The Peachtree City Council wants to hear from you — for 52 seconds

14
2048

OPINION — I mentioned in my most recent opinion column that the Peachtree City Council apportioned 54 seconds per speaker to hear citizen concerns during the July 12 public meeting.

The minutes of that meeting show that I am incorrect. The council allowed 52 seconds for each speaker.

Fifty-two seconds. Plus the city wanted the speaker’s name and residential subdivision. Ten seconds gone. So what are you going to do with the remaining 42 seconds to avail yourself of your First Amendment right to petition your government for a redress of grievances?

Fifty-two seconds to speak to the five ordinary citizens that Peachtree City residents elected to listen to them. And that bloody timer running to count down the 52 seconds on the big screens.

All the local governments are guilty of this move to downgrade the right of citizens to speak out loud to their elected representatives during a public meeting. Some make this constitutional right as inconvenient as possible, moving the strictly allotted time far down the agenda and keeping the speaker’s time strictly monitored.

It was a standing-room crowd at the July 12 meeting — more than 50 people. Fifty-two seconds.

That strict time limit is a relatively recent development. At least two members of the current council have been present in past meetings in past years when crowds of citizens were allowed as much time as needed to hear everyone who wanted to speak. Both Mayor Kim Learnard and Councilman Mike King were present to hear citizens offer opinions about Great Wolf water park and an attempt to contract with the city insurance carrier to pay for individual lawsuits by council members or city employees against their own constituents.

Both attempts roused public anger and the council backed off both. And people spoke — without a timer — for more than 52 seconds each.

But the current council seems to want to put the public in a tightly cordoned-off corral so as to not exceed the council’s arbitrary and capricious time limit of 20 minutes to hear ALL public attempts to petition their government.

It’s an insult to the public, especially the clock ticking off 52 seconds per speaker.

Peachtree City Council members, you have two regular meetings a month during which you face the public. Nothing you have on your agenda is more important than the time you listen to the people who elected you, face to face, in public, no hiding behind emails.

If city officials are worried about having the meeting extended to hear from the public (twice a month, remember), then bring your extra seat cushions, your water jug and be prepared to listen — with respect.

If you don’t want to listen to the people who elected you — in two public meetings a month, for more than 52 seconds each — then you should resign.

A special election can be held speedily, and with the city’s overflowing tax collections, the city can easily afford the extra expense to elect replacement council members with more respect for the public.

Fifty-two seconds. And the clock is running.

And in addition, behave yourself, members of the public. Don’t criticize any public official or city employee. You are not allowed to publicize any grievance that might actually hold somebody responsible. Forget that pesky First Amendment.

Here’s the section from the July 12 minutes that enshrines these insults for future readers:

“Public Comment — City Clerk Yasmin Julio stated that, as per policy, the allotted time of 20 minutes for public comments would be divided by the number of speakers, since that number exceeded 10. There were 22 people signed up to speak, and each would be allowed 52 seconds.

“Before the public made their comments, Learnard addressed the issue of speed bumps, noting that the City convened an advisory group last fall to look at the issue of safety on the multi-use paths. That group recommended a number of improvements, including speed bumps, and the City listened and acted. However, she stated, there were no plans at this time for any additional speed bumps. Council would regroup and see how to move forward, and she asked the public to allow time for that. Learnard said the public comment portion of the meeting was a time for Council to hear concerns of residents. They wanted to conduct business in a professional manner, and she cautioned against any personal attacks.” — City Council minutes, July 12, 2022 (bold emphasis mine).

Here is the agenda for the Aug. 4 council meeting.

CITY COUNCIL OF PEACHTREE CITY

REVISED MEETING MINUTES

AUGUST 4, 2022

6:30 p.m.

I. Call to Order

II. Pledge of Allegiance

III. Moment of Silence

IV. Announcements, Awards, Special Recognition

V. Public Comment

VI. Agenda Changes

VII. Minutes

July 12, 2022, Special Called Meeting Minutes

July 12, 2022, Executive Session Meeting Minutes

VIII. Consent Agenda

1. Appointment of Interim City Manager effective August 17, 2022

2. FY-22 Budget Amendment and Increase of (1) Public Communications Specialist (F/T)

3. Reclassify Assistant Police Chief Position from Salary Grade 121 to Salary Grade 122

4. Addition of Two (2) Firefighters/EMT’s or Paramedics in the Fire Department

5. FY-22 Budget Amendment and Contract with WorkOps for Stormwater Management Service

6. FY2023 Non-Profit Funding- Fayette Council on Domestic Violence, Inc. d.b.a. Promise Place

7. FY2023 Non-Profit Funding- Fayette Senior Services

IX. Old Agenda Items

07-22-02 Adoption of FY 2023 Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program

(Salvatore)

X. New Agenda Items

08-22-01 Request to Continue Recruitment Sign-On Bonus through February 2023

(Brown)

08-22-02 Lake Mcintosh Access Road/TDK Blvd Conveyance (Meeker)

XI. Public Hearings

XII. Council/Staff Topics

Peachtree Parkway/Crosstown Intersection Improvements (McMullen)

Driveway Gates Ordinance (Cailloux)

XIII. Executive Session

XIV. Adjourn

This agenda is subject to change at any time up to 24 hours prior to the scheduled meeting.

