ARC Public Comment Policy Falls Short
By Field Searcy
September 28, 2014
Last Wednesday, twelve private citizens addressed the Atlanta Regional Commission about the adoption of a more friendly public comment policy at the monthly board meetings. For some on the board, the comments were not welcomed. Maybe they were offended by the tone or the political correctness. Maybe the words cut to close too home. Or, maybe they’ve forgotten the price that was paid to secure the right.
The very foundation of the First Amendment was the right of political speech of the people to petition their government or challenge its authority. The ARC receives federal, state and local money. Its existence is the creature of government legislation at the state and federal level even its structure violates the republican form of government. In every way, it is bound by the Constitution for the United States and the Georgia Constitution. In fact, the board members all swear an oath of allegiance to the same.
While all the ARC board members have busy lives and political careers, they should never be too busy to hear from the people that have delegated representative authority to them.
Indeed, the policy adopted is more liberal than the previous policy which required a 10 day notice, a motion by a board member, a second and a 2/3rd’s vote. The new policy on public comment remains inadequate for the following reasons.
- For a regional commission for 10 counties and a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) of 20 counties representing more than 5 million people, allowing a total of only 10 minutes with up to 2 minutes per person is not sufficient. Even Cobb County, which has recently been under fire for limiting public comment, has a more liberal policy.
- Given the limited amount of time allotted for public comment, safeguards should have been included to allow time for all points of view to be heard. Witness the backlash that was caused in Cobb by stacking of the deck with supporting voices against the citizens with opposing views. A true consultative approach of allowing differing opinions should be protected. A wise person once said “The shining spark of truth, cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.”
- Public comment should be guaranteed directly in the ARC governing bylaws rather than a policy that can be changed “from time to time.”
The ARC Board passed the new policy with a vote of 19-7. We don’t believe the 7 that voted “no” are against free speech. Quite the contrary, we believe they wanted the sounding committee to rework the policy with some of the reasons cited above in mind. We salute them for their courage to not vote in lockstep with the rest. This was really the significant event since rarely is there ever a dissenting vote on any ARC Board decisions.
For too long, the people have been asleep and silent; not paying attention to what our elected representatives have been doing. We were too busy or too trusting to notice that authority was being subverted to unelected persons that cannot be held accountable to the people.
That is no longer the case. All across the spectrum, a political awakening is taking shape. The citizens are coming together, rediscovering that “We The People” are the sovereigns’ of the government and are reclaiming our rightful place to keep the government accountable and safeguard our liberties.
Field Searcy, a Cobb citizen, represents RepealRegionalism.com an education campaign by the Transportation Leadership Coalition, LLC which led the grassroots effort against the Regional Transportation Tax (TSPLOST) in 2012.
Permission to reprint is granted with full attribution.
The Atlanta Regional Commission is drafting a new set of bylaws for their governing board. The following remarks are a list of critical issues raised at a recent ARC meeting.
CRITICAL BYLAWS ISSUES
- Bylaws don’t provide term limits for appointed members. Some citizen members have served for 15 years. In fact, 16 of the 39 Board members are not elected by the citizens of any jurisdiction. Research has shown that citizen appointed members attend ARC meetings more often than elected county representatives. Yet, appointed citizen members are not accountable to the voters or taxpayers.
- Past and current ARC Chairmen are appointed chairmen of Community Improvement Districts. The Georgia Constitution and Georgia Law prove that CID’s are political subdivisions. The ARC has violated its own bylaws since citizen “members at large may hold no elective or appointed public office nor be employed by any political subdivision of the area”. Even Lynne Rainey, attorney that setup most all of the CID’s in Georgia and is currently counsel to those CID’s calls them a “government entity” on his website. He’s probably the leading expert on CID’s in Georgia and I think he would know.
- Further, the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank was setup to provide funds for government units which includes CID’s. This is in O.C.G.A 32-10-122. If CID’s are not a political subdivision as you say, the CID’s might need to seek legal counsel on how to return the money they’ve received to avoid legal consequences!
- New Governance Committee creates an excessive centralization of power into the chairman’s role with no established term limits. Chairman may appoint members outside of the current duly elected county commissioners and mayors. To quote one of the Bylaws Committee members, “once a slate is nominated, the tendency is to accept.” The Governance Committee structure removes accountability to the public.
- One of the authors of the proposed bylaws has said that creating the Governance Committee with membership appointed by the Chairman is “more efficient”. Centralized power is always more efficient. Top down centralization is more efficient and I’m sure it begins in this benign way. But as this organization evolves and more authority is centralized into regional governance, given the right “crisis” the more efficient path is usually always taken. But that’s not how our system of government works where power rests with the people.
