Brown: Government openness, accountability has to start at local level


We are rapidly approaching one of our nation’s most sacred holidays: Independence Day.

I am often frustrated at how our modern society has smoothed all the rough edges off of the Founding Fathers through a sort of historical canonization process. The road to creating our great country was a treacherous, rowdy and often painful trek into mostly uncharted reasoning and practices.

Creating a democracy was grueling, and defending it through the generations has been equally demanding.

We take so many things for granted in the United States. Our freedom of speech is an enormous gift that nearly half of the world’s population can only dream about.

A newspaper reporter in Russia exposing government corruption or abuses of the oligarchs can expect to be shot in the streets. Likewise, speak out against government practices in China and end up in prison.

As President Reagan once said, “Freedom isn’t free.”

Locally, I have become increasingly angry at the attempts of the three-member majority of our county government to censor our freedom of speech.

As an elected representative of the citizens of Fayette County, I have been subjected to blatant censorship on several occasions. Even though my political opposition had the three votes necessary to vote my measures down, they could not stand the thought of permitting me to express my views in the public forum. They could not justify their actions.

Truly, when people in power decide to operate outside the will of the citizenry, the first act of the powerful, generally, is to silence the opposition.

The three-member majority is now on their way to forcing public comments of citizens at county Board of Commissioner meetings to the very end of the twice a month meetings. Therefore, no one can offer criticism or suggestions related to an item on the agenda until well after the commissioners have voted, hoping the people will give up and cease attending public meetings.

Good citizens, if we cannot keep local government accountable and open, then we do not have a prayer of ever solving our national ills.

At the June 9 Board of Commissioners meeting, I attempted to make a presentation on how we could avert a county budget crisis. Local citizens like you packed the meeting room to show support for the proposal. Regrettably, Chairman Herb Frady, Commissioner Lee Hearn and Commissioner Robert Horgan refused to allow me to make the presentation when my agenda item was called.

They pleaded technicalities and voted to table me in an effort to keep the information from the public. You can see the whole thing on

Chairman Frady said he did not want citizens like you speak at the beginning of meetings because “Boy Scouts” attend the meetings and he did not want them to hear negative comments.

I contend that you need to bring your children with you to the meeting on June 23 at 7 p.m. so that they can see why the Constitution is vital to the survival of our nation. Even with laws, ordinances and rules which promote openness and order, a simple majority, outside the public eye, can disassemble all that we hold dear.

Instead of watching the Kardashian sisters and all of the other dismal reality television shows, bring your children to the Board of Commissioners meeting and show them that our rights are worth protecting. Show them the reality that truth can stand up to power.

If you decide not to participate, you will eventually pay for the damages of budgets gone bad and the decisions impacting your quality of life. Just remember when the damage is done, you will get the bill for cleaning up the destruction.

I urge you to attend the meeting on Thursday, June 23 and stand up for your rights as citizens of Fayette County. Demand openness and accountability in your local government.

Commissioner Hearn told a reporter that he is going to do whatever he wants anyway. A packed crowd at the last meeting gave him reason to pause.

I hope to see you there.

Steve Brown, Post 4 county commissioner

Peachtree City, Ga.