Activists Seek Changes in Atlanta Regional Commission Bylaws

The Atlanta Regional Commission is in the process of finalizing a massive rewrite of its bylaws. Some citizens groups are not happy with the proposed changes because they believe the Commission should be more accountable to local residents. Many attended a meeting of the ARC Board on Wednesday to express their frustration.

David Pendered with the Saporta Report has the story:

At least nine organizations sent representatives to voice opposition to proposed revisions to the ARC’s bylaws. They want the bylaws to prohibit the ARC from seating on its board developers and others who have an interest in development. The proposal does not do that.

“I have a problem with a person or employer who could benefit” from actions taken by the ARC board serving on the ARC board, said Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown.

Brown’s concerns about the citizen members of the board go beyond whether they should be representatives of the development community. In April, he issued a press release after writing a memo to the ARC Bylaws Committee with his concerns:

One problem Brown cites is the division between the mayors and commission chairmen which, in turn, allows the citizen members to have a controlling influence. Some of the citizen members have been on the ARC Board for decades. “I worry when the ARC Chairman, a very powerful and influential position, is controlled by a citizen member whom the citizens cannot touch,” said Brown.

“I believe the situation is worsened when that citizen chairman is on the board of a community improvement district, which should exclude them from being a citizen member of the ARC board. Both the previous chairman and the current chairman are CID board members and are employed in the lucrative real estate development industry, which means ARC votes related to infrastructure can
influence their profitability.”

The makeup of the ARC Board, however, is determined by its enabling legislation. Changes to the board’s composition would require legislative intervention. And while both the current and proposed revisions to the ARC bylaws prohibit members at large from holding public office, courts have ruled that Community Improvement Districts and their Boards of Directors do not qualify under that limitation.

Representatives from the citizens groups, including Common Cause of Georgia, the Transportation Leadership Coalition, and several Tea Party groups, are wary of regionalism because they fear a decision affecting an entire region could force their county to participate in something it opposes. They see the proposed bylaws changes as strengthening the power of unelected individuals to mandate regional solutions. Their concerns about regional government stem from the failed 2012 TSPLOST, which Brown also opposed.

The ARC Board is expected to vote on the proposed bylaws changes at its September meeting.