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Dear Decaturish – Clarkston has regressed to the point where we may not be a city at all

Clarkston Crime and public safety Editor's Pick Trending

Dear Decaturish – Clarkston has regressed to the point where we may not be a city at all

L to R City Manager Shawanna Qawiy, Councilmember Susan Hood, Vice Mayor Debra Johnson, Mayor Beverly Burks, Councilmember Jamie Carroll, Councilmember Awet Eyasu, Councilmember Laura Hopkins, Councilmember YT Bell. Photo by Sara Amis

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Dear Decaturish,

The vote during the June 6 Clarkston City Council meeting by Vice Mayor Debra Johnson, Councilmember Awet Eyasu, and Councilmember Susan Hood to refuse to add the police pay and staffing crisis to the city council agenda is only the latest evidence of this voting bloc and this administration completely ignoring the problems that Clarkston is facing.

One of the primary responsibilities of any local government is public safety. That doesn’t mean sending out rushed press releases when the media knocks on your door. That doesn’t mean neglecting security cameras in our public parks. That doesn’t mean attacking a police chief with decades of experience. And it certainly doesn’t mean taking swift action to beef up security at City Hall while the rest of us make do with less than half the police officers we have budgeted for and an “informal agreement” with Dekalb County. It means making sure we have enough experienced police officers who understand our city’s safety needs and can work with our citizens to reduce crime.

Councilperson Hood’s very speedy attempt in a post-meeting Next Door post to explain away her no-vote on this issue by claiming she “didn’t have the financial and budget information needed on which to make a decision,” is yet another example of her claiming she doesn’t have enough information and then simply wishing problems will go away without having to make hard choices. This crisis has been months, if not years, in the making. Every member of the city council has access to budget information at all times, and a staff to help compile information when needed. Councilperson Jamie Carroll notified the council he would propose adding this to the agenda several days before the meeting. And yet Councilperson Hood (and apparently Vice Mayor Johnson and Councilperson Eyasu) were unprepared? This is unacceptable in a crisis situation. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost even more police officers after this shameful display of indifference performed directly to their faces.

The council and this administration somehow found the time and money to immediately increase security in City Hall when they felt threatened, despite the fact they share a building with our Police Department. This fact alone speaks volumes about how much certain council members and the administration feel about both our police and residents of Clarkston, neither of whom have the luxury to unilaterally increase their security measures. Our security is our police department, we have no other choice. This crisis needs to be addressed not by rushed press releases and Next Door posts, but by the people we elected to represent us doing the work in city council. It was only a few years ago when Clarkston was getting national attention as a welcoming and progressive city. We have now regressed to the point where we may not be a city at all.

— Rich Pasenow, Clarkston

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