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Hubris in Austell

Austell Mayor, Joe Jerkins, taken to task not assigning committee assignments to two council members who think and act independently.

The dictionary defines "hubris" as excessive self-confidence or arrogance, and in the City of Austell, in the person of its Mayor, Joe Jerkins, hubris is the defining trademark of his administration. 

This came to light most graphically when he decided to not assign two city council members to chairmanships of standing committees. According to South Cobb Patch news reports, this action was in retaliation for council members, Martin Standard and Trudie Causey, voting against awarding a contract to a company that owed the city $19,000 in back taxes, and which had previous contracts with the city and had not paid the money. 

Another factor that might have been in play is Standard and Causey supporting recently elected councilwoman Suzanne Thomason, who ran against the Mayor's choice, former incumbent Randy Green. In defending his action, the mayor said he based his decision on the basis of "people working with me" [read going along with whatever I want] and that "it's the mayor's choice and that's the way it is." (emphasis mine)

What is one to make of this kind of pettiness and peevishness?  Is this a mature and responsible way to govern a city? And can it not also be seen as an abuse of power? 

While his action was legal in the strictest sense of the word, it belies a problem which has vexed Austell for years, namely too much authority in the office of the mayor. Moreover, it is bad governance because it mis-allocates the workload, with three council members chairing two committees, one chairing one, and two chairing none.  We elect our council members to do the work of the people, and when two members are denied a fair and equitable opportunity to do their jobs, then we, the people ,are the losers. What this situation cries out for is a radical re-structuring of the City's Charter, whereby the Mayor would be required to assign ALL council members with committee assignments, re-institute a city manager and term limits. 

Speaking of the City Charter, when was the last time it was reviewed, and how accessible is it?  As things stand now, the only way citizens can review the Charter is to go to the City Clerk's office and read it in her office.  If you want a copy, or selected pages from it, you have to pay for it.

This is the antithesis of transparency in local government.  A step in the right direction would be to have the full text of the Charter on the city's website; one of many items which needs to be there, but which is not.  The city should also establish a Charter Review committee whose members would be appointed by the council and mayor.  The committee could then submit its recommendations to the council for rejection or approval.  It would be a great way to engender greater citizen involvement; something which is sorely lacking in Austell.

When I lived in Lewisville, TX, the city had a practice of having citizens review its charter every four years for the purpose of updating it to keep it relevant to changing conditions and circumstances, and doing so served the city very well.  We can do it here in Austell.  All it takes is the will and determination of the people and its elected representatives.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bruce January 21, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Good points, James. Austell has the lowest tax rates of any city in Cobb. Austell has one of the lowest crime rates of any city in the metro Atlanta region. Let's be grateful for what we have.
Bruce January 21, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Hey, at the top of this page by Lamberton's photo is written "Media and Public Relations Consultant." What? Who you consultin' with Lance? Your wife?
Bruce January 25, 2012 at 10:50 PM
You know, I'm about to get tired whipping this dead horse. I'll keep an eye on you Lance, but the more you write, the more people will know what you are about. And there will be a great record the next time you run for office.
James Bell January 26, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Bruce I am going to report you to the human society! Leave the horses alone.
Virginia June 21, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Good points guys, keep up the good comments. I love them.

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