Tennessee state Rep. Timothy Hill remains committed to his legislation banning Bluff City’s speed enforcement cameras despite criticism from the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, reports Hank Hayes. “I’m disappointed with the name calling,” Hill, R-Blountville, said when asked for a response to that criticism occurring at a board meeting Thursday night. “That doesn’t advance any discussion. … I’m surprised that if the city is that concerned with my legislation — I figured they would be — I’m surprised they have not reached out to me at this point. I’ve never been invited to a BMA meeting. I have yet to have one of their aldermen reach out to me in any form or fashion to have a discussion on this.”
Bluff City aldermen warned that losing revenue from those speed cameras will hurt funding for various projects, including a Sullivan County-supported library in town.
The speed cameras, located on Highway 11-E are not in Bluff City’s downtown area and also catch motorists moving through business areas of the Piney Flats community.
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association was declared the functional equivalent of a state agency Friday and declared to be subject to the Tennessee Open Records Act, reports The City Paper. Responding to a lawsuit filed by The City Paper earlier this year, Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman granted the newspaper’s motion, agreeing that the TSSAA is the state’s de facto regulatory body for high school athletics and therefore subject to records requests.
As part of an investigation into recruiting violations at Montgomery Bell Academy, The City Paper requested documents from the TSSAA in January but was denied by the organization. The paper petitioned the court for access to the records in February.
The Memphis City Council on Tuesday approved a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes workplace protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, ending a debate that began in 2010, according to the Commercial Appeal. “City of Memphis employees will go to bed tonight and wake up in the morning to hear the news that their hard work will be respected and their ability to contribute to their community will be preserved,” said Jonathan Cole, vice president of the Tennessee Equality Project, one of the backers of the legislation. “It’s a new day in Memphis, Tennessee.”
The legislation sponsored by council members Lee Harris and Shea Flinn and approved in a 9-4 vote includes protections against discrimination for “sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ethnicity, national origin and disability.”
It applies only to employment by the city of Memphis, not private individuals or groups that may contract with the city.
Council members Flinn, Harris, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert, Reid Hedgepeth, Myron Lowery and Jim Strickland voted for the ordinance. Council members Bill Boyd, Joe Brown, Bill Morrison and Kemp Conrad voted against it.
EAST RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — A vote by the East Ridge City Council got the Viar family’s goat.
On a 3-1 vote with no discussion, the council on Thursday killed a proposal that would have made exceptions for pigmy goats and pot-bellied pigs in the city ordinance that bans farm animals.
Jeffrey Viar told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/Qp6C4R) his family would pack up their pigmy goat named Oreo and move.
East Ridge Animal Control Supervising Officer Jonathan Cooper urged the council to pass the exception. He argued the 40-pound black and white goat isn’t much different from medium-sized dogs.
Viar said he has been looking for the past few weeks and hopes to move just across the Georgia border so he can stay close to his mother and brother in East Ridge.
A state agency has awarded Washington County $300,000 in disaster relief for damage from last month’s floods, reports the Johnson City Press. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency funds would supplement a Federal Home Loan Bank grant for housing repairs not covered by insurance or other disaster relief programs. The funds would be used to serve households at or below 80 percent of area median income and would require a 50 percent personal match.
“All of Washington County has spoken with one voice about the need for disaster assistance in our area,” state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said in announcing the relief in a news release. “I appreciate THDA stepping up and bringing help to those in our community who faced flooding.
“This is a great first step and I will continue working with Mayor Eldridge and other leaders to make sure we receive the help we need.”
The funds were made available from the THDA Housing Trust Fund. The funds will either be administered from the county or another agency. A decision on that will be made later this week, according to Hill’s news release.
…The Federal Emergency Management Agency ruled that the area did not meet the criteria for aid despite significant damage to scores of homes and other properties in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties.
There was an $8.5 million threshold for the area to qualify for federal dollars to help residents rebuild what raging flood water swept away or destroyed. Affirmation would have cleared the way for residents to be reimbursed up to $30,000 for repairs.
The Memphis City Council has approved including sexual orientation in a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance, but delayed a final vote on the measure for 30 days, reports the Commercial Appeal. During the delay, legal experts will research whether the legislation would violate the city’s charter. City Councilman Lee Harris originally sponsored an ordinance to ban the city from discriminating against individuals based on “age, ethnicity, national origin and disability.”
Harris and councilman Shea Flinn amended the measure Tuesday to include sexual orientation in the list. That amendment was approved 7-5, but council members later voted to delay their final vote after the city attorney and the council’s attorney raised questions about the legality of the amendment and whether it would require a referendum.
