published Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Public concerns vs. secrecy when it comes to Occupy Chattanooga

  • photo
    Daniel Patterson folds up a tarp as Landon Howard makes a phone call at the new camp site of Occupy Chattanooga in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse Wednesday morning. Tuesday night occupiers moved from their original camp in front of the Chattanooga City Council building to the courthouse.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Occupy Chattanooga protesters, like those in similar groups in many cities across the country, clearly do not espouse identical political grievances. But their concerns all share a common theme of social injustice under a political system that in many ways favors big corporations and an ultra-wealthy elite over the daily concerns of the nation's beleaguered middle class and poor.

They share something else in common: The constitutional protection of First Amendment rights of free speech and the right to peacefully assemble to petition the government for redress of their grievances. And in Chattanooga, where no one, to our memory, has ever camped on the expansive lawn of the Hamilton County Courthouse downtown under the banner of First Amendment rights, they appear to have the right to keep their protest going on the courthouse lawn 24/7. Their right to do so stems from precisely the same legal authority that prompted a federal judge late last month to bar Gov. Haslam from ejecting Occupy Nashville protesters from the Legislative Plaza at the entry to the state Capitol on an after-the-fact permit requirement.

Ironically, Hamilton County Commissioners here seem perfectly willing to violate the state's Sunshine Law to meet illegally -- without due public notice -- to discuss what to do about their constituents' lawful protest encampment on the County Courthouse lawn. They held that secret meeting Friday with County Attorney Rheubin Taylor.

Their excuse, of course, was that they were getting counsel on a legal issue from their attorney. Maybe so, but in this case, it's unlikely that excuse would hold water: It simply did not require confidentiality to protect a legal option.

The discussion with Taylor, according to Commissioner Fred Skillern -- who did not attend the meeting but was called during the meeting for his opinion -- was obviously about whether the protesters had the right to create an encampment on the courthouse lawn. That easily could have been discussed in an open meeting -- and should have been if one or more commissioners was inclined to object to the encampment.

Our county commissioners, of course, have long demonstrated their lack of concern over core public issues that affect their constituents, or their right to due process.

They won't address the need, for example, for consolidated public services for countywide infrastructure or, alternatively, the gross county tax inequities that leave the 70 percent of their constituents who reside in incorporated municipalities in Hamilton County (fully half are in the city of Chattanooga) paying a disproportionate share of the cost of countywide public infrastructure to support the county's job base.

They meddle endlessly in the elected county school board's business, but have long cheated schools and students of adequate funding and, more recently, of payments-in-of-taxes for education that are received from industries here whose taxes for the county general fund have been abated.

And this year, to protect their outsized $85 million fund balance, they slashed funding for a score of vital civic organizations that serve the needs of disadvantaged citizens countywide.

So their disregard for the state's Open Meetings Act, which mandates public meetings for any discussion on public business between two or more commissioners, is not at all surprising.

Nor is their interest in an attempt to eject the Occupy Chattanooga political protesters from the courthouse lawn.

They would better serve that group of constituents -- an orderly, articulate group with diverse backgrounds and legitimate concerns -- by meeting with them and hearing what they have to say.

It would improve commissioners' views of their own public responsibilities.

It might also remind them of the vital concerns -- for family-wage jobs, health care, affordable education, fair taxes -- that motivate some Americans to camp out in the cold and rain in order to give voice to these crucial public needs.

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acerigger said...

Sounds like a clear case of trying to "CTCA"(cover their collective asses)

November 15, 2011 at 12:18 a.m.
fairmon said...

I hope the county commission finds a way to stop the 24/7 camp out that interferes with and discourages the utilization by others of this public facility not to mention the landscaping that is being destroyed. The first amendment right to assemble and air grievances doesn't address the issue of occupying and controlling a public facility that is funded by all tax payers.

November 15, 2011 at 6:19 a.m.
librul said...

