The City Commission in Etowah, Tenn., approved an ordinance banning pit bulls by a 3-2 vote at its meeting Monday night, despite a campaign by pit bull owners against the measure, according to the Chattanooga TFP. The ordinance, which the City Commission already approved once in a first reading, singles out pit bulls as a particularly dangerous breed with a strong fighting and chase instinct. Some of the characteristics that make them dangerous, according to the ordinance, include a diminished tendency to warn they’re going to attack, a tendency to “fight to the death” and to tear flesh “which has resulted in grotesque injuries to human victims.”
…Under the ordinance, City Code Enforcement Officer Dave Mason said, “Any new dogs coming in are banned.”
The ordinance grandfathers-in existing pit bulls. But owners would have to take a variety of steps, including registering animals with identifying photos, posting “beware of dog” signs, obtaining $100,000 in liability insurance, keeping the dogs muzzled on short leashes when outside of the home and keeping them confined indoors or in a locked pen or kennel at home.
Under the ban, any puppies born to registered dogs would have to be removed from city limits within six weeks.
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.
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.
A street preacher has emerged victorious in his battle against a Maryville ordinance requiring he and fellow proselytizers apply for a permit to spread their message, reports the News Sentinel. In an opinion released late Tuesday, the Tennessee Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional a Maryville ordinance that makes it “unlawful for any club, organization or similar group to hold any meeting, parade, demonstration or exhibition on public streets without some responsible representative first securing a permit.”
“We fully acknowledge Maryville’s legitimate interest in preserving order and safety on its streets,” the court opined in a decision delivered by Appellate Judge D. Michael Swiney. “Nothing in this opinion diminishes the right of municipalities to protect people on roadways. However, the particular measure at issue in this case fails to pass constitutional muster as it is vague, overly broad and affords too much discretion to the officials charged with issuing permits.”
The case began in November 2008 when street preacher Wallace Scott Langford, his adult stepson and his stepson’s friend “were screaming and shouting at passing motorists” their gospel message at one of Maryville’s busiest intersections — U.S. Highway 321 and Broadway, the opinion stated.
A video showed the trio “were holding signs and that, at times, the two adults other than (Langford) were passing back and forth through the crosswalk to and from the median,” the opinion noted. Langford was positioned at the Maryville Municipal Building at the same intersection.
Maryville Police Department officers asked the trio to leave, but they refused. Langford was then cited for failing to secure a permit to demonstrate. Langford was ultimately convicted, and attorney William Gribble appealed on his behalf.
Maryville attorneys argued it wasn’t the preaching that was an issue but the dangerousness of doing so at one of the city’s busiest intersections and contended the ordinance requiring a permit was constitutionally sound.
In its ruling, the appellate court agreed the ordinance and the enforcement of it was not targeted at street preaching. However, the court opined the ordinance cast too wide a net to pass constitutional muster.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has written a letter to the state Senate, urging lawmakers to reverse their reversal of Metro’s nondiscrimination ordinance, reports Chas Sisk. In a one-page letter given to members of the Senate State & Local Government Committee last week, Dean says he supports Senate Bill 2762. That bill would let Metro reinstate a nondiscrimination ordinance that the city passed last April but the legislature quickly nullified in May.
“That local ordinance prohibited Metro Government contractors from discriminating in their employment practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Dean wrote. “I believe it was an important expression of the fact that Nashville is an open, welcoming place that does not tolerate discrimination, and I was proud to sign it into law.
“A number of cities throughout the country have passed local ordinances similar to Nashville’s. Such ordinances represent the decisions of locally elected government bodies, and I believe they deserve the respect of the state legislature. Now is not the time to abandon our belief in local government.”
The letter once again put the mayor on the record in favor of the Metro nondiscrimination law. But it’s not likely to do a whole lot else. Note: A vote on the bill was postponed last week after Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said he was undecided and asked the sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, for more time to think about it… leading proponents of repeal more optimistic than before. Still, as Chas says, a Republican reversal is rather unlikely.
Jeff Woods has been “dipping his beak” into the pile of correspondence released by three Republican state legislators in connection with a lawsuit challenging a bill that repeals a Nashville anti-discrimination ordinance.
He highlights an email to Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, from David Fowler, lobbyists for the Family Action Council of Tennessee. Fowler shockingly treats Beavers like a puppet on a string (does the Christian fundamentalist lobby really hold such power in Nashville?) and instructs her precisely what to say about the Tennessee Family Action Council’s bill. He obviously views Beavers as not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but useful just the same as his bill’s sponsor.
