BOC Meeting Agendas and Minutes 
DeKalb County’s Form of Government
                   
DeKalb County’s form of government is not an alien concept. It is based upon the construct of Separation of Powers in which there is an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch. This construct is designed to help ensure that all powers and responsibilities are not concentrated in the hands of one person or one governmental entity. It is indeed a very sound construct. This is the basic structure of our federal government, all of our state governments, and many cities throughout this country.

In DeKalb County we have an elected executive (CEO), an elected legislative branch (County Commissioners), and a separate judicial system. This is a standard concept.

There are 20 states in America which have counties that have some form of a County Executive form or government. The state of New York has 19 counties that have some form of a County Executive. In the state of Kentucky, all counties are headed by an elected executive known as the County Judge/Executive. This further underscores that the DeKalb County form of government is an accepted concept.

Yet, in last year’s convening of the Georgia General Assembly, House Bill 961 was introduced. It proposed to eliminate the DeKalb County CEO position. This bill did not gain any serious traction. Since that time one of the bill’s principal sponsors, Rep. Megan Hanson was not re-elected to the state house seat that she occupied. In the wake of these developments, one would hope that such maneuvering would cease and desist. But I learned long ago that hope is not a strategy. The Georgia General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene next week. Therefore, I think we have arrived at a place where at least one other member of this county’s governing authority should weigh in on this subject, for the record.

I have long been supportive of the concept of a Charter Review Commission to take a comprehensive look at DeKalb County’s Organizational Act which spells out the roles and responsibilities within this government. Such a review has not taken place in quite some time and therefore seems appropriate. However, a push to simply eliminate the CEO position strikes me as a knee jerk proposition that causes me to question the actual motivations behind it.

I have not heard anyone suggest that we eliminate to office of President of the United States and have those duties and powers pass to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I have not heard anyone suggest that we eliminate the office of Governor and have the General Assembly decide all state matters. I have not heard anyone suggest that we eliminate the office of Mayor.

DeKalb County is very diverse in a macro view. Based upon 2017 GIS data the demographics for the county as a whole are as follows: 53.7% Black, 32.6% White, 8.9% Hispanic and 6.5% Asian. However, the breakdown of demographics by county commission district paints a different picture.
 
                        District 1                                                  District 2                                                  District 3                             15.7% Black                                           12.7% Black                                           84.6% Black
58.7% White                                         66.7% White                                          12.1% White
19.2% Hispanic                                     16.3% Hispanic                                      1.9% Hispanic
12.7% Asian                                           8.5% Asian                                             0.7% Asian
 
District 4                                             District 5
67.1% Black                                        92.0% Black
18.4% White                                      4.1% White
3.8% Hispanic                                    2.6% Hispanic
9.4% Asian                                          0.8% Asian
 
District 6                                              District 7
33.8% Black                                         74.4% Black
48.1% White                                        16.4% White
11.2% Hispanic                                    6.6% Hispanic
9.2% Asian                                            3.6% Asian
 
While this current iteration of the Board of Commissioners seems to be working together better than those of the recent past, each of us is still ultimately accountable to the constituencies who elect us. Therefore, I think it is imperative that we have one elected official who represents ALL of DeKalb County and who has to seek votes from ALL parts of the county: north, central, and south, incorporated and un-incorporated.  The DeKalb County CEO is in a unique position to help bridge divides across the county, both real and perceived.

I will acknowledge that DeKalb is the only county in Georgia with this form or government. So what? No organizational structure is perfect. Mistakes, mismanagement, and corruption can and does happen under every form of government. How the boxes are arranged on the organizational chart is far less important than who occupies those boxes. That is ultimately in the hands of the electorate. Franky, sometimes the people get it wrong. Elections are for making the necessary course corrections to get it right.

In my opinion, calls to eliminate the DeKalb CEO position are not about water bills or sewer spills. Those who make those claims are being disingenuous at best. Likewise, the argument that the day-to-day management of DeKalb County’s government requires some technocrat is equally suspect. No President of the United States arrives in office as a technical expert on defense policy, healthcare policy, energy policy, transportation policy, labor policy, education policy, or any of the myriad operations that the federal government is engaged in. Yet the ultimate responsibility for all of these functions resides with him. Likewise, the CEO of DeKalb County does not need to be a technical expert in the various functions of this government.

I assert that a leadership position of this type is primarily about character. Experience and managerial prowess are also very important. I certainly would not want a total neophyte in such a position of authority. But, no one individual has the bandwidth to be an expert in all functions. For that matter, neither does any group of individuals. Good leadership is about surrounding yourself with the right people, deploying resources properly, exercising good judgement, driving toward defined objectives, acknowledging mistakes when they occur but not dwelling on them, and striving for transparency.

Such loose talk about eliminating the DeKalb CEO position is about power, plain and simple. The DeKalb County CEO position is vested with a significant amount of power. Simply stated, I believe there are those who covet that power and want some of it for themselves. Running in a   county-wide election just to achieve that end is a pretty tall order. Cutting some sort of deal in the back rooms of the state capital is not as difficult. Moreover, such maneuvering does not serve the people well.

