published Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Littlefield suggests home rule for county


by Cliff Hightower

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Friday that Hamilton County could establish home rule and create its own charter, paving the way for the city and county to merge.

“Maybe it’s time we revisit it,” Littlefield said Friday during a speech to the Civitan Club at the Bessie Smith Hall.

One reason the city and county cannot merge at this time is because the county does not have home rule, so therefore does not have power to adopt some of its own rules and regulations, he said. But with its own charter, the county would have more autonomy and the city could join in.

County Mayor Claude Ramsey, however, said Friday that he and Littlefield have talked about the idea but “not in any detail.” He said the item is not on the county’s agenda.

“Any discussion would have been in general, like you talk about the weather,” Ramsey said. “But there’s not been much more than that.”

Littlefield has been proposing consolidation of city and county government since his second term began in April 2009. He has said repeatedly that he wants consolidation to be the crown of his achievements during his administration.

He said he was watching election returns Thursday night and saw that Knox County had home rule. If that government body could do it, so could Hamilton County, he said.

Joseph Jarret, Knox County law director, confirmed the county does have home rule.

“We are one of two counties in Tennessee that have a charter,” he said.

WHAT IS HOME RULE

In most states, home rule gives cities and counties the ability to levy any local tax. In Tennessee, however, home rule doesn’t grant that ability, but gives cities and counties more power to pass other laws without having to get approval from the state Legislature.

Source: The University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service

RULES FOR HOME RULE

Establishing home rule and a charter for a county first takes a referendum asking voters the question: “Do you want home rule?” If the referendum is passed, a seven-member charter commission is created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Anyone who wants to be on the commission must run for the seat and be picked by voters during an election. The commission would be required to draft a charter and, once presented, voters would have to approve it within 60 days.

Source: Tennessee state law

He said Knox County residents voted on the charter in 1988 and it took effect in 1990.

But there is some confusion from officials on how it can be done. Littlefield admitted he did not know the process and said it could possibly take a referendum. Ramsey said he did not know the process either and had not researched it.

According to state law, it would take a referendum to vote in home rule, a seven-member charter commission to make up the charter and a second referendum approving the charter.

For unification to take place, the city would have to dissolve its charter, officials said. Littlefield said he would be open to the possibility, “according to what the county charter would look like.”

Assistant City Attorney Phil Noblett said dissolving Chattanooga’s charter is a complicated process within itself.

He said it would take a petition signed by 10 percent of registered voters and there would have to be a special election called to dissolve charter. Even at that point, he said, he was unclear whether it would take 50 percent or two-thirds approval to dissolve the city’s charter.

Council Chairman Manny Rico said he would support such an idea.

“I wouldn’t have any problem with that,” he said. “If it saves the taxpayers money, I’m for it.”

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: Recall organizers aim to oust Benson, Rico

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captainrt said...

"He has repeatedly said that he wants consolidation to be the crown of his achievements during his administration" Once again Ron needs to be reminded that this is not Ronnanooga, he works for the people and the people should have the final say.

August 7, 2010 at 8:10 a.m.
Salsa said...

Ron should just go to his home. He can rule there and leave the rest of us alone.

August 7, 2010 at 11:05 a.m.
PhotogTom said...

Littlefield is a disgrace. When his annexation frenzy was halted in court, he decided (and a complacent council agreed) that property taxes needed to be raised. But not just 3 or 4% - no, he needed to raise them 33%. Of course, they settled on a "mere" 19% increase, citing the need to pay for city services for Volkswagen. Apparently, VW is too good to pay its fair share but the unemployed and underemployed citizens of Chattanooga aren't important enough to be of concern.

Now the power-hungry Littlefield wants to suck the rest of Hamilton County into his tax-and-spend city budget system so that he can pick the pockets of thousands more people. Apparently, his desire to spend has outgrown the ability for Chattanooga's residents to pay so he's going after more.

It's time to sign that recall petition and send Littlefield and his cronies packing.

August 7, 2010 at 1:01 p.m.
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