by Emily Lewy
The Lumpkin County Commission (BOC) unanimously voted to rescind county imposed requirements for collection of signatures on petitions. Commissioner Tim Bowden moved to add reconsideration of petition requirements to the agenda of the December meeting. Bowden made a motion to rescind the requirements. Commissioner Clarence Stowers seconded the motion stating that he believed what they had done was legal; but his research has led him to believe that people have a right to petition government without restriction or fear of penalty.
It is great that the limitations on the right of the people to participate in their government have been rescinded. Even more important was the participation of Lumpkin County citizens in demanding rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. First Amendment rights can be restricted by state or local governments only when the people fail to demand those rights.
Our right to speak out and participate would have been forfeited if we had allowed ourselves be intimidated by county petition restrictions. Rights bestowed on us by the Constitution are meaningless without the courage to demand them.
The relationship of people to their government was best stated by Thomas Jefferson when he said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” He addressed our responsibility saying, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”
Members of the BOC now recognize your absolute right to participate in your government. This is a great victory; but it means little if you fail to exercise your right.
People ask me, “Will it really do any good?” when I tell them to let the commissioners know what they think about issues. Few appreciate the power of public participation. They do not realize that they can make a difference. They really do not understand that elected officials will respond appropriately to the will of their constituency.
If we are to have freedom and the quality of life we desire in Lumpkin County, we must motivate folks throughout the county to speak out on other issues as they have on the issue of the right to petition.
We must make certain that they receive information in a timely manner. Many don’t have access to the internet; and many who receive The Dahlonega Nugget wait days to read it. Reliable information from numerous sources is essential to motivate the people. Discussion of issues among persons in lots of different groups is one of the best ways to validate or evaluate the information.
The Lumpkin County Homeowners Association (LCHA) was created to provide information that can empower homeowners and to promote discussion of issues that affect the lives of local residents. Every resident of our county is encouraged to attend and take part in the discussion.
As you celebrate eliminating one restriction on your freedom, realize that was yesterday’s issue. Eternal vigilance requires knowing what’s going on and being willing to stand up, speak out and be free.