Originally published September 29, 2014 |
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.
This is unreal. Real victims of assault and battery, sexual molestation, statutory rape, vehicular homicide and enticing a child for indecent purposes have waited 4, 6, 8 and as long as 10 years to have their day in court only to be repeatedly delayed by tactics of defense attorney and Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston. Now, after collecting huge $20k retainers and using his power as Speaker of the House to delay cases indefinitely, his political acolytes are claiming that he’s a victim of the media.
As reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and other outlets, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has utilized his position as the speaker to repeatedly delay criminal court cases. Of course, this was known at some level four years ago, but research since then has uncovered even more cases. It has been legal under Georgia law since 1905 for members of the legislature to request extension of court cases while the General Assembly is in session. Back in 2006, Ralston had a hand in the legislation to extend this privilege even when the General Assembly is not in session. As a defense attorney, he has the responsibility to defend his client to the best of his ability under the law. However, repeatedly extending cases for 4, 6, 8 and 10 years is certainly unethical and an abuse of power.
This is not the only time Speaker Ralston has faced ethics related concerns. He has a history of wielding dictatorial procedures to prevent bills from being heard from the floor, funding and encouraging other legislators to fund political campaigns against representatives who challenge or vote against his dictates and restricting assignment to choice committees. This is a conflict of interest which essentially consolidates his power to the detriment of the people who’ve elected these representatives that are willing to stand on principle or vote for their constituents interest.
Links to articles reporting on Ralston’s abuse of power:
Alleged victims say powerful Georgia lawmaker repeatedly delays cases
More Georgia lawmakers call for Ralston to resign as House speaker
Ralston helped write the law allowing him to delay criminal cases
Ralston seeks changes to law letting lawmakers delay criminal cases
Georgia Scandal Jeopardizes Perdue and Trump Victories in 2020
David Ralston is the Right Man to be Speaker of the Georgia House
HR To Remove Speaker Of Ga Drops- Minions Stand Strong, Pope Convenes Over Sex Abuse Cases- God Has A Possible Solution, HB418 Child Victims Act- Where’s The GOP?- WSB
Who does your representative work for? Do they work for you or for themselves?
Have they lived up to the campaign promises to represent their constituents? Or, are they pressured to follow the leadership of their party to drive a certain agenda.
Do they honor their oath to the US and Georgia Constitutions or are they beholding to special interests that have lined their pockets with campaign contributions?
I’m sure that is why most of you are here today at Georgia’s first Republican Assembly Convention. You are principled people that expect the same of your representatives whether they be local, state or national.
Good morning, my name is Field Searcy. I’m with Restore & Preserve the #Constitution, a grass roots organization founded on the ideas in that name. Who are we? I think first of all, we are God fearing people that know there’s a higher power who gave us life and granted us natural rights. Secondly, we are Constitutionalists. We revere the Constitution over any party or personality. Thirdly, we seek the truth in all things and expect our elected representatives to do the same as well as honor their oath and the founding principles.
As an organization, we are activists with a passion for liberty and for informing our fellow citizens of the tremendous responsibility we have as the sovereigns over our government to be engaged in this process of self-government.
We are proud to partner with the GRA as an official educational affiliate. Our missions are very similar and our goals are similar as well. We seek to engage Georgian’s in every county to effectively hold their representatives accountable to their oath and the law. Provided those are just laws.
There are many things to be concerned about with our government today:
Out of control government spending;
Unethical behavior and corporatism at all levels;
Efforts to change the Constitution instead of following it;
Efforts to change our form of government through #Regionalism;
We also see centralization of:
Our schools through #Common Core Standards;
Our medical care through the Affordable Care Act;
Our safety through grants and equipment to local law enforcement that is militarizing what used to be known as “Peace Officers”.
There are other examples but I think you get the idea.
More importantly, our natural rights protected by the Bill of Rights are being challenged on a daily basis. Every single right outlined in that document is under assault.
Some would say, we’ve tried to stop these violations but it seems there’s no use. They happen anyway. In a lot of cases, that is true. But what we’ve found, is that when the people are properly INFORMED AND they get ENGAGED, they can make a difference. Let me give you a few examples:
In 2012, when the State of Georgia sought to impose the largest tax increase in the history of the state through TSPLOST, a group of people from all over the state with very little money got ENGAGED and INFORMED their fellow citizens of a special election, the TSPLOST was defeated in 9 out of 12 regions.
