Town hall on county woes set

LAWRENCEVILLE - Sabrina Smith has seen the television reports of outrageous town hall meetings, as people vent about health care these days.

But the community activist hopes to stage a more civil forum this week to allow taxpayers to talk about their frustrations with the local government and cuts that have meant the early retirements of police officers and shortened hours at the library.

"It's not designed to be an "attack your elected official' forum," she said, adding that she hoped people would be get questions answered and have a forum to talk about problems.

Smith, who organized Citizens for Responsible Government in the wake of commissioners' decisions to forego a tax increase and instead cut services, gathered a panel and invited elected officials to participate.

Panelists are school board member Mary Kay Murphy, the Chamber of Commerce's Demming Bass and several activists and representatives from business and homeowner groups.

Commissioner Shirley Lasseter, Sheriff Butch Conway, District Attorney Danny Porter and the mayors of three cities are expected to participate.

The forum, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, is not part of the "Engage Gwinnett" program unveiled next week. There, leaders Bill McCargo and Mike Levengood will embark on a six-month study to find common ground on the service issues. A public meeting is planned for next month for the committee members to be chosen by the public.

But Debbie Dooley, a leader with the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks who is helping Smith plan Thursday's forum, said the newly announced group will not change the plans.

"We feel like there are questions the taxpayers of Gwinnett have that they would like to be answered now and not wait six months," she said, adding that she supported the Engage Gwinnett plan.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Town hall meeting

· When: 7 p.m. Thursday

· Where: Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville