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.
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.