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Bill Grant: Shedding Light on Canton City Council

This post explains the current conditions of the Canton City Council and government. Including the waste of tax payer funds, and other questionable acts.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The opinions and views expressed in this blog post are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of Canton-Sixes Patch.

This is a letter written by Bill Grant about the current state of Canton City Council affairs: 

SHEDDING LIGHT ON CANTON!

Yesterday, I innocently posted a photo of some of the new Christmas lights going up in downtown Canton. As a professional designer, I was simply disgusted by the lights. They look cheap, plastic and way out of scale. Furthermore, the lights themselves, do not represent "Christmas" to me at all. There appears to be four different designs: a generic stylized Christmas tree, red and green candy canes with giant holly leaves, a "shooting star," and what I refer to as alien angels.

By the comments on my post, it appears many fellow Canton citizens feel the same way about these lights. I believe these lights provide tangible evidence of how our city government is operating, and we all need to play closer attention to the decisions that impact the character and quality of our town.

Here are the facts that were presented in the last few City Council meetings:

- .

- The lights were selected by the Streets Dept and the City Manager without any input from the public DDA or Main Street program.

- Photos of the new lights were passed around to the Council, and they expressed their approval with no comments or questions.

- .

- After Sandy McGrew made comments about the budget in the 10 minute public input on 11/15, Councilman Bill Bryan stated that maybe they should reconsider the $30,000 cost of the lights. Councilman John Beresford replied, "Too late. They are already here." Therefore, the lights were purchased and delivered before the final vote to fund them had officially been taken.

These are the KNOWN facts according to the minutes taken at City Council meetings. As some of you may know, five of the six Councilmen also voted to strip the Mayor of his staff in the same meeting. His staff includes an Administrative Assistant and the Main Street Director - who really reports to the Main Street Board. Bill Bryan introduced the motion as a means of "saving the taxpayers' money." It was later revealed the motion was made in retaliation for the Mayor's idea of consolidating the Fire Dept. with the County. Bryan's motion was supported by Jack Goodwin, Bob Rush, Hooky Huffman and John Beresford. Glen Cummings was the only no vote. In statements made by several of the Councilmen, they had agreed to this motion OUTSIDE normal Council meetings, and the motion was a "done deal."

The last time our Council presented us with a "done deal" was during the East Main Street zoning battle. After similar backroom and under the table deals, we were told that a commercial business would be allowed to open in the heart of the historical residential section of E. Main Street. We fought back, raised awareness and were successful in protecting the majority of our residential district. I bring up the East Main Street battle as an example of what can happen when the citizens get complacent and do not pay attention to what is happening at City Hall. 

For me, these new "Christmas" lights are a very visible wake up call. These decisions are being made by a Council that appears to be out of touch with their constituents, and more importantly, one that is no longer interested in our opinion. In the same meeting where five of them voted to strip the Mayor of his assistant to "save money," they also voted, unanimously, to fund $30,000 for these tacky Christmas light. on First Fridays. While nice, this is not in line with saving money for the taxpayers. Even more appalling, they also agreed to increase their salaries! Granted, our Council pay is ridiculously low, but you don't eliminate a city employee in an effort to save money at the same meeting where you vote to increase your own salary!

If you are equally appalled by these new "Christmas" lights and other recent Council antics, I URGE you to attend City Council meetings and observe them in action. The next Council meeting is Thursday, Dec. 6, at 6 PM in Council Chambers at City Hall, 3rd Floor. At the beginning of every meeting, there is a 10 minute Public Input, and anyone can sign up to speak about anything that is on their mind. PLEASE let your voice be heard! Collectively, we need to remind the Council who they represent and hold them accountable for their decisions. We also need to urge them to work together in a manner that is civilized, professional and in the best interest of our citizens.

I apologize for the long rant, but I still care enough about the future of Canton to not sit back and let them do whatever they want without questions. These Christmas lights should be a visible sign of what happens when we are not engaged. We need everyone to get involved and light a brighter path for our city.

Thanks for listening!

Bill Grant

I too echo the sentimnent of Mr. Grant in saying that the citizens of Canton need to step up to the plate and discover what is going on with our City government. If you live in the City of Canton and want to make a change, please come to the next council meeting on Thursaday, December 6th! See you there.

