published Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Chattanooga: Annexation opposition cranks up

by Matt Wilson

Open lobbying against Chattanooga’s annexation plans has begun.

Hamilton County Commissioner John Allen Brooks sent a letter to five of nine City Council members — Peter Murphy, Manny Rico, Andraé McGary, Deborah Scott and Carol Berz — urging them to vote against annexation. Each represents a part of Mr. Brooks’ district.

“I will do everything in my power to convince my fellow commissioners and City Council members that this is an ill-conceived and ill-timed act,” Mr. Brooks wrote last month.

Commissioner Larry Henry said he will do the same.

“There’s a lot of questions that are not answered,” he said of Mayor Ron Littlefield’s plans to expand the city’s boundaries through annexation.

The mayor’s proposal “kind of blindsided all of us,” Mr. Henry said, adding there has been very little communication among city and county officials.

Mr. Littlefield said several commissioners were on the panel when the Urban Growth Boundary agreement initially was made 10 years ago. Bill Hullander, Fred Skillern, Richard Casavant and Curtis Adams were on the commission when the 20-year growth plan was adopted in 2001.

“I don’t expect them to stand up and cheer,” Mr. Littlefield said Thursday. “But a deal is a deal.”

The mayor has said he wants to annex all property within the city’s designated urban growth boundary during his second term in office. That area includes large swaths of East Brainerd as well as areas along state Highway 58 and Hixson Pike.

The creation of the countywide urban growth plan essentially settled the question of what could and couldn’t be annexed, Dr. Casavant said. The decision ultimately rests with the City Council.

Commission Chairman Jim Coppinger said lack communication from the city was a “big disappointment,” adding he, too, has spoken to council members Mr. Rico, Mr. Murphy and Ms. Scott as well as Pam Ladd.

Mr. Coppinger has asked for information about how many people the annexation would take in and how much revenue that would mean for the city, but he hasn’t received those answers.

Mr. Littlefield has said city officials are gathering that data.

Mr. Coppinger, Mr. Henry and Mr. Brooks were among the commissioners who, along with County Mayor Claude Ramsey, openly criticized Mr. Littlefield’s annexation plan at a commission meeting last month.

Mike Dunne, a spokesman for Mr. Ramsey, did not say whether the county mayor would speak to council members about annexation. But he reiterated that Mr. Ramsey has opposed the annexation plan.

“Mayor Ramsey has publicly spoken on at least four occasions about his opposition to annexation, most recently this past Thursday as Mayor Ramsey introduced Mayor Littlefield at his State of the City address,” Mr. Dunne said.

Commissioner Bill Hullander, a small part of whose district could be annexed, said city officials already know his stance on the issue.

“I’m totally against (annexation),” he said. “We’ve got the services that we want and need.”

Mr. Hullander said he will ask Mr. Coppinger about bringing a resolution formally to oppose annexation.

Mr. Coppinger said he would be OK with a resolution opposing annexation, but he prefers lobbying council members in one-on-one conversations. Council members have been receptive to his suggestions, he said, though he has received no commitments.

Dr. Casavant, whose district reaches into small areas in the county’s southwest corner that could be annexed, said he already has made his opposition to annexation clear. Lobbying the council, he said, would be “tilting at windmills.”

Staff writer Cliff Hightower contributed to this story.

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captainrt said...

Hey, mayor, this is a government of the people, by the people, for the people and the people are saying NO to your annexation plan. You need to remember that we are your boss, not the other way around.

July 5, 2009 at 7:44 a.m.
OldBuckeye said...

One of the major problems with the annexation plan is that it is predicated on old data. The changes that have occurred in 10 years do not necessarily reflect the same needs for the same areas. It may have looked good "on paper" 10 years ago, but without a new study with today's blueprint, that study's recommendations are pure history. Another concern is that the money isn't there now and won't be enough with increased revenue to bolster services to these outlying areas. I am happy with fire protection from 3 miles away, not the 7 it would be with city services and no guarantee that a new fire station would be built closer to serve my neighborhood.

July 5, 2009 at 8:25 a.m.
moonpie said...

I don't think Chattanoogans want annexation, either.

I think it's time for a more democratic approach to this issue.

July 5, 2009 at 8:35 a.m.
Salsa said...

The city cannot provide services for areas they already have. If they annex it will only get worse.

July 5, 2009 at 10:11 a.m.
Sailorman said...

Mr Mayor - I can't afford you. Maybe 10 years ago when the plan was developed but not now. Has it ever been updated as strategic plans are supposed to be?

July 5, 2009 at 11 a.m.
democrat77 said...

Coercing people to become Chattanooga citizens is simply not smart.

It goes against the American spirit of democracy, and will simply polarize the politics of this town towards the negative for decades to come.

County residents should be allowed a choice of whether or not they wish to be annexed into the city.

What annexing the proposed areas will do is unify a rather large, white, Christian, republican and conservative voting block against the existing city government, and shift the balance of power in Chattanooga further to the conservative right. (So, instead of Chattanooga being ruled unjustly by the wealthy white democrats from Lookout Mountain it will in the future be ruled unjustly by wealthy white republicans from Mountain Shadows.)

But perhaps that is the legacy Mayor Littlefield wants, to be known as the Chattanooga Mayor who shot his own political party's power base in the foot.

Seriously, don't annex the proposed areas, you do not want to give those people a voice in our city government or the ability to run for office in city government. It will set Chattanooga back decades on the progress it has made.

The money spent on extending city services to them will be a waste, and the property tax revenue they bring in will simply not be worth it to suffer such a huge shift in the city population towards the conservative right.

I think most of us in the city are as opposed to this annexation as those in the county. It doesn't improve anything and simply makes the existing city problems bigger and harder to manage, which in turn leads to a bigger bureaucracy that is even further out of the touch with the public.

July 6, 2009 at 6:03 a.m.

Is there any truth to the rumor that a couple of prominent-members of City government have been seen house hunting in two of the too be annexed areas, (specifically in the shadows of the mountain and in an around the lake); and that the only reason for the rush to annex is that Mr. Littlefield wishes to close the deal on annexation before escrow closes, for said prominent members of City government, before Mr. Littlefield has another embarrassing Marti Rutherford-like residency issue on his hands?

July 6, 2009 at 10:10 a.m.
federaloffense said...

Once again the people affected get no say in the decision that changes their future. I think everyone is a bit fed up with this kind of government. It should be the choice of the people in the area's that are to be annexed. We should get to vote on it, not 9 people who aren't even elected by us and don't represent us in any fashion. This is just a way to get the money back that the city gave to the Volkswagon concessions. Right Mr. Littlefield? The city council should remember that every vote annexed is a new city vote against them next election. VOTE NO INCUMBENTS!

July 6, 2009 at 10 p.m.
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