- ARC directs federal money toward transportation projects within CID’s. When the chairman of the ARC can be the chairman of a CID and also be employed by a firm that has major real estate investments in the CID, this creates a potential to steer funding that benefits investments in the CID. Or worse, the opportunity for inside deals to favored business interests. This inhibits free market competition.
The people gave you authority by electing your to represent them in your county and city, why are you giving up your authority to the chairman’s role?
With secret stadium deals and blocking of public comment, the denial of open records request for public private partnerships, and now insider land deals to sell Ft. McPhearson for pennies on the dollar, the citizens have a right to be distrustful.
The citizens of Georgia and metro Atlanta want and expect open and transparent government with a say. We certainly don’t need more centralized governance that is un-elected and unaccountable.
Read the stunning rebuke of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners by the Atlanta Journal & Constitution as well as Chairman Tim Lee’s continued excuses for the process. These are behind the pay wall. You can comment here or on AJC if you have access.
Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, June 14, 2014
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Last Tuesday night, the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a contract for $168,000 to the local firm Garrett McNatt Hennessey & Carpenter to lobby for federal government grants and influence at the state capitol. Moments earlier the BOC had closed out public comment on any topic after hearing 12 supporters shower praise, admiration and thanks on the Cobb BOC for negotiating the funding for public financing of a private sports team. Not one dissenting comment could be heard on any other county business because the BOC had closed out any further public comment. Even after asking the county manager and two commissioners for permission to speak on the lobbyist contract, Chairman Lee wanted to know why I waited until that night and that he’d “think about it”. I told him that the agenda was not dropped until after business hours on Friday. This shows a lack of leadership and disenfranchises citizens of their right to speak, period.
Under the Georgia Constitution, Section I, Paragraph IX, the people have a right to petition those vested with the powers of government for redress of grievances. That is, in all counties except Cobb, where the people were also blocked from opposing comment on a seemingly small outsourced contract for lobbying services.
The $168,000 contract seems insignificant in comparison to the larger Braves financing deal but the impact could be just as big. One of the main lobbying efforts for the county would be for federal assistance on a $500 billion dollar bus rapid transit (BRT) system that would run from the Arts Center in downtown Atlanta to Kennesaw State University. The BRT system will likely require additional tax revenue to subsidize the total cost and ongoing operation of the project.
That’s the problem. Taking federal grants and incentives in the first place usually obligate taxpayers to additional unfunded expenditures. It’s not appropriate to spend taxpayer money to lobby for incentives that will ultimately cost the taxpayer more money on projects they may not want. But then again, Chairman Lee is not concerned about what the citizens want, just as long as the Chamber of Commerce and Cumberland CID (both unelected organizations) get their agenda passed.
Research handed out by the Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC), a group which fought the TSPLOST in 2012 and was successful in blocking passage in 9 out of 12 regions, shows that taxpayers are already paying elected officials a combined $10,027,596 annually for elected representation at the federal, state and local level. This figure includes salaries and office expenses for US senators, US representatives, state senators, state representatives, and Cobb county commissioners.
Based on additional research by the TLC, it’s estimated that the salaries and office budget for the chairman and commissioners is around $1,198,557 annually. Notwithstanding the arguments against the county hiring a lobbyist firm to seek federal grants, why should Cobb taxpayers give the county commissioners more money to do their job of contacting state and federal legislators?
The county is already a member of the Association of County Commissions of Georgia which lobbies for the county’s interest at the state level. One has to ask why the county needs to hire another firm to do the job expected of county commissioners and employees.
There are still other questions to be answered. Why should Cobb taxpayers pay a lobbyist $168,000 to get federal incentives for a ½ billion dollar boondoggle BRT system that will require more taxes to subsidize in perpetuity? Was this lobby contract put on that agenda so that it could be overshadowed by the Braves bond financing approval? Isn’t the Garrett firm the same group hired to promote the failed TSPLOST? One wonders if they will do a better job the second time around. Is it possible this is being done because the local Cobb legislative delegation is not in agreement with what the county commission is doing? Is this a way for them to circumvent the Cobb delegation and strong arm the state legislature?
