OPINION — With almost no warning, the Peachtree City Council is set to vote Thursday night to zero out one of the significant democratic (small “d”) rights of Peachtree City citizens.
As a resident of Peachtree City, you have a lawful right as described this way by new City Manager Robert Curnow: “The current ordinance allows for anyone to place an item on the agenda.” Yes, you can place an agenda item on the City Council agenda, and they can’t refuse to let you do this. Until tonight.
Wow! That’s an amazing right that has been used extremely rarely by any resident of Peachtree City.
So resident Suzanne Brown exercised that right and placed an item on this Thursday night’s council agenda. It’s under Public Hearings: “02-03-06 — Redistricting voting precincts county-wide.” It’s about the Fayette County Board of Elections — an unelected body — moving toward shrinking countywide voting precincts from 36 to 19 and moving most Peachtree City voters into newly combined precincts.
Why did an ordinary citizen have to draw attention to this significant voting change rather than our elected officials? Good question, which you may ponder as you discover what happened next.
The council vote to cancel that right is on the agenda immediately before Brown gets to present the shrinking voting precincts issue to the council and to the public.
Could this look any worse?
Yes. Here’s City Manager Robert Curnow’s explanation of why this citizen right has to be slapped down and abolished immediately:
“This does not always provide council members the opportunity to fully understand the item being requested or presented. The change to the ordinance would require the public to submit their items to the mayor or at least one council member, creating the opportunity for dialogue with residents and/or the requester. One or more members of council may then choose to have the item added to the council meeting agenda.”
You got that? If a council member or members did not want your item on the agenda, they would simply refuse to add it, and you would have no recourse except to go to a council meeting and be allowed a short, strictly timed objection.
It’s not like citizens are adding items to the council agenda all the time. In fact, it’s the first time in my memory that this has happened. I have not been present at all council meetings since my first one in 1982, but I’ve been at a lot of them. This has not been a contentious issue in 40 years of council meetings. So why now?
Because maybe Mayor Kim Learnard and one or two other council members don’t like that right being exercised by the public that elected them. (Control, control, control.) And when a local gadfly has the audacity to actually exercise the right provided by city ordinance, some council members want to stomp it out of existence — immediately, the same night.
I’ve observed that the council loses its collective mind on average about once every three or four years. Remember Great Wolf, a commercial water park pushed by the city staff and council to be located on Aberdeen Parkway next to residential neighborhoods? An overflow crowd from all of the city’s villages reminded them that was a bad idea.
Remember the council’s attempt to have the city insurance pay for council and city staff to sue citizens who dared to criticize them? Another overflow crowd — ranging from an ACLU official to a guy in a MAGA hat — urged the council to drop this bone-headed idea.
This canceling an existing right — clearly to prevent embarrassment to council members — is similarly bone-headed. So they don’t “fully understand the item” being presented. So what? Discuss it and postpone action until the next meeting. DO NOT take away this important right from Peachtree City residents using such a flimsy excuse.
And what about that Elections Board? We’ve had more than two dozen voting precincts for the past 40 years and our population has increased greatly. What is behind this attempt to inconvenience tens of thousands of Fayette voters?
The Election Board members — ironically — are appointed, not elected. But here are members of the County Commission that controls the budget of the three-member elections board, and these guys are elected:
• Edward “Edge” Gibbons, District 3 (Peachtree City), cell 678-708-1262, EGibbons@fayettecountyga.gov
• Lee Hearn, District 2 (eastern Fayette from Fayetteville to Brooks), cell 678-708-1262, Lhearn@fayettecountyga.gov
• Eric Maxwell, District 1 (Fayetteville west to Tyrone), cell 678-684-7094, Emaxwell@fayettecountyga.gov
• Charles Oddo, District 5 At-Large (all of Fayette County), cell 770-401-0088, COddo@fayettecountyga.gov
• Charles D. Rousseau, District 4 (northern Fayette County), 470-217-2214, CRousseau@fayettecountyga.gov
Call or email any or all of them and encourage them to rein in this Election Board that wants to crowd even more voters into just over half the number of precincts currently operating, in the process reshuffling thousands of voters. Might shrinking the number of voting precincts be viewed negatively by many taxpaying voters? Is there any convincing logic underlying this move? Why haven’t we heard this logic?