Stick it Harp! If you want to go to the courthouse - go to the courthouse. These people are neither blocking entry nor "controlling the facility." If you and the rest of this country's arrogant putzes (our County Commissioners especially included) don't quit acting like little dictators and showing utter ignorance of the critical socio-political condition this country is in, you will wake up one day to streets in flames and rubble where the courthouse once stood. And I am sure you will want to "call in the troops" to quell the civil unrest that will envelop America, but you will find more veterans than you could ever believe on the front lines of a new American civil war, many walking on prosthetic legs, because they have awakened like Scott Olsen, to the fact that they were not called upon to fight for American freedom but rather used as pawns to promote hegemony of American corporate interests around the globe and further enrich the already rich - even as their own families suffered economic devastation, joblessness, homelessness and loss of dignity.

I suspect if you could raise bin Laden from the depths, you would find a smile on his face from ear to ear.

November 15, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.
conservative said...

Rules for Radicals- when you are losing the public discussion, CHANGE the public discussion

November 15, 2011 at 9:23 a.m.

Rules for Conservatives, when you're on the wrong side of the public, attack the public!

November 15, 2011 at 9:29 a.m.
Rezsia said...

FYI - The group camped out on the lawn is not destroying anything. In fact they have made a point to treat this public area with respect. Flower beds have been roped off to prevent trampling and yesterday a group of volunteers spent over 3 hours beautifying the area by raking and removing leaves from the lawn. Here is an example to their commitment to being respectful of all members of the public. http://www.whnt.com/news/sns-ap-tn--occupy-wedding,0,1648850.story. I urge you to visit the Court House and speak with those there before judging them and their actions.

This movement is not about Right or Left. In my humble opinion it's about Americans of all backgrounds wanting a better America. I ask that Chattanoogans please not tear each other down and continue the destructive path our country as a whole has found itself on. If the past has taught us anything it's taught us that when the American people work together there is nothing we can't accomplish.

November 15, 2011 at 9:48 a.m.
librul said...

Rezsia said:

"If the past has taught us anything it's taught us that when the American people work together there is nothing we can't accomplish."

Sorry, but that fairy tale ended the day Ronnie Raygun took the oath of office, launching us on "the destructive path our country as a whole has found itself on." There have been too many battles fought in the class war he started and there will be no reconciliation until the one percenters' capitulation.

November 15, 2011 at 9:59 a.m.
Rezsia said...

I don't disagree with you librul. It seems to me that corporations encorage both parties to attack each other endlessly and in doing so keep the people divided and distracted from what goes on behind closed doors. I don't doubt that if tearing the American people apart and setting us against each other will accomplish corporate goals that they would do it, but we can't let this continue.

Their movtivation? Money. This is a quote from an Institute of Policy Studies article. "Ironically, and tellingly, corporations can even lower their tax bills by overcompensating their executives. The higher CEO paychecks soar, the more corporations can deduct off their taxes." The whole article is worth reading. http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2011_the_massive_ceo_rewards_for_tax_dodging/

November 15, 2011 at 10:27 a.m.
librul said...

I fully agree on Marcy - she's for real - as is Elizabeth Warren. That's why the corpocracy is investing so heavily in their smear campaign against Warren. She has them scared to death. I only wish Obama had shown a little spine in her behalf. Sadly, he has shown there's no reason to expect any of that from him.

So many of these right wing knee-jerks who conflate #Occupy with Obama would be really surprised to learn how many participants are there because he has shown himself to be much more a corporatist than a populist.

November 15, 2011 at 11:58 a.m.
librul said...

Zucotti is being re#Occupied ... 10,000++ viewers of livestream:

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2011/11/15

November 15, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.
chet123 said...

HARP3339.....SEE YOU REALLY LOVE THE DIRECTION THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN GOING THE LAST 30YEARS.....KEEP ON PROTECTING THE RICH AND GREEDY HARP3339....DONT TRY TO CIRCUMVENT YOUR TRUE INTENT OR PURPOSE...IF YOU FEEL THATS YOUR CALLING TO PROTECT THE RICH AND GREEDY THEN FESS-UP(CONFESS)...I FEEL AMERICA IS GREAT WHEN PEOPLE WITH THE DESIRE AND GOD GIVING GIFT ARE UNBRIDLE AND NOT HELD BACK BECAUSE OF A FEW AT THE TOP WHO WANT THE WHOLE ECONOMY-PIE FOR THEM SELVES.....

