A few weeks ago I wrote that one of the measures of success of the new City of Peachtree Corners would be how well it lived up to the campaign promises of open and transparent communication with residents. Apparently the mayor didn’t get the memo.
At the time I was writing that, the mayor and council were busy petitioning Gwinnett County for a moratorium on building permits, zoning changes and business licenses. The move wasn’t publicized ahead of time and the public had no chance to comment on the idea. The confusion and ill feelings caused by this were enough to cause the mayor to have to devote time during the next few meetings trying to explain it, followed by open letters in several forums. A little more communication beforehand might have prevented some of the confusion.
Last week the council was presented with a proposed budget of $2.87 Million…even the council members in attendance seemed shocked at a number that was nearly four times the $761,000 budget estimated by the feasibility study that all of them had campaigned on. After some spirited discussion among the council, the mayor summarily dismissed the feasibility study by claiming it was never meant to be a budget, just a reference for the legislature. The consultants defended their proposed budget, including it’s $850,000 for reserves and contingencies, by saying it was the conservative thing to do. They also advocated levying the full 1 mil of property taxes allowed in order to cover this budget. Note to consultants: coming in four times over the expected budget and taxing at the full rate right out of the gate can be called a lot of things. Conservative isn’t one of them.
This week’s council meeting was attended by nearly 40 residents, many of whom wanted to address the mayor and council concerning the proposed budget. Much to their dismay, the city attorney advised the mayor that the agenda could not be amended to allow public comment, and the mayor acquiesced. Neither he nor the council, nor the consultants, mentioned the proposed budget during the remainder of the meeting. Georgia’s open meetings laws are fairly specific as to what constitutes a meeting and how they must be advertised, but are generally silent on the subject of public input at such meetings. The level of public input is usually left up to the government entity in question.
I would urge the mayor to work with the city attorney to find a way to start providing more information to the public. The citizens want it, the council members want to provide it, and it might go a long way toward preventing more confusion and ill will.