published Friday, January 6th, 2012

Time to end the recall

The appeal by 10 local business and community leaders seeking an end to the effort to recall Mayor Ron Littlefield, printed in this newspaper yesterday, makes a cogent argument for finally dropping the recall initiative altogether. Their letter argues, accurately, that the recall initiative harms the city's image at both a national and international level, undermining our economic progress at a critical time. It causes uncertainty. And it distracts the city's leadership and focus from more critical needs, while imposing needless court cost on taxpayers.

These are all good reasons to drop the recall. Indeed, it was an irrational and sparsely supported fringe effort over necessary fiscal policies that never should have been grounds for a recall to begin with.

Beyond that, however, there are compelling legal issues which demand dismissal of the recall move. We are hopeful that will occur next week after a second hearing in Circuit Court before Judge Jeff Hollingsworth.

Judge Hollingsworth previously ruled, in September, 2010, that the recall petitions -- there are actually three different ones -- were fatally flawed in several respects under prevailing state law. His ruling, unfortunately, was recently set aside by an appeals court on the basis that it was issued prematurely; that is, before the Hamilton County Election Commission had officially acted to accept the petitions and certify a recall of the mayor.

The appeals court, however, mysteriously failed to take into account the trial court evidence that the Election Commission, admittedly and wrongly, had already been accepting copies of the petitions despite the petitioners' failure to comply with the state's uniform legal standards for recall petitions. These standards demand specific questions on certified petitions, and they demand that voter signatures be verified against the roles of registered voters, and dated by the signers. Election commission officials blithely, wrongly, waived compliance with those rules. And they have never explained why, or been held to account for their laxity.

The election commission's partisan Republican majority, moreover, had also declared -- before Judge Hollingsworth's initial injunction -- that it would certify the petitions as they were, and set a date for election of a new mayor, even if the numbers of signatures on the petitions amounted to the lower total required by the city's flawed recall ordinance (nearly 9,000) -- and not the 15,000 demanded by state law. In fact, the mayor's legal team found that fewer than half of the purported 9,000 signatures accepted by the commission actually met state legal standards. Those were sufficient reasons alone to justify the judge's injunction.

The city's recall statute, moreover, failed then, and fails now, to follow the logical three-step process required by state law for recalls: (1) a successful petition for recall; (2) a subsequent ballot for voters to decide whether to recall the targeted official; and, (3) if needed, another an election to pick a successor. The myopic 1990 city statute, by contrast, allows a small minority of the city's body of registered voters to mount a recall petition, which, if certified by the commission, simply demands an election for a successor. It is the ultimate electoral form of the tail wagging the dog. It must be changed to comply with state law.

All these egregious violations of the state's recall law were not even mentioned by Appeals Court Judge John McClarty in his curt paragraph decision to set aside the initial Circuit Court ruling. McClarty's ruling, more notable for its omissions than any insight, simply said that Judge Hollingsworth's injunction blocking the recall was premature because the Election Commission, at that point, had not yet certified the recall; thus it yet had no jurisdiction to issue an injunction.

Now the commission has acted, wrongly. And now it's time -- past time -- to put an end to the recall, at last.

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328Kwebsite said...

The best way to end this nightmare of having Ron Littlefield as Mayor is through his immediate resignation.

Support of Ron Littlefield is more likely to be indicative of corruption than anything else.

We have seen no intelligent leadership in public policy from our most powerful local businesses and corporations. Their idea of public policy is firing everybody to save themselves.

When I came home from Iraq to find thousands fired for no reason and the men's homeless shelter evicted, I knew y'all had gone off the deep end. Then, the economy crashed.

Chattanooga Businesses have habitually failed to take care of our local people. Thousands of layoffs during my Iraq deployments speak to the unprecedented stupidity, greed and shortsightedness of our local leaders. Coming home to thousands of layoffs in the community has completely and permanently stripped business leaders of any intellectual integrity.

Not only have their moves been stupid, but they've been destructive. Few instances of low intelligence and greed have been more destructive than the tenures of Mayor Ron Littlefield and the self-appointment of Mayor Coppinger.

Repeatedly, we have seen local cronies appoint their friends and the expense of the community. $328,000 on a website that has never been built. $125,000 salaries to political supporters at the expense of County Deputy jobs. Continual, unnecessary and unproductive harassment of teachers, police and government employees.

Outright racist and corrupt use of governmental power at the executive and administrative levels: from "Slaves learned to read" on the County school board and the Mayor's police car fiasco to the recent witness intimidation of 400 people through the City's corrupt fire code inspections and lawsuits. Just disgusting.

We see habitual exploitation of the city/county split in a way that is not only disgusting, but also shocking in its lack of criminal prosecutions.

$10 Million dollar lie about the City of Chattanooga budget by Mayor Ron Littlefield's executive order alone --alone-- is strong enough reason to demand his immediate removal.

Perhaps local business leaders endorsed him because they forgot their elementary cost accounting skills.

The past three Mayors have done nothing but use their office for commercial real estate property gains. We must put a stop to people who do not care about serving the public.

We cannot continue to see Chattanooga's business and government leaders lie about basic facts for their personal gain.

Put an immediate stop to these people. Insist upon good government.

Do not let any Real Estate Cronies exploit the Mayor's Office. Do not let local business leaders continue to shirk their obligation to the community. Reject the spread of leadership failures from commerce to government.

Reject Mayor Ron Littlefield and the self-appointed Mayor Coppinger.

January 6, 2012 at 6:54 a.m.
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