THE MIDDLE-CLASS AND WORKING CLASS ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE COUNTRY...THEY PERFORMS THE JOBS...FIGHT THE WARS...PROTECT THE STREETS...RISK THEIR LIVES TO SAVE PEOPLE OUT OF BURNING HOMES AND BUILDING...

THANK GOD FOR THE OCCUPY PROTESTERS FOR BRINGING ISSUES TO THE FORE-FRONT THAT POLITICAIN DONT WANT TO ADDRESS...ISSUES LIKE THE RISE IN STUDENT TUITIONS, THE INCOME GAP BETWEEN THE MIDDLE CLASS AND RICH...THE 15,000 LOBBYIST IN WASHINGTON ALONE BUYING THE POLITICIAN...ALSO THE SAME PROBLEN AT STATE LEVEL POLITIC....PROBLEMS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE BANK,GIVING BANKS AND CORPORATION PERSON-HOOD,USING OUR MILITARY FOR CORPORATE GREED ECT.... CAMPAIGE REFORM(RICH AND GREEDY OWN POLITICIAN)..WASHINGTON IS CORRUPTED WITH MONEY...ECT...

THANKS THE OCCUPYER FOR HAVING THE BACK-BONE AND COURAGE!!!

November 15, 2011 at 2:45 p.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Next time you do not have to pay the atm bank fee per month, thank an occupier. It was those voices that got that issue out there loudly.

Yes, I thank them for their courage and their ability to do it. They stand for all of us, even those that don't have a clue.

November 15, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.
librul said...

First Ammendment defeated. New York court accepts Bloomberg's argument that it must take a back seat to "public safety" concerns.

November 15, 2011 at 6:46 p.m.
fairmon said...

The first amendment doesn't protect setting up a communal living environment. Why are the OWS groupies not upset about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac obligating tax payers to billions that they can't pay back but just requested 12 billion more. The two year CEOs are receiving a big portion of $100 million to be awarded for their performance. I didn't support baling out the banks but at least they paid back their TARP loans with interest at the expense of no dividends to share holders in addition to share holders loss of invested principle. All the occupiers should converge on Washington D.C. and deal with the source of the problem.

November 15, 2011 at 8:41 p.m.
chet123 said...

HARP3339...YOU REPUBLICAN LOVE TO WHIP-UP ON FANNIE MAE....SINCE GINGRICH IS IN THE PRIMARY MAYBE YOU CAN ASK HIM WHY WAS HE PAID 300,000 DOLLARS BY FANNIE MAE HA HA HA

THANKS GOD FOR THE OCCUPYER...THIS COUNTRY NEED A GOOD REVOLUTION...GONE TOO FAR TO THE RIGHT!!!

ALSO, HARP...YOU USE THE CONSTITUTION THE SAME WAY YOU USE THE BIBLE...CHERRY PICKING WHAT YOU WANT..AND FROG LEAPING OVER WHAT YOU DONT LIKE IN THE CONSTITUTION HA HA HA ....WHY DONT YOU MONITOR THE BEHAVIOR OF THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES WITH LOBBYISTS.....SEE HOW THEY ARE VIOLATED THE CONSTITUTION HMMMMMM YOU MAY WANT TO KEEP AN EYE ON JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS AND JUSTICE ANTONNI SCALIA....WINK WINK!

DEMOCRATS TRIED TO WARN YOU ABOUT CLARENCE THOMAS.....HES A THUG WEARING A BLACK ROBE......REPUBLICANS KNOW HOW TO PICK THEIR BLACK MEN HA HA HA HA

November 16, 2011 at 12:46 a.m.
fairmon said...

chet123...

No change. You are rattling like a can of rocks. Barney Franks and others received contributions and favors from the Fannies. If stating a fact is whipping up on them then I am whipping up on them. Apparently you think tax payers losing billions to them and their executives getting over 100 million is OK. I see you still consider yourself smarter than those on the supreme court. An intelligent person recognizes they don't know everything, you come up pretty short on that quality. You are scared to death the government may quit borrowing over 40% of every dollar they spend and stop giving money they don't have away. Your math skills aren't strong enough to realize you could take 100% of the wealthiest incomes and not make a dent in the deficit or debt. Once you graduate from high school and get a job what percent taxes are you willing to pay?