In Habersham County where the county commissioners were considering implementing onerous Property Maintenance Codes that would have devastated property values, a few citizens got INFORMED and ENGAGED others. From the normal citizen participation of a handful of people at the commission meeting, they rallied over 150 people to challenge the elected representatives and the Codes were turned down 5-0.
There are other examples. The point is, when the people are INFORMED and ENGAGED, they can make a difference. Sometimes when you stand up, you get attacked but we have to learn to leverage those attacks to rally more people to become engaged and stand up for what is right.
However, still leadership drives the agenda whether it be your local city council or county commission, the state house, or the governor’s mansion.
So, what can WE do about it? The solution is WE THE PEOPLE. We are the sovereigns of the government, not those that we elected to represent us. We need a bigger voice from around the state to show that the people are paying attention and will hold the elected accountable.
Hence was born The Key Is WE and The Weekly Enumerator. The Weekly Enumerator is a scorecard for legislation and policy. It’s a way to:
VOICE your opinion
BUILD voter consensus
CHANGE the status quo
Each week during the legislative session, we send out an online survey of a key piece of legislation or policy initiative in the state government. We don’t tell you how to vote, but we do provide direct links to the legislation, articles or opinion pieces on both sides of the issue, and a way for you to express your opinion and comments. It only takes a few minutes to vote but you can spend more time if you desire to research the topic to come to an informed decision based on your values and principles.
We’ll have questions like:
Should Georgians support Rep. Stephens on HB 677 in his bid to allow casino gambling?
Should Governor Deal instruct the Attorney General Sam Olens to join with Kansas, West Virginia, and thirteen other states to challenge the EPA Clean Power Plan announced on August 3rd of this year?
Should Georgia’s support passage of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in the 2018 session?
Our target is to get responses from all 159 counties in Georgia. A state of over 10,000,000 residents. This is another area where we are similar to the GRA in that we want representation from all Georgia counties, not just the Atlanta metro area.
We need representation from each county. I have to believe there are at least 100 concerned citizens in each county that will spend 10-15 minutes per week to become INFORMED and ENGAGED. That’s 15,900 people. Only .15% of the population.
If you’ve ever been to the Capitol during the legislative session, you’d know that many voices would be a POWERFUL voice of the people.
With your vote and comments, we compile the survey data and publish a 4 color flyer that’s hand delivered to your representative’s mailbox at the capital. Each edition covers a single survey. It contains:
The Survey Question
The Tally: How Georgian’s Voted: YES, NO, MAYBE
A heat map showing how each county voted
Selected quotes from the comments submitted (all survey results and comments are anonymously displayed on the website)
And, a photo of the bill sponsor and other elected representatives statements. Sometimes they like getting their picture on the flyer. SOMETIMES THEY DON’T.
The Weekly Enumerator is a way to:
Enlist like-minded Georgians in 159 counties
The Focus of our surveys will be:
9th and 10th Amendments
US Bill of Rights
Georgia Constitution & Bill of Rights
Georgia Legislation and Regulations that affect our liberty, #representative government and the free market system
As Samuel Adams said, “It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting the brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
That’s what we are looking for. The commitment of a minority of concerned citizens willing to spend 15-20 minutes a week on a survey and help spread the word to friends and social media.
We have to remember how powerful a minority can be. During the American Revolution, only THREE PERCENT of the people actually fought against Great Britain.
For the Key is WE, we’re only looking for .15 % of Georgian’s.
You can get engaged by signing up for our surveys, download our materials and spread the word. We have handbills, business cards, and buttons. You can download the Weekly Enumerator (PDF) and share with your friends or mail to associates. We’ve tried to make this really easy. These were some of the effective techniques we used to defeat TSPLOST.
You can also donate to our cause or purchase some of educational materials:
The 5000 Year Leap by W. Clean Skousen
Sovereign Duty by KrisAnne Hall
The Law by Frederic Bastiat
American Needs Revival Not Revision
Technocracy Rising by Patrick Wood
Also, a new set of books for children to teach them the principles of liberty, limited government, the golden rule and more.
Speaking of KrisAnne Hall, please save the date November 3rd and 4th. If you have not heard KrisAnne and her Constitutional Education series, this is not to be missed. She’ll be speaking at Adventure Outdoors on Friday night and Saturday at noon. Come earlier on Saturday and enjoy the shooting range with KrisAnne.
Come visit our table where you can signup for the Weekly Enumerator, peruse our book selection and get more details about the KrisAnne Hall event. You can also signup at www.TheKeyIsWE.com . Visit our Facebook page and like and share. We’re on Twitter too.