Also join the Peachtree City Council Thursday night and encourage them to leave untouched this seldom-used citizen access to the council agenda. Otherwise the council will deliver a potently symbolic slap in the faces of thousands of city residents.
If that happens, maybe the mayor will allow you 53 seconds to object during the strictly timed public comment period at the next meeting.
[Cal Beverly has been editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]
What? Denying citizens a voice … again. This is the kind of action I would never support.
Council sits there twice a month and doesn’t seem to want to give our citizens the time to share their concerns. We need council members who will listen to the citizens. That’s what they were elected to do.
When I hear stories about how fast can they do a council meeting to get out of there it makes my blood boil.
I am running for City Council Post #1 this November. Elect Eric Imker and you will get the council member who will go out of his way to meet and listen to the citizens.
When you have tired old entrench folks who keep getting reelected and who have lost the desire to meet and get things done for the citizens, you get what we now have as a majority on council. 8 years, 8 years and going on 12 years with hopes of 16 years. So wrong. We need revitalized council members who actually listen, understand, and will work for the citizens.
I have already worked with new council members Frank Destadio and Clint Holland and know they are eager to get down to business. I helped them get elected. Now get me on council and Peachtree City will see the true full fruits of real leadership take hold. Lower taxes, smart traffic solutions, a revitaled industrial district with high paying local jobs, and controlled growth so as to not cause more problems than the precieved good always claimed.
The traffic cooridor along GA54 will NOT BE TURNED INTO HIGH DENSITY ANYTHING!!! YOU GOT THAT CURRENT COUNCIL MAJORITY!!!
Again. You elect a Communist mayor what do you expect?
Do try to make your parents proud next year in 5th grade. Best of luck, lil fella!
Defins – A “communist” really? Is that the range of your descriptive creativity?
Truth is stranger than fiction.
If they said they were going to strip away all your rights, all at once, you would object.
Instead they erode your rights a little at a time.
The end result is the same, but they hope you don’t notice until it’s too late.
If you are paying attention and don’t want them to take away your rights, then show up at the Council meeting tonight at 6:30.
We need to speak in opposition to them taking away our rights.
But you’ll need to write to the Council about your opinion because they don’t plan to have a public hearing on this issue.
This is precisely why we need The Citizen! It is impossible to keep on top of the twisting of this council.
An election is coming and we must get a third conservative advocate for the people elected!
You can easily sign up for as many automated emails from the city as you are interested in. That includes City Council agendas and minutes but any of the other commissions (e.g. Planning) as well as weekly and monthly notices of City activities. And all that info is also easily available on the city website.
CitizenAl, I am in agreement that we need a third conservative voice on council. Progress has been made since the Vanessa Fleisch days, but not enough. We will see how Frank and his new sidekick vote tonight.
One last thought: if this “right” hasn’t come up as something needed in the last 40 years, is it really the end of the world if it disappears? Or has Suzanne Brown created yet another tempest in a teapot Like the great zoning conspiracy from a month ago.
Your last paragraph pretty much perfectly encapsulates the situation.
Obscure, unused ordinance thats only purpose is to bring up topics no one has reviewed or prepared for at all. It’s just noise to get headlines and feed the Browns.
But hey, if it stays I’m happy to take up the publics and elected officials time talking about a turtle I lost decades ago as a kid.
Thank you for the opinion piece, Mr. Beverly. I’m always learning. I didn’t relize any citizen could place an item in the City Council’s meeting agenda. However, I can understand why a citizen needs to request insertion of an item placement on the agenda. I frankly don’t think, based on what I read and see in the media, many people are civil enough to construct the public’s agenda.