Pharr Letter - 10/21/09

Once again the citizens willing to stand up and speak out against our local government intentions were able to achieve another victory at a recent Conyers-Rockdale Planning Commission meeting.

The ordinance that was discussed was the rewritten version of a new "special event permit" ordinance that was introduced to the Planning Commission back in August. The language, which was directly an affront to the peoples' rights as a citizen, was pointed out by several citizens, including GOP members. At that time, the Planning Commission members approved with conditions the ordinance that was initiated by the Rockdale Board of Commissioners and staff. Prior to the Zoning Commission meeting, county Commissioner Oz Nesbitt was asked at a Libertarian Party meeting, where he was the guest speaker, whether he would vote against the ordinance. Nesbitt was open that he hadn't paid much attention to the ordinance, but R.J. Hadley, former Rockdale County chief of staff, who also attended, mentioned that "it was an unfortunate set of circumstances," speaking in reference to the language of the ordinance and the ill effect it would have on citizens' rights. Later that week at the Zoning Commission meeting, Hadley's comment was brought up by GOP Rules Chairman Don Williamson as a way of adding pressure on the BOC to vote no on the matter before them and to emphasize that there were flaws in what had been proposed.

Since then, Hadley has left as chief of staff and the task of rewriting the ordinance was headed up by Scott Gaithers of Rockdale County, with legal attorneys' assistance. The new draft was presented in front of the Planning Commission members, but this time, opposition was stronger than before. The new draft is quite different than the last and has even more hoops for a citizen to jump through if he or she wants to exercise their Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and the right to assemble. Opposition from the citizens was mirrored by the commission members themselves as they began discussion on the ramifications of these requirements set forth in the draft.

Marvin Flanigan from the city of Conyers pointed out that since it was a draft, he wanted the commission to insert language that would exclude the city from any adherence to the new rule.

At the end of the discussion, a vote to deny the ordinance was called and passed unanimously. Just so everyone is aware, denying the ordinance is only a recommendation to the Zoning Commission, which is comprised of the Board of Commission members themselves. The final say will come from that meeting on Oct. 22 as to the final disposition of this new ordinance. Historically, the Board of Commissioners has followed the recommendations from the Planning Commission as that is why the PC exists - to provide an expert opinion that the Board of Commissioners can draw on to formulate its decision. it should be noted that if the ordinance goes into effect, it would affect only those residents within the county and not be enforceable within the city limits of Conyers.

The Rockdale County GOP stands firmly opposed to any abridgement of our citizens' Constitutional rights. This is precisely why our citizens, regardless of party preference, need to get more involved with other citizens by attending these meetings.

Kellie Pharr


Rockdale County Republican Party