Jeff Brown

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lisa Murad November 29, 2012 at 10:21 PM
If Canton wants to compete with Woodstock, Cumming, Roswell, Historic Alpharetta, and even Downtown Jasper, it is going to have to do better than this. The decorations have to look as nice during the daylight hours if not more so than the evening hours since the Downtown area attracts so little traffic at night anyway. Until we get more retail and restaurants into downtown that stay open past 8:00 p.m., our little town is going to continue to miss the boat where jobs and growth are concerned. Businesses need the convenience of personal and business services, retail and restaurants to attract and keep good employees. Retail needs restaurants. Restaurants need retail and business and a city government that helps set the tone and ambiance that attract patrons. Why can't Canton model itself after other towns of similar size, but far more successful? No need to recreate the wheel. Study and apply what already works all over the rest of the Southeast.
Lisa Murad November 29, 2012 at 10:33 PM
The City Council, DACC, Chamber and small business groups need to work together with the brokerage community to take an objective look at what exists in Downtown Canton, tax incentives, and immediate outer rings that feed/don not feed into DT Canton to create a fluid, flexible plan that not only attracts economic growth for the area, but eventually sets the standard for other small towns. Canton has the unique opportunity to be a real attraction for North Cherokee making it possible for more people to work here instead of commuting to Woodstock, Marietta, Alpharetta, Cumming, Kennesaw, etc for work. The one way streets definitely do not help retail/restaurants here. The town is too small really to support 1-way traffic as it is. 2-way would do a world of good to build up the retail and restaurant business and clientele. That one small change will make a big difference. Downtown Canton Ga First Friday is a great start too that Ginger Gerrard is heading up. There is obviously potential here when you have folks like Bill Grant headquartering his business here and innovative restaurants like Going Coastal are coming in. The tone and pace needs to be set for the 30=40 somethings to stay here. We have the brain trust in our commuting residents, the community colleges and newer healthcare services coming in. So progress is happening, but downtown Canton needs to come up with a dynamic strategy to be the pride of N. Cherokee.
Sandy McGrew November 29, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I attended the last council meeting and spoke during the public input time. I am quoted here in this article. I find it unacceptable to order THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of Christmas decor before a vote is taken and the expense is approved. (Back room agreement? - Unacceptable) Our city is in debt up to and beyond its collective eyeballs and this waste of money has to stop. Canton Theatre deserves a projector system but it is the wrong time for such a huge sum (51 thousand dollars) to be used for this. We are in debt. To vote to dissolve a staff position stating it is to save money and then turn around and vote for a raise in pay for the council is unacceptable. This sends a very negative message to the citizens. At this time our city leaders should be setting an example of belt tightening and exemplifying smart, savvy leadership. Our city leaders, and we as citizens, should be doing all in our power to promote intelligent growth within our city limits. Bringing in new businesses within the city limits will increase the tax base and give all of us a diverse selection in shopping and dining. And I am speaking of city limits not just the downtown area. We need to court and woo all types of businesses to make Canton, Ga their home. I don't see this city council and city manager doing everything they can to grow Canton and making smart decisions on spending our city/tax dollars. We need to pay down our debt and stop the frivolous spending.
Brandon Roberts November 30, 2012 at 01:19 AM
I have attended many city council meetings and definitely believe that some changes need to be made! I am an informed TEEN REPUBLICAN!
Lisa Murad November 30, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Check out the top 20 small towns across America and see what they all have in common. Canton has alot to offer culturally if zero in on arts and culture unique to Canton, Cherokee and North Georgia. Canton has a story to tell and with the help of multiple organizations like Mainstreet, the Historical Society, the chamber, DACC, the small business community and our educational institutions working in symphony with the city council, Canton can be transformed into a diamond from the rough. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/The-20-Best-Small-Towns-in-America.html
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Hi Lisa, "No need to recreate the wheel" is one of my absolute favorite sayings. Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I prepared a much more detailed reply but it was deemed too long for this space; therefore I wrote a blog based on your comments. We face some significant challenges here in Canton, the greatest of which is a mentality of "because we have always done it that way". I have stepped on some pretty big toes and have upset some very important people in my quest to truly change our way of thinking about growth and development. A person such as yourself who takes the time to write positively and to provide constructive ideas makes this thankless job worthwhile. Lisa I am always available to meet with you to discuss all things Canton in more detail. I am always happy to share any and all factual data with anyone who asks for it. You can contact me at home 770-479-7281, cell 770-827-0048 ot email bill.bryan@canton-georgia.com .
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Young man my reply to Lisa goes for you too! We are proud of you Brandon - keep it up.
Change For Canton November 30, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Mr. Bryan, please explain the facts as to why the decorations were ordered...before approval of funding from council? Was it a "done deal" as you all like to call it? Also, why was this the year to spend $30K on decor we did not have? These are the facts people want answers to!
