published Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Mayor proposes consolidated city, county government


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Oct. 6, 2009 City Council Meeting, Part 2

Audio clip

Oct. 6, 2009 City Council Meeting, Part 1

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday he would suspend annexation of residential areas if the county "comes to the table" to talk about consolidation of city and Hamilton County government.

"We need to simplify, and I hope the county would join us," Mr. Littlefield said.

Mr. Littlefield made his remarks at the end of the regularly scheduled business meeting for the City Council. After the meeting, when asked if that just meant certain parts of government need to be consolidated, he said he meant a complete unification of city and county government and services.

"All of it," he said.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Chattanooga City Council and Hamilton County Commission will have to approve similar resolutions setting up a charter study commission to look at unified government. In the meantime, Mayor Ron Littlefield said annexations would continue on commercial areas in Summit and along Highway 58.

HOW THEY VOTED

The Chattanooga City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday night to annex areas along Hunter Road, Relocation Way, a strip north of Interstate 75, Old Lee Highway near Green Shanty Road and a revised section of Summit. Councilman Russell Gilbert voted against all proposals. Councilwoman Carol Berz was absent.

AREAS AFFECTED

Residential areas that would be suspended from annexation include:

* Hurricane Creek

* Stonewall Farms

* Windstone

County Mayor Claude Ramsey and County Commission Chairman Curtis Adams could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Mr. Littlefield said he would continue with commercial annexation of areas in the Summit area, along Highway 58 and small parcels in North Hixson. He told council members it was time for them to "take a deep breath" and move forward toward consolidated government.

Earlier in the meeting, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the County Commission to follow state law and create tax districts for fire service in an attempt to make taxation more fair and equitable among city and county taxpayers. The council also voted to annex several areas in the vicinity of Summit and Interstate 75.

Council Chairman Jack Benson said after the meeting he thought it was a good strategy on the part of the mayor.

"I think it's a beginning," he said. "We'll see how much groundswell we have. It at least brings us to the table."

During the meeting, Mr. Benson asked the mayor if he was talking specifically about "metro government."

Mr. Littlefield replied he was talking about a complete consolidation or unification of services.

"Call it what you will," Mr. Littlefield replied.

Councilman Manny Rico said after the meeting he thought a consolidated government would be the best for everyone, including those being annexed.

"That's the way to go," he said. "People would rather see metro government than going the way we've been going."

Mr. Littlefield said he wanted to start setting up meetings between the County Commission and the City Council to start talks on consolidated government. He stressed Tuesday he only is "suspending" annexations.

"We might pick up the process very quickly if it appears that the county is not interested," he said.

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namvet047 said...

i think consolidation is a wonderful idea. Chattanooga will be moving forward and not backward.

October 7, 2009 at 6:02 a.m.
Scott_Dawg said...

I would support a consolidated government with the following conditions: 1) NONE of the current city or county executives (Mayor, County Commissioners, City Council, etc) would be in the new government. 2) All elected positions would be subject to a 2 term limit. 3) Eliminte all City/County taxes and go to a flat sales tax for income with NO EXCEPTIONS (everything is subject to the tax). EVERYBODY pays it.

October 7, 2009 at 8:16 a.m.
jabbo77 said...

I agree! A consolidated system would benefit everybody all around.

October 7, 2009 at 8:26 a.m.
Oz said...

How much money has a consolidated school system saved us? Why would it be any different with the rest of the government?

October 7, 2009 at 9:16 a.m.
stewartpb said...

What factual basis does anyone have that favors a consolidated government or annexation?

I believe this is just a strategical move by Littlefield and his midgets to distract and confuse from their annexation efforts that are meeting organized opposition. The annexation opposition presents organized and well-thought out positions that the City cannot counter so they use a smoke and mirrors, divide and conquer and confusion to respond. No one at the City has presented any logical argument suporting annexation nor have they presented any financial data that supports it. The sole driving force behind this appears to be increased federal "welfare" for the City at a significant cost to both the existing City residents and those that would become residents via annexation/consolidation. It will cost us all more in taxes and City Police and Fire services that are inadequate now will only get worse.

