published Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Time for county home rule

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield’s decision to schedule an informal town hall discussion on home rule for county government — at 3 p.m. Thursday at City Hall — apparently doesn’t sit well with county government officials.

County Commission Chairman Larry Henry and County Mayor Jim Coppinger both snubbed the idea on the same — but wrong — grounds. Both essentially said the city’s mayor has no business meddling in the county’s business. Coppinger went further: He said he wouldn’t even attend the meeting.

They have the wrong attitude. Though county officials generally seem to forget it, the city’s 170,000 residents constitute fully half of the county’s 340,000 population. With the lion’s share of commercial property, moreover, the city accounts for nearly 80 percent of county government’s tax base.

If the city mayor wants to initiate discussion about the possibility of county government acquiring a charter for home rule to build a more forward looking community, he — and any other county resident — has every right and reason to do so. The county as a whole would benefit from such discussion. We clearly need a more modern government to keep up with the county’s urban needs in a period of increasingly rapid development.

The problem with county officials is that they have studiously neglected the need for an urban-appropriate county government with its own charter powers for far too long. The last attempt at gaining a county charter, in 1990, was sabotaged by a small minority of citizens led by then state Sen. Ray Albright, who deliberately confused it with an attempt at metro government.

That was not true then, and it isn’t now. Memphis’ Shelby County and Knox County both adopted a home rule charter to gain the power to write county ordinances, but their charters expressly prohibited adoption of metro government, leaving Nashville as the state’s only metro government.

The 1990 vote sadly discouraged a forward looking county government here. But with a pending wave of unprecedented economic and population growth now likely over the next decade, Hamilton County needs a more able county government more than ever. Current county officials are simply wrong to ignore this need.

Without a home rule charter, county government here remains essentially a limited arm of state government. As such, it cannot create the sort of municipal ordinances that help improve all of the county’s 10 municipalities. It would need a specific grant of power from the Legislature, for example, to establish a municipal style garbage service for the unincorporated areas of the county; to create rules to control animals, or abandoned property and weed-choked lots; or to condemn hazardous, dilapidated buildings

It is not empowered to establish ordinances to promote public health and safety, or to regulate environmental pollution, signs or disorderly gatherings. It can’t even install traffic lights without state approval. In a growing county where 30 percent of the population lives in unincorporated areas, this simply isn’t good enough.

Under state law, there are four ways to create a charter commission for county home rule. It may be initiated by a majority of the County Commission’s members, by proclamation by the county mayor, by a petition of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the county voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election, or by a private act of the Legislature.

If county officials won’t initiate a charter commission, county residents from any or all of the county’s municipalities and its unincorporated areas can do it on their own. And they should. If a charter referendum for county home rule requires a jump start from Littlefield, so be it. County officials have neglected the idea too long.

7
Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
heneh said...

Home rule would give a lot more power to elected officials but is that a good thing? Power can be misused and the people would have less influence over decisions relating to their way of life. You listed there needs to be establish a municipal style garbage service for the unincorported areas of the county. Why? This is taken care of by private firms already. You also said it is not empowered to establish ordinances to promote public health and safety or to regulate environmental pollution. Could you explain in detail what needs to be regulated in these areas?

July 27, 2011 at 10:35 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

I bet this same advocate for "more modern government" (read intrusive government) also advocated for a more modern state income tax.

You can keep your "progress". The urbanization of Hamilton County would not be progress at all but quite the opposite.

July 27, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Since the formation of the Metro Payoff Club with the deals cut to support the self-appointment of Mayor Coppinger, the primary effect of the split between City and County government has been to serve as a fence that provides cover to the two entities sharing payoff resources.

The home rule proposal's function will tear down that fence.

Dismantling the cover at the end of milking is an important part of a good payoff scheme. They have to bring it to a close, once all of the resources have been used up, because they will be forced to cede control. Like, maybe someone else would use the same scheme later; or, maybe they would have incurred so much actual debt from their fictional transactions that eventually they would have to pay out real money to back up some of their "redefined" money claims.

Smart people who ride the airplane get off early. Home rule is their exit strategy.

The thing about our local politicos is that no matter what task organization gets imposed, they will milk the City and County governments as their own personal political ATM for all they can. They will then feed that money into Citizens United style stealthpacs, and take the matching dollar for dollar from GOP funds. Those funds will include support from the US Chamber of Commerce, a Karl Rove front organization, which will counter feed large sums right back where they came from with a new, clean name. Typically, that name will reflect some bogus but grass-roots-sounding interest.

