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Snellville's 'gridlock' is overblown

In response to the March 18 article, "Snellville City Council: City charter may change," I would offer the following information for consideration.

State Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, said, "Issues critical to the progress of this city are being left in a stalemate with no resolution." After his recent town hall meeting, I asked Balfour for the issues he felt were gridlocking the city. His response was that he "had no idea" what the tie votes were on.

Yet he says they are "issues critical to the progress of this city." I made an open records request asking the senator for copies of the e-mails he has received so I could understand the nature of the comments made to him, seeing as I have not received one comment from a citizen requesting a change in the voting structure. The open records request was denied.

Let me provide some facts on the council's votes for 2008. The council voted approximately 155 times in 2008, not counting votes for adjournments of meetings. Of those votes, 78 percent were unanimous, 17 percent were majority votes and 5 percent were tie votes.

Here is a list of the issues on which the council had a tie vote:

· A motion to postpone a vote to consider funding the Partnership Gwinnett initiative.

· A motion to direct the city manager to draft a fourth version of an amended 2008 budget to reflect only changes for hiring additional police officers. Projected revenue decreases and other expense increases were not to be included.

· Appointment of a citizen to the Board of Appeals.

· Setting the Stormwater Utility fee at $5.80 per unit.

· Special investigation into the crematory administrative approval process.

· Text amendment to remove crematories from the Office Professional zoning district.

· Adoption of a city travel policy.

· Approval of a National Citizens Survey to get citizen feedback.

· Approval of a contract with Evermore CID to possibly provide police services to the CID corridor

What is getting lost in this issue, in my opinion, is the real reason for the dissension on this council. There is a tremendous lack of communication on issues prior to them being placed on our agenda for a vote. A new schedule for work sessions and a better process for placing items on the agenda has been proposed.

This should allow each member enough time for initial discussion and further research before an issue is put to vote. I feel improving this communication process is a better solution to reducing the "institutional gridlock" that Sen. Balfour is legislatively trying to change.

While there seems to be council consensus to move to an odd number of people on the council, the council and the citizens of Snellville should be the ones who decide how this should be done.

Based on the 5 percent of the "gridlock" votes above, I do not see this as an issue that needs to be rushed through this legislative session. Let us step back and consider the matter fully and make a reasonable decision based on what is best for the city for the long term.

Barbara Bender is Mayor Pro Tem of Snellville.