Following an official civil complaint to the Georgia Office of Attorney General, the Atlanta City Council has passed an ordinance that would increase accountability and transparency in the local Atlanta government.
Last week, the Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance (downloads PDF) that creates a transparency officer position, requires mandatory annual open records training for city employees, and establishes a public website that tracks public records requests. Additionally, the law creates a web portal for the public to track open records requests and annual training on the state’s open records law for employees.
In April, TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News filed a complaint alleging that the city council violated the Georgia Open Records Act on 10 separate occasions, with some offenses dating back to former Mayor Kasim Reed’s time in office.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms praised the new law prior to its passage, calling it a “major step” towards a more transparent and ethical local government. “There is no city in the state of Georgia that has been more aggressive in the space of ethics and transparency than Atlanta,” said Bottoms. “This ordinance will set the new standard for best practices in municipal government.”
However, some members of the city council remained suspicious of the transparency officer position’s independence. City Council President Felicia Moore has objected to the transparency officer being appointed by the mayor and said she’s working on legislation to create an independent board to which the officer would report.
Ultimately, The ordinance garnered unanimous support from the city council and once signed by the mayor, will go into effect immediately.
Golden, Colorado joins D.C. on list of cities considering moving the voting age to 16.
Late last month, the Golden City Council voted unanimously to add a measure to the November general ballot that, if approved, would lower the voting age in municipal elections to 16.
Advocates for the change have noted that it would likely increase voter engagement, make voting a regular habit earlier, and could persuade parents to vote. Although Golden would be the first community to lower the voting age in Colorado, it would join a list of cities around the country that have proposed changes to voting laws. Takoma Park, Maryland, voted in 2013 to lower the local election voting age. More recently, the Council of the District of Columbia introduced legislation that would allow 16-year-olds to vote in both local and federal elections.
Local community members in Golden have voiced support for the initiative. Brian Conroy, principal of Golden High School, endorsed the measure, saying, “It’s an excellent opportunity for kids to become involved in the democratic process.”
There are, however, those who are skeptical of the push. David Davenport, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative-leaning public policy think tank, argued that teens get excited over hot-button issues. “I would like to see that they are going to take seriously the full range of issues rather than just the one issue they are passionate about,” said Davenport.
If approved, local teenagers would be able to vote in local elections starting in 2019. However, candidates for local office would still need to be at least 18 years old.
Freeport, Illinois approves solar amendments to zoning code.
On Monday, the Freeport, Illinois, City Council voted unanimously to amend the city’s zoning ordinance to include regulations for solar panel installations. Until now, there was no provision in the zoning codes regulating the design and installation of solar panels. The new ordinances placed Freeport on the list to join 200 American localities that have earned a community designation from SolSmart, the nonprofit group tasked with assisting cities to make the switch to solar power.
Specifically, the ordinance provides for adopting solar power arrays in the city and sets guidelines for scale, fees, and installation requirements to which that residents must adhere. It applies only to roof-mounted and special use installations, not ground installations.
On the scale provided by the city, the ordinance would require owners of residential homes under 4,000 square feet to pay the city $50 for their unit’s installation. From there, the price increases to a maximum of $500 for an installation area spanning more than five acres.
The approval process would likewise become more complicated, ranging from a simple form for residential units to needing a report from the state Department of Natural Resources for larger installations.
City officials are hopeful that the ordinance will be sufficient to meet residents’ demands.
“We’ve gotten to the point now where we have some routine regulations for residential: the roof, the side, and what areas are you allowed to have ground mounted (arrays) and what needs to be special use,” said Alderman Peter McClanathan. “I think at the end of the day, we’re looking at a product for an area that is relatively new, but it gives us a good framework going forward…. If we need to make any adjustments down the road, we’ll certainly be able to.”
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