published Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Chattanooga City Council rebukes 2 on gay issue

Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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OTHER COUNCIL BUSINESS

On Tuesday, the City Council:

• Voted unanimously to approve the updates to the special gathering permit closing loopholes on event halls near where several people have been killed.

• Voted unanimously to approve the city's 2014 capital budget.

• Voted unanimously on the first reading of an ordinance to authorize city officials to pay refunds worth $1,000 or more to residents without the City Council's approval. About 300 residents each year are given some kind of refund on taxes, and City Council was required to approve the refunds for more than $1,000.

A Chattanooga man and his son were ordered to sit down during a City Council meeting after they referred to gay rights as sodomy and called a councilman's plans for same-sex benefits "evil and wicked."

"If this council entertains the evil, wicked ideas of Chris Anderson ...," local preacher and activist Charlie Wysong began Tuesday night.

"You're finished sir, you are finished right now," Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem interrupted, his voice bellowing across City Hall. "Shame on you."

Wysong and his son, Daniel, went before the council Tuesday night to protest Anderson's recent announcement that he will introduce legislation offering benefits to same-sex partners. But instead of talking about the legislation father and son attacked gay rights, spewing out numbers on pedophiles and AIDS.

Both were warned several times to adjust their language based on the guidelines within the city, but they argued with the council and ignored the warnings. Afterward, Charlie Wysong told Hakeem: "I think you shut free speech down."

But Hakeem and other council members said they can't tolerate language that is demeaning and derogatory in City Hall and that attacks a council member. And Hakeem said he also hopes this sends a clear message to the community.

"I have no problem with people expressing their faith, but if you express it in a way that denigrates others I don't feel like this is an appropriate venue for that," Hakeem said. "I would hope this would be a deterrent from persons coming forward with that [message]."

Councilman Moses Freeman said he agreed with Hakeem's actions, adding: "We don't have to tolerate anybody attacking anyone in the City Council. I don't think Christ would do that."

TECH HUB

Before the Wysongs stood before the council, city officials also approved multiple resolutions and passed an ordinance that gave Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke the green light to pursue a technology fellowship.

Chattanooga has been chosen as a finalist to enter a fellowship with Code for America, an 11-month project that pairs city government with the country's top developers and designers. If the city is chosen, these developers will work with the city and private companies to develop open source Web apps for city services.

"We're trying to make city government more open for constituents," Berke said. "[We're] changing our culture to be more innovative in serving Chattanoogans."

So far Berke's staff has raised $480,000 -- $180,000 from the city's 2014 budget, $120,000 from the Lyndhurst Foundation and $130,000 from the Benwood Foundation and other smaller donations.

Code for America will announce the winner out of 10 cities in October. And Berke said he is optimistic the city will win, but said the donations from the foundations are only to be used if Chattanooga wins.

"We feel very good about our chances," he said. "Chattanooga has an ever growing presence in the technology world."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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