Atlanta City Council’s War on the Public; Mr. Bond Objects
In one meeting, they acted to limit public comment and, to add insult to injury, they declined to require the videotaping of their gossip sessions known as Committee Briefings.
The out-of-control Council–under the leadership of Council President Felicia Moore and Committee on Council Chair Jennifer Ide (District 6)–have revealed themselves to be the most anti-citizen Council since Atlanta Progressive News began covering the City Government in 2005.
“Why do you hate democracy?” Councilman Bond asked his colleagues.
First, at the December 03, 2018 Full City Council Meeting, the Council voted to approve 18-O-1587, imposing several new limits on public comment at Full Council.
Under the Council’s new restrictions, public comment delegations–which previously had up to sixteen minutes to speak–are now limited to ten minutes per delegation.
Members of the public are able to create delegations, to address important and complex issues, by donating their time to a single individual who then speaks on behalf of the delegation.
In addition, former elected officials–who previously had no time limit–have now been limited to six minutes, with the possibility of receiving time donations of four additional minutes, up to a total of ten minutes.
Current elected officials from other bodies–who previously had no time limit–will now be limited to ten minutes.
“I just wanted to say that I don’t believe there should be a limit on public comment, period. And that’s been a consistent position I’ve had since 1994,” Councilman Bond told the Council.
“I’ve watched a slow march of the public’s voice evaporate in this Chamber over and over again, as we yielded to parliamentary procedure in order to quell the voice of the public,” Bond said.
“They are our employer. They are our bosses. And I believe we need to take every opportunity to listen to the public,” Bond said.
“When I was elected in 1993 and sworn in 1994, people could come to this mic and speak their heart without restriction,” Bond noted.
Twelve Councilmembers voted against the public: Carla Smith (District 1), Amir Farokhi (District 2), Cleta Winslow (District 4), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Ide, Howard Shook (District 7), JP Matzigkeit (District 8), Dustin Hillis (District 9), Marci Overstreet (District 11), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Matt Westmoreland (Post 2-at-large), and Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large).
The vote had one nay (Bond), one absence (Andrea Boone, District 10), and one vacant seat (District 3, formerly Ivory Lee Young, Jr.).
Jennifer Ide made the motion to approve the anti-public ordinance; Marci Overstreet seconded.
Ide’s hypocrisy knows no bounds: She claims to be in support of transparency, but she crafted this ordinance in secrecy and has failed to make one single remark in Committee or Full Council explaining in any public way her rationale for this draconian measure.
First, Ide led a discussion regarding limiting public comment at the Council’s Fall Retreat at the Atlanta Food Bank. The item was not on the Retreat Agenda.
While APN attended and videotaped the Retreat to cover two items that were announced on the agenda, this item was not announced.
Atlanta Progressive News has requested a copy of the Retreat video so to observe the Council’s discussion of why they wanted so desperately to limit public comment.
APN made a request to the Municipal Clerk and was referred to Dexter Chambers in Council Communications. Per Chambers’s request, APN provided a flash drive to obtain the video file.
Chambers later told APN that the file is too big for a flash drive, and that APN will have to bring a “hard drive” down to City Hall in order to obtain the file. Because Atlanta residents all have spare hard drives lying around!
The City appears to be violating Sec. 2-164 of the Code of Ordinances, which requires the Clerk’s office to maintain a “television tape” of all regular and special meetings of the Council. The Retreat is a special meeting of the Council.
As the Chairwoman of Committee on Council, Ide is responsible for causing this ordinance to be drafted. She is the lead agent of the ordinance, although technically the committee is the sponsor.
“In the era of Trump, just last week, Trump told a reporter he can’t come in the White House, not because of his style, but what? Because of the content of what he said – that’s the First Amendment,” former State Sen Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) told the Committee on Council in his remarks on November 19, 2018.
“When I went and qualified [to run for office], and some of y’all qualified, I didn’t see nobody with a pistol to your back, forcing you to qualify in those seats; nobody did,” Fort said.
“The point being, that taking criticism is part of the job. It’s not being mean, being abusive, it’s content criticism, that’s the First Amendment,” Fort said.
COUNCIL REFUSING TO VIDEOTAPE COMMITTEE BRIEFINGS
Also, after months of dilatory tactics by Ms. Ide, the Council finally considered an ordinance by Councilman Bond–drafted by APN’s Editor–to videotape the Council’s regular Committee Briefings held every two weeks.
First, Ide delayed the ordinance by referring it to Council Retreat.
Then, after the Retreat, Ide delayed the ordinance by saying she did not know the position of Mr. Bond, the bill’s sponsor, a strange, unusual move, especially considering Bond spoke vigorously in favor of it at Retreat.
Finally, Ide, on Nov. 19, delayed action on the Briefings ordinance by claiming to want to have an unannounced, unadvertised meeting to talk about the passing of Councilman Young. But Young’s passing did not prevent her from moving the Committee to consider her own legislation before adjourning.
Not a single member of the Committee on Council, at the Dec. 03 meeting, was willing to support videotaping the Committee Briefings.
While the Briefings are open to the public–following a campaign by APN in 2011, 2012, and 2013 to open the formerly-closed meetings–members of the public are still required to physically attend the meetings if they want to know what transpired.
Ide said she saw no reason for make them accessible by video. The fact that people have day jobs wasn’t seen as a compelling reason.
Councilman Bond brought up the ordinance on the Council floor, but no one would second the motion.
Atlanta Progressive News commits to videotaping all Committee Briefings going forward, beginning in January 2019, and posting them to our Facebook page and website, until the Council finally agrees to videotape them. We predict the Council will probably see things differently closer to the November 2021 Municipal Election when they have to pretend to care about the public.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As previously disclosed, the Editor of APN, Matthew Charles Cardinale, in his capacity as CEO of the nonprofit SMART ALEC, has previously drafted legislation for Councilman Bond related to affordable housing, in a paid capacity.
Cardinale is currently running in the March 19, 2019 Special Election for District 3. Please visit www.matthewforatlanta.com for more.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)