels in our county? I think the complaint about monies being spent for this is not to do it but with other concerns in the county that could use a finanicial boost first? What ever happen to the recreation parks for our youth? Mr. Bell wonders why everything has to have a political undertone to it, I wonder why when someone expresses a concern different from another it has racism undertones?

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MD 1 year, 10 months ago

They are spending my tax money for this! These clowns spend others taxes like it was there own money. Put these idiots out of office!

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MD 1 year, 10 months ago

By the way! I see where the racism accusations come from. He is white, so he is not allowed to say anything. Isn't that amazing coming from people who a short time ago were considered victims of racism. Idiots.

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tweety 1 year, 10 months ago

And some are wondering why Clayton Co. is so bad?? You have to be kidding me. What a joke the CC gov. is. The naacp will throw in the "race card" whenever anyone disagrees with their policies even if it is logical. Wish I could move out.

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Casman 1 year, 10 months ago

Reverse racism is clearly on display and growing in Clayton County because of the leadership of the NAACP in the form of Ms Baldwin. Circle logic is on display by the County Commissioners... The County is broke (got to spend money to make it) We don't have the money to spend (we'll borrow it so we can make it back) Isn't that like gambling with the taxpayers money (we call it investing) So how's that been working out for the County ( The County is broke) And so it goes, day after day, resolution after resolution and if you happen to be one of the few remaining Whites in the County that has the courage to question these failed Commissioners fiscal policies you are, of course, labeled by Ms Baldwin, "a racist". With a wink and a nod of approval from her fellow NAACP'ers on the Commission the pillage of the Clayton County taxpayers continues unabated. This crop of (ugh) leaders won't be satisfied until they have reduced this County to abject poverty. Remember, their's is the best logic because it is circular.

http://www.news-daily.com/users/photos/2012/jun/20/45682/

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DrDaniel 1 year, 10 months ago

Wow. People from as far away as South Georgia. If the parking is across the street why do we need a valet service. Perhaps you could pay an off duty police officer to help them cross the street using their legs. By the way it would also be nice if the money that is not costing tax payers anything would be spent on county businesses..The valet company is from Atlanta and the catering from McDonough...I bet there is some crony connections going on there too. Hey folks enjoy the county. You are forcing good citizens white, black hispanic and asian out of the county not to mention any business that does not do title loans or pawns. Tara Boulevard looks like the Third World...but keep on spending..

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Casman 1 year, 10 months ago

Did anyone mention that only five hundred were invited to this? Those who work at the GA Archives and...? Let's see, 500, only some of which are from out of the area, are expected to pay Hotel/Motel taxes, enough to pay for the expense outlay? More Circle logic I presume.

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OscarKnight 1 year, 10 months ago

..Everywhere that Michelle Obama has an ancestor or a distant relative, are we suppose to accept the fact, that there will be a Memorial celebration taking placed ?.......At the tax payers expense ?

...Perhaps this is just part of living in this crazed Obamamania, in The Obamanation ?

...Welcome To The Democrat Plantation of Clayton County...Ha, Ha :)

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DE 1 year, 10 months ago

I really don't care if it was Mother Teresa's Great, Great, Great Grandmother who was born in this county, the county cannot afford to be wasting our limited tax dollars on such things. Proponents of this measure are saying that it won't effect taxpayers because they will be using money from the hotel/motel tax. Well where do they think these tax dollars go? Here's an idea, THE GENERAL FUND!!. And the general fund is what we use to maintain the county, pay employees of the county and pay for NECESSARY services, not frivolous items that have no real value to the taxpayers of this county. It's time that this administration starts learning to live within it's needs, instead of spending this counties tax dollars foolishly and wastefully.

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DE 1 year, 10 months ago

If the people who are for this project think it's so viable, well here's an idea. Collect donations for the project rather than robbing the county coffers to satisfy your needs. If this project is as important as you claim, you should have no problem collecting all the necessary funds for the project along with enough to maintain it for years to come. That would be a win-win for everyone.

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OscarKnight 1 year, 9 months ago

....Not everyone shares this enthusiasm about the ancestors of the First Lady Obama, and the tax payers of the county should not have the burden to have this forced upon us.

....First the BOC raises our county taxes, just to have more money to waste. I can only wonder how much more of our taxes has gone to waste.

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