The meeting will be held in Council Chambers at City Hall, 151 Willowbend Road.

[Cal Beverly has been editor and publisher of The Citizen since February 1993.]

14 COMMENTS

  1. Peachtree City has had a string of elected officials who have acted in bad faith going back to the Great Wolf fiasco. After Mayor Fleisch was astonishingly reelected following her betrayal of the city’s voters and core values, my guess is it became open season to run for council or mayor using the usual campaign promises and then do whatever self-serving actions or pet projects you wanted to do despite what the voters may think. The newly elected anti-cart path councilwoman who should be recalled as soon as possible (after serving 180 days under GA state law in case anyone was wondering), is just the latest example of Peachtree City elected officials who feel unbound and outright antagonistic to the very voters who elected them.

    Peachtree City voters need to send a message to their elected officials at the council meetings and more importantly at the ballot box. This kind of hostile and aloof treatment of the people you serve has to stop. I understand the city has had to undergo some growing pains as Joel Cowan’s dream became a reality and more and more people wanted to be a part of it, but this is no excuse for the kind of underhanded dealing and outright disrespect we’ve seen displayed by some of our elected officials recently. We can’t continue to elect and reelect folks like this.

    Cal, I appreciate your thorough reporting and attempts to hold those in power to account.

  2. I’m not sure what the answer is here but I do feel that citizens should have more time to speak and at the same time, it cannot turn into a filibuster-like event that goes on all evening.

    One thing I noticed about the meeting that Cal references is that easily half of the speakers came from Planterra to ask for help with traffic cutting through their neighborhood. I would guess that no fewer than five or six of the speakers were children that the parents trotted out to tug at collective heart strings. I have seen the traffic that is referenced firsthand, however I never see any kids playing in yards or streets even when the traffic is light or Non-existent. Hopefully their problem gets dealt with soon and they can take down the dozens of signs that detract from the beauty of their neighborhood.

  3. I often watch the House of Representatives debates on c-span. There, 2 or three minutes is sufficient time for the Reps to make their argument after that it’s bloviating. Assign an hour for debate on any item and then shut it down.

    • Perhaps we should start the meetings on Saturday mornings and let them run into Sunday night. Cal’s right- these elected officials should listen to everyone’s two cents. Especially the certain gadfly who feels a visceral need to comment on every single subject… and repetitively implores others to do the same. I’m always amazed at how some who are relatively new to PTC attempt to appear so first-hand familiar with the who, what, where, when, and why of things long past.

      Reach out to council members directly; you’ll most likely find greater purchase. Unless the need to publicly pontificate is too overwhelming. Is 52 seconds too limiting? Perhaps. So how long should we obligate council members and staff to stay?

      • Congratulations, Squirrel. For fun, I timed reading your comment, including your rodent name and your imaginary tree address. You came in at 49 seconds.

        On the other hand, your buddy Spyglass in the comment above you came in under 20 seconds. He hardly had time to get to the microphone before he had to turn around and sit down.

        You guys could show us long-winded showboats how to do short and not-so-sweet. 52 seconds represents no barrier to your snappy retorts. Alas, most of us fall short of your brevity and probably your golf handicap too. Stay snappy .. or snippy.

  4. Cal, you nailed it, they are insulting the voting taxpayers of PTC with this timer. I may add, allowing no applause until the very end, is a great insulting touch, really putting a bow on how they feel about their constituents. They are certainly not interested in hearing any applause for opinions they care absolutely nothing about. It is just a terrible situation we have going here with the City Council, and it is just getting worse. What I don’t understand is if they do not like Peachtree City and what it is, why run for office and “serve”?

  5. I understand from the Fayette County Elections Board Office there is no separate or actual cost assigned to place items for voting on election ballots. The costs are absorbed in the elections process as long as items for election are qualified in a timely manner. That’s why I will rather sign petitions to place items on ballots rather than throw sticks and bricks at the variety of things upsetting voters.