published Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Chattanooga City Council shoots down 2 proposals from Mayor Ron Littlefield


by Cliff Hightower

Audio clip

City Council meeting - 01/10/12

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield suffered two defeats Tuesday night when the City Council decided he could not have $75,000 for a gang study and also that he would have to wait six months to hire an administrative hearing officer.

The council unanimously agreed during its Budget and Finance Committee meeting that it would not redirect $75,000 earmarked for minority business development to fund a study on gangs in the community.

That night at its regular meeting, it also unanimously deferred an ordinance that would have created an administrative hearing officer, who would hear code and environmental violations.

The position is opposed by both sitting city judges.

Littlefield told the council the administrative hearing officer was needed because the state constitution only allows cities to levy fines of $50 or less. Many offenders ignore the $50 fine, the mayor said.

"The $50 fine is less of a deterrent," he said.

But the administrative hearing officer can fine up to $500.

"It is a way to hopefully get some bite back," he said.

City Judge Sherry Paty, though, said she thought there could be a duplication of services if the officer came onboard and also said she worried the city might have to spend money on staff and equipment for the position.

She also said the court does not see that many egregious code and environmental violations.

"The majority of our cases would not fit in with what you described," she said.

On the other front, the mayor told the council he planned to put out a professional bid for someone to conduct a study of gangs within Hamilton County. He said he hoped the proposal for the study would cost less than the $75,000 allocated for minority business development.

Councilwoman Pam Ladd asked that the $75,000 be frozen until after the bids come in.

"I like the idea of parking the money," Littlefield said.

But officials with the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce told the council they planned to enter a joint venture for minority business development.

The council asked the two bodies to come back with a more detailed proposal in two weeks.

Councilman AndraƩ McGary said he felt the administration could be putting the cart before the horse by asking for the money before a proposal is even made.

"I think it's premature to be talking about funding an assessment," he said.

WHAT'S NEXT

An ordinance on an administrative hearing officer must wait six months before being considered by the City Council once more. Meanwhile, the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce will give a detailed presentation about a joint venture for minority businesses in two weeks.

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