Mayor Ron Littlefield says he wants to put the blocked recall attempt behind him and the city, but recall organizers have no intention of going away quietly.
“I’ve extended an olive branch” to recall petition organizers, Littlefield said Wednesday at a news conference. The city should not take its “attention off the task at hand,” he said.
But a spokesman for the recall effort said organizers may appeal Hamilton County Circuit Judge Jeff Hollingsworth’s ruling on Tuesday that petitioners did not have enough signatures to recall Littlefield.
Jim Folkner, head of Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, said he did not know whether an appeal would come in time to get the recall election on the Nov. 2 ballot. The Hamilton County Election Commission, which acknowledged the judge’s ruling Wednesday, will approve the ballot Friday.
“We are studying the options for another recall petition,” Folkner said. “We’re planning to take legal action, and we’re investigating our options. An appeal is certainly one of the legal options we’re considering.”
Littlefield said he called the news conference to emphasize unity and several present and past elected officials showed up.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey spoke about the need to move forward, as did U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who gave up his 3rd District seat to run unsuccessfully for governor.
Former Chattanooga mayors Pat Rose, Gene Roberts and Jon Kinsey also gave their support at the news conference.
Wamp said that, since he was able to reconcile with his primary opponent, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, recall organizers should find common ground with Littlefield
Littlefield’s successful push for a 19 percent property tax increase was one of the galvanizing issues in the recall, but Wamp said raising taxes is a policy question that should be addressed in regular elections. Recalls should be used in cases of unethical conduct, he said.
Ramsey said he would work with anyone who wants to move the community forward.
“All of us collectively can make good things happen,” he said.
Folkner called Littlefield’s news conference “desperate.”
“People are tired of the mayor and his failed policies and standing up there with other politicians is not going to help him out,” he said.
Littlefield attributed the recall effort to the city’s growing pains, not the property tax increase.
“Growth produces energy and energy produces heat,” Littlefield said. “I mean political heat.”
Folkner said Littlefield is mistaken. He cited recently increased stormwater fees, the city’s aggressive annexation plan and “failure to even recognize the gang problem” as other factors behind the recall effort.
“If he thinks that didn’t play a part, he is definitely out of touch with people that work for a living,” Folkner said.
Littlefield said he already has turned his attention toward other topics. The recall effort sidetracked talks of consolidating city and county services, he said.
“Unquestionably, what we’ve had so far has been a distraction,” he said.
Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...