Free the Petitions!

County’s crazy petition rule should be tossed
[By Matt Aiken. Originally published in The Dahlonega Nugget Wednesday, October 7, 2009]

I’m not a person who’s prone to petitioning.  In fact, if I see somebody coming my way with a large sheet of paper and an enthusiastic grin, I usually walk hurriedly in the other direction.  Yet there would be one petition I’d be happy to sign my sloppy signature on. That would be a petition that petitions the county’s new petition policy.  Yes, the time has come to petition the new petitions.Sadly, such a petition would most likely not be recognized by officials since it probably wouldn’t meet the stringent guidelines recently adopted by the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners. But then that’s the very reason to sign this petitioning petition in the first place.

Maybe I should start making more sense now.

A few months ago the Board of Commissioners adopted a new set of rules which governs the local petition process with an iron fist. It calls for an official county-provided form that must be notarized and vouched for by the submitter. Then the main petitioner must also guarantee that each signer is an actual resident of Lumpkin County. And if they aren’t, according to the new rules, they can be slapped with a $1,000 or five years in jail. In other words: The Man’s gonna get ’em.

Doesn’t this seem kind of unnecessary though?

I mean, here’s the secret about petitions. You don’t have to do what they say. In fact, it seems like no one ever does. So do we have to rub it in?

It’s like saying “The Board of Commissioners now officially doesn’t have to recognize this piece of paper that the Board of Commissioner never had to officially recognize in the first place. But now it’s official.”

That would be bad enough, but by adding the threat of legal action, and jail time at that, this silly rule becomes something else. Something needlessly menacing.

Some of the commissioners have justified these rules by saying they will ultimately help eliminate shady petitions and bring credibility to the real ones.

But by this reasoning I could start a petition ordering the county to adopt a resolution acknowledging the existence of magical unicorns. I could then convince hundreds of my closest unicorn-loving friends to sign it, and then what?

Would my “legitimate” unicorn resolution receive more serious consideration than a more credible, non-mythical creature related petition?

Well, this October 14th we’ll find out when the Lumpkin County Homeowners Association plans to present the commissioner with a, gasp, non-official petition protesting logging in Blackburn Park. Emily Lewy, one of the lead petitioners, has even admitted that she can’t vouch for every single signature. But they’re submitting it anyway.

Yes, this has the makings of an old fashioned wild west face-off. (Except with petitions instead of six-shooters.)

So this is my advice to the county. Next Wednesday, when the petition is handed out, just accept it, look over it and at least pretend to read it.

If you agree with what it’s saying, then vote with it. If you don’t, vote against it. Then when you’re done with it, go ahead and toss it in the recycling bin. This is pretty much what you would have done anyway.

But while you’re at it, throw out your crazy petition policy too.

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