We elect representatives to work for the people not to work against us in creating additional tax burdens. No wonder public trust in government is at an all-time low. We’ve come to expect large document dumps after hours on holiday weekends from the federal government in Washington. Is this going to be the “Cobb way” of doing the peoples’ business? We’re seeing locally how public officials negotiate secret deals with multi-million dollar private entities outside of public review and transparency. These are touted as great models of public/private partnerships that create jobs and grow the economy. Yet, this PPP looks more like private profits, power, and politics than anything benefiting the public. Now we see the blocking of public comment that opposes the actions of local government which seems reminiscent of the all-powerful oligarchs of Soviet days. What’s next?
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Oleg Ivutin’s childhood home became part of Russia on the border with China. He sees growing similarities between the USSR that he remembers and the USA today. What this powerful interview and montage of a scripted message delivered to hundreds of thousands of viewers by different various local news stations around the country and ask yourself, who’s really writing the news! The full infographic also reinforces the message that we are being controlled. Download full infographic here. Source: Frugal Dad.
Building the Machine introduces the public to the Common Core States Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and its effects on our children’s education. The documentary compiles interviews from leading educational experts, including members of the Common Core Validation Committee. Parents, officials, and the American public should be involved in this national decision regardless of their political persuasion.
What is the common core?
The Common Core is the largest systemic reform of American public education in recent history. What started as a collaboration between the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to reevaluate and nationalize America’s education standards has become one of the most controversial—and yet, unheard of—issues in the American public. In 2010, 45 states adopted the Common Core, but according to a May 2013 Gallup Poll, 62% of Americans said they had never heard of the Common Core. Prominent groups and public figures have broken traditional party lines over the issue, leaving many wondering where they should stand.
Find out more about the Common Core: www.hslda.org/commoncore – See more at: http://commoncoremovie.com/about#sthash.2RmLW5VV.dpuf
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Contact: Garland Favorito
ATLANTA, GA –A dozen leaders of various organizations plus many other concerned citizens gathered at the Capitol today and made a personal call for House Speaker, David Ralston, to resign his seat. A complaint with evidence of three separate ethics related concerns was delivered to Governor Nathan Deal.
The leaders contended that the Speaker’s House procedures are dictatorial and subvert the principles of a representative democracy. They asserted that all decisions as to what bills are heard and which bills can be voted to move to the floor are made in secrecy and not by votes from their elected representatives. They further lamented that bills can be gutted, supplemented, modified or limited for debate without a floor vote or permission from the authors.
Secondly, the leaders contended that the Speaker and some Representatives flood certain House races with money to elect candidates who will accept the established dictatorship. Records of a 2012 primary show the Speaker’s $5000 and $27,000 from legislators, helped create a 5:1 spending advantage for a candidate who raised 93% of his funds from legislators, corporations and PACs. His challenger, a minister, raised 96% of his money from individuals. The leaders cited such funding as conflicts of interest that undermine the will of the people in the districts.
Finally, the leaders insisted that the Speaker and some Representatives conducted a politically motivated, false attack on a bill introduced by Rep. Sam Moore with intent to destroy his reelection chances. Records proved that the Speaker and some of the same Representatives are funding Moore’s previous primary opponent, who is running for that seat again. Legislators contributed over $17,000 of the $30,000 total for his opponent, who raised only about $800 from in district individuals. Moore has refused to take cash from corporations, PACs, lobbyists or legislators.
To disprove the Speaker’s claim that one of Moore’s previous bills to remove loitering laws would have jeopardized children, three separate child protection statutes and current loitering laws were explained. The leaders contend the Speaker had to know that the legal premise of his claim was false since he was a criminal defense attorney who represented several child molesters in high profile cases.
Georgia ranks as America’s most politically corrupt state. Its ethics commission was recently found liable for a $700,000 judgment in the first of several wrongful termination suits by employees who were involved in investigating Gov. Deal.
“The government uses corporations to get around its limits, and corporations use the government to get around their limits.” ~Bloomberg News
By Bruce Duncil
We’re repeatedly being told that high taxes and onerous regulations are behind the joblessness in the ‘jobless recovery’. Aside from the obvious fact that there is no recovery (except for Wall Street and Washington), this ‘colloquial wisdom’ consists of lies.
No corporation pays taxes. Taxes are born solely by the customers and shareholders. Corporations are parking money offshore because that is where they have their factories, many employees who cost a fraction of American labor, and their real opportunity for growth.
Since before GE and Westinghouse lobbied congress to put the US on 60 cycle AC power to prevent European manufacturers from competing locally, and before they also lobbied for laws to ‘electrify America’ to sell every house major appliances, major corporations have LOVED regulation! Here, for your enjoyment, are 15 reasons why:
- When shaped properly, they limit competition, They can be used to favor some suppliers and exclude others, by design.
