Shipman Lacks Details, Archibong Unfavorable on Council President Role
(APN) ATLANTA — Doug Shipman, a candidate for City Council President of the City of Atlanta in the November 2021 Municipal Elections, offered general support for public comment and democratic participation in his interview with Atlanta Progressive News.
However, Shipman’s most glaring challenge is his lack of knowledge of Council process and Council history; and his inability to offer a position on basic questions involving public comment policy.
Natalyn Mosby Archibong, the District 5 incumbent who is also running for Council President, unfortunately, refused to participate in an interview with APN for this article after learning that she would be asked to explain or justify her previous positions on public comment and transparency while on the City Council.
Archibong supported many harmful ordinances and practices in recent years.
As previously reported by APN, former Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education Chairman Courtney English, another current candidate for City Council President, has a history of ethics issues and challenges with making deceptive statements to the community.
In other words, Atlantans have no great choice for Atlanta City Council President.
Notwithstanding Mr. English, the choice seems to be between a candidate, Archibong, who, based on past behavior, will likely oppose public comment and transparency; and another candidate, Shipman, whose general promises will have to suffice.
APN’s interview with Mr. Shipman, with editorial notes, is as follows:
WHAT ARE YOUR CRITERIA FOR SELECTING COMMITTEE CHAIRS?
Shipman also said he was very interested in transparency and giving communities input.
This answer is actually impressive: In 2017, neither Council President candidates Felicia A. Moore nor Alex Wan said that public participation or transparency would impact their decisions, either when asked open-endedly or when asked directly.
RESPONDING TO PROTESTERS
When asked how he would respond to protesters at a Full Council Meeting held at Atlanta City Hall, Shipman said he would allow protesters to enjoy at least a minute or two of self-expression.
In that sense, Shipman’s outlook on protesters is more like that of former Council President Ceasar Mitchell (2010-2018).
On the other hand, Council President Moore currently runs a totalitarian regime in which any protest is met with immediate security and removal, and even threat of clearing the whole Council Chambers.
“I think that there is a place for passion. And I also think that in order to get opinions into the conversation, you have to have a process to let folks hear each other. I would probably let it go on and then say, if any or all of you want to speak, come to the podium,” Shipman said.
It is not fully clear how Archibong would respond as a presiding officer of the Full Council, but as a Committee Chair she has frequently shut down Ron Shakir, currently a District 11 candidate, for speaking out of turn.
PROPOSAL FOR A COMMITTEE ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Shipman said he supports APN’s proposal for an eighth Council Committee, a Committee on the Environment.
“Yes. I think sustainability is a crucial aspect of our policymaking going forward. I do think the focus would be quite helpful,” Shipman said.
It is not immediately clear whether Archibong would support such a committee.
ORDINANCE TO HELP PREVENT INCOMPLETE COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES
The Atlanta City Council under Council President Moore’s leadership has continued to have ongoing problems with Committee Meeting minutes omitting basic vote details, such as the mover, seconder, yeas, nays, and abstainers.
Shipman said he supports the passage of an ordinance drafted by APN that would require all committee chairs to call all votes in a manner that permits the policy analyst or person taking the minutes to record the mover, seconder, yeas, nays, and abstainers for all votes.
Archibong apparently opposes the ordinance. APN sent the requested ordinance to all Councilmembers and Archibong failed to respond, acknowledge receipt, or introduce the ordinance, suggesting she is satisfied with the ongoing lack of transparency and accountability to the public.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE MINUTES?
When presented with one of several meeting minutes omitting vote details, and asked what is wrong with these minutes, Shipman identified correctly that the mover, seconder, yeas, nays, and abstainers were missing.
Jan. 14, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes)
Jan. 28, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes)
Feb. 11, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda)
Feb. 25, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda)
March 10, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
“I was president of student government in college and carried around Robert’s Rules of Order,” Shipman said.
While a member of the Community Development/Human Services Committee, Councilwoman Archibong approved several meeting minutes omitting basic vote details.