Council attorney Allan Wade and City Atty. Herman Morris said Harris’ proposed ordinance could face legal challenges for overstepping the charter, which bans discrimination on “religion, race, sex, creed or political affiliation.”
“On the face of it, it would be an expansion of our charter and would require a charter amendment,” said Wade. “You pass this tonight and there will be a group of citizens that says, ‘This is something we should speak on,’ and we will be sued. There’s no doubt about that.”
Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris is pushing passage of a city ordinance that, as it stands, would declare the city cannot discriminate in hiring on the basis of race, age or gender, which is not very controversial. But Jackson Baker reports he’s also proposing an amendment that would add “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”
...And that’s where some resistance could arise, both on the Council and in the city. Harris said Sunday night he thought most of the organized opposition in the city — “90 percent” — emanates from Cordova and specifically from Bellevue Baptist Church, where pastor Steve Gaines and church members have mounted a campaign against the ordinance.
As for the population at large,l Harris doesn’t foresee much objection to the inclusion of the sexual categories, loosely characterized by the initials LGBT (for “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered/transsexual”). “We wouldn’t be doing anything radical. We wouldn’t even be moving ahead much. We’d just be catching up,” said Harris, who said most major American cities have already moved to extend workplace protection to people in those categories.
Nor does Harris believe such an ordinance would be in conflict with legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2011 that prohibits local jurisdictions from passing anti-discrimination provisions at variance with those ordained by state law. Harris, who consulted legal authorities in and out of city government, said he was assured that, so long as his ordinance confined itself to municipal government and did not apply to “third party”employers, it would pass muster.
But Harris said his decision on whether to include the sexual categories in his anti-discrimination ordinance will be based solely on a simple practical test: “Do we have the votes? That’s it, pure and simple.” The ordinance will need 7 of the Council’s 13 votes to prevail.
And Harris was explicit on the subject. There are five Council members who would definitely support the more inclusive version of the ordinance, Harris said…Two other Council members — Wanda Halbert and Ed Ford — Harris counts as undecided, the swing voters on the issue.
Finished with a sentence of six months’ home detention and two years’ probation that ended in 2010, former state Sen. Ward Crutchfield won’t answer one of the juiciest political questions in Chattanooga, reports Chris Carroll. Will he run for City Council in March?
“A lot of people would like to know,” the 83-year-old said with a reedy laugh at a local Democratic gathering last week. “I’m getting calls from all over.
“I’m not trying to be funny,” he said, “but that’s all I’m going to say about it right now.”
Two years removed from open-heart surgery, Crutchfield navigates salad bars instead of the steak dinners he enjoyed as a state senator. He’s the lingering ghost of a bygone era, a shadow of the cigar-chewing political bull he once was.
A try at resurrection would follow perhaps the most epic tumble in Chattanooga political history.
…Crutchfield’s still-active campaign account shows a balance of $145,809, according to disclosures filed in July. Officials said he could use the money in a City Council bid.
In the last four years, Crutchfield has donated $20,000 to various organizations and candidates, including $4,650 to the Hamilton County Democratic Party
…The qualifying deadline for City Council is Dec. 20.
“I’m doing well, feeling fine,” Crutchfield said. “You’ll hear a lot out of me later.”
Chris Anderson, a Chattanooga City Council candidate, publicly told the media Wednesday that he is gay, reports the Times-Free Press. “I’m not really coming out because I’ve been open for years,” he said.
Anderson, the first openly gay candidate to run for elected office in Chattanooga history, said he wants his campaign to be transparent and he wants the contest set for March 2013 to be honest. Anderson is running against current City Councilman Manny Rico.
He said he expects some amount of backlash due to his sexual preference.
“I’m sure there will be people to use it as such,” he said. “But I think the voters are smart enough to see through that.”
A federal judge has dismissed a $6 million class action lawsuit filed against Bluff City, its mayor and an Arizona-based traffic camera company regarding tickets issued from two speed-enforcement cameras on Highway 11-E, reports the Kingsport Times-News. Motorists Chris Cawood and Jonathan Kelly Proffitt filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in September 2011 naming Bluff City, Mayor Irene Wells and American Traffic Solutions as the defendants.
The lawsuit claimed Bluff City and ATS conspired to violate the Fair Debt Collections Act, state law and the city’s own ordinances by imposing an administrative fee of $40 on top of the $50 fine imposed for motorists allegedly captured on the city’s two speed-enforcement cameras on Highway 11-E.
Last month, Judge Ronnie Greer granted the motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In his opinion, Greer wrote that conspiracy has to be supported with enough factual allegations … that is plausible on its face.
“The only factual allegation regarding ATS is that ATS installed and maintained the cameras at issue,” Greer wrote, noting this is insufficient to establish a conspiracy.