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.]
The Mayor and City Council took a serious look at our citizens’ rights to inject agenda items into the City Council’s meetings. They tabled any decision on the topic until at least March. I like the way a couple of council members addressed the ordinance change consideration. First, changing our ordinance is serious business and requires some research and discussion. Second, the current ordinance has worked and it may not be necessary to change it. Third, Peachtree City is a unique place and we can lead or follow (municipality trends).
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” apparently is unique among 15 local municipalities surronding us. With the city staff and a new City Manager looking to review and update our ordinances, this staff recommended ordinance change surfaced.
I don’t care for the overall way our city’s staff is going about this. It seems to me we are taking a piecemeal or fragmented approach with obtaining council approvals upon conclusion of each ordinance review. Of course, there may exist more dialog between the staff and council as the City Manager leads this process, but last night’s meeting did not reflect it to me. As much as we like to use benchmarks to evaluate our efficiencies, benchmarks do not always exist to represent the best practicies. Sometimes we need to establish our own benchmarks to incorporate unique values.
As always, I admit to maybe being inaccurate about this stuff. I watched last night’s council meeting with appreciation for our Mayor and City Council. I believe we have a balanced mix of honorable representatives who have our best interests at heart. To me, it’s all about attitude and I believe our Mayor and City Council have good attitudes and I appreciate their efforts. I sure don’t want their jobs.
It’s always amusing when chickens come home to roost. Closing polling places is chapter 1 in the GOP SOP. Limiting dissention is in chapter 2.
Of course, to use Cal’s term, when a “gadfly” becomes repetitious and impedes necessary discussion, however well-intentioned they may wish to be, a reaction is to be expected. Is this the right action? No, but lack of self-governance is the vacuum from which actions are borne.
Just please don’t eat Partners Pizza during a Council meeting. Taxpayers have already footed one unnecessary bill in that regard.
I agree with you, Mr. Beverly, “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.” (As I know, as well)
I also agree and I am also “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.”
As much as I consider this specific form of petitioning the government an excellent demonstration of responsive and faithful governing, direct independent citizen input into the City Council’s agenda is not an absolute necessity. I know of no other governing body that allows direct independent citizen input into its agenda. I will like to maintain the ordinance as it currently stands, but I can live without it. We have other means to petition, as well as compel our government to do lawful things.
We, all of us, are responsible to elect representatives for the reasons we choose and with the expectations they will do the lawful things we elected them to do. Let us allow them to govern. When we get to the point we cannot trust the people we elect, we have the means available to us to make correction.
Again, so as not to be misunderstood, I will like to maintain the ordinance as it currently stands.