Our local government is a vitally important institution in our lives, yet few Athenians have an understanding of what goes on at city hall. There’s no shame in that; local government is not always taught in our public schools, and most people are too busy to attend Mayor and Commission meetings which can drag on for hours.
That’s where A4E comes in: as a way of helping ourselves and our members stay informed, Athens for Everyone has been attending Mayor and Commission meetings for years. We have tried to hold our representatives accountable by tracking legislation and voting records. Over years of observation, it has become clear to us that voting record alone is not enough to fully convey the value of the work that commissioners do. In light of that, we have expanded our criteria to include both voting record and positions on the issues.
Without further ado, we present our 2015 – 2017 assessments of the Mayor and Commission:
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We should clarify that Athens for Everyone is an organization dedicated to progressive causes. Our assessments will be most useful for Athenians who share our values and priorities. Furthermore, we understand that we cannot know everything that happens in city hall. We do not have dedicated staff and we miss meetings from time to time. We would be happy to modify the graphic above if we got anything wrong based on inadequate information (please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel something is inaccurate). Any commissioner is welcome to express public support for any of the items above at any time, and we’re still waiting on responses to our questionnaire from a few of them, but remember that actions speak louder than words.
As you can see, we are using a Support / Oppose / Champion system, using issues that came from our 2017 platform. “Supporters” have the same position as A4E on an issue, or they vote correctly when the issue comes up. They are shown in yellow and get half credit for that issue in our evaluation. If a commissioner “opposes” an issue, that means they explicitly oppose our position, are ambiguous about it or stay entirely silent. They are shown in red and get no credit for that issue. “Champions” not only support an issue, but have done all that can be reasonably expected of them to push the issue forward. They are shown in green and get full credit for the issue in our evaluation. Voting record assessments are based upon votes over the past three years for which A4E has requested a particular outcome. Our assessments also include a subjective component.
We want to see candidates and elected officials use their position to advance critical issues in the public discourse both during and outside of meetings at City Hall. We want to see them use speeches, debates, op-eds and the media to clearly advocate for an issue. We want them to support those suffering from and fighting against injustice. Commissioners and other elected officials should work with activists, advocacy groups and individuals affected by these issues. Finally, we want them to introduce, co-sponsor and vote for strong legislation whenever they can.
Our commission is not tackling the big issues that Athenians care about. They are not acting as often or as strongly as they should to fight poverty and discrimination, build affordable housing, reform our justice system, promote alternative transportation or lessen Athens’ footprint on our environment. These grades reflect that. Our hope is that our commissioners, when presented with this information, will rediscover the reasons why they wanted to run in the first place. We hope that each ACC representative will recommit themselves to fighting for justice and positive social change in our beautiful and diverse community.
Athens for Everyone
February 7, 2018