published Friday, February 25th, 2011

East Ridge axes public meetings resolution


by Chris Carroll

OTHER BUSINESS

The East Ridge City Council decided to cancel a $325,000 purchase of 19 acres of foreclosed property on Ringgold Road.

Before Thursday night's East Ridge City Council meeting, Councilman Jim Bethune said he wanted to "terminate" a resolution that would have required residents at public meetings to submit all questions about "operational statements, finances, budgets or otherwise" in writing.

"I want it gone," he said.

That's what happened, but just barely.

Bethune seconded Vice Mayor Larry Sewell's motion to deny the resolution, and Councilman Denny Manning ensured a 3-2 margin to victory.

Mayor Brent Lambert and Councilman Darwin Branam were the two dissenting votes.

First proposed last December by former Mayor Mike Steele, the resolution insulted residents, who said Steele did not suggest it "for the good of the citizens of the city of East Ridge" as its language indicates.

Steele told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he supported the resolution partly "to prevent what happened this year," identifying by name "a few citizens who enjoy making the city manager and council look silly."

Last summer, some residents slammed the council for getting surprised by a six-figure budget deficit and being unable to identify a $265,000 expenditure cryptically described as "Special Project 3" when a mayoral candidate asked what it was.

The resolution would have allowed city officials two weeks to offer a response to residents with questions about the city's finances. It encouraged "proper decorum and civility," reminding all comers to "promptly return to their seat" after speaking to the council.

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