As he leaves office Monday, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield faces a final defeat, reports Andy Sher — his effort to persuade the state Legislature to toughen Tennessee’s anti-gang laws. The problem for Littlefield’s Gang Free School Zone Act is its costs for housing gang members expected to go to state prisons under its effects.
By year 10, legislative analysts project it would cost $2.3 million annually to imprison an estimated 77 criminal gang members under the proposed law’s three provisions.
In the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire, of Chattanooga, had an amendment that sought to provide funding for the bill in Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed annual spending plan. It failed for lack of a motion.
The official death knell for this legislative session is expected Monday afternoon when the bill is scheduled to come before the full Senate Finance Committee.
“They can still hear it, but basically I’m told they won’t take action on it this year because of the fiscal note. If I can count correctly, if it wasn’t for the fiscal note, it would pass,” Gardenhire said of the bill which received an enthusiastic bipartisan thumbs up in the Judiciary Committee and its House counterpart.
The mayors of three of the four largest cities in Tennessee say they support U.S. Attorney General Eric Hoder’s call for universial background checks for gun purchases, reports the News Sentinel. The exception is Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who didn’t take a “clear position” on the proposals when commenting via statement instead of interview. The four mayors differ on some other gun control proposals and only two – Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield – are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“That group was kind of a lightning rod,” (Knoxville Mayor Madeine) Rogero said. She’s the second recent Knoxville Mayor to eye the group with trepidation. Gov. Bill Haslam was a member as the city’s mayor, “then he pulled back,” Rogero said.
…Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was not available for interviews, but released a statement Thursday. Like Rogero, he’s not a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
….”It is clear that state law pre-empts any Metro action with regard to the regulation of guns,” Dean wrote. “Hopefully, as this issue is debated on the national level, consensus will be found to close loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to obtain weapons and attention will be given to mental health programs and laws.”
He wrote that “attitudes toward guns vary greatly,” but did not take a clear stance on high-capacity magazines, background checks or other legislation.
…”The key is the three words — against illegal guns,” Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton said.
Wharton wants stronger punishments for gun theft.
“I hope to have the legislature enhance the punishment for criminals who use stolen guns at the local level,” he said. “I want to seek increased bail for folks who are possessing stolen guns.”
…Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield also leaned on the power of the local office in gun control.
“It is our responsibility to engage the public in whatever fashion we can, to use the bully pulpit that we have,” he said.
Littlefield would like regulation expanded beyond just assault rifles and high capacity magazines.
“It’s time, and that has been underscored with more recent tragic events, for us to have a more general conversation,” he said, “of not just illegal guns, but the paraphernalia that has been contributing to illegal tragedies.
“I’m talking about bulletproof clothing, armor-piercing ammunition and large capacity magazines, all of those things which are not hunting-related
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a petition drive by groups trying to recall Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield failed to gather enough dated petitions to force an election and used the wrong process for the recall, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Littlefield attorney Tom Greenholtz said the legal team is satisfied with the opinion.
“It’s good after two years to have validation from the Court of Appeals,” he said.
Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, called the process a learning experience, but said the group will have to discuss whether to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. The next mayoral election is just six months away.
The appeals court ruling said the recall faction didn’t have enough dated petitions, and that it should have used a three-step process — a petition, a ballot question asking if voters wanted a recall and then a recall election.
But Folkner said the side found one victory in the decision. The appeals court said the City Charter’s requirement for fewer signatures on petitions than state law would mandate is valid.
For the second time, a judge has ruled to block the recall election of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollings-worth used his October 2010 decision to stop the recall effort as the basis for his ruling Friday that it should not continue.
In the previous ruling, Hollingsworth said state law trumped the City Charter, so the 9,000 petition signatures gathered by recall groups — enough signatures under city law — weren’t enough under Tennessee law, which says more than 15,000 are needed.
An appeal was filed by Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, one of the groups behind the recall effort, and the Tennessee Court of Appeals overturned Hollingsworth’s decision. The appeals court said the judge jumped the gun and should have given the Hamilton County Election Commission a chance to certify the petitions.
