published Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Chattanooga City Council delays initiative amendment

by Cliff Hightower
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The City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday night to defer a November referendum possibly changing how citizens can petition for initiatives.

The deferral effectively kills it for the November ballot.

"It could go on the ballot in March," City Attorney Mike McMahan said after the council meeting.

Councilmen Russell Gilbert, AndraƩ McGary and Peter Murphy all voted no.

The council is in the midst of discussing whether citizen initiatives, a way to change the City Charter without going through the City Council, should be the same standard as the state's standards. Initiatives fall under the same section in the city charter as recall measures.

The Rev. Leroy Griffith, a member of the Westside Neighborhood Association, who is pushing an initiative for November on fair housing said he was pleased to see initiatives would not be on the ballot with recalls.

"The City Council has begun to see the issue is bigger than Westside," he said. "This is a victory for all citizens."

State standards call for 15 percent of all registered city voters, while the City Charter calls for 25 percent of those who voted in the last mayoral election, a significantly smaller number.

The council voted almost a month ago to put a referendum on the ballot that would change recall petitions to the same number as the state's rules.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals is expected to issue an opinion next week on whether the city charter was valid in setting the number of signatures for petitions.

In other news, the council also approved expanding a restricted parking area in the Fort Wood neighborhood. The new zone would require those who live in the neighborhood to have placards and also would allow a one-hour grace period.

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