OPINION — Will the Peachtree City Council vote against the First Amendment tonight?
How is that even possible?
I suggest to you that the ordinance provision the council is considering voting against tonight is — upon further reflection — the near-perfect implementation of the First Amendment right of the people “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Think with me: the city ordinance that allows an individual private citizen to place an item for discussion on the official meeting agenda of the Peachtree City Council is as pure a form of petitioning the government as I know.
Years ago, a city council thought enough of its citizens to give them a place at the table of power. If your item is on the official council meeting agenda, it cannot be ignored, passed over, buried or forgotten. It must at least get a hearing before the persons elected to govern this city. And then entered into the historical minutes of that official government meeting, available to be read and discussed by future citizens.
Democracy in a constitutional republic doesn’t get any more functional and grassroots than that. And government — local or higher — doesn’t get much closer to honoring in practice the First Amendment than that.
And after a local resident rediscovered that nearly forgotten right in the city code, the City Council at its meeting tonight at City Hall will be forced to listen to her petition for a redress of grievances — in this case about a potential change to voting precincts across the city and county.
And somebody on City Council and/or city staff really dislikes that a mere citizen would be allowed to intrude on their lofty deliberations. Thus a vote tonight on removing that right from the city code, and thus returning the citizens back to their appropriate place of being spectators to decisions that affect their lives.
Folks, I am in awe of the unknown (to me) past council members who thought highly enough of their constituents to enshrine that basic First Amendment right into the city code that binds the council to listen.
That right to petition does not mean that you will get your way. It simply means that people in power will be compelled to at least listen to your petition. They still may deny your petition, but at least it will be heard.
Is that right important to you? Tonight we’ll see how important that right is to the five members of the City Council. Because tonight, your City Council members will be voting for or against your First Amendment right that’s enshrined in the ordinances of Peachtree City.
Do Mayor Kim Learnard and council members Mike King, Phil Prebor, Frank Destadio and Clint Holland want you to continue to bother them with your pesky petitions? Or will they kick you and your petitions to the curb?
Tonight the First Amendment will get a vote, up or down, yes or no.
[Cal Beverly is editor and publisher of The Citizen.]