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Wednesday, 20 April 2011


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Leigh Touchton

Now look, we have spent thousands of our own money to go out there and educate this community, we paid for newspaper ads, we have published one newspaper ourselves and hand distributed it, we have taken out a billboard, we have paid for a radio advertisement. We have driven to Atlanta to meet with EPA officials, we have attended and organized our respective WACE and NAACP and SCLC and SAVE meetings, written letters, met with public officials, attended more meetings than THEY have because we go to School Boards, BOTH of them, go to Industrial Authority, go to Lowndes County Commission and Valdosta City Council and we organized a series of public events that most of "them" didn't bother to attend. We travel to Florida to help other communities fight biomass, we travel to North Carolina and Atlanta and Macon and Waycross to participate in our respective BREDL and NAACP organizations and STILL we must sit through the entire night with Mr. Yost to gain credibility on this issue?

For goodness sake, I have a daughter, run my own business (elsewhere, thank goodness), raise my own money to pay for my own copies, stamps, letterhead, travel expenses, computer and internet, telephone calls out the wazoo, the one newspaper we published and radio ad that Phyllis and I ran at Black Crow...I post on VDT and here...I go to as many events like festivals and tabling downtown on Fridays as I can, I keep up and pay for the NAACP website, I have taken enough heat for the environmental racism angle to last a lifetime and I keep paying a financial cost due to pushback without ANYONE in this community running interference for me except to tell me to hire an attorney.

I am not going to sit through City Council zoning variances or where to site a driveway or whether the beautification of the gateway is going well, because I trust others who were elected to take care of those things, I think Yost and Carroll and White and Payton can probably vote as a bloc on most normal, sane, rational things (but don't trust Carroll or White to protect trees or residential areas). But you and Yost cannot be serious, he has not attended all the anti-biomass events that I have attended, there is NO WAY, and he hasn't even attended on public forum on biomass that I have attended. If he wants to come over here and do my job and lead my organization, then I will come down there and sit where he sits two nights a month.

I appreciate your tireless efforts to cover the issues, Mr. Quarterman, but for goodness sake, we cannot be expected to sit through an entire City Council meeting just to be credible on this issue. Anyway, they don't respond to our questions nor do they speak publicly on their position. They ought to be respectful enough to engage us if they want us to stay. I can't believe I was told last night by a Council member that they were NEVER going to state their position on biomass publicly. Sheesh.

Now Thursday night I imagine there will be a packed house due to the Mayor's issues, but I'll be leaving early to get my daughter into her evening routine and no one had better impugn my credibility on biomass because I am trying to be a good mother and this is EASTER WEEK and I am in the middle of a statewide push to try to save the life of a black man who is about to be executed on the basis of ONE "witness" testimony, that's just a little bit more compelling to me this week than sitting through City Council to the bitter end. MEN need to RECOGNIZE that WOMEN who try to participate in our own government have STUFF TO DO. One of the reasons I'm so angry at how Bobbi Hancock was treated is because she is a single mother and VSU student and yet there she is out there trying to participate and she's gotten the runaround, been stonewalled, been talked down to, been "asked" over and over to come in for a meeting with Mr. Ricketts when she's said no, she didn't want to, been charged nearly as much as I was for something that ought to be freely available on the web, now she's talking to the Attorney General's office and supplying paperwork documentation, but she's supposed to feel bad for not staying the whole night at City Council? For goodness sake, you men go have a beer with Yost and get a clue.

Michael Noll

Indeed! Thanks Leigh.

As I have stated before: WACE and other groups have been communicating with City Council members since Fall 2010, before, during and after meetings, via email, phone, or in person. The question is not what happens at the end of these meetings, but rather what must happen to end meetings that serve no purpose if those who speak up will be ignored and their questions remain unanswered.

Leigh Touchton

Yes, and for the hundredth time: I and 14 other people were arrested by the Mayor AND COUNCIL (they sat there and not one of them objected) all because we wanted to change the name of a park. We were legally participating in our own Citizens to be Heard. Councilman Vickers told us that we deserved what we got because the Mayor told us to sit down.