Its shameful that the Mayor and city Council won't just be honest with us all and tell us why annexationa is so important to them. I can respect someone with a different viewpoint and arguments as long as they are honest and not contrived. And I'm struggling to respect any of the City's current elected body.

October 7, 2009 at 9:56 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

I believe I speak for the vast majority of people in Hamilton County's smaller municipalities when I say NO WAY to metro government!

We don't want Chattanooga's problems and we don't want Chattanooga's taxes. If we did, we would live in Chattanooga.

Let's say you live in Walden and are insane enough to go along with the idea of metro government. Which of the following two scenarios do you think is more likely?

(a) the combined tax rate (metro including what was formerly city and county) for Chattanooga decreases to what it used to be for Walden

(b) the combined tax rate for Walden increases to what it used to be for Chattanooga

If you picked (b) go to the head of the class. Metro government will mean higher taxes for everyone. It will also mean that residents of the smaller communities will be "lost in the shuffle" and will effectively have no voice with local officials, who will focus their attention (and our money) on Chattanooga, where the bulk of the votes are.

As Oz pointed out above, how's that school consolidation working out for you? We were promised big savings, but instead expenditures - and taxes - have continued to rise with little to no improvement in student achievement.

I will oppose metro government with every bone in my body. And if it ever passes ... Sequatchie here I come.

October 7, 2009 at 9:59 a.m.
Sailorman said...

The relentless expansion of government and its intrusion into our daily lives isn't restricted to the Feds.

October 7, 2009 at 10:12 a.m.
Salsa said...

This one is easy for you Littlefield. Dissolve the city charter and then there will only be one government. It will a win-win for the citizens since you will be gone.

October 7, 2009 at 10:59 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

Hey Salsa, what a great idea! What does the city of Chattanooga provide for its citizens' tax dollars anyway? Looks to me like the fire department is about it....

Chattanooga got out of the school business 12 years ago, so no one needs the city for that.

Policing could be provided by the Sheriff's office, probably far more efficiently than the city currently does it.

Street maintenance? Are you kidding? Chattanooga would rather install useless brick intersections (that tear up cars) downtown than fix some of the terribly undermaintained streets elsewhere in the city. And don't even get me started on Van Winkle's fetish with roundabouts. Might as well turn street maintenance over to the county, too.

Oh, wait, somebody has to build "Homeless Hiltons" and provide "Public Art." Not to mention provide cushy jobs for patronage employees like the six-figure "Director of Arts and Culture" who just happens to be the child of a former state senator. THAT's why we need Chattanooga city government. (Not!)

I'm with you, Salsa. Instead of pushing for metro government, Littlefield should just ask his rubber-stamp city council to dissolve the city government and eliminate their own jobs. They could do no bigger favor for the citizens.

October 7, 2009 at 12:06 p.m.
Sailorman said...

Salsa and MountainJoe - you can add my vote.

October 7, 2009 at 3:31 p.m.
dryan said...

I can agree with the idea of going Metro if we limit the new government to two terms and impose a one election cycle moratorium on any of the current officials serving in that government.

October 7, 2009 at 3:43 p.m.
CountyResident said...

Consolidated government is far past due in Chatt. I live in an area proposed for annexation. Structured correctly and with a larger base of councilmen/commissioners maybe Hamilton County could really move forward.

Possibly we could be rid of some of the elected knotheads that we have and find people with some real intelligence to serve.

All one has to do is listen to the fractured grammar, antiquated positions or look at some underlying political beholdings to know that we've got really bad leadership in both governmental groups. Possibly consolidation would attract some reasonable intelligence.

October 7, 2009 at 5:15 p.m.
chattwatcher said...

Beware. Littlefield and Benson are snakes. This is a diversion tactic because they know their annexation scam can't pay for itself. The city is bankrupt and Litt/Ben want county residents to bail them out. For the record, Ham County Govt has been a great service provider to those outside Littlefield's disaster area. Thanks Ham County. I hope you prevail and I'll gladly pay more tax $$ to keep my future in the county's hands, not the greasy paws of Benson and Littlefield.

October 7, 2009 at 5:20 p.m.
Sailorman said...

