Public service or free speech? Residents should not have to choose

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In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine the amazing vision our Founding Fathers had following the Revolutionary War. Rather than use their victory to create an oppressive government like the British monarchy, the Founders ratified a Constitution that redefined the role of government and the Rights of Man.

One of the most profound freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution is the right to free speech – the ability for any person to question their elected officials regardless of wealth, gender or race.

Sadly, the Johns Creek City Council does not hold this fundamental right in the same regard as our Founding Fathers.

As a member of the Johns Creek Planning Board, I am prohibited from addressing the City Council due to the language of the current ethics code.

This restriction could have been easily fixed had the council voted to approve an amendment offered by Councilmember Kelly Stewart during the Aug. 5 meeting.

Instead of rallying around the notion of free speech, the council overwhelmingly shut it down.

Why did they do this? As Councilmember Brad Raffensperger said, “We do not need division on anything. We need to be more unified … [have] more consensus.”

Councilmember Bev Miller added, “I hesitate to make any changes at a request of someone who, it is clear to me, wants to talk about the investigation.”

These are ridiculous notions, and they set a dangerous precedent for the residents of Johns Creek. Councilmembers should not view free speech through the lens of politics.

How are we to expect the best, most qualified people to volunteer their service to Johns Creek if the first requirement of that person is to waive their First Amendment right?

I have lived in our community for 14 years and, in my opinion, one of the major reasons people move to Johns Creek is that we operate under our millage rate.

If the council decided to raise taxes, I would be forced to choose between my position on the Planning Board or resign so I could speak against a policy that I believe would hurt Johns Creek.

That is unfair and it goes against the founding vision of our country.

There is a better way for the city to operate. We need to remove personal politics from the council. We need to encourage more engagement from the residents of Johns Creek. We need to allow anyone and everyone the right to speak their mind, including those who serve on boards.

It is not too late for the council to take on this approach, and I sincerely hope they do.