- They replace the customer with the government; the easily influenced single bureaucrat dictates market needs and wants, the latter becomes relegated to the role of mere consumer for whatever is thrown out.
- They allow government bureaucracy approvals, not the purchaser or user, to determine what ‘quality’ means; government approvals become synonymous with ‘quality’.
- They can drive, and therefore limit, requirements for innovation. All new entries must meet the criteria, thus favoring incremental rather than revolutionary product development which benefits suppliers and retailers alike.
- They can mandate features which can minimize the risk of product failure in the market.
- They facilitate development of so-called ‘public-private (government/business) partnerships’, creating revolving doors between government and business to mutually benefit employees of both.
- They shift the ‘burden’ of R&D along with capital investment to government (or ‘public-private partnerships’), along with the risk, costs, and choices circumscribed by R&D prior to product/service development.
- They benefit large and limit small companies by controlling competition and innovation, they drive industry consolidation further, leading to oligarchies which are easier to control.
- They can force premature product obsolescence, reducing time between necessary replacements, thus increasing purchasing and raising costs by adding additional ‘bells and whistles’ that are intended to increase profit margins
- They provide job security for both the government bureaucrat and the employee.
- They allow the means for throwing off all additional costs to the public in taxes or to consumers in higher prices at little economic risk (‘the government made us do it!’) as part of the ‘cost of doing business’.
- They allow additional ‘bells and whistles’ to be added, thus greatly expanding the possibility of higher after-market service contracts on products sold or leased.
- They leverage the public’s increasing desire to ‘standardize’ products to minimize the pain of choice.
- They make the public think they are magically protected from risk.
- They become the ‘silver bullet’ solution to every problem discovered, thus extending themselves in perpetuity!
As I was studying The Federalist Papers last night, I marveled at the founders’ knowledge of world history and human nature. Their vision and wisdom of the proper form of limited government was astounding. Yet, for at least 100 years, we have lost that vision. Based on the current actions of Congress, I hardly think that the legislators of today have the same vision and understanding.
All of our elected representatives have taken an oath to defend the Constitution. Many I’m sure carry a copy with them. Some are quick to whip it out and boast about reverence for its principles. Yet, precious few follow and vote according to its precepts.
Congress has repeatedly violated their oath to support the Constitution. Consider the situation we find ourselves in today. Congress has:
- Exceeded its enumerated powers into all sorts of areas, exploding the national debt to over $17 trillion not counting the unfunded liabilities probably in excess of $100 trillion.
- Allowed the Executive branch to launch wars of aggression under the authority of NATO and the UN as in the case of Libya.
- Allowed the continued violation of the 4th Amendment protections of privacy by not stopping the spying of all U.S. citizens by the NSA.
- Allowed the Executive branch to make repeated changes to existing law without any check, as in the case of Obamacare.
- We could go on and on, but there are too many to name in this short time.
And yet, where is Congress when these executive branch usurpation’s occur? Where is the Executive and the Judicial branch when Congress exceeds its authority?
A Balanced Budget Amendment doesn’t address the unconstitutional spending which caused the massive debt in the first place. Passing more amendments will be also be ignored or worse used to legalize the status quo. What makes us think Congress will abide by these new amendments? Further, why would we want to give authority to these violators of the Constitution, the power to modify or change it. It’s not the Constitution that’s broken, it’s the elected representatives that don’t honor it.
As for a Convention of States, there are no provisions in the Constitution on the authority to hold an Article V Convention of the States or on the rules that will be followed. Only Congress can call for a convention. The convention would set its own rules. What special interests would want to control the convention? Which states would not want to get more federal money? What kind of vote swapping and deal making would occur to give more authority to government and take away liberties from the People?
The reality is that we are in a post-Constitutional era. Unless the States force the Federal government into compliance by exercising the rightful remedy of nullification under the 10th Amendment, we will continue to see the usurpation on the Constitution.
We’ve seen the letters from legislative council warning that calls for nullification of federal laws is sedition and tantamount to treason. My fellow Georgians, this is just not so. On no less than two occasions in recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the dual sovereignty of the states and the federal government. See Mack/Printz vs. USA and Justice Roberts opinion on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
The real issue is whether the Georgia Legislature is willing to refuse federal money? When accepting federal money the state is beholding to federal authority.
I’m sure that most of the proponents of an Article V Convention of the States have good intentions. We are all sick and tired of an out of control Federal government. A COS only delays the true remedy and is a dangerous move that could open up the entire Constitution. As the old saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. We have the tool of stop the overreach now: Nullification. Use it!