To the editor:
Over the past six months, Brookhaven residents have been speaking out, organizing roundtable discussions, and taking action against the sexually-oriented business (SOB) ordinance passed by City Council.
The ordinance bans nude dancing and the sale of alcohol in the same venue. City officials elected not to uphold the consent agreement that has been in place between the Pink Pony and DeKalb County, which grandfathered in the Pink Pony and allowed them to continue to operate. City officials knew this decision would result in a lawsuit.
Less than one month into the job, our elected officials allowed personal agendas to inform their early legislative decisions.
At best, it appears that our elected officials were misguided by the former city attorney, Bill Reilly. Mr. Reilly has a track record of helping launch new cities. As soon as the city incorporates, he brings in his cohort from Tenn., Scott Bergthold, to instill fear into the newbie officials. Mr. Bergthold does this by presenting his well-rehearsed PowerPoint presentation about the negative secondary effects of SOBs.
Never mind the fact that neither Mr. Bergthold nor Mr. Reilly ever took the time to find out if any of those negative secondary effects were affecting Brookhaven – which they are not. It is amazing that city officials did not study 25 years of facts and statistics in their own community – as a normal exercise in due diligence – before following the advice of Scott Bergthold. For the record, Bergthold is a law school graduate of Regent University, a Christian school founded by Pat Robertson.
We should all be willing to forgive our elected officials for their misguided decision in regard to the Pink Pony. After all, they are new to city government and we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, our city officials have neither acknowledged their mistake nor have they taken steps to correct their decision. That is hard to forgive.
What started out as a matter of poor judgment on the part of our elected officials has now become back-room politics at its worst.
It takes arrogance to ignore the results of the Pink Pony telephone survey where 75 percent of the polled Brookhaven residents indicated they wanted the city to settle the lawsuit. It takes arrogance to ignore the results of the community-organized roundtable discussion with Mayor Davis, where not a single resident supported the actions of city officials. It takes arrogance to ignore the voices of those that put you in office and to engage in a lawsuit that promises to cost taxpayers a great deal of money for years to come.
This is money which could be used for parks, sidewalks, improved roads or a new library. Our elected officials have shut out the voice of reason and shut out the voice of their constituents. All this is hard to forgive – and to forget.
The sad truth is, those that voted for the city of Brookhaven did so because they felt they would have a voice in important decisions that affect their everyday lives, and would be empowered to be a part of the solution.
As a community, we need to consider our options, including the recall of elected officials. This issue is not about the Pink Pony. It’s about the egregious abuse of political power. It’s about five people using their position to rule the land – land that is owned by someone else.
This city is just starting out, less than a year old, and our elected officials act and behave as if they are experts in municipal government management, yet none of them had any experience prior to this moment. And now, their ability to lead and manage is seriously hampered by their current course of behavior.
There is still time for our city officials to admit that their decisions and thought processes were misguided, and to settle the lawsuit immediately, before wasting more of our tax dollars. As a community, we can then put this debacle behind us, and city officials can begin the hard work of rebuilding the trust they have lost.