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Bill, I would agree that Canton faces many challenges. You seem spend a great deal of time and effort researching "other cities" and the way they do things. Is it not more important to research your OWN city? Canton is a unique place and does not have to conform to what other communities are doing. I really don't think anyone has an issue with positive change. Especially positive change that has the right timing, fiscally. But, spending $30k on Christmas decorations and $51k on a projector for the theater when the city is in debt is not fiscally conservative thinking. It was my understanding now that the previous Christmas decorations had been "re-worked" in recent years and could have been used for several more. More importantly, the council is not following procedures. The "cat was let out of the bag" that the Christmas decorations were already purchased and had arrived before the vote was taken. Also, the "mayor's staff" issue should have gone through a work session first. I applaud your effort to try and make things better but, I am afraid you are not being very successful.
Etowahwah November 30, 2012 at 04:21 PM
So now Bill Bryan is talking about "growth and development" when he and his cohorts are in the midst of dismantling the Main Street program? Also, they have totally ignored the requests for funding strategic programs that would encourage new businesses to locate in Canton and, especially, downtown. They also refused to even consider the rental car pass through tax to generate $48,000 dollars to subsidize new businesses in the first year of locating downtown. In the same meeting, however, they voted to fund $51,000 in new equipment to show movies once a month at the Canton Theatre! What is this going to do to encourage economic development Mr. Bryan? Your double talk is growing tiresome! If you want real change, start with the man in the mirror!
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Sandy, ask Mayor Hobgood - he signed the approval. John, you should get your facts straight - "dismantle the Main St. program" - are you serious? Jeff, thanks for your applause. We will continue to push for the needed changes to make our city the best it can be!
Etowahwah November 30, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Oh please, Mr. Bryan! Give us a break! We are not stupid, and you can no longer twist your words to defend your actions. You should know the Mayor is required by LAW to sign Council approved expenditures, regardless of their validity. At recent meetings, you and your cohorts have totally ignored funding requests for a well articulated Main Street strategy. At last week's meeting, you motioned to strip the Mayor of his staff, an assistant and the Main Street Director. You have harassed and humiliated the Main Street Director on numerous occasions, and you totally disregard the dedicated volunteers that have been working diligently to improve our city. Hardly valiant efforts to make our city the "best it can be."
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Sandy...Don't let Bill stray you. The Mayor must sign everything the council passes..by law...if he agrees with it our not. Bill Bryan..just admit that the council agreed to purchase the decorations (and did) before the Council voted to do this. Take some responsibility for the councils action. Again, I don't see you defending your fiscal decisions on the projector, or Christmas decor purchases. Please..make us understand.
Lisa Murad November 30, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I am looking forward to attending the council meeting on Dec 6th. And I am especially looking forward to a meaningful 2-way discussion between the council members and the public they serve. If attendees go in loaded for bear and lob attacks right out of the gate, I am afraid the exchange will have been fruitless. It's time to build relationships between our council and its public. We need our city council to work for economic growth for the public and the public needs to participate and communicate on a regular basis with the city council if it expects the people's work to be done. We need increased voter participation to make sure that we elect individuals who have the vision, competence and public service skill set to govern. Bill Grant is such an individual who ran for a council seat because he loves Downtown Canton, has based his business there (he's invested personally in the success of the city) and yet not enough of the public showed up to elect him into office. It was a matter of voter participation. So, the public is culpable for the current city council representation. So, when we all gather together on Dec. 6th, how about some constructive, purposeful dialogue so that we can understand the motivations of our individual city council members, the collective and their process. Based on the information provided in this article and on FB, there seems to be some needed re-working of process, vision and motivation. What is possible? Fresh start?
Change For Canton November 30, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Wow! It looks like it may be time for legal action against council for not following procedures and closed door meetings that all council members did not attend. Disgusting..
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 05:37 PM
absolutely Jeff you are right about the council agreeing to the purchase. it was in a public meeting and it was unanamous- including Gene. a number of years ago Gene refused to sign a document that the council had approved regarding funding commerce blvd. - and i commend him for that - the mayor pro tem ended up signing it
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 05:47 PM
You still have not addressed my concerns about procedure or your real reasoning.
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Lisa we are very proud of the thriving business Bill Grant has built in Canton, the beautiful building it is located in, his commitment to the community, and his home here is spectacular. There are others just as committed to Canton. Bill and I are "hollerin distance" neighbors. I gave one and a half years of my entire school bus driver salary for the legal defense of our city when developers wanted to destroy the Historic East Main Street neighborhood where we both live. My company owns another home downtown at 160 Oak St., my business, Eagle Rdge Properties www.eagleridgecanton.com is located about a mile south of downtown, an organization that I am a shareholder of www.csppry.com manages a land conservstion trust in the city, and my daughter owns a downtown home at 260 Academy St. Unfortunately some of Bill's friends are seeking to portray me as some sort of evil, self serving politician, a label which could not be further from the truth. I am always available to Canton taxpayers who wish to engage in meaningful dialogue.