Mayor Fretti kept appealing every single judge's ruling that agreed with us, and he caused the City to spend thousands in legal fees to Talley's firm so that he could keep pressing it. He testified under oath that he was afraid of Rev. Rose and that he had to increase the police presence around his house because he was afraid the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference might "do something."

SCLC was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King and all of its officers and leaders are supposed to follow the principles of non-violence. Sheesh, all we wanted to do was change the name of a park and Mayor Fretti told us it was more important to him to talk to potential citizens about a stray dog. (there were no stray dog complaints that night). Finally our case went to the Georgia Supreme Court which overturned the law used to arrest us.

We 15 citizens spent thousands of dollars out of our pockets so that we could prove that the First Amendment applies in Valdosta. Sitting through a meeting to the bitter end is not a requirement for participation in one's own government.

Leigh Touchton

And anyway, the last time I tried to stay to the bitter end, I was rudely arrested and taken to the paddy wagon. By this Mayor and most of the Council.

Karen Noll

Council has been quietly ignoring a strong citizen movement for almost a year. I think that Mr. Yost is asking us for some kind of respect or due dilligence. This year of interaction (mostly one-sided) with council has not shown me that I, my orgnaization, or my family is being awarded due dilligence or respect by this council. And they wonder why they have acts of civil disobedience in their chamber!!
We are all volunteers and cut just so much time from other VERY important things we do on a daily basis to be engaged in our community. To demand more is outrageously self-centered!

Karen Noll

Folks come for their agenda items and leave regularly. Are they asked to stay for the whole meeting? NO, they have business with council. Put clean energy resolution for the city on the agenda and we'll stay the whole time and buy you all drinks afterwards!

Michael Noll

I second that!

Leigh Touchton

Just to clarify: we did not commit any act of civil disobedience. We were not charged with disturbing the police, we were charged with disruption of a public meeting because we refused to allow the Mayor to tell us what he would listen to during our own Citizens to Be Heard portion of the meeting. I stood up and went to stand in line and the police came over and arrested me, I said nothing, not one word.

Leigh Touchton

I meant disturbing the peace. We didn't disturb the police either. When their attorney asked me why I didn't tell the police to take their hands off me, I said "because then at that point it's called resisting arrest." I said NOT ONE WORD, neither did anyone else in the group of 15, except Rev. Rose who was the first in line and he said "you will answer me or I'm not sitting down." Now this was after a year of us asking for a position from him and everyone else, and as usual, none of them would make a public statement. This is not the way government officials are supposed to act and I think people are tired of it.

The Georgia Supreme Court said that governments cannot arrest people for trying to LAWFULLY participate in their own government.

Leigh Touchton

And another thing, Medgar Evers did not sacrifice his life so that a man like Sonny Vickers could sit up there and tell me and my organization "You got what you deserved, the Mayor told you to sit down." Shame on him, shame on James Wright, and shame on Yost for sitting there silently while 15 citizens got sent to jail by Mayor Fretti. They should have spoken up. Yost remediated his reputation with me at least because he stated publicly to the Mayor that it was unacceptable for the Mayor to engage people that he chose to engage while locking up people like Rev. Rose for asking for the same courtesy.

Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

LAKE welcomes comments.

Good point about the mayor addressing some and not others. Those events of several years ago seem to have convinced the Valdosta City Council to let everyone speak. Interestingly, among those who got arrested back then, Rev. Rose did stay to the end of this latest council meeting and was one of the three who talked to Council Deidra White outside after adjournment.


Yes, elected and appointed officials complain all the time when people show up just for their one item and leave, because that's what most people do. Roy Taylor, for example, as I remarked in the post with the video of him, did not stay to the end.


Frank Barnas didn't stay to the end, either.


It's the most common complaint we hear. That's why it's a minor criticism that could easily be addressed.

For example, Leigh Touchton obviously does care about more than one topic, witness this morning's LAKE blog post about the local NAACP voting to oppose a private prison (which I scheduled before all these comments).


However, when people stand up and talk about only one item and then leave, the listeners don't know that the speaker cares about anything else. Nobody expects everyone to stay for all of every meeting. The point remains that if there are enough protesters for some to be delegated to stay outside during the meeting, there are enough for one or two to stay to the end.

Several of the protesters have already said they didn't realize there was value in staying and they would attempt to do so in the future.