“The bill itself is not that complicated,” Fowler writes. “We don’t need more regulation of business and business sure doesn’t need the 348 different cities coming up with their own ideas of what a discriminatory practice is. That’s the line and you just repeat it like Glen Casada did last night when the bill passed the House 73 to 24.”
“Will the homosexuals be upset?” Fowler then asks. “Sure. But to be honest, they seem to be rather resigned on this bill.”
…. It’s not clear whether any of this will help the plaintiffs in the gay rights lawsuit. They need to prove that lawmakers adopted their law, not for their stated purpose of preventing burdensome new business regulations, but because of bias against gay people.
Fowler’s email can be read either way. The bill stops confusing business regulations–“that’s the line” he wants Beavers to recite. It’s certainly Fowler’s script. It may (or may not) be subterfuge.
The emails in Beavers’ file show a lot of people obsessed with gay bashing, but there’s no smoking gun.
A Nashville judge is considering whether to order a conservative lobbying group to turn over records of a secret strategy session that preceded the Legislature’s vote to overturn a Nashville anti-discrimination ordinance, the Tennessean reports. Attorney Abby Rubenfeld, who represents a coalition of council members, gay rights activists and others suing the state, said the lawsuit seeks to prove the law “was based on a desire to harm a politically unpopular group.”
Among other things, the plaintiffs are interested in records of a private strategy session in January attended by state representatives Glen Casada and Jim Gotto and a few dozen other conservatives, including Family Action Council of Tennessee leaders like businessmen Lee Beaman, Stan Hardaway and William Morgan.
Morgan wrote in an invitation to the strategy meeting that requiring all businesses in Davidson County to adopt similar nondiscrimination policies would be “the next item on the homosexual agenda if this (contractor ordinance) passes.”
“We want their communications with state legislators,” Rubenfeld said. “You can’t have government secrecy. That’s against everything this country stands for. We have transparency. We’re supposed to know what our legislators do.”
But Byron Babione, an attorney with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the Family Action Council, said the group’s communications are protected by the First Amendment.
“My clients make no apologies for being involved in the political process,” Babione said. “They have a right to petition their government. … The communications my clients had with fellow Tennesseans, with legislators, aren’t relevant to how the entire legislature voted. Our position is that our political opponents are not entitled to our playbook.”
The Family Action Council asked the court to quash the plaintiffs’ subpoenas of its officials. Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said she would take the issue under advisement.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lawmakers trying to quash subpoenas seeking information that might reveal details about why they voted for a measure that overturned Nashville’s anti-discrimination ordinance have released 2,200 documents, but plaintiffs’ attorneys said Monday they aren’t satisfied.
Counsel for Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Reps. Jim Gotto of Hermitage and Glen Casada of Franklin told Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy that their Republican clients don’t have any more documents to provide.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are looking for communication the lawmakers may have had with lobbyists. The measure was signed into law earlier this year and has been adamantly opposed by several large companies.
The law prohibits local governments from creating anti-discrimination regulations that are stricter than the state’s. It repealed a Nashville city ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city. Nashville’s ordinance was broader than the state’s anti-discrimination laws, which cover only race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include three Nashville councilmembers who supported the ordinance and Lisa Howe, a former Belmont University soccer coach whose departure from the private Christian university led to the city’s ordinance that passed in April. Players at Belmont said Howe was forced to leave because she came out to them with the news that her partner was having a baby.
Plaintiff attorney Abby Rubenfeld told reporters after Monday’s hearing that only about 10 documents are relevant to the case. She said the rest are mostly letters from constituents.
“We’re not trying to get their internal communications,” Rubenfeld said. “We want their communication as state legislators. They don’t have a right to lobby in secret.”
From now on, if Knox County employees do not report fraudulent, illegal or wasteful activity in their department or by their co-workers they will face disciplinary action, even termination, reports the News Sentinel. That’s according to an ordinance passed on second and final reading by the Knox County Commission at its Aug. 22 meeting and sponsored by Commission Chairman Mike Hammond.
“We’re not really trying to go on witch hunts,” Hammond said. “We want to make sure if an employee knows of this kind of activity going on, they have an obligation to report it.”
….Hammond said it was motivated by the actions of the late John Evans, former Solid Waste director who died in 2007, and Bruce Wuethrich, former director of Engineering and Public Works, who oversaw the Solid Waste Department during part of the time the county auditor presented a critical report to commission showing $500,000 in misused funds from 2003 to 2010. Neither Evans nor Wuethrich reported to the commission the questionable activities at the county’s mulch facilit.