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Where Are Gwinnett’s Leaders?

Who is looking out for the interests of county taxpayers, who give over $1 million per year to the Gwinnett Chamber?

 

Gwinnett taxpayers give over $1 million per year to the Gwinnett Chamber. In return for the millions of taxpayer dollars given, we were told that the Gwinnett Chamber brought 280 businesses to Gwinnett, created 12,000 jobs, and generated $800 million in economic activity. Where can I get a list of those 280 businesses, the companies that hired the 12,000 employees, and what methodology was used to determine that the Gwinnett Chamber generated $800 million in economic activity? 

The Gwinnett Chamber has a registered lobbyist who regularly lobbies for issues that benefit their members, including the failed TSPLOST referendum. Who lobbies for Gwinnett taxpayers?

The marketing people behind the Untie Atlanta advertising campaign would never be able to figure out how to untie all of the tangled relationships between the Gwinnett Chamber and the elected officials who give them taxpayer money. Can someone please explain why the following relationships should give taxpayers comfort that our leaders are only looking out for our best interests?

  • The school superintendent sits on the chamber board. The school system pays the salaries of chamber employees with tax funds designated for education. The total to date on a no contract, no bid basis? Over $900,000.

  • The chamber CEO sits on the board of the Gwinnett Conventions & Visitors Bureau (GCVB), which gives $100,000 per year to the chamber. The GCVB CEO sits on the board of the chamber. A county commissioner sits on the board of the GCVB.

  • The county commission gives $500,000 per year to the chamber, and the commission chairman sits on the chamber board.

These are just a few examples of the tangled relationships. There are many more…

I have been asking questions since February. I haven’t received any answers; only comments such as, “We’ll work on it,” “We’ll look into it,” “We’ll get back to you," “Thanks for asking,” and, “Those are good questions.”

If those are good questions, why are there no good answers?

What is the most politically influential group in Gwinnett County? The Gwinnett Chamber. Who among our political leaders is holding the Gwinnett Chamber accountable to the taxpayers? No one. Where are Gwinnett’s leaders? Nowhere to be found. The silence is deafening.

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John Cook August 11, 2012 at 04:34 PM
We don’t have the money for teacher cost of living increases, or to staff police precincts and fire stations that have already been built by SPLOST money, but we do have a half-million dollars of County taxpayer money to spend on advertising to promote passage of additional SPLOST referendums, and another $150,000+ per year from the school system annual budget. It seems just slightly more insulting that they try to hide the advertising dollars in this manner. It is illegal for government entities to advertise in favor of a referendum from which they will receive revenue, so they launder the money through Progress Gwinnett, and the Progress Gwinnett employees advocate in favor of the SPLOST referendums. The Chamber is an organization of businesses that develop business climate within the community. I cannot believe that they would not carry on this purpose without the forced donations from taxpayers. I also find it impossible to believe that the Chamber is uniquely responsible for every commercial building built within the County since the inception of Progress Gwinnett. That seems to be an exaggerated lie. Their claim seems to be based on the idea that because they exist, full credit belongs exclusively to them. This is a logical falacy!
Amy Fuchs August 11, 2012 at 05:00 PM
John Cook - If that budget is more detailed than the 990 page budget I am currently reviewing then I want to see it - really I want a copy of it. Connect with me on linked in. This is good stuff.... And I have more hidden gems from the budget .... Just not sure how to proceed. Amy Weiss-Fuchs
John Cook August 11, 2012 at 05:17 PM
(Continued from previous post) I asked Mr. Cost whether it was proper for the school system to take money by force from taxpayers (who are hurting financially) in order to donate to non-school entities, when the public believes the money is for the benefit of the students. He said the benefit in extra revenue exceeds the outlay. I asked why the donation cannot be found in the online budget. He stated that the size of the budget prohibits them from itemizing by line in public releases, but the budget is available for inspection at their offices. I asked why they do not make the budget available online, rather than a public summary of the budget. The recent land purchases did not create a lot of confidence in the school system, since they chose to hire their own investigator who conducted a superficial investigation by only talking to less than ten percent of those involved with the land deals. The investigator did not have subpoena powers. The school system chose the private investigator rather than the D.A. or a Grand Jury which would have subpoena powers. Combined with us finding out about this hidden expenditure through news sources, the school system is not creating public confidence. It seems that they would want openness by putting the budget online for all to see. He said the budget can be seen in their office. I asked how we could change their policies—by replacing all of the elected school board officials? He said that option is available to the public.
John Cook August 11, 2012 at 05:30 PM
On January 31, I also asked Rick Cost if the school system refused to contribute to Partnership Gwinnett, if he didn’t think the business community would make up money for the positions at Partnership Gwinnett. He said I could argue the point if I wanted, but others would differ. I asked whether the businesses would have built buildings whether the school system gave away taxpayer money; and received similar response. The argument that the additional revenue could only be achieved through the contribution of the school board is a logical fallacy. Any public relations firm could contact a business considering expansion, and make a similar claim that they are to be credited with the capital expenditure resulting from the new building. That assertion excludes many other factors involved in the decision of a business to build a new facility. Similar outlandish claims were made regarding the potential revenue of the Gwinnett Braves stadium and the vast sums of tax revenue for the County. The claims made by those associated with the Chamber of Commerce and Progress Gwinnett were overstated. Claiming that their efforts alone are responsible for the entire $800Million in capital development is similarly an overstatement. Please read regarding the struggle of others who have attempted to obtain answers on how Progress Gwinnett spent taxes and whether public funds were used for illegal lobbying and advocacy of policy: http://www.gwinnettpetition.com/About_Us.html
Jim Regan August 12, 2012 at 03:00 AM
The only explanation for this is that Gwinnett Public Schools and their leadership have lost sight of their mission, which is to provide the best education possible to children of Gwinnett County. Their explanation that they get a good return for the investment it totally unacceptable.

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