Leigh Touchton

Yost threw a tantrum tonight after Citizens to be Heard, during Council Comments, all because he mistakenly thought Mrs. Noll called the meeting boring. Actually her kids did, she said the kids were happy to be outside with the other kids instead of in the boring meeting---their words, Mr. Yost. Yost threw an excellent tantrum, it was spectacular. I wanted to exclaim "Wow, do you want a side of stomp your foot with that tanty?" I haven't said that to my child in about 5 years (she's 8).

I didn't see you there, Mr. Quarterman. So you weren't there at the beginning, middle, or end and I was. This was my tenth meeting this month. Mrs. Noll left to go babysit her kids and mine so I could stay, because I wanted to see what all the fuss is about regarding staying to the end. And basically the reason they want us to stay is so they can make personal attacks from the dais. I don't think I'll stay around for that, thanks anyway, although the show tonight was definitely memorable.

Leigh Touchton

Oh PS I rescind my opinion that Yost can be trusted to vote on most normal, sane, rational things. When a guy has a hissy fit over something as silly as "wah, she said our meeting was boring" then something is seriously off kilter.

Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

Congratulations on staying to the end!
You defused that one criticism (for that one meeting) and left the critics with less effective criticisms.
Once again, it's not so much what the elected offficials think, as what the public's opinion is.
Also congratulations on attending your local city council meeting so regularly!
As you know, I don't live in Valdosta.
Valdosta City Council meetings aren't always the most interesting in the world, but when I go, I usually stay to the end.

Michael Noll

What I found most disturbing are actually the following things that happened at last night's meeting:

1) A Mayor in absentia because he is celebrating his birthday and decided not to attend because of a lack of agenda items for the meeting.

2) A mother being harassed by Mr. Taylor who makes sexist comments when her daughter is receiving an award for an essay contest.

3) A City Council and ALL of its members who continue to hide behind a policy that supposedly does not allow them to respond during meetings. As if they would respond before or after meetings.

4) City Council member Yost going into a tirade about my wife's comment in regard to "boring" meetings, when she is referring to the experience of our children who have been sitting through quite a few of them by now. Such meetings are indeed "boring" to a 9 and 12 year old.

5) Council member Yost then goes on to "thank" all of us for staying until the end of the meeting so that we could witness the important work they do. Like what? The replacement of two belt press sludge pumps, the renaming of a street? If there is an important piece of work Mr. Yost and his colleagues could impress us with, it would be a resolution to not sell water to a biomass plant that threatens the health of our community!

Leigh Touchton

I won't stay to the end in the future because if they are going to make public attacks on citizens and then go into Executive session so they don't have to hear a rebuttal, then I don't care to listen to their bombast. Yost apparently thinks your public criticism of the activists not staying (and also the Tea Party left right after one of their members read from the Bible about how laws and regulation are a sin--I had difficulty keeping from laughing out loud---we're in a recession because laws and regulation were thrown away and banks made a video called Banks Gone Wild...but I digress)...apparently Yost thinks your criticism of people not staying is something he can use to good effect to nullify the need to publicly address citizen complaints. Here's his position, distilled:

"You won't stay to the end, I'm offended. You called our important work boring, I'm offended. (much redness of face, some veins popping out) You come in here and talk to us like that then I'm not going to address your complaints, I'm offended."

Well I'm offended that a grown man elected to represent Valdosta acts like that.

Let me go back and educate the gentle readers out there who haven't followed this saga from the beginning. WACE has been down there asking for Mr. Yost and everyone else to get educated on the issue, to come to our public events (never saw Yost at any of them but maybe he came, I don't know for sure), to respond to our issues publicly like a public official is supposed to do because we are a democracy not a dictatorship, and Yost occasionally does engage citizens from his dais, but when I've seen him do it, he's snarly about it.

Deidra White reiterated that she was not going to give her position publicly from the dais, even though the segment called Council Comments is the appropriate time for that to occur. She did say she would meet with citizens and deliver her position there. I can't understand the big deal, because if she does meet with citizens we'll broadcast her position publicly, all public meetings are recorded by our members. At least she was the only one who said she would meet with us.

