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Johns Creek ethics ordinance doesn't curtail free speech


September 17, 2013
In response to [Planning Commission Chairman] Steve Broadbent's Aug. 22 editorial, my viewpoint is that the issue of not allowing lobbying by sitting city board members is not free speech as he states, but rather that Broadbent in his current Planning Commission position cannot both serve and lobby at the same time.

Steve Broadbent's Aug. 22 editorial, my viewpoint is that the issue of not allowing lobbying by sitting city board members is not free speech as he states, but rather that Broadbent in his current Planning Commission position cannot both serve and lobby at the same time.

His proposal could set the city on a course for internal divisions and controversy, in effect creating a house divided. Both Thomas Paine and Abigail Adams cautioned against this as did Abraham Lincoln who said in 1858 that, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

The public has a full and unencumbered right to free speech and to speak before council – which I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support. The ethics ordinance, however, has a distinction for people who take oaths of office, including members of the City Planning Commission – they cannot both serve and lobby at the same time. His proposal strikes me as designed for his personal agenda rather than the public interest.

I leaned into our America heritage to come to this position. Furthermore, the Founders stated in the Declaration of Independence that, "Prudence indeed will dictate that government long established should not be changed for light and transient causes."

This change would set up the internal functioning of the city for future division. We have enough division already with our mayor being investigated for ethics and charter violations. I would prefer to seek consensus if it is possible to avoid a path of needless confrontation and division. To get one portion of the city government working directly against another portion of the city government in adversarial confrontations is not wise. I would counsel against this path.

It is not my position that "we don't need division on anything," as Broadbent stated, because even people of good intentions and character will take different sides of an issue.

Policy and budgets should be debated and the public, of course, should weigh in to help provide useful input. That is the American way.

Once the dust settles in this current election cycle and the ethics investigation has been concluded, perhaps the council should re-visit some proposed changes to the ethics ordinance.

I would suggest we look to raise the bar and tighten wording requiring elected officials and commission members to divulge conflicts of interest and campaign contributions prior to votes where applicable and not allow a person to leverage their position for personal gain.

Right now, we are in a campaign season, and I believe it would be best that ordinances "long established should not be changed for light and transient causes."

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Tags: Community & Outreach

  1. report print email
    Confused
    September 18, 2013 | 09:45 PM

    What is meant by lobbying?

    An observer
    Johns creek
  2. report print email
    To an observer
    September 18, 2013 | 11:03 PM

    Google it, Confused!

    Johns Creeker
    Johns Creek
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