published Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Recall effort rallying point for 3 groups


by Cliff Hightower

They bonded together as they held protest signs, sitting inside City Council chambers while council members night after night tried to chart a course for the city’s financial future.

Four men, three organizations and common goals: Recall Mayor Ron Littlefield, change city government and impact local politics.

“Historical events are not planned,” said Mark West, president of the Chattanooga Tea Party. “They just occur.”

The three organizations — the Chattanooga Tea Party, Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield and Chattanooga Organized for Action — made history a week and a half ago by forcing a recall of Littlefield.

All three groups are more or less new on the Chattanooga political scene. West helped found the Chattanooga Tea Party last year as the movement found a face during nationally televised town hall meetings on health care reform.

Jim Folkner, a local businessman, said he started Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield in May after the idea sparked in his mind late last year.

Chris Brooks created Chattanooga Organized for Action about five months ago from a hodge-podge of liberals and conservatives outraged over a March shooting in Coolidge Park that injured five teens.

A fourth leader of the recall organizers, Charlie Wysong, is an anti-abortion activist who said he became involved because of the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

MAYOR STRIKES BACK

On Aug. 27, the recall movement garnered enough signatures to force a recall election. Littlefield remained silent, letting some pieces fall into place.

Then Tuesday, the mayor issued a five-page letter blasting the recall effort and the people involved.

He erupted at three of the four leaders, calling them a “noisy and negative fringe group” and called West a “multimillionaire complete with a posh mansion and healthy real estate portfolio.”

The mayor said Wysong was a “perennial publicity-seeking street preacher” and Brooks a young man who supported himself by donating plasma and “arrogantly” says he doesn’t want to be a “wage slave at Walmart.”

“The rest of the small group of instigators are chronic grumblers and complainers well known to this administration and others dating back many years,” Littlefield’s letter said.

HOW IT BEGAN

The four dismiss those claims, saying they want to talk about substance, not engage in personal attacks.

Folkner said the whole idea of a recall came to him almost a year ago. He saw the City Council debate raising homeowner fees on water quality, or stormwater, a move they eventually approved, hiking the fees from $36 to $115.20 per year.

Since then, he has seen bad things balloon, he said. Gang violence has escalated over the months, he said. The council began debating a 33 percent property tax hike and eventually adopted a 19 percent increase.

“We really have a problem in Chattanooga,” he said.

Others in the group heard questions raised about the city attorney’s billing practices as well as long-standing questions about how the city bought the old Farmer’s Market.

So, in May, Folkner started his recall petition.

He met Brooks and West at City Council meetings. He went to two Chattanooga Tea Party events and pleaded his cause.

West said the party found a local political movement they could wrap their hands around.

Then members of Brooks’ Chattanooga Organized for Action voted to join the recall.

Within weeks, they hit the streets. Tea Party members went door to door at residential houses. Chattanooga Organized for Action members went to apartments.

They collected more than 15,000 signatures on petitions. The Hamilton County Election Commission determined that more than 9,000 were valid, enough to get a recall election placed on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

West said the Chattanooga Tea Party will continue keeping an eye on local politics. It already is looking at responding to school board members who receive retirement benefits, he said.

Brooks said his group also will continue as a public watchdog.

“This has already been a huge success,” he said.

Wysong said he visited the City Council on Tuesday night and saw a stark difference. He saw a body more subdued, he said.

Folkner said voters of Chattanooga now know there is a way to get things changed.

“The recall gives people hope,” he said.

“It was different,” he said. “It was changed.”

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: Judge says petitioners can join recall lawsuit

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fairmon said...

Many citizens that are not members of any of the groups gathered signatures from neighbors and friends and forwarded them to any available group. The challenge was not getting signatures but getting a petition in the hands of citizens anxious to react to mismanagement and higher taxes. People are fed up with politics as usual. I do hope voters remember that the mayor has to have council approval to raise property taxes, sewer fees and the other recent increases. They approve spending money on a variety of nonessential activities. They approve the city owning businesses that pay no taxes and compete with privately owned businesses.

One economics genius on the council supports spending money for additional slips at Ross's landing because it would generate sales tax revenue for the city. What if Ross's landing were privately owned and paid sales tax, property taxes, sewer and storm water fees plus other government imposed cost like privately owned marinas? With maintenance cost what would be the actual return on this investment to tax payers? I suspect some members may be willing to "nationalize" all businesses in the city. They could consult with Chafes of Venezuela. I admit I need help understanding how it is the best option for tax payers that the city own The Chattanoogan hotel, a pharmacy and other businesses plus significant real estate.

The next council race be sure people capable of running a business and willing to make difficult decisions that reduces spending without slowing progress are elected. Yes, it can be done.

September 5, 2010 at 1:42 a.m.
slr3 said...

I agree with you 100% harp3339. I heard the City owns 3 golf courses. Councilwoman Scott suggested that they sell one of these courses to private business in order to balance the budget rather than raising our property taxes by 19%. A good move in my opinion- why not sell all three courses and get out of the golf business???

At the next election remember the council members who voted to approve the 19% property tax increase and let's fire them. They are LADD , ROBINSON,BERZ,RICO and BENSON.

The council members who voted against the Mayor's 19% increase in property taxes are MURPHY,SCOTT,McGARY and GILBERT. We should reelect them.

September 5, 2010 at 6:13 a.m.
locked99xj said...

Hopefully this thing will be wrapped up next week and Chattanooga will be looking for its next mayor. A mayor for the people, who will hear their voice. A mayor who will see many of the Chattanoogans who are struggling and work with them instead of against them. A mayor who in humility will make decisions, for the people instead of for HIS policies. We can hope that we will have a mayor who works for us instead of thinking that WE THE PEOPLE work for him. We can hope for a mayor who does not easily "fly off the handle" and fling personal attacks whenever his emotions prompt him to do so.

Let's hope that Judge Hollingsworth will hear our voice in the 15,000 votes that were submitted. When it comes to state law or city council standards, it is very clear that the city laws prevail and that 9,000 signatures does in fact recall the mayor. But instead of Littlefield listening to the voice of the people, he once again, ignores us. Despite the fact that he has been defeated, he is still fighting on the small technicalities with the hopes that he will be able to stay in office. This again paints a true picture of who this man really is.

You have been fired Littlefield. For once put the people of Chattanooga before yourself, and give up, you have been defeated. Quit ignoring our voice, the people you work for, and quit driving the city of Chattanooga into the ground.

September 5, 2010 at 11:52 a.m.
tobiah said...

After beating the streets, 12 hours a day, getting burnt in the hot sun and surviving on pure dedication to justice, I can say that I am proud to live in Chattanooga. We have recalled our Mayor, and the people have spoken. We can go from being one of the most corrupt towns in the South to setting a precedence for community involvement and holding our public officials accountable. A great example of what passion for progress and dedication to the future generations looks like in action.

Already towns like Sale Creek are following our example and throwing off governments that don't represent them. My greatest hope is that we can energize the political atmosphere to a point where people once again, not just believe, but know that their voice matters. To know they have a say in politics.

September 6, 2010 at 12:12 a.m.
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