November 16, 2011 at 1:12 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

An intelligent person knows the smell of BS. These days, it is just not that hard to be smarter than some of those that sit on the supreme court.

Harp, I am sure that if Fox told you 2+2=5, you would tell us our math skills are lacking. Why don't you tell us how you feel, and quit assuming you know how everyone else feels. Surely you see that you are arguing against something, and not for anything.

November 16, 2011 at 9:25 a.m.
chet123 said...

HARP3339....tHE FACT YOU ARE IN THE Chattanooga area and have nerve to try to protect the rich and greedy says volume about you. I'm willing to bet you your left leg that you are poor trash...or 1 generation from it...but you think that you are 1% ha ha ha ...i have read all your posts....and all you do is kiss up....you talk about constitution but only use the amendments that advantage to you....when talking about GOD you only use scripture you can hide behind..BUT SKIP SCRIPTURE THAT CONDEM YOUR PHILOSOPHY..so my good friend ...as far as i'm concern your credibility is shaky.....

For example, YOU SAY BARNEY FRANKS AND OTHERS!....OTHERS!...OTHERS!....OTHERS!,,,HA HA HA HA HA HA HA...GO AHEAD AND SAY WHO THE OTHERS ARE HA HA HA NEWT GINGRICH HA HA HA....REPUBLICAN HYPOCRISY NEVER CEASE HA HA HA...GINGRICH WAS A WATCH DOG FOR FANNIE MAE.......I THINK FANNIE MAE FAILED THE COUNTRY....YOUR REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT CANDIDATE WAS A LOBBYIST FOR FANNIE MAE....HEY HARP!!!!GINGRICH RECEIVED OVER 300,000 DOLLARS FROM FANNIE MAE...300,000 HARP.....NOT 30,000, NOT 3,000 NOT 300 DOLLARS....BUT 300,000 DOLLARS OVER A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS....TRY TO DEFEND THAT HARP HA HA HA....HAVE YOU NO SHAME,HAVE YOU NO SHAME, HAVE YOU NO SHAME HARP..

You are a big fat hypocrite harp....If you are so concern about washington shady deals...then your party should do something about it....you like to go blah,blah,blah ..and say nothing!..If you are serious then push to remove over 12,000 lobbyist who own the politician...NOOOOOOOOOO! YOU WILL ONLY SIT SILENCLY WITH YOUR FINGER PLUGGED IN YOU REAR END....

ALSO I HAVE NEVER HEARD YOU SAY ANYTHING ABOUT CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM....AND YOU WONT BECAUSE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAVE SOLD THEMSELF TO THE HIGHEST BIDDERS.

SO DONT LECTURE ME ON THE WASTE OF AMERICAN TAX PAYERS MONEY...WHEN YOU DONT TALK ABOUT CLEANING YOUR OWN PARTY UP....

LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU WILL BE BACK ON HERE....I'M NOT FINISH....BECAUSE THIS IS THE TIP OF THE ICE-BERG....AND I TRULY WANT TO GET IN YOUR HEAD....BECAUSE THERE MUST BE SOME LOGIC SOMEWHERE IN YOUR THINKING...OR HAVE YOU JUST BEEN TOTALLY BRAIN-WASHED

November 16, 2011 at 9:36 a.m.
chet123 said...

WELL,WELL,WELL....It came out today that Gingrich also received 1.4 million dollars from Freddie Mac.....All i have to say is HARP need to worry about his own crooked party problems..instead of pointing the finger else where..Because the whole world laughing at you ha ha ha ha...except for flip-flop Romney and Huntman....the other candidate are CIRCUS CLOWNS!

November 16, 2011 at 1:17 p.m.
fairmon said...

chet123..