Atlanta Progressive News has requested all council members, including Archibong, to amend the minutes. To date, all Councilmembers, including Archibong, have continued to ratify the incomplete minutes, every time they meet and fail to make the amendment, in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
To date, since June 2020, the City of Atlanta has spent over 307,000 dollars defending itself in litigation with APN and APN’s News Editor over violations of the Georgia Open Meetings Act and Georgia Open Records Act.
When asked about various components of the City Council’s public comment policies, Shipman repeatedly said he did not know and that on each component of public comment policy he would consider it as part of a “comprehensive review”.
“We should comprehensively think about how we’re managing public comment,” he said.
Research shows that cognitive processing and speech tends to slow with age, presenting challenges for seniors in Atlanta who are often observed racing against a two minute time limit.
When asked whether he would support granting additional minutes for seniors to make public comments, Shipman said he did not know.
Archibong’s position is unclear on the matter.
PUBLIC COMMENT DELEGATIONS
In 2018, Archibong was not present for a vote on cutting public comment delegations from a maximum of sixteen minutes to a maximum of ten minutes per delegation.
When asked whether Shipman would support restoring the sixteen minute limit, he said he did not know.
CURRENT AND FORMER ELECTED OFFICIALS
Prior to 2018, there was no time limit for public comment for current elected officials from other bodies, or for former elected officials.
In 2018, Archibong supported cutting the time of current and former elected officials to ten minutes.
Still unsatisfied, in 2019, Archibong cut former elected official time to two minutes; and current elected official time to six minutes.
At the time, the City of Atlanta’s Law Department told Councilmembers that the cuts were advisable under a U.S. Supreme Court case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, which they said applied to Atlanta City Council Meetings.
However, the Law Department’s argument was not sincere: In a federal case, through outside counsel, they argued the very opposite: that Reed v. Town of Gilbert did not, in fact, apply to Atlanta City Council Meetings. In that case, the City of Atlanta was trying to defend a limit to public comment.
Neither Archibong nor any Councilmember revisited the cuts to public comment after learning that the City of Atlanta Law Department was apparently schizophrenic on the legal issue. Conveniently, somehow, though, the Law Department’s apparent schizophrenia (or hypocrisy) manages always to be in service of cuts to public comment.
Shipman, conveniently too, said he did not know what his position is on whether to repeal the cuts.
PUBLIC COMMENT IN COMMITTEES
Shipman said he does not have a position on time limits or any other aspect of public comment in Council Committees.
“I think generally public participation may lead to a longer committee meeting, but it leads to more support, better government, and it lets people ask their inquiries,” he said.
Archibong previously supported no time limit as a Committee Chair, but in recent years has supported having time limits.
Archibong supported cutting proclamations at Full Council Meetings to fifteen minutes per proclamation and four per meeting.
Shipman said, “I don’t have an opinion.”
COMMITTEE BRIEFINGS NOT VIDEOTAPED
At some point in decades past, the Atlanta City Council began a practice of having Committee Briefings prior to Committee Meetings, where legislative items are pre-discussed by some Committee Members prior to the Committee Meeting,
The Committee Briefings were opened to the public in 2013 when the Council adopted an ordinance drafted by APN’s Editor, simultaneous with the settlement of open meetings litigation stemming from 2010, 2011, and 2012.
However, while open to the public, the Committee Briefings are still not videotaped.
In 2018, Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) introduced an ordinance to begin videotaping the Briefings. Not a single Councilmember, including Archibong, would second his motion to adopt the legislation.
Shipman said he supports videotaping the Briefings. “This gets back to the notion of creating more transparency. If they’re public, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be videotaped.”
Prior to the pandemic, only two committee chairs out of seven were opting to have briefings for their committees. It is not immediately clear whether or not Briefings are occurring now with the closure of City Hall.
COUNCIL RETREAT VIDEOS NOT ACCESSIBLE
Currently, Council Retreats are videotaped, but the tapes are not online or on file with the Office of the Municipal Clerk.
Shipman says he supports making the videos accessible to the public.
“I would be open to that. At a Retreat, I would be open to a partial session that’s not videotaped. A social session with Councilmembers. But for portions that are public, sure,” Shipman said.
It is not immediately clear what Archibong’s position is on the Retreats, but in her several terms on Council she has apparently seen no problem with the status quo regarding the inaccessibility of the Council Retreat videos.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)