They have been sucking money out of the City and County budgets at the steady rate of near $100K per week. Each quarter, they stick to their hitparade of new, fictitious "opponents" they create as paper tigers to attack. Last quarter of last year it was the evil hydra of arts funding. This year, they stayed on task and timeline.

First quarter, the police union; second quarter, education; third quarter direct competitors of the laundering feed of the local Chamber of Commerce by trumping up some wild claims about the Multicultural Chamber.

It falls under the paper tiger category, too, because it never could have seriously competed with the US Chamber in money laundering for politics.

Just as with the bogus harassment of arts, police and teachers, the Metro Payoff Club wants to score enough talking points with their bigwig, but distant, backers to have some good PowerPoint slides. Meanwhile, they can't afford to seriously attack those supporting organizations since they are part of the government they're running: essential services the community cannot do without. It just won't do to totally destroy the police and schools; so, they are just beaten up enough with fabricated smoke screen issues to fake the Republicans into some more Karl Rove money.

If a few people, like the five deputies from the county jail, get fired to make room for some $100K salaries, like for Bob Corker's right hand man as County Chief of Staff; then, so be it.

July 27, 2011 at 10:30 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

The Metro Payoff Club will have to bring things to a close so that they can exploit the next phase of financing. When they get their money laundering bucks, via Citizens United ruling, they will be in a calendar year of the election. Which means, when the dust settles, it's likely that there will be a public report somewhere about the money trail.

So, time to pinch off the nasty part of the seed money scheme so that Republican politico cronies can move to phase 2: the double down.

Last House of Representatives elections for Tennessee saw two lawmakers in our state bought by Republican stealthpacs. One for about $450,000. One next door for about $960,000. Notice that in the case of the nearly a million used to buy Representative Desjarlais' seat, he had already spent a little over a million.

It's a dollar for dollar match. Or, near that. I suspect that's why raising so many dollars quick is important to them; they'll target the security a strong ad campaign can bring. They won't want to report to their GOP honchos that they just squeaked into the finish on a win. They'll want to make a "strong and secure" type of showing. That means overwhelming win. How to do that? Strong ad campaign. How to buy that? Big bucks. How to get those big bucks?

Squeeze every cent you can from an unregulated money machine, like self-appointed controls of city and county government, to ransack the funds like blood from a stone. Then, once squeezed to near breaking, place your bets at the Karl Rove money machine table.

Double down with stealthpacs. Use Chattanooga's money to do it.

You didn't think they are actually going buy all $328,000 of a website, did you? A website, like fine art, has no comparable item of value; its value is arbitrary; like fine art, it's a trading chip, a token. That's why Newt Gingrich bought one for $800,000.

Maybe our guys got the same memo.

Pinching off the first part, that's closing down the current task organization.

July 27, 2011 at 10:31 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

After Coppinger's self-appointment, the structure of the government separating City from County, which had previously been a barrier to power brokering, got turned in on itself. The barrier became cover for these deals. That's why closing down or somehow significantly changing the structure of local government before 2012 is so important.

That way, even if they get caught and exposed, part of their limp response will be: what does it matter? That structure doesn't exist anymore. We "fixed" it.

How do they "fix" it? How do they bring this to a close? How do they change the structure?

Home rule. We've already had a clandestine "metro" government under this payoff deal. If they make one of those, maybe somebody will notice.

Home rule. It's a form of government we don't understand. It'll do great as a cover up for this last cabal.

What form of government do we need to explore? An elected one.

Elections are what we need, not a change in structure.

July 27, 2011 at 10:48 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Want to guess why the county half of the local cronies don't like the home rule idea? It'll turn their half into the hollow, shriveled, discarded half. I guess they'll have to use the new home rule part to make some laws to make up for the trashing they are about to receive as they get stuck with all of those fictional dollars in budgets and extra bills from the off-budget replacing of people and the off-budget hiring of friends and who knows what all else.

The grass will stay green where the money's concentrated, in the established commercial real estate half.

Strange how that half is where Mayor Littlefield is. It seems to be where all of the Chattanooga Former Mayors are, too.

Interestingly, Senator Corker somehow suddenly raised more money for his re-election than some Presidential candidates have done for their campaigns. $2 Million. I wonder how that happened.

Didn't even need a website with a "donate" button.

We wonder what they will do with our money next, and who will benefit. We know it won't be us.

July 27, 2011 at 11:01 p.m.
fairmon said...

The county should absorb and dissolve city government. The duplications and inefficiencies are a redicolous waste of tax money.

July 28, 2011 at 7:18 a.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

advertisement
advertisement

Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.