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Citizens upset with council's attitude toward public

By Justin Boron

Sparkle Adams said she wants to be heard before decisions are made by her representation on the Forest Park City Council.

The panel's responsiveness to the public has been questioned recently by a contingent of citizens upset over the recent out-sourcing of garbage service.

At a meeting Monday night, the City Council took an action, which many of the citizens present said was an extension of its indifferent attitude toward the public.

In a 3-2 vote, the council moved the public comment section of the meeting from the beginning of the agenda to the end of it, when all proposals will have been acted on.

Public comments had been heard at the beginning of the meeting for two years. Before that, they were heard at the end of the agenda, said Council member Wesley Lord.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners also hear public comment at the end of its meeting.

Council member David Halcome defended the change, saying public comments, at times, can be "frivolous."

He also said discussion would be permitted before a vote if a particularly contentious proposal arose.

Nevertheless, several citizens, backed by applause from much of the crowded room, said the move was as an attempt to curb the public's influence on the outcome of the agenda.

Using what may have been their last chance to comment openly before agenda items are decided, residents went on a 30-minute series of tirades and diatribes.

"This is not government by the people of Forest Park," said Forest Park resident Maureen Scott. "It is government by four uncaring men."

Scott left out the only woman on the council, Debbie Youmans, who voted against moving the public comment section.

Although included in Scott's four, Council member Donald Judson also voted against the proposal.

"I think it's all right where it is," he said.

Youmans said the change discourages people from attending meetings.

Mayor Chuck Hall, who did not vote, said public comments can often drag on and become counterproductive, adding though, the placement of the section could have gone on either side of the agenda.

"It didn't bother me one way or the other," he said.

News Daily intern Laura McMillan contributed to this article.