Opponents launch bid to recall Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson

photo Chris Anderson

At 2 p.m. on Friday, a dozen or so people trickled into the Hamilton County Election Commission to wait for a blank petition to be hand-delivered.

This was the first concrete step in their attempt to recall Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson.

The group, District 7 residents all, consisted of pastors and business people. They talked quietly among themselves until local activist Charlie Wysong walked in with the paperwork.

Wysong has been an outspoken opponent of the City Council's decision to extend benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, a measure sponsored by Anderson.

The District 7 residents said they want Anderson ousted, in part because of his effort to push the domestic partner benefit law. Others said he has alienated himself from the black neighborhoods and doesn't represent the needs of the community.

"He doesn't represent what the people want," said Mahmood Abdullah, owner of Southside Market. "His only goal is to boost homosexuality."

Anderson, one of the first openly gay councilmen in Tennessee, said he's not surprised by this reaction.

"I knew when I ran for public office that I would have to make decisions that were politically difficult," he said in an email. "If you want to recall me over the equal rights of the public servants that work so hard for the City of Chattanooga, bring it on."

Wysong was part of the petition drive that challenged the council's approval of the domestic benefits ordinance and led to the issue being placed on the ballot for a public vote later this year.

Now he and others want the councilman responsible for the ordinance gone, too.

Wysong said he's not a resident of District 7, but is assisting with the Anderson recall effort.

If the election commission approves the wording on the petition, this would become the first attempt to recall an elected Chattanooga official since the City Charter was changed in November 2012.

Residents voted then to make recall rules match state standards, which require signatures from 15 percent of the city's registered voters. The change came after a failed two-year battle to recall former Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Under the new rules, Littlefield's opponents would have been required to collect 6,000 more signatures.

Wysong said 15 percent of the registered voters in District 7 amounts to 1,800 signatures. He believes recall backers have 75 days to collect the signatures from the time the petition is validated.

Hamilton County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan was out of the office Friday and none of her staff could answer questions about the accuracy of those statements.

photo Alfred Johnson, Gill Schropshire, Charlie Wysong and Teresa Wood, from left, talk with one another at the Hamilton County Election Commission in Chattanooga on Friday. Nearly a dozen residents of the 7th District of the Chattanooga City Council met to hand deliver a petition application to recall Councilman Chris Anderson.

In March, Anderson unseated two-term Councilman Manny Rico with 56 percent of the votes, or 801.

Alfred Johnson, pastor of Church of the First Born off St. Elmo Avenue, said he is leading the recall effort and that the opposition isn't just about domestic partner benefits. He said he doesn't believe Anderson has addressed the needs of the community. Alton Park Neighborhood Association President Gill Shropshire agreed.

Shropshire said he's tried to meet with Anderson several times to talk about his ideas to better the community and even went before the City Council to confront Anderson about it.

But Anderson said he has met with Shropshire several times and believes he and other leaders are retaliating against him because he didn't go along with a project that he thought was unstable. He didn't say what the project was.

"These organizations have both a political and personal vendetta against me because I refuse to engage in the quid-pro-quo, business-as-usual brand of politics," Anderson said. "And frankly, that's not my problem."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

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