By Malaika Wells

October 1. 2022

There’s been some debate amongst residents regarding why understanding the recent departure of former city manager Janice Allen Jackson is important for community. 

In the short history of our city, Stonecrest has had (among other things) a despotic mayor who was indicted on federal charges and sentenced to prison; a Cares Act funding fiasco; a failed development authority; a failed housing authority; a landowner who obtained millions of dollars in tax abatements with no accountability from the city to produce results; and a citizen-led Charter Review Committee with no appointments. 

There’s no doubt we’ve been harmed; our community’s psyche has been injured and the city’s reputation stained. As some have shared with me — and as I’ve often thought myself over these last five years — we have collective PTSD. Who will help us heal? 

We have a city administration recently transitioned from reliance on consultants and with continuing vacancies in a difficult employment market. Suddenly, the city manager whose appointment many of us believed was a significant step in the right direction is out just 10 days after she’d shared with community in a FB post that she looked forward to building together.🤔 Heck yeah, we want know is she was asked to leave and why! 

You know when you’re listening to someone play the piano and they hit a wrong key? This is like that moment. 

Something ain’t right. 

On all of the above, our mayor and council have been stunningly silent or communicating their lack of interest in citizen concerns through ignoring emails, limiting public comments during public city meetings, excessively using executive sessions, and disregarding the Open Records Act. In a recent SPLOST/Finance Committee meeting, our mayor expressed her desire to avoid creating any additional committees. But what about creating and fully supporting the committees we need and those we have? 

Despite all this, in many ways we got it going on, y’all! 

We live in a beautiful area, rich with assets, community members who genuinely care about one another and the stewardship of this city, and a culture that values our youth, elders, arts, education, outdoor recreation, and entrepreneurship. 

The damage done is not irreparable. In a recent city meeting, a developer’s attorney said we’re in the path of development. This means we will continue to see landowners and developers looking to shape our city. But they need us to give them a vision if we want our community to benefit from what is developed for years to come. They’re going to ingratiate themselves to mayor, council, and city staff and most of them won’t care what community wants or needs unless our mayor, council, and administration show them they must. 

What can you do? 

1. Every citizen of Stonecrest should email, call, or text their mayor and council member. Introduce yourself. Let them know who you are and what’s important to you. 

2. Every citizen should request that the city publicize and conduct a transparent and open professional recruitment process for the next City Manager that engages Stonecrest citizens.

3. Every citizen should watch or attend in-person city council meetings. And apply to join a city board, commission, or committee. 

4. Every citizen should research and join a Stonecrest community advocacy organization (e.g., Stonecrest Citizens Coalition (SCC), Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment (C.H.A.S.E.)c or the Klondike Area Civic Association) 

We can and should have a knowledgeable and responsive city government. We can and should have a thriving city that attracts exciting, beneficial, and environmentally sustainable development. 

Let no one convince you it’s either/or, we can and should have both.