I think they all need to go, this is simply ridiculous. I delivered my official letter from our branch asking each member for a letter stating their position on selling gray water to the Wiregrass incinerator, and I'll let you know if our branch has any better result in getting them to state their position.

Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

Thank you both for your reports from the Valdosta City Council, which LAKE has posted as blog entries here
and here
My response to one point is also posted as a blog entry.

John F.

With all due respect to Leigh’s version of the arrest - and it is all on video, it happened in the end by way of self - executing mode. After repeated requests for the group to relinquish the podium and rose stating each time that they will not and we "must do what we have to do". the Mayor asked if there was any objection from Council or city manager or attorney if WE allow Chief Frank Simons to approach the crowd and do what he sees necessary to allow the meeting to continue efficiently and effectively. There was some discussion and then John Fason (Cmdr.) asked if anyone wants to go to jail - to follow him. and they all did - no cuffs, no restraints. Peacefully. That’s it. and all on video for all to see. With respect to the charges filed, they were old STATE charges and were ruled out as overbroad and (something else). That was fine. There was an appeal by the solicitor General and again the old STATE laws were ruled overbroad and (something else). as they should have been. We have our own local laws and ordinances now that have been tested strong in court. and now here it the Paul Harvey moment...The group then filed a civil case on several (7 I think) counts. Each case was for $75.00 (for ech person, I assume) There were depositions and discovery for weeks. Mine was 3 hours and 57 minutes (I think). It cost money on both sides. in the end, Judge Hugh Lawson ruled in favor of the defendant(the city) on all charges. The city then entered a plea for cost recovery (out of pocket costs only) - which was awarded to the city. the group was to pay just over $16,000 to the city or $1457.00 each. We didn't push the issue after complaints of no money, poverty and hardships. We had the option of putting a lean on property - which we did not chose to do. So, as I see it - everyone got off rather well. A local government is not held responsible for using a STATE code that is antiquated. Again and respectfully, this maybe how Leigh remembers it. she had a rough 36 hours or so immediately following that night. I tool the liberty in the last month of so to watch and listne to the recordings so I could refresh. in fact, one of the recordings may be found at the office of Rob Plumb - who is a good man and an excellent attorney. I write this for the good of the order and the historical facts of the group. I thought they might be important. I hope posting here doesn't constitute any breach of internal social doctrine. I just wanted to be helpful...and above all - civil. please don't yell at me or become angry with me...I have two more short posts to follow.

John F.

Perhaps this is my last post: It is in regards to Michael Noll's most recent post. I will attempt to cut and paste the section that I would like to respond.

"What I found most disturbing are actually the following things that happened at last night's meeting:

1) A Mayor in absentia because he is celebrating his birthday and decided not to attend because of a lack of agenda items for the meeting."

Michael - I hope that I have always been polite and respectful to you personally when you have spoken at CTNH. I have always tried. I don't know why my absence was disturbing to you and would like to ask why. I have official events on almost every day, including Saturdays and Sundays - community events. I work 30 hours on a slow week and 50 on a heavy week at the Mayor’s job. Most of that is away from my family.
I then have a full time job that I work in addition to the Mayors job Whenever I have to miss an event, I send a delegate. With the Council meetings - there is always a Mayor Pro Tem. If I need to miss, I hope it's a short business agenda to make it easier on Alvin. If not, I ask Mr. Hanson if he can make it so. Alvin appreciates a shorter agenda as well. So it was a short agenda and I had an opportunity to spend quality time with my wife, two daughters and my mom and pop to celebrate my birthday with a small dinner (Chinese take-out). I relaxed and knew the meeting was being handled. I hope you would agree that even I deserve to get a night off once in a while. The job takes me from my family more than anyone can imagine. Family is so very important.

So please tell me why you found spending a precious few hours with my family most disturbing.

By the Way - I respect your personal approach and passion. You may not remember, but 8 months ago, I requested that the Ind. Auth. hurry up with this project because it is consuming too much time and effort. I fell the same way. Anyway - I digress.

I would be interested in your reply - respectfully

The Noll Family

Dear John.

I will be happy to reply, either in person or via this forum if you prefer.

For now a simple **Happy Easter** to you and your family.

