By John Schaffner

Common Cause Georgia honored Buckhead residents Lynne Moscow and Sy Liebmann with 2009 Outstanding Citizen Awards for their leadership over many years as officers of Neighborhood Planning Unit A in northwest Atlanta.

At an April 26 evening gathering of more than 50 Democrats, Republicans and independents, including some candidates for local office, Buckhead resident and former state Rep. Bob Irvin called the two local award recipients “the treasures of Buckhead.”

The organization’s annual Democracy Awards Reception, which was held at the Sandy Springs home of Pamela Tremayne, honored seven outstanding citizens from throughout the state and presented the 2009 Democracy Award to former Georgia Public Service Commissioner Angela Speir Phelps.

“You can argue that the only part of the city of Atlanta government that works really well is the volunteer Neighborhood Planning Units (NPUs),” Irvin, the chairman of the 2009 Common Cause Georgia Governing Board, explained in presenting the awards to Moscow and Liebmann. “These are sort of super neighborhood organizations recognized in the city charter as the first step in the land-use planning and zoning process. NPU-A, I think, is the best, strongest NPU in the city, certainly one of the best and strongest. And it is one that I think has set the pattern for other NPUs in the city.”

Irvin added: “Like any organization or institution, it takes really strong and dedicated leadership to make it work. Here is the really strong and dedicated leadership of NPU-A.”

Irvin said that when he was asking his wife what he should say about the contributions of Moscow and Liebmann to Buckhead, she said, “It’s really what Buckhead is.”

When you think about the northwest end of Buckhead, he continued, “it is full of strong neighborhoods that support each other, citizens who are interested and involved. It is not choked with traffic. It is not overrun with big commercial developments, and more than anything else, that character of our neighborhoods we owe to Lynne Moscow and Sy Liebmann, acting through the NPU.”

Irvin concluded by paraphrasing what was said about Christopher Wren: “If you look for their monument, look around you.”

“We have a lot of team members here, and we are grateful for all of them,” Moscow said. “And we are grateful to Common Cause. I love the accountability, and I love the advocacy for the common citizen because, after all, that is what we all are. You keep up the good work.”

Liebmann, who stepped down as the chairman of NPU-A two years ago after many years in that position, has suffered from a long illness and did not make any remarks during the presentation.

Along with neighborhood representatives, several candidates for Atlanta offices attended the Common Cause event, including City Council member Mary Norwood, who is running for mayor; council member Clair Muller, who is seeking the presidency of the council; and Yolanda Adrean, the president of the Mount Paran-Northside Neighborhood Association, who is seeking the Dist. 8 council seat now held by Muller.

Common Cause Georgia, which has more than 3,000 members and supporters across the state, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan lobbying organization with the purpose of making public officials and public institutions accountable and responsive to citizens.

The organization believes that by banding together, people can make a difference. Common Cause throws a spotlight on issues that affect all Georgians and works to strengthen public participation and to ensure that the political process serves the public interest rather than special interests.

Irvin, who was assisted in the awards presentation by Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Bill Bozarth, a resident of the Garden Hills neighborhood in Buckhead, said he was “struck by how many of these efforts that the people are conducting in their own communities are ongoing. These are things that aren’t new. Because they go on for a while, the results are still unknown, and yet people are pressing forward with the effort.

“This is the nature of these kinds of efforts to hold governments accountable. It requires courage. It requires hard work. But more than anything else, it requires persistence.”

Irvin added: “It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to get tired. It is easy to think there is no way you can fight City Hall and win. And it is easy to quit. But, of course, if you quit, the bad guys win. I am so impressed about not just the courage and hard work, but the persistence of these people we honor tonight.”

He said Common Cause also made him realize “that even when you do win a fight, there is always another fight. There are always more fights, always more efforts to be made. There are always more villains and always more heroes. What we want to do tonight is recognize some of the heroes.”