To the editor:
With Brookhaven City Council members fast approaching their one-year anniversary as politicians next month, it seems that leadership and accountability have already become quaint and – apparently – empty campaign pledges.
For those of you that followed the details related to becoming a city, there was, and there still is, a mandate. More control and accountability over government are the reasons for – and were the initial motivation for – the very existence of the city of Brookhaven.
In the early debates and to rebut the point of view of “Brookhaven Yes” supporters, (now Councilman) Jim Eyre wrote a rather passionate and cautionary letter to the editor of the Brookhaven Reporter on June 15, 2012, offering his opinion that the idealized goal of local control over a City Council was a fallacy, and that Brookhaven cityhood supporters were simply being “naïve and unrealistic.”
He warned that, if Brookhaven succeeded in becoming a city, we could expect to see “[council] members with a political agenda, [council] members with a relationship with an applicant or their attorney, [council] members with a pre-conceived notion of what is right for the community, and [council] members making decisions for any number of reasons…”
Naïvely or not, Brookhaven did vote to become a city in July 2012, primarily to exert more local control and accountability over government.
To underscore that sentiment, several neighborhood civic associations in Brookhaven recently commissioned a telephone poll that revealed overwhelming citizen frustration regarding attorney Scott Bergthold’s quixotic nudity and alcohol ordinance. Armed with the poll results, neighborhood leaders hosted a subsequent roundtable meeting with Mayor J. Max Davis and Councilman Joe Gebbia.
Brookhaven residents rightly expressed their alarm at the prospect of the city of Brookhaven – still in its infancy – wasting tax dollars by engaging in an expensive, multi-year legal fracas similar to the one that has plagued Sandy Springs versus adult businesses for almost seven years now. The community’s message was clear… end the lawsuit.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Brookhaven City Council is behaving exactly as Councilman Eyre predicted that they would. They believe they are free to make policy decisions without an electoral mandate. In light of the aforementioned feedback from the community, it is very puzzling that Councilman Eyre is a strong supporter of the Bergthold ordinance.
Eyre is the lone Brookhaven elected official who was previously a “No City” advocate. He authored his terse pre-election assessment of how unlikely it would be to have real accountability among the Brookhaven City Council members. Now that he is a Brookhaven elected official himself, one would expect that Councilman Eyre, of all of the city officials, would be more than willing to decouple the litigation train set in motion by Bergthold and erstwhile City Attorney Bill Reilly.
One more critical observation: Among all of the Brookhaven elected officials, it would seem that Rebecca Chase Williams should be the most determined to protect the notion of local control and accountability, since her campaign website (rebecca4brookhaven.com) featured the promise that “with a proven record of integrity and honesty, [Rebecca] is dedicated to a city government that is open and accountable to its citizens.”
However, less than one year into office, Rebecca may not be so willing to accept the wishes of her constituents. In a recent Brookhaven Reporter article [Nov. 5, 2013] Rebecca rejected the suggestion of both the mayor and a significant majority of Brookhaven residents to seek additional legal opinions regarding the Pink Pony lawsuit, with the statement “Are we going to keep looking for opinions until we find one they [Brookhaven residents] agree with?”
It’s time for our elected officials to start honoring their campaign promises and accept the will of their constituents, 75 percent of whom want the city to settle the lawsuit with the Pink Pony.