You apparetnly don't read any better than you write. You will not find any bible scripture used by me. You would see where I think campaign contributions should be limited to some small amount by individuals that are disclosed and documented. I have often advocated and still advocate the the abolishment of lobbyist and private meetings by special interest groups with members of congress.

You are full of crap and think because I dislike your main man that I think is dumber than a rock I support a republican which is another false conclusion you reach. Tax the heck out of big earners but quit killing the businesses where people work. You want a big central government that wipes your nose and butt but I believe people would do better without so much government intervention. Name one thing the government does well any where near a reasonable cost.

November 16, 2011 at 2:40 p.m.
chet123 said...

HARP....Dont try to worm YOUR WAY out of your position on your narrow political veiws....I took time to run tracks on you comments as far as a year back......This is the problem i have with republicans...you have a problem with telling the truth...what with that??....why cant you tell the truth for pete-sake??.....When you cant defend your position ..you claim you are an independent or libertarian ha ha

HARP...ITS been less than 24hrs you was blaming democrats for fannie and freddie....and you buddy newt Gingrich was one of the head lobbyist for fannie and freddie newt receive almost 2millions dollars from fannie and freddie....HARP you are not in my league...you should be in pee-wee league...this is what i mean by saying ..you are not credible....you really owe me an apology...but i know you are not man enough to do it...you cant lie out of what you posted,,,the whole world can see it....When you are wrong you never apologize....ha ha ha

HARP....the pen is more powerful than the sword....take it like a man..i fact check you and a lot of others pseudo intellegent people posting lies.....one thing i cant figure out....almost 99% of these posters are republicans...At one time i couldnt understand how can a party be so backward....then i came to a conclusion...FOX AND LIMBAUGH LOL LOL LOL ...

harp dont you dare to make a disclaimer....YOU ARE REPUBLICAN HA HA

HEY HARP!!! GOT YOU AGAIN!! ha ha ha ha

November 16, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
fairmon said...

chet123....

You lie like a log. You will not find where my opinions and beliefs vary. You will find if you did look back which I doubt I have consistently said neither party or both parties. If I have criticized democrats more often it may be they screw up more but I doubt I have.

You keep pushing your big daddy and sugar tit ideology and borrow so much you pass the debts for your screw ups and poor decisions on for others to pay in the future. When you get old enough to vote think about that,

November 16, 2011 at 7:22 p.m.
chet123 said...

HARP3339....YOUR POSTING NOV 16, 1:12AM.....BARE ALL THE EVIDENCE I NEED.....YOU ARE ONE OF THE BIGGEST LIAR ON CTNFP...THE WHOLE WORLD CAN SEE HOW YOU TELL HALF TRUES.(LOOK AT YOUR POSTING ABOVE)......YOU BLAMES BARNY FRANKS AND SAY NOTHING ABOUT REPUBLICANS WHEN THE MAIN BENEFICIARY WAS NEWT GINGRICH.....YOU CAN CALL ME ANTTHING YOU WANT TO CALL ME...BUT THE WHOLE WORLD SEE YOU ARE A LIAR.....I RAN TRACK ON YOU AS FAR AS A YEAR....WHY DONT YOU FESS-UP TO BEING A REPUBLICAN BECAUSE YOU DEFEND THEM WITH YOUR LAST BREATH....NEWT GINGRICH TOOK IN 2 MILLION DOLLARS...YOU DIDNT SAY ONE WORD ABOUT IT....99% OF YOUR POSTING IS CRITIZING OBAMA OR DEMOCRATS.......AFTER LISTENING TO YOUR LIES I HAVE DETERMINED YOUR BEHAVIOR IS TAUGHT BEHAVIOR...IT WAS TAUGHT FROM YOUR HOME AND CHURCH AS A CHILD.

HARP...DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE NOT IN BOSTON OR BERKLEY....YOU ARE A TINY FISH IN A SMALL POND...WAKE-UP MAN....WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOL...TENNESSEE TEMPLE.....YOU MUST BE DECENDENT OF THE CRIMINALS EUROPE DUMP IN THE SOUTH THAT MADE UP OF THE PENAL COLONY... HA HA HA

November 16, 2011 at 11:05 p.m.
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