Last week I saw a statement from Appen Media in regard to a dispute over transparency between Appen Media Group and the City of Roswell.  I will readily admit that I don't understand the nuance to open records laws; nor the manor at which my sister city responds. I actually just assume everything I write can be accessed; and leave the legal stuff to our professional staff. Most of my constituents are amazing people who wake up and go to work. They're busy. Residents of North Fulton largely have no idea who I am, and that's okay. I get lumped into the bucket of elected official by choice. That choice can have both good and bad connotations in life. I accept that. I have met almost everyone on council of Roswell and I believe them all to be honorable and decent people.

However, I am a 1st Amendment absolutist. I think the press serves a tremendous purpose to the people on Main Street. I love local issues because they have the closest impact to your daily life. It may never be what you choose to talk about over the dinner table. But every day, when you turn left to get out of your neighborhood, I consider that my responsibility. I also consider your safety my responsibility. I know Roswell feels the same way. They're honest brokers.

I would challenge Mayor Henry to sort out their disagreement with Appen Media. Nobody wins in a lawsuit except the firm collecting legal fees. I'd ask Appen Media to do the same thing. We all live in one community. We are all right at some point; and we have all been wrong. We have also all been absolutely sure that we're in the right, and still been wrong. The Washington Post's headline says Democracy Dies in Darkness. It’s the truth. As an American, Main Street should be the last place that we let this happen. How I vote or anybody else votes on an issue should never be mutually exclusive with who we are to each other as neighbors. A resident should always seek transparency in government; but especially local government.

My city council stipend every month after taxes is right around $950. I called the Appens and asked if they'd reach out to Roswell directly to sort this out in exchange for donating it to cover a portion of their legal fees. They agreed. So the ball can sit in another court.We should expect better.

We the people have enough dissention among the media. We the people have enough partisan politics. We the people have enough distrust that can and should be focused at the county, state house, or federal government. We the people should all do a little bit better. Main Street still holds people accountable. Your city government is a part of that solution and so is your local paper. Statesmanship and journalism with integrity are things that Main Street still desires. 

We should all strive to get around the table more often and sort out disagreements. Nobody wins in a legal fight. Especially residents.

  

Ben Burnett

Alpharetta City Council member

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