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Delegation seeks better communication with local leaders

Photo by Curt Yeomans State Reps. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale, from left), Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale) and Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro) listen to a question posed during a Clayton County Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Thursday. Abdul-Salaam said Clayton County legislators want to improve communication with city and county officials. 

Photo by Curt Yeomans State Reps. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale, from left), Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale) and Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro) listen to a question posed during a Clayton County Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Thursday. Abdul-Salaam said Clayton County legislators want to improve communication with city and county officials. 

Members of Clayton County’s legislative delegation are reaching out to city and county leaders to get a better grasp of what local legislation is needed, State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale) told business leaders on Thursday.

Abdul-Salaam, the delegation’s chairperson, admitted during a Clayton County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, that local legislators had not always been on the same page –– about the needs –– with city and county officials.

She said legislators did not always know what kinds of local legislation was needed, as a result.

The delegation chairperson, along with State Reps. Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale), and Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro), gave an update to members of the business community on upcoming legislative issues.

“A lot of times, we’re at the capitol, wondering what Lovejoy needs,” Abdul-Salaam said. “We’re trying to figure out whether Forest Park will support this, when we have not had the opportunity, or have not taken the opportunity to hear directly from them. Once we get in session, anybody that ever spent any amount of time at the Capitol, you know that’s not the time to try to find out ... We can’t represent you all, in the community, if we don’t know what you want.”

Abdul-Salaam said local legislators took a step toward improved communication with local officials this week, by meeting with representatives of each of Clayton County’s seven cities, as well as county officials. The meeting took place just over a month before the scheduled start of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2012 legislative session. Abdul-Salaam said it was the first time for such a meeting between legislators and city officials to discuss pre-planning, before a legislative session begins.

She said it was mutually helpful for the legislators, who found out what types of local legislation will be needed in the coming year, and for municipal and county leaders, who learned what legislators need them to do, when they request local legislation.

“Sometimes [in the past], they would send them [needs] on a letter, and we can’t accept it that way,” Abdul-Salaam said. “It has to be in a resolution format. We ran into that with the school board [earlier this year]. It’s a learning curve. It’s a thing that, if we work together, and we know the process, then, we can get things done smoothly.”

Forest Park City Councilmember Sparkle Adams, called the gathering of elected officials “very productive. We had an opportunity to not only express our points of view, and our needs, but we heard from them as well on what they needed, so that will give us better leverage to work together,” Adams said. “We’re missing out on so much because we have not sat down as a group, and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. We need to have both hands working together, so we can clap.”

Delegation Chairperson Abdul-Salaam said there are some pieces of local legislation that could come out of the delegation this year, because of the meeting. One piece of legislation, she said, that would likely come up next year, is a bill to clean up language in a section of Forest Park’s city charter. Adams said the requested change is intended to reflect the fact that the city now has a five-member city council, instead of a seven-member council.

“It [the reduced size of the council] has been that way for close to 15 years, and this was one section that we missed,” Adams said.

Abdul-Salaam was less optimistic that requested legislation from Jonesboro, to allow for a referendum on lowering the city’s homestead exemption, would make it, however. She explained that there are issues with the city’s next election being two years away, and the fact that Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox just lost his re-election bid last month, and will be out of office by the time the legislative session begins.

“I think it would probably be better [to wait on the homestead exemption referendum until 2013], because administrations will change [and] legislators will change ... so, I don’t see much sense in approving it [in 2012] for 2013,” Abdul-Salaam said.