Transportation, healthcare reform, Christianity and gun rights were among the forefront of the issues brought up at the annual public forum of the Rockdale Delegation of state representatives and senators held Thursday night.
"We are here to hear your concerns," Rep. Randal Mangham told the audience of about 40 residents that gathered at the Rockdale Career Academy. Mangham later explained that the delegation holds a public forum before every legislative session to "understand what is the pulse of the citizens."
The delegation was made up of the six senators and representatives that have districts running through Rockdale County: Sen. Ron Ramsey, Senate District 43, Sen. John Douglas, Senate District 17, Rep. Toney Collins, House District 95, Rep. Pamela Stephenson, House District 92, Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, House District 93, and Rep. Randal Mangham, House District 94, who chaired the delegation and helped organize the forum.
The event was also attended by Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Oden, Conyers Mayor Randy Mills, Conyers Councilmen Cleveland Stroud and Vince Evans, county Commissioner JaNice Van Ness and Sheriff Jeff Wigington.
Nearly all of the delegation expressed support for a regional approach to transportation initiatives,
such as that described by the Atlanta Regional Commission, rather than a state-wide approach.
"Not one initiative that was state-wide for sales tax throughout the nation passed," Mangham pointed out. "The regional approach seems to be the approach to go."
Some of the sharpest differences came over a bill on the federal level – the health care reform bill that is making its way through the federal Senate. Douglas vowed to try and opt Georgia out of the plan if the bill did pass with an opt out provision.
"I think the health care debate in Washington is going to be an absolute disaster for our economy. We’re throwing around billions and trillions in D.C. like they were five dollar bills," said Douglas.
Stephenson disagreed, saying "The current health care delivery system is neither healthy nor is it a system. It needs to be changed to address the needs of the citizens of this country."
The issue of race relations came up in at least two residents’ comments.
Resident Josie Dean asked about hate crime legislation and resident David Williams described a situation where he was accused of being a racist. Williams cited the changing demographics of the county and said "I’m asking the black community to reach out to the black community on behalf of the white community who aren’t racist."
Coach Stroud addressed Williams’ concern, saying "One thing about diversity, we all have to be patient. If we lose our patience, we lose our great community that we worked so hard to achieve."
Other topics raised by residents included redrawing floodplain maps, volunteerism, the lack of funding for the evening reporting center for juvenile delinquents.