Public transportation a hot topic at town hall

Rashad Milligan/Douglas County Sentinel New Jerusalem SDA Praise & Worship Center senior pastor Dr. Everton A. Ennis asks a question to a panelist at District 62 state Rep. William Boddie's town hall meeting Wednesday night at the Douglasville Police Department.

Public transportation was the main topic citizens wanted to discuss at state Rep. William Boddie's town hall meeting on Wednesday night.

The meeting, which ran about an hour and a half, ended with a comment from Douglas County citizen Darlene Sheardon. Sheardon revisited a popular topic of discussion during the night, which was the Douglasville & Douglas County for Civic Action Facebook page. She said she noticed that on a poll on the page, many citizens voted against bringing public transportation into the county.

"I'm not sure if the people don't understand the benefit of transit or are they envisioning it going up and down their neighborhood, or maybe not understanding from point A to point B to help people get to their jobs," Sheardon said.

Douglas County District 2 Commissioner Kelly Robinson responded to Sheardon first.

"Be careful with that website," Robinson said of the Civic Action page. "That site that you're speaking to has a certain lean. That's OK. Let it exist. It does not represent all 35,000, at least, of my constituents. So I have to balance when I make votes. It's those people who put me in office. So I have to cast my vote in which respect to what I believe and there's four of us that makes the total vote. If there's someone that doesn't believe in transit … that's okay. Let their voice exist. But for all the people that do want that, their voices should be heard too."

Boddie, an East Point Democrat who represents District 62 covering parts of east Douglas and south Fulton counties, then echoed Robinson's support of the system.

"We can't be afraid of public transportation," Boddie said. "There's this thing that if you progress and bring in transportation, you may bring in more crime, but a lot of things can possibly bring in more crime than just transportation. When have these transportation hubs, they come with a dedicated police force. Look at Washington D.C., 24-hour rapid transportation. Look at New York, 24-hour rapid transportation, Chicago, you know. Our public transportation shuts down at 11 p.m., I believe. How can we be an international city if we don't push that envelope a little bit more? We have to do it. We have to be open to it. We have to have a strategy for it and we have to deal with any impending crime issues that may come up."

Many citizens in attendance applauded Robinson and Boddie's comments and a couple of citizens after the meeting clarified that it wasn't the idea of public transportation they had a problem with, but the actual plan representatives were presenting about how the system would operate in Douglas County.

Other topics of discussion included the state of the Douglasville Police Department. Chief Gary Sparks said he's very pleased with his staff's performance. He said he is advocating for pay raises for his staff.

"You get what you pay for," Sparks said.

Take home squad cars was also a suggestion made during the meeting that most attendees agreed should be implemented in the future.

Douglasville Councilman Richard Segal was also on the panel; his advice to the citizens was to "get informed and get involved." Douglas County External Affairs Director Tiffany Stewart-Stanley hosted the panel and she said that she was pleased to see a decent crowd at the DPD's Auxiliary Building on a rainy night.

"It was great to see so many Douglas County citizens come out and be engaged about what's going on in our community," Stewart-Stanley said after the event.

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