This story was updated Tuesday, July 9, 2019, at 10:23 p.m. with more information.
The Chattanooga City Council has put a moratorium on dockless electric scooters and made a controversial appointment to the recently formed police oversight committee.
After Tuesday's meeting, scooters are now banned from Chattanooga for at least the next six months. The moratorium proposed by District 3 Councilman Ken Smith unanimously passed its second and final reading.
The decision was made after several months of debate on how to legislate the vehicles, amid controversy in Nashville and other cities where safety concerns have swelled around the scooter industry.
While scooter companies are barred from coming to Chattanooga in the next six months, the council has the right to pass legislation on scooters, meaning the moratorium could be lifted or scooters could be permanently banned within that time frame.
Two scooter companies — Lime and Bird — have presences in other Tennessee cities and have expressed interest in coming to Chattanooga.
"Tennessee is a proud home for Bird, and we very much look forward to the day we can bring our low-cost, fun transportation solution to Chattanooga in particular," Sam Reed, director of government partnerships at Bird, said in June. "We are engaged in regular conversations with Chattanooga officials and we hope to deepen those partnerships as the city looks to embrace e-scooters."
"We've already done extensive work on this and came within a heartbeat of passing [it] on second reading, but it didn't," District 7 Councilman Erskine Oglesby said at last week's meeting. "Maybe we could change it to 90 days so we can move forward and get this thing behind us."
Smith told Oglesby that an amendment could be proposed, but he would not support it.
No amendments were added to the ordinance at either reading.
Later in the meeting, District 1 Commissioner Chip Henderson appointed former police Sgt. Rick Mincy, who served on the Chattanooga Police Department for more than two decades before retiring in 2014, to the city's newly approved citizen oversight board, garnering pushback from council and community members.
"I don't see how appointing someone with connections to the police is what the purpose of this committee is, and I know at least one member of the committee who fears this will affect their work," District 5 Councilman Russell Gilbert said at the 1:30 p.m. strategic planning meeting.
After a similar plea from Gilbert at the voting meeting, Mincy's appointment was approved 7-2, with Gilbert and District 9 Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod voting against.
"Chip, I respect you and you have done a lot of good work for the city and I do appreciate that, but I think you have made a bad decision as a person today and I feel like I'm being used," Sylvester Harris, who was recently appointed to the board by District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd, told Henderson of his decision to appoint someone with ties to the department after the meeting. "You could have asked your pastor, your principal or so many other fine community members to serve."
Henderson said a lack of applicants for the role and a trust of Mincy in his community led to his decision.
"I tried to make a really thoughtful decision and I understand where people are coming from, but I believe [Mincy] will be able to use his expertise to really identify when there have been policing issues," Henderson said. "I got some input from community members and they thought he would be a good person to nominate I wanted to make sure we have someone who will take it seriously and show up and who is invested in the issue."
The council also moved to approve two contended rezoning projects: One in St. Elmo that would change three properties on Tennessee Avenue from C-2 commercial to UGC commercial and one on Clark Road in Northeast Chattanooga that would allow for a 234-unit apartment development and convenience store. The council also approved a resolution to conduct a study on the impact of combining city and county sewer services.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.