Chairman Brown criticizes ‘major changes’ at Atlanta Regional Commission

 

The Fayette County GOP is taking aim against the Atlanta Regional Commission and the “political strategy” of “regionalism.”

The GOP headquarters in Fayetteville recently hosted county commissioners for a discussion of regionalism.

Commission Chairman Steve Brown, an ARC board member, also produced a video regarding the ARC in which he said proposed changes would allow the ARC Chairman and a hand-picked group “to choose regional winners and regional losers.”

The ARC, as described on the organization’s website, is the “regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency for the 10-county area including Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale counties, as well as the City of Atlanta.”

In his video, Brown said he believed the fairly resounding rejection of the T-SPLOST by voters in 2012 should have signaled the citizens lack of trust in the ARC and led to increased transparency.

“Nowhere in Georgia was the distrust of regional politics proclaimed more loudly than in metropolitan Atlanta in 2012,” Brown said in the video. “Following the failure of the 2012 T-splost referendum in all 10 metro counties, poll after poll suggested a significant distrust of a system that appeared ill-suited to govern the responsibility of planning and expending billions of dollars in local sales taxes.”

Brown said 16 of 39 ARC board members are not elected officials and thus are “not accountable to anyone in the region. Accountability builds trust, and there is no accountability.”
Brown also criticized the ARC policy for citizen comments during meetings.

“Metro citizens are not guaranteed a right to speak at ARC meetings. In fact, for a tax paying citizen to speak, it takes a motion, a second, and a two-thirds majority vote. I don’t know of any other government in the state where free speech is more restricted.”

Proposed changes to the ARC bylaws, according to Brown, could give “even more power to the board chairman.” Currently, the ARC chairman is Kerry Armstrong, a commercial real estate developer and Senior Vice President with Pope & Land Enterprise.

“The changes also take out mandatory representation of all ten counties in the leadership hierarchy. It looks like we are moving toward a situation where a hand-picked group around the board chairman will be able to choose regional winners and regional losers,” Brown said.

Brown further challenged the ARC Chairman, saying the “current and past presidents” had served on Community Improvement District boards as members-at-large, which he considered a conflict of both ARC by-laws and ethical standards.

Those community improvement district board members, Brown said, conflict with ethical standards by “profiting off [ARC] decisions, confidential information which the board is party to, especially the chairman.

“Centralizing the power structure and holding back on openness and transparency will lead us into division and scandal,” Brown said.
The Fayette County GOP breaks down the issue on its website at myfayettegop.org.

In its summary, the Fayette GOP argues “regionalism” violates the constitution and:
– Results in unequal representation
– Diminishes local control
– Creates an unconstitutional taxing authority
– Creates a fourth level of government
– Relies on appointed leaders & representatives, instead of ones elected by taxpayers
– Lacks the checks and balances of a constitutional republic

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About

Josh Akeman is the managing editor of the Fayette County News, Today in Peachtree City, and East Coweta Journal. He is a graduate of Fayette County High School and the University of Georgia.


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