Thanks to the GRA for this opportunity to present to you.
Thank you and America Bless God.
By: Angela Bean, Fayetteville, Georgia
When voting, my number one rule is to always vote NO to any question on the ballot asking to amend our Georgia #Constitution IF the question is new to me and I don’t understand the issue. The reason to vote NO is simple: repealing a bad amendment to the state constitution is much more difficult than repealing bad law. Take the 16th Amendment to our U.S. Constitution as an example.
In November, voters will be asked to amend our constitution to “allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance.” This is about Governor Deal’s program called “Opportunity School Districts” to rescue failing schools.
Due to the secular curriculum teaching anti-American and anti-Christian values (teaching created by the federal Supreme Court in 1962 when they told us we couldn’t pray in public schools) most conservatives support publicly funded “school choice.” This taxpayer funded “choice” was created 20 years ago by the federal government in the form of charter schools. At one time these parent/community controlled charters were the answer for many children. But in the last few years the federal government has co-opted charters which are mandated to follow the same federal #Common Core standards. Unfortunately most haven’t caught onto this fact yet.
In 2015 the Georgia General Assembly passed SB133 laying out the Opportunity School District (OSD) program. SR287 was passed to allow for a constitutional amendment to be placed on our November ballot because this program is currently UNCONSTITUTIONAL and only “we the people” can change our constitution via a vote to allow it.
Like most amendments to our constitution that government wants to implement in order to give them more control, the ballot language of this amendment is deceptive.
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended
to allow the state to intervene in chronically
failing public schools in order to improve student performance?
( ) YES
( ) NO
This amendment isn’t about helping students achieve. This amendment is about a shift in our form of government with elected representation to appointed councils. If this passes in November our state will establish a NON-ELECTED council to oversee how our tax dollars are spent on state/federal run charter schools. A state created criteria to determine if a school is failing will be used and “qualifying schools” will be “transferred” from under local control to control by this council. The state can “take over” up to 20 schools a year from the locally ELECTED school boards and place them under NON-ELECTED school councils and a new OSD state school superintendent that will also be appointed by the executive branch.
Currently our U.S. Constitution guarantees us a #republican form of government which is one that allows the people to elect representatives, who are accountable to the people, to make decisions on how our tax dollars are spent. With our elected school boards, “we the people” have access to all board meetings and votes and can request to see the records of how our school board is spending our tax dollars at any time under the “Freedom of Information Act.” We also have access to review all curriculum to include textbooks, online programs, videos, etc. that are taught in our schools.
Opportunity School Districts will go against this republican form of government with accountability to the people. And, worse, according to legislation that has already been passed, these schools can be turned over to PRIVATE companies called EDUCATION MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS (EMO) to manage the tax dollars that the state will be giving the schools for each student enrolled. (Local tax dollars from property taxes will not be used, our state tax dollars will make up the difference.) The EMO of each school can appoint a board of advisors for the school and, according to HB797 passed in 2012 which governs how charter schools can be run, none of the advisors need be a parent. Are you getting the picture yet? Does it make you uncomfortable to have the state and federal governments assume full control of a school, and our children, and give the tax funds (over $7000 per student) to their cronies to manage?
Barak Obama has supported the federal funding of state run charter schools. Isn’t this enough to raise alarm bells as to the real agenda for our children being removed from local control into state/federal run charters? NOTE: according to HB 797 these public charters MUST comply with the same Common Core standards and student testing system that the traditional public schools are under. What these state/federal charter students are taught without community oversight should concern us.
If that isn’t enough to make you concerned about this shift from parent controlled charter schools to state and federal controlled charters, please read this article about the Gülen Movement, a mysterious Islamic group operating over 100 charter schools in the U.S., with over $500 million tax dollars, including two charters in Fulton County, Ga.
Vote NO on this one and let’s work towards finding a better solution to our education problem.
Angela Bean is a an active citizen watchdog of government at the federal, state, and local levels. Angela has a proven track record of working for good government as an activist traveling the state promoting federal reforms such as the FairTax, and pushing back against the federal overreach of the Affordable Care Act and Common Core state standards in Georgia. Angela is a dedicated constitutionalist who works with other like-minded organizations including The Eagle Forum, The Madison Forum, and The Restore & Preserve the Constitution coalition.
I’d like to read several excerpts from our nation’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
“…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
“WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”