To: All Elected Representatives (state and local)
CC: The ARC Board, Media
Subject: Atlanta Regional Commission Proposed Bylaws Change
This letter is to inform you of the proposed governing bylaws change for the Atlanta Regional Commission. There has been very little coverage in the media and the last two monthly newsletters from the ARC have not made any mention of it. The changes are being characterized as just “housekeeping” since they were last modified in 1971, although we believe they are far more sweeping and significant than just housekeeping.
There’s an ongoing concern and debate about the new bylaws that you should be aware of as it relates to accountability, local control and protection of “Home Rule” as provided for in the Georgia Constitution. Even the Metropolitan Atlanta Mayors Association has concerns as well as several county commission chairmen who currently sit on the ARC Board.
For a quick overview from an inside perspective, please watch this 4 minute video by Fayette County Chairman Steve Brown.
In July, the Transportation Leadership Coalition, the grassroots organization that mounted a campaign to stop the TSPLOST, released a critique of the proposed bylaws. You can download the full critique here. Our concerns are summarized as follows:
- Past and current ARC Chairmen are appointed chairmen of Community Improvement Districts. The Georgia Constitution and Georgia Law prove that CID’s are political subdivisions. Even the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank which provides funding only to government entities lists CID’s as eligible to receive funds. The ARC has violated its own bylaws since citizen “members at large may hold no elective or appointed public office nor be employed by any political subdivision of the area”.
- Bylaws don’t provide term limits for appointed members. Some citizen members have served for 15 years.
- The Transportation and Air Quality Committee has a quorum rule of only 40% to make decisions. We’ve never seen a board or committee that has approval authority of millions of dollars have a quorum less than 50%.
- New Governance Committee creates an excessive centralization of power into the chairman’s role with no established term limits. The Chairman appoints a slate of officers and Committee Chairs approved by the board. There is not a provision to guarantee that officers or committee chairs are duly elected county commissioners and mayors. This removes accountability to the voting public.
- ARC directs federal money toward transportation projects within CID’s. When the chairman of the ARC can be the chairman of a CID and also be employed by a firm that has major real estate investments in the CID, this creates a potential for inside deals to favored business interests and inhibits free market competition. This conflicts with the ARC Ethics Policy.
- Although the public comment policy was changed at the last ARC meeting, only a scant 10 minutes is allowed for a board that serves a population of over 5 million. Even then, it is a policy that can be modified by the chairman at any time.
Because the Atlanta Regional Commission has taxing authority on a per capita basis for each person living within the Atlanta Metropolitan area, this taxation entitles the citizens to representation. In addition, the ARC has influence on expenditure of federal, state and local dollars which also come from the taxpayers. When councils of government are appointed they are not accountable to the people. This is “taxation and legislation without representation”.
Trust in government is at an all-time low. These changes only centralize more power into the chairman. Let us make this perfectly clear, if enacted, the new Governance Committee would allow a small group of appointed people to make decisions about federal, state and local dollars instead of duly elected representatives who are accountable to the people. We do not need a situation where a handpicked group around the board chairman will have the ability to pick winners and losers in the Atlanta Metro area. This will only lead us away from more open, transparent and accountable governance.
We urge you to contact your colleagues that serve on the ARC Board and ask them where they stand in regard to these bylaws changes.