The bottom line for me is this: our current form of government is appropriate. Should we take a hard look at some fine tuning? YES. Should we undertake some radical change in structure? NO.

It all distills to this: power placed in the wrong hands can lead to negative results, while power placed in the right hands can lead to positive results. This can be said of anyone who occupies the role of DeKalb County CEO. Likewise, it can be said of any of us who hold positions of elective office throughout this county. It is ultimately the voters who decide these matters. I learned this in civics class a long time ago.

If someday the position if DeKalb County CEO is ever to change (and to me that is a very big IF) it should be done so by a referendum of the citizens of DeKalb County. ALL of DeKalb County.

Steve Bradshaw
DeKalb County Commissioner District 4
January 8, 2019
  

  

  








 Commissioner Bradshaw's Comments for the 2.12.19 BOC meeting

  

Thank you Mr. Presiding Officer.
Good Morning Everyone.


On January 23, I held my first District 4 Mayor’s Roundtable meeting of 2019. This is an initiative that I started last year for the mayors of all the municipalities that are wholly within District 4. These meetings provide a forum in which I can share information about the county and they can share information about their respective cities. Our most recent meeting was no exception. These meetings also provide a great opportunity to build critical relationships. To be certain, we don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything. But, it is very important that we have open lines of communication so that we can discuss any differences in an atmosphere of mutual respect and dare I say it, trust. I would like to thank Avondale Estates Mayor Jonathan Elmore, Pine Lake Mayor Melanie Hammet and Stone Mountain Mayor Patricia Wheeler for participating in our last meeting. As long as the mayors express to meet that these meetings are a worthwhile exercise, I will continue to host them.


Along those lines, I will share this brief anecdote. Some time ago I had scheduled a one-on-one meeting with Mayor Hammet. She suggested that we meet by the lake, which I readily agreed to. At the appointed day and time she arrived with lounge chairs and we sat by the lake and engaged in a very substantive discussion on a number of issues. As we were sitting there residents would come by to greet her, and she would introduce me to the folks who did not already know me. After the fact, I was informed that we apparently caused quite a stir that day. People seemed to be truly amazed that the DeKalb County District 4 Commissioner would take the time to hang out with The Mayor of Pine Lake by the lake. Well, YES. The bottom line is that we are all in this together. And our actions should reflect that sentiment.


On January 24th, I was honored to host a Community Conversation Panel discussion on diabetes at the DeKalb County Board of Health. Diabetes effects about 14% of the adult population in Georgia or 1.1 million people. The panel consisted of experts in the field and the people in attendance received valuable information on how best to combat this disease. I would like to thank my friend Beverly Burks, Director of Community Engagement, for the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital authority for inviting me to participate.
On January 26th, we held our first Quarterly in the Fourth Community Breakfast meeting of 2019. The turnout was the largest to date with over 140 people in attendance. As usual I was able to engage in a spirited discussion on a range of issues with my constituents and it is always a pleasure for me to do so. I would like to thank all DeKalb County departments who were there to support us. Likewise, I would like to thank all of the elected officials who attended. In particular, I would like to thank my friend and colleague Commissioner Lorraine Cochran Johnson for being there in support as well. I really appreciate it. Our next Community Breakfast Meeting will be on May 18th. More information will be available as the date approaches.


It was such a pleasure to attend the ceremony honoring our DeKalb County Public Library System as the Georgia Public Library of the Year. This is a significant accomplishment for which we should all be very proud. For those who continue to be invested in the narrative that DeKalb County is all messed up, my response to that is “you are wrong.” This achievement by our library system just the latest example of why you are wrong. I want to commend our Library Director, Alison Weissinger for her tremendous leadership. Her remarks that night were heartfelt and quite moving. Likewise I would like to thank and commend all of our library system employees for the job that they do. In fact my last mayor’s meeting was at the Clarkston Library. Everyone on staff that we encountered that day was courteous and professional. We appreciate it.


I was happy to meet with the residents on 1st Ave in Avondale Estates. In that meeting, the community was afforded the opportunity to express their concerns to me on an important issue effecting their neighborhood. I would like to thank Nathan and Abby Mutic for opening up their lovely home for the gathering. And I would like to Nathan’s mother Suzanne for the excellent cookies.


On February 9th, I attended the Mountain Oaks HOA meeting. Mountain Oaks is one of the great communities in District 4 and it was great to interact with my constituents in that area. I would like to thank HOA President Richard Rose for the invitation.
I would like to commend our Parks Director, Chuck Ellis for the commencement of our Park Ranger program. I think this will be a great enhancement to our parks system.


I would also like to thank Pastor Troy Bush and the entire congregation at Rehoboth Baptist Church for making me feel so welcome at their worship service this past Sunday. I look forward to returning in the future.


As always, you may call my office with any questions or concerns at 404-371-4749. And I thank the citizens of
District 4 for affording me the opportunity to serve.

Thank you Mr. Presiding Officer.

Commissioner Bradshaw's BOC Comments 
Commissioner Bradshaw's Quarterly in the Fourth informational video