I am Amy Carrier. This is the story behind the joint statement by 3 (not 4) candidates for the open city council seat.
The concept for this joint statement was mine. By now, I hope you have read the statement published in The Citizen which highlights my public statements at City Hall, and was signed by Kenneth Hamner, Phil Crane, Clint Holland and Kevin Madden.
I was surprised to see Madden‘s name listed on the published statement as I have never communicated with Kevin Madden, nor has he ever contacted me. He did not collaborate with me, Kenneth, Phil, or Clint on the creation of the statement. The statement can be read here.
My objectives for asking the candidates to participate in putting out a public statement were the following:
• Bring together the candidates around the non-political issue disability rights
• Determine which candidates understood how important this issue is to all residents
• Work together with the candidates to create a clear plan for making Peachtree City more accessible
• To create a plan for a committee of residents with disabilities who can provide advice and guidance to the city
Here is how it came to be:
If you have read the statement, you may have also clicked on the link to watch my remarks at the SPLOST City Council meeting on August 30. I was there because my email to every member of City Council and the mayor (sent August 4) regarding the non-ADA compliant speed bumps had been ignored completely.
To be honest, I was quite surprised to receive zero response in the weeks that passed. Surely there are basic administrative procedures to respond to constituent emails. I have worked with city governments throughout the United States, and I worked closely for years with the mayors and many city counselors in Boston, Massachusetts prior to relocating to Peachtree City.
Never in my professional career did my email outreach to elected officials get ignored outright (it has now been ignored for 82 days as of my writing this letter). Obviously, as a resident and a member of this community, I was not going to just be ignored.
I wondered if this was indicative of the very concerns I contacted the city about. You can’t just ignore tax-paying residents who have concerns about their legal rights to equal access under the ADA. Does being a person with a disability make me a second class citizen? Of course not, but that is what members of Peachtree City government have certainly demonstrated to me, bringing me to this letter today.
To be sure I was heard, I chose to attend the SPLOST City Council meeting three weeks later, on August 30, and speak directly to the mayor and members of Council. You may watch the city’s recording of my comments at that meeting here, at the 13:30 mark.
I spoke twice that night. My second set of comments can be heard at the 1:17:40 mark.
To underscore the city’s outright disregard for me and the concerns I brought to City Council that night, you will hear at the end of my first comments (19:45 mark), the mayor clearly asked for me to leave my contact information, which I did.
As of this letter I am writing on October 25, absolutely no one from the city has contacted me. As of today, my initial message about disability rights has gone without response from the city for 82 days. It’s been 56 days since I left my contact information with the mayor, at her request. Also no response.
82 days. And counting.
I wonder how many other PTC residents are still waiting for responses to their concerns. This is why I am speaking up, for me, for everyone living with a disability, and for every one of my neighbors who deserve to be heard, able-bodied or not.
All of this brings me to how the joint statement on ADA accessibility in Peachtree City signed by Kenneth Hamner, Phil Crane, and Clint Holland came to be.
After my comments at the council meeting on August 30, several PTC residents approached and talked to me, gave me their contact information and asked to speak with me further. I stayed for quite a while after the meeting that evening, but still was not able to speak with everyone who wished to speak with me so began my phone calls.
Kenneth Hamner was the first person to connect with me that night, he thanked me for my comments, and expressed a desire to speak further. Also that night, Phil Crane asked to have a call with me and gave me his contact information. I spoke with many other Peachtree City residents that night about ADA compliance issues, lack of accessibility, friends with disabilities, and frustration with not being heard. I did not meet Clint Holland that night, but he was in attendance, and heard my comments as well.
After my hour-plus phone call with Kenneth Hamner, I spoke with Phil Crane, also for more than an hour and asked for the names and contact information of anyone else running for the open seat. I had a phone call with Clint Holland lasting two hours. I specifically asked all three of them if they supported my recommendations made to the city and discussed several others I did not bring up that night at City Hall.
From my perspective, if current city government was going to ignore me, I was going to find out as much as I could about who was running for the open seat and if they 1) were on the right side of providing accessibility to all Peachtree City residents, 2) would they support my recommended actions that need to be taken by the city, and 3) would they be willing to publicly state their support for improving access for Peachtree City residents with disabilities in a published, non-partisan joint statement. The calls to action we all four agreed to are those that appear clearly outlined in the joint statement.
I was very pleased that all three were very forthcoming, and very open to listening and learning about the issues that impact people living with disabilities. They each had their own areas of interest and experience with disability issues. They each saw areas where improvement is needed, related to issues they already uniquely cared about.
I asked Kenneth, Phil and Clint to communicate with the remaining candidates to ask if they were going to join the statement promising to take action on accessibility issues. I was included on that outreach, but I will not speak specifically to what the other candidates communicated regarding the invitation, rather, I will just state the facts about their responses to the invitation: 1) Madden never responded, 2) Gelhardt responded, but did not express a desire to participate.
Because I have been building what I call “uncommon collaboratives” (groups of people and partnerships that are unexpected) to make change happen in my career and community building work throughout the world, I wanted to ask each of these candidates if they would come together to make a non-political joint statement in support of making Peachtree City truly accessible.
From my personal perspective, I also told them that based on the assets and pure potential that exist here in this community, making Peachtree City, Georgia the first 100% ADA compliant city in the country would not only be possible, but could be a shining example and lead the way for the rest of the United States.
My specific request of these three candidates was to come together, beyond political ideologies and agree, publicly, that ADA accessibility and disability access for all Peachtree City residents is a fundamental human right.
After hours of communication with Kenneth, Phil and Clint, the four of us began to work on a nonpolitical joint statement to be published in The Citizen. The joint statement (link provided at the opening of my letter) was drafted in a shared document by the three candidates and myself with further emailing, text messages, and phone calls for clarification and learning, over the course of two weeks.
As I write this letter, we are exactly 2 weeks from election day. I will not make a recommendation for how anyone should vote, nor will I say who I am going to vote for. As I made clear to the three candidates, and everyone reading my letter, ADA accessibility for people living with disabilities is NOT a political issue. But it is a critical and too often ignored area of need for voters who have no choice but to express their concerns to elected officials in either 50-second windows of open comment or emails (and perhaps phone calls) that may go unanswered and unaddressed completely.
I have been a problem solver, an entrepreneur, a coach, a consultant, an educator, a high school teacher, a community builder, and a peacemaker. I am happy to be a resident of Peachtree City and I am happy to speak up and offer to do what I can to make life better for those who have every right to be heard, supported and understood. And while I may be far more aware of how many people there are living with challenges created by many different disabilities, I’m afraid our city is not as aware, nor as concerned about our rights as they should be.
If our elected officials do not represent us or hear our concerns, we must vote accordingly and hold them to their word. I wanted to know where each of the candidates for the open council seat stood on these issues. At this point, I have learned what I sought out to discover from everyone who will appear on the ballot, and I wanted YOU to know also.
Peachtree City, Ga.