What is it that makes your city unique? Why is it that people want to live there, open businesses and build homes? Probably it is because of what your city has done to create a unique sense of place that combines your city’s history and traditions with its goals and aspirations. Such plans are developed in so many public, transparent and inclusive ways.
Local residents serve on boards and commissions. Comprehensive plans are developed with substantial public input. Master plans are also developed as a roadmap for the future with the input of the public. City officials engage with residents every day and in multiple ways. This includes the formal City Council meetings and also the daily informal contacts at the grocery store, community event, sporting event, a house of worship and civic club.
Many of the policies adopted are formed by the unique character of your city and shaped by the lives and the histories of the people who choose to live there. This is the core of democracy, where local residents create a shared vision with their local elected officials based on trust and accountability.
We call this “local control.” Local control, at its very core, is about accountability. Residents expect their city leaders to govern in a way that meets their basic needs, but also in a way that helps the city prosper, based upon local input that defines what “prosperity” looks like where you live. If they fail to do so, they hear about it within their communities and at the polls.
Every year, bills are introduced at the state Capitol that seek to undermine local control. This year, House Bill 302 and Senate Bill 172, bills that would erase cities’ ability to design cities that meet local visions, are being pushed by special interest groups. If we love our cities and love the qualities that make them unique, we must stand up to this silencing of our communities’ voices. We must say no to these bills and others that would seek to erode our trust and accountability.
Vince Williams is Mayor of Union City in south Fulton County. Larry Hanson is the Executive Director of the Georgia Municipal Association.