To the editor:

I have recently been made aware that the city has voted to destroy three local businesses, including Eric Bern’s Photography Studio, which is an exceptionally flourishing staple of the city at this point, to extend a road.

What’s more, I learned that: 1) The money offered to Eric in return for the proposed appropriation of his property is nowhere near what would be required for him to relocate his business; 2) The city did not consult any of these business owners prior to taking this vote, and 3) Eric proposed several alternatives to the city that would allow him to keep his studio where it is and save the city money on this project — alternatives that have been ignored and seemingly blown off.

I’m looking at the Sandy Springs seal on the city website as I type this email to you. The city’s actions in this event so far are the antithesis of the city’s slogan: “Honest, Efficient, Responsive.”

How can you claim honesty after keeping this secret from the people it would impact most, and deciding that if they don’t cooperate, you’ll use legal action against them in accordance with the divine right of township? How can you claim efficiency if you choose actions that cost more money than necessary to the city, and displace businesses that don’t need to be displaced, ultimately costing them more than the pittance you’ve offered? And how can you claim to be responsive when you ignore your citizens?

In a time when almost everyone who doesn’t work for a form of government complains about all forms of government, I’d think that at least local governments would start to listen more to their constituents, who pay their salaries. Or perhaps you consider them subjects rather than your employers.

Governments are supposed to lead and serve. Governments (supposedly) exist so that a body of people can conduct themselves smoothly together and get their needs met. They don’t exist to serve the interests of people in power more than they serve everyone else.

I make that distinction because I think a lot of angry people would argue that if you’re a government official representing people, you should be entirely objective. Not so. If you’re a citizen of a city who happens to work for its government, you have the same say as everyone else in anything, because it affects you just as much.

So consider someone coming to your house, telling you that they’re going to tear it down, offering you an insulting compensation, and then threatening legal action if you don’t give up what you own because someone else wants it. You may be thinking, “that’s not the same thing because it’s my home,” or “that would never happen to me…”

From a business owner’s perspective, it is the same thing. Investing the heart and soul in a business makes it just as significant as a home. And yes, it can happen to you, too.

I hope you’ll reconsider the city’s handling of this affair, and I’m sure that doing so will reinforce the citizens’ faith in your honesty, efficiency and responsiveness.

Andrew Welsh

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