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.
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.