published Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Chattanooga voters will decide Charter changes


by Cliff Hightower
Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ON THE BALLOT

Voters casting ballots in the city election can decide whether to support a number of changes to the City Charter. The ballot questions reads:

Shall Ordinance No. 12677 to amend the Charter of the City of Chattanooga be approved pursuant to Article XI, Section 9 of the Constitution of Tennessee (Home Rule Amendment) so as to delete archaic provisions, modernize its provisions, to conform to state laws of general application, and to generally to improve the Charter?

— For the amendment

— Against the amendment

ON THE WEB

The changes to the City Charter can be found at www.chattanooga.gov/city-council/agendasminutes-by-date/9-city-council/816-agendas-2012. The changes can be found in the agenda of the Dec. 11, 2012, City Council meeting.

EARLY VOTING

Early voting turnout has been very light with just over 800 people casting ballots by close of business on Thursday, according to the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Early voting will end Feb. 28.

Voters can cast ballots Monday through Saturday at the Election Commission, Northgate Mall and Brainerd Recreation Center.

Chattanooga residents are being asked to give up the idea of a city band or the authority to throw petty criminals in the workhouse.

You say Chattanooga doesn't have a city band or a workhouse now? That's the point, city officials say. They have placed a referendum on the March 5 ballot asking voters to update language in the City Charter.

But they haven't explained it well on the ballot, said Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, administrator for the Hamilton County Election Commission. Early voting for the Chattanooga mayor and City Council races began Wednesday and runs through Feb. 28.

Mullis-Morgan said the proposed charter amendment as written is "vague." She said more specific details about individual changes should have been included.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said the actual amendment could be no more than 200 words.

"I don't know how you would explicitly explain it," he said about the range of proposed changes.

Mullis-Morgan disagreed. She said the city could have printed a summary with as many words as needed as long as it fit on the ballot.

Tennessee law states that an amendment more than 300 words long should be condensed to a 200-word summary, McMahan said.

The ballot question is 53 words. There are about 26 proposed changes to charter language.

Besides eliminating a city band and workhouse, the proposed charter changes take out references to city judges' authority to levy criminal penalties. Those judges no longer handle criminal cases. The amendment also drops penalties for "Sabbath breaking" by means of disorderly assemblies, breaching the peace or creating a disturbance on Sundays.

McMahan said all the proposed changes are available online and will be printed soon.

"The last time we did a major change we printed the whole charter," he said.

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