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Jeff, several years ago Gene, myself and others on the council agreed that the first meeting of the month (1st Thursday) would be a "non-voting" meeting aka work session and the second meeting of the month (3rd meeting) would be the "voting" meeting. It sounded like a good idea at the time but has proven to be a dismal failure resulting in confusion, suspicion, and the infamous "headnods". Georgia law tells us that any time a majority of council conducts a public meeting, voting is allowed. My intention is to lobby the council (whenever the word "council" is used it includes the mayor as he is part of that governing body) to simply designate both of our regular meetings 'voting meetings". They are voting meetings anyway according th Georgia law which of course governs all of our actions.
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Well Bill, these changes you are now proposing were not in effect at the time of your last meeting. Therefore, you violated your own standards at the last meeting. People do not like governments that shift when they feel like it. Much like changing the Charter on a whim. Furthermore, Bill, you are the one that keeps bringing up the Mayor's involvement in these actions. I have said nothing about the Mayor vs the Council.
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Bill Bryan..you are not being "labeled" anything. You are the only one from council that does seem to participate in dialogue. And again, I applaud your effort. But, you must respect the wishes of your Ward and the City of Canton and listen. They put you in this office to represent them! I am one of those who helped put you in office. Yes, I voted for you and I live in your Ward. Many people who did not support Bill during the election are supporting him now. It is because the current council is not accomplishing anything but back-biting and bickering. The council, including the Mayor and City Manager, need to work with each other..not against...and listen to the voters.
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Oh and please answer the questions as to why the Christmas decorations were already here before the vote happened to approve them. Thanks!
JustTheFaxMaam November 30, 2012 at 07:08 PM
This matter would not have escalated if Bill Bryan had not of chimed in with his $30,000.00 dollars worth on Bill Grant's original post on this issue. So Bill Bryan you need to admit that you put yourself in the line of fire with your comment. BTW another person had asked how many lights were purchased. The price seems rather exorbitant but then we were not informed of how many were purchased. IMO the design of the lights should have been limited to one rather than multiples. Canton is a pretty town and using so many designs in the Christmas lighting tends to overshadow that and makes it really look kinda tacky.
Etowahwah November 30, 2012 at 07:20 PM
There you go again! Changing the rules to meet your own needs! From what I recall, the Council thought the non-voting work session was an excellent way to provide proper and public discussion of the issues that need attention. This was decided as an additional checks and balance process to avoid the antics of the Pruett reign of making back room deals and pushing them through the Council. No difference here, Mr. Bryan, except now it is the Council, at least 5 of you, meeting on your own and bringing "done deals" to the table! What hypocrisy! Just like you abandoned the agreement to bring issues to work sessions for discussion before a vote at the last meeting, you now want to change the rules again. Your intentions have become painfully obvious. As the original post on this blog alludes, this is NOT about Christmas lights! Shameful!
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 07:22 PM
actually Jeff the last meeting was a designated "voting meeting" and we voted at that meeting. most of the times that we have "violated our own standards" have been when Gene has asked for a "headnod" at a "non-voting" meeting. and I'm not putting Gene down here - that is just what happened
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I realize the last meeting was a voting meeting Bill. You are missing the point! The Christmas decorations were already at City Hall before the vote to purchase them was EVER taken! Also, you did not do a reading on the Mayor's staff issue like you do on almost every other issue.Why the change?
Bill Bryan November 30, 2012 at 08:26 PM
The Christmas decoration budget amendment was approved at a public council meeting several meetings ago via one of Gene's famous "headnods" because we were against the deadline to order in time for Christmas and that was supposed to be a "non voting" meeting. The Mayor's staff issue motion WAS READ and voted on at the last meeting. It will be read again at next weeks meeting. It will be read a third time and voted on a second time at the meeting on Dec. 20th. It will then be vetoed, and read a fourth time and voted on a third time at a meeting after that - likely a called public meeting. To sum up - 4 readings and 3 votes.
Jeff Brown November 30, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I question the validity of your answer. It may have been discussed but never on the agenda to actually be approved until your last meeting. Why did you need to vote at all then? If it were already done? I will watch the videos from the previous meetings. Thanks.
Justin Ove (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Hey Folks, First off, I want to thank Councilman Bryan for coming on here and explaining his positions. It's always a welcome sight to see our elected officials participating in the conversations here. I also want to thank everyone who has kept this a civil and informative discussion so far. Great work, everyone! The earliest mention I can find to the lights is on Oct. 18: http://canton-ga.patch.com/articles/city-council-will-take-action-on-theatre-renovation-tonight I am not entirely sure that they approved the purchase at that meeting, but this will narrow down your search to find out the proper time frame! Thanks, Justin

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