Speaking to a packed courtroom Friday, Hollings-worth said the appeals court never said he made the wrong determination.
“They said I was premature in my decision,” he said. “Other than that, we don’t know what they were thinking.”
But he said the process being used by the election commission for the election was “illegal” and added that the recall “will not be on the ballot” on Aug. 2.
The Hamilton County Election Commission plans to bill the city of Chattanooga for the legal fees resulting from Mayor Ron Littlefield’s recall challenge, according to the Times-Free Press. The commission, which is funded by the county, has racked up at least $9,000 in legal bills since Littlefield filed suit in April to stop the commission from certifying recall petitions and related court action.
“I think the city whose charter has caused this problem should reimburse the citizens of Hamilton County,” Chairman Mike Walden said Wednesday during an election commission meeting. “The citizens of Hamilton County shouldn’t be paying for the actions of City Council.”
Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth is expected to issue an order today delaying a hearing on the recall of Mayor Ron Littlefield just as candidates can begin picking up qualifying petitions, according to the Chattanooga TFP. The delay was prompted by a new lawsuit in which the Hamilton County Election Commission is challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s recall statute.
“We need to resolve those issues,” Hollingsworth said.
Election commission attorney Chris Clem said Thursday he would like to see the recall statute thrown out and revamped because it specifically excepts Nashville/Davidson County.
Tennessee’s Constitution says that laws must apply equally across the state. The recall statute doesn’t, Clem said.
The state attorney general has 30 days to reply to the suit.
That moves the recall hearing, in which Littlefield is asking for a permanent injunction stopping the August election, to Feb. 10.
Qualifying opens today for people interested in running for mayor
Mayor Ron Littlefield is prepared to sue the Chattanooga City Council if it takes even the tiniest steps toward trying to oust him, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Hal North, Littlefield’s attorney, said Monday he has prepared paperwork to be filed and ask a Circuit Court judge to issue an injunction if the council makes any moves toward removing the mayor from office. “We would attempt to [stop] them before the meeting,” North said. “We like to deal with this at the front end.”
The City Council is expected to discuss today whether to hire an outside attorney to study the City Charter and tell council members if there is any language that would force them to pass a resolution removing Littlefield from office.
Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the council’s Legal and Legislative Committee, sent an email to other council members Friday, saying the issue should be discussed during his committee meeting.
He said Monday he had no intention of ousting the mayor tonight and would oppose such a move. “I would not vote for it,” he said. “I wouldn’t be ready to do that.”
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield’s detractors have won the latest round in their long-running bid for a recall election.
The Hamilton County Election Commission voted Thursday to certify recall petition signatures that have been the subject of a court fight.
Littlefield’s second and final term is scheduled to end in 2013. His office said in a statement that he is exploring all legal options.
The mayor contends the recall effort stems from him doing what had to be done when property taxes and storm water fees were increased.
Hamilton Election Commission administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan said there will be a mayoral election on the Aug. 2 ballot.
The action follows a state appeals court throwing out a judge’s ruling that said leaders of the recall effort failed to get enough voter signatures.
For $250, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield will set you up with a dinner and a movie, reports the Times-Free Press. And he’ll pay his recall debt while he’s at it. On Sept. 15, the mayor plans to hold a $250-per-person reception at the home of Capital Toyota dealer Bob McKamey to raise money for his ongoing legal battles with recallers. It’s all in an effort to pay off more than $50,000 in legal costs.
“I am not a wealthy person, but I do have a sense of responsibility to make sure that these costs are covered,” Littlefield wrote in a flier announcing the event.
The event will include the short 16-minute film, “Recall Fever,” produced by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Littlefield is shown prominently in the film, along with the mayors of Akron, Ohio, and Omaha, Neb.
…Jim Folkner, with the group Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, said he was a bit surprised when he first heard the mayor was holding a fundraising event.
“It mystifies me that anybody would want to give money to stop an election,” Folkner said.