Friday, January 24, 2014

Snellville – Time for a new Charter?

Since its’ adoption by the legislature in 2001, Snellville City Council Members have amended the City Charter through a sometimes questionable tactic called “Home Rule Ordinance” no less than a dozen times. Each modification appears to be little more than an attempt to gain political advantage. So, is the City Charter of Snellville the problem?

Depends. Do you believe the malfunction, bickering, lack of progress and accomplishment, and failure to lead by our Federally elected representatives is the result of a poorly written, ambiguous, outdated, and in need of replacing U.S. Constitution? After all, the U.S. Constitution is arguably the most litigated document ever written.  Is the problem the U.S. Constitution or those we elect that attempt to manipulate and interpret every word to their own political advantage?

As the primary author of the 2001 City of Snellville Charter, I am understandably concerned when elected officials suggest modifications to a document thoughtfully and deliberately crafted to serve the entire community to serve a particular purpose or person. The Charter is not and should not be about a particular person, party or faction. The City Charter is the guiding document serving all of Snellville and it should remain so.

You may recall a few years ago an outcry to change the Charter to prevent 3-3 tie votes. Some failed to recognize the value of tie votes and sought to gain a short-term advantage for one side of the divide by removing the Mayor’s vote (SB 258 – 2009). Fortunately, that effort failed and we hear nothing of that issue today as the community elected a solid majority. Had we (wrongly) changed the Charter, the minority opinion on Council today would have no voice at all.

The City Charter contains appropriate checks and balances. Unfortunately, elected have often failed to recognize or accept those provisions and have sought to exploit or ignore various sections for their own reasons and benefit. This tendency by elected results in nothing more than an added burden of legal costs, inefficient government, and poor publicity for those they represent.

So, is the City Charter of Snellville the problem? No. It’s the people not the paper – that’s the problem.

The elected in Snellville are good people, they have simply lost focus on what is important to those they represent and focus all too often on issues and positions that the vast majority of Snellville citizens and businesses care little about. Recently, the word I hear most often associated with the Snellville City Charter is “revoke”. If Council will turn their attention to providing a safe community, with employment opportunities and efficient delivery of limited government services, I suspect no one would mention the word “Charter” again. At least, as one citizen, that is my hope.

Brett Harrell is a former Mayor of Snellville and currently serves many Snellville citizens as the state Representative for the 106th District.

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