published Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Results of a flawed recall effort against Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield

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    Mayor Ron Littlefield . Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield issued welcome notice Monday that he will pursue all available legal options to thwart what he reasonably sees as a flawed recall effort which was wrongly given traction by a partisan Hamilton County Election Commission vote last week. His notice also rightly informed the City Council that he would contest any attempt to install a place-holder in his seat pending the outcome of his legal appeals to overturn the recall movement.

Littlefield also urged the council to undertake two other timely initiatives. One would have the council end the confusion over the city's flawed recall provisions by properly amending the relevant city statute to comply with prevailing state law, which is more strenuous, orderly and logical. The other suggested initiative recommends a general referendum next August to amend to the city's charter to move city elections from off-years to the regularly scheduled August balloting for county, state and federal elections.

Both initiatives make good sense. They should have been adopted years ago. The next general city election, for example, is now scheduled for March 2, 2013, an off-year ballot. By contrast, the general county and state, and federal primary elections, are held every two years on even-numbered years -- the next county election being in August, 2012. Were the city to change its elections to coincide with county and state elections, it would save significant election expenses and improve voter turnout, which is usually far lower in the city's off-year ballot than in the broader, even-year elections.

The custom of holding an independent off-year city election was probably quietly designed to facilitate weak turnout susceptible to vote-rolling manipulation. It would be worthwhile to shift the off-year elections to even-year balloting to improve voter turnout, reduce voter manipulation and save the high cost of a needless election. An August 2012 amendment to accomplish this would not help Littlefield at all -- he's already in the second term of his two-term limit -- but it would make sound policy for the city going forward.

As for recalls generally, it also would properly raise the threshold for future recall contests. By both the state and city percentage-based recall formulas, a larger turnout would require a higher number of recall petition signatures. That would be fair. A relatively small minority of dissidents should not be able to demand a recall election -- as is now being attempted -- because of a previous low-voter turnout in 2009. That sort of anomaly destabilizes local government, and it isn't fair to the larger majority of voters whose votes are thus nullified.

Littlefield's memo to the City Council outlining his views of the flawed recall petitions largely coincides with the arguments his attorney made last year claiming an inadequate number of qualified signatures and faulty petitions. But it also introduced his suspicion of forged signatures, along with inadequate verification procedures. Added to the council's confusion about what the Election Commission's recall certification means -- i.e., whether it requires a ministerial transfer of the mayor's duties to someone else pending the commission's so-called "recall" vote next August -- the mayor's beef with the shoddy, confusing recall procedure is entirely justified.

The state three-step recall law is much more logical. If a recall petition is deemed adequate under the law, it calls for a ballot, first, to ask voters whether they want to recall an official. If a majority say yes, then it establishes an election date for a successor. By contrast, the city's provision allows the Election Commission, on the petition of a minority fringe, to just say that a popularly elected is automatically kicked out of office without a yes-no vote to determine the majority view on recall. As if to prove its inadequacy and fatal flaws, City Council members can't even decipher what the provision means or how it operates.

If ever there were a case for a quick and forceful lawsuit, this is it. Until a qualified court rules on the process, Mayor Littlefield should fight to keep his office.

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sage1 said...

Personally, I'd like to see Littlefield take his circle of "Me TOO!" buddies and move on. I live in the city and I'm sure enough going to vote against him if he ever runs for anything. He's too much into the buddy system for my liking.

Just why does the state government have the right to dictate to a city government?

November 22, 2011 at 6:42 a.m.
lanaland said...

I hear a lot of folks say it looks bad for Chattanooga to have the mayor recalled. I say it hurts our city worse, and not just its image, to have a corrupt government. And the folks wanting to cover up the corruption probably feel like the corruption gravy train, or at least the system surrounding it, benefits them in some way. The status quo of corruption is not worth holding up to anything but the light!

November 22, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.
timbo said...

What do you know. After years of denial, Harry Austin has finally admitted that there is a bipartisan power structure trying to control things in Chattanooga. That is something that we all knew but somehow hadn't dawned on Harry.

In his own words he said that off-year elections were ".quietly designed to facilitate weak turnout susceptible to vote-rolling manipulation. It would be worthwhile to shift the off-year elections to even-year balloting to improve voter turnout, reduce voter manipulation and save the high cost of a needless election..."

For years, I wrote letters and went on radio preaching about the off-year elections. I was told I was crazy, paranoid, seeing conspiracies everywhere, seeing black helicopters flying over my house...etc. Now it seems that I was right all along.

The power structure has decided that setting such a low voter threshold in a low turnout, off-year election is more dangerous to their plans than allowing a fair election to take place on a normal voting cycle. If that weren't the case, Harry Austin would not write this article. He is the bell weather for the power structure.

If there is no power structure Harry, who is manipulating the elections?

This is the most important thing that has come out of this recall deal. Littlefield will not be removed. He will stall and squirm and get another judge that is in his pocket ( like the last one) to somehow delay this thing until his term runs out. My advice is that the Tea Party, Occupiers, or anyone else, should shift their focus to changing this election date. That in itself would do more to change the Chattanooga political landscape more than Occupy, Tea Party rallies or anything else.

Harry, is that a black helicopter on the roof of the Times Free Press?

November 22, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.
PinkSalmon said...

The recall provisions of the City Charter were just hunky dory with Littlfield, until citizens dared to exercise recall due process. In fact, the recall provisions remained in the City Charter from 2002 through 2010, Littlefield or the City Council never complained until the people exercised the Charter recall provision

April, I doubt if anyone gave the city charter much thought since there was no reason to. As no one had ever attempted a recall before.

Are you angry that the mayor is exercising his freedom to protest the recall the same as you and yours have the same rights to demand a recall? Interesting.

November 22, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
fairmon said...

I suspect most of the council members have never read the charter and if they did they fail to understand it. My wonderment is why would anyone cling to a position with so many people showing and making public their dislike of them?

November 22, 2011 at 8:02 p.m.
PinkSalmon said...

payingattention said... Pink Fish there has been another recall effort, where the City Charter was examined. I do expect the due process of recall and justice to be upheld. Littlefield and cronies are the angry ones filing lawsuit and suing the council now.

Don't get your panties all up in a wad, payin'. Why are you stretching a lie and telling even more lies? Littlefield is NOT suing the city council. He said he'd consider it if the council tried to remove him from office before an August election. dah! If you'd lie about something so obvious what else are you lying about to get your point across?

The only angry and bitter ones here appear to be you and your recall buddies. Angry and bitter that the mayor isn't just folding up and caving in. What's your real motive behind all of this, paying? Like many are suggesting, there's something personal going on here and has nothing to do with mayor's governing of Chattanooga.

And it's pinkSalmon. Thank YOU! If you can't even get a name right, what else have you and your gang gotten wrong? %>?

P/S: Just a suggestion. But people naturally most always identify and side with the underdog. The one others seem to be ganging up on. Where in the beginning many may have considered supporting you and yours cause, they're now having second thoughts. You're viewed more as being mean, hateful and vengeful.

November 23, 2011 at 9:55 a.m.
librul said...

...and people all over North Georgia, who know Ron and his methods well, are saying "Go get him!"

November 24, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.
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