I just returned from a meeting with DeKalb County Board of Commissioners and the county CEO's staff in Decatur. The meeting concerned the recent move by DeKalb county which adjusted millage rates seemingly in favor of residents living in unincorporated DeKalb as opposed to those living in cities. This action was carried out in a manner which highlights the need for transparency in government. Mayors and city managers (and at least one commissioner) from nearly all the cities in DeKalb county were there to express, in a unified voice, their displeasure with the complete lack of transparency surrounding this millage adjustment. City officials countywide were taken by surprise when they woke up recently to find that the county had effectively raised millage rates on their residents without consultation or effective notice. Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd spoke for those taxpayers and municipal representatives in attendance when he addressed the county Finance Director with "I am not here questioning your integrity but....." This highlights how immensely important openness and transparency will be in our new city.
I got the same sentiment from Brookhaven citizens who came to the forum at the Briarwood Rec. Center last Tuesday night. It was nice to meet so many people with earnest ideas and thoughtful questions about the future of our new city. Among the topics of conversation was, you guessed it - How our city can use transparency and open doors to avoid corruption and transparency problems we see so often in government. I am completely and without reservation committed to transparency and openness for the city of Brookhaven. If I am honored with being Brookhaven's first Mayor there will be no door installed in my office. Closed or executive sessions will be scarce and citizen input and presence during city business will be paramount. Our new city is based on the free market model of the private sector bidding and then the fulfilling of most city services. If we don't have elected officials who believe wholeheartedly in this public/private model with transparency as its anchor, we risk reversion to the status quo as demonstrated by today's meeting with the county.
During last week's forum it was good to hear citizens discuss these and other topics like fiscal responsibility, economically-viable sustainability measures, and community building. It will only benefit all citizens when more people share their own ideas about what they would like to see in our new city. I encourage everyone to attend future meetings and post their ideas here on the Patch. Please send your ideas or questions to my still in process website at www.jmaxforbrookhaven.com