Regards, Michael G. Noll

Leigh Touchton

Happy Birthday, Mayor Fretti, and thank you for posting publicly.

However, I wish you would stop trying to pass Mayor and Council's portion of responsibility for the biomass incinerator to the Industrial Authority. I delivered a letter to Mayor and Council Thursday night outlining 10 reasons your Utilities Director can legitimately give when he (hopefully) follows Mayor and Council's recommendation to refuse to sell gray water to the proposed biomass incinerator. I and many other citizens are tired of the run-around and the shifting of responsibility for this "biomess" from one public official or group to another.

A councilmember told me that Council would never vote on selling gray water but that the Utilities Director, Henry Hicks, now has the say-so on whether the gray water gets sold. Is he going to do as Brad Lofton did? By that I mean, is he going to sell the incinerator the gray water and then resign and move his family to a less polluted community? (Mr. Hicks, I mean no disrespect, but apparently your employers are making you the focal point for this decision and telling me that it's all up to you.) It is hard to believe that an employee of this city is now being publicly described by at least one Council member as the decision-maker as to whether gray water gets sold to the plant. No one else on Council told me any differently when I brought it to their attention Thursday night, not one of them chose to address it during Council Comments.

It is my understanding that selling gray water for purposes of incinerator cooling has never been done in Valdosta before, that the concentrated toxic slurry leftover from that vaporization process has never been processed by the Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment plant before, and that no one has provided an impact study on the facility's infrastructure to see if this slurry would be safe for the plant. I don't want our City to have to spend millions to repair degraded machinery as a side-effect of this decision. The amount of money the City might realize from the sale of the gray water might be miniscule compaired to the repair costs resulting from this decision. Penny wise is pound foolish.

I thank you for your courtesy when Dr. Noll comes to CTBH, I wish that you had exhibited this same courtesy six years ago to the SCLC and NAACP. It will be six years May 5 since you arrested 15 of us, including all the officers in both organizations, for asking to rename a park. A street got renamed Thursday night and no one had to go to jail, so that's progress.

I thank you for your invitation at the end of CTBH for people to leave if they choose. We are cognizant that we often pack the room and make it difficult for people to get in and out of the pews when they need to proceed with their own agenda items, and we are respectful of all citizens who wish to participate in their own government. I wish the Tea Party were as respectful of us and our children to tell their president Roy Taylor to govern himself accordingly, I was astonished at him yelling "and she's really attractive too" to the young mother whose child won an award Thursday night. Perhaps if the Tea Party cannot appeal to Mr. Taylor's sense of propriety, then Council might be called upon to insist that he show the proper respect to other citizens at Council meetings. There were children present. I don't want my daughter thinking that her City Council tolerates outbursts that are sexist, all the women in that room, and many if not most of the men, were insulted.

Thank you for your attention to these issues, and for your courtesy to us at CTBH.

Leigh Touchton

LOL at Mayor Fretti's version of his decision to arrest me and 14 others during CTBH. The Georgia Supreme Court also saw the video and they responded with decision overturning the law used to arrest us, and vacating our arrests. AFTER City had spend thousands appealing the decision of at least two judges who initially agreed with us, that citizens cannot be arrested for trying to participate in their own CTBH. There is a law, it is the very first law in our Bill of Rights, called the First Amendment.

What should be posted publicly is Mayor Fretti's deposition under oath about how afraid he was of Rev. Rose "doing something". Rev. Rose is a little over 5 feet tall.

I'm not going to get mad at you, Mayor Fretti, it's been six years, I have forgiven you, and our side was vindicated in the courts. But I am going to laugh at you or any other politician who behaves like that. Commission Chairman Paulk apparently forgot how the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on your ill-advised actions, and we had to go to the Attorney General and ACLU to get that cleared up. I predict he will never again threaten to arrest a citizen for trying to approach the microphone during Citizens to be Heard.

Leigh Touchton

Nope, the police officer's hands were on me before Fason ever said anything. It's all on video. I didn't get to say anything. And the funniest part is Mayor Fretti saying "there might be someone who wants to talk to me about a stray dog" (or vicious dog) and all of us got up. Please don't ever tell another citizen's group that you might need to hear about a stray dog, that was rude. No offense to all the stray dogs out there.

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