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said she had received a number of calls from city residents upset that they were being taxed to cover some costs of county fire services and got no benefit from it.

She said, "I don't have a good answer for that."

Councilwoman Sally Robinson said, "We hear over and over that people in areas to be annexed have the services they want. Now we have begun to realize it's because our city taxpayers are helping to provide it."

Is there any truth to this?

October 7, 2009 at 8:58 p.m.
chad77 said...

The last time I checked the volunteer fire departments were subscription based. That means most all of their funds come from the people they protect. Very few come from Hamilton County as a whole, like less than 10%. The city of Chattanooga wants to talk about unfair taxes; how much federal funding has the fire, police, and parks received from federal grants, which is all of our money. Let’s talk about subsidizing! I have heard people saying, “Well they use our parks”. Well, every time I have used YOUR parks, I have used YOUR restaurants. I paid YOUR taxes and YOUR parking fees. From now on, I will shop, eat, and go to parks in Collegedale. By the way, everyone is welcome to use our (Collegedale) parks. Also, our roads are pot hole free and crime is at a very minimum. It was none of my business, until YOUR mayor brought up metro government. I do not want metro or consolidation. It will only cost me more money for fewer services in my community. When the city of Chattanooga got rid of the ambulance, 911 center, or schools did they ever lessen YOUR property tax? YOU need to ask WHY! But they have great art!!! lol

October 7, 2009 at 11:01 p.m.
Anony said...

Chattanooga is the county seat. The vast majority of county residents rely on city services. However, I imagine a few county residents never make it into the city.

The county seat needs voters. We do not want Hamilton County and Chattanooga to end up like Shelby County and Memphis. Good governance requires active participation and any look at the statistics from the Election Commission shows that county residents turn out to vote more often than City voters.

This conversation (about metro government) needs to look to Memphis and Nashville and the results of adopting or refusing countywide government. We are at a fork in the road. As for me, the leaders coming from Nashville have proven to be far more competent than the Herentons and Fords from Memphis.

October 7, 2009 at 11:10 p.m.
tnvret said...

First of all to Salsa and MountainJoe - great comments.

Secondly, and far less charitably, can some of you be that stupid and still breathe?

"Councilwoman Deborah Scott said she had received a number of calls from city residents upset that they were being taxed to cover some costs of county fire services and got no benefit from it." "Councilwoman Sally Robinson said, 'We hear over and over that people in areas to be annexed have the services they want. Now we have begun to realize it's because our city taxpayers are helping to provide it.'"

We pay a yearly subscription fee for fire service in the county (http://www.tricommunityfire.com); you don't sign up, you have no fire protection. We pay for garbage collection. There are at least three companies that provide collection in my neighborhood. Those two items come to a whopping $340 per year. Less a third of what city property tax would add. Oh, that other great benefit - water and sewer. Eastside Utility District does just fine to the tune of $15 to 20 per month - we have septic tanks. That sewer service adds just a bit to your bill; doesn't it? So the city subsidizes exactly what, and could provide me exactly what but at extra cost? Yes, we have the services we want, but not because somebody else pays for them.

OK, we use you roads. Wow. We pay your city sales tax, too. For that you have no obligation to us because we have no say in city matters. On the other hand city residents are also county residents and do have a say in county matters. MountainJoe, I promise not to even get started on Rip Van Winkle, but I suspect our thoughts would lead to similar acts of mayhem. You fools did get rid of Walter Williams and for a while Ron Littlefield, but you got stupid and brought Ron back.

Metro? Absolutely NOT. You want to be a part of the county for real; dissolve the city. You abdicated with respect to the schools; finish the job. We want less government - not more, so leave the county residents alone.

October 8, 2009 at 11:30 p.m.
chad77 said...

To tnvret: Your comment "We pay a yearly subscription fee for fire service in the county (http://www.tricommunityfire.com); you don't sign up, you have no fire protection." is not true. If you do not pay the yearly fee, the Tri-Community Fire Dept. still respond and provides the same service as if you do subscribe. The difference is if you do not pay the yearly subscription you will be billed for the response.

October 11, 2009 at 11:40 p.m.
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