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City of Clarksville updates – April 2nd, 2012
Posted By Bill Summers On Monday, April 2, 2012 @ 10:00 am In Politics | No Comments
Clarksville, TN – Here are some updates on issues being worked by the Clarksville City Council:
Liberty Park: The park boat ramps are open for use. You should start seeing sections of the new marina floating in the basin within a couple of weeks. The marina should be open the last week of May or first week of June. The Wilma Rudolph pavilion will open later this summer. No word yet on when the rest of the park will open, but it should not be that much longer.
It appears the city will need to spend almost another $960,000 to finish the park and get it open. About 45% of that amount will come from budget cuts out of city departments (see City Budget section below). The council had a closed door meeting with the city attorney at the Executive Session. While I cannot go into details due to city legal considerations, it is hoped we will recover this money.
The marina operator is also asking to spread out the reimbursement payments to the city for improvements we made previously to the marina for a future operator.
Last Monday (March 26th) was the final meeting for this term of the city charter update effort. Several issues of importance, which had been held until the last, were reviewed and one item was still not addressed at all. The committee did not support limiting mayoral voting to tie breaking. Although several examples where other forms of government do not allow the executive to vote at all or limits voting to breaking ties were presented, this was not enough to persuade the mayor or supporters that changes were needed.
The main argument for allowing the city mayoral position to continue voting was it is the only position that is elected by all of the people. While that is true, no one provided evidence as to how that should construe special executive or mayoral voting powers when dealing with legislative processes. There are several other weaknesses apparent with this argument.
First, all city council positions used to be at-large positions and their elimination and replacement was with ward representation. There is no evidence or logic that the demise of at-large positions, that used to be elected by all voters, suddenly transferred enhanced voting power or authority to the mayoral position in legislative processes. During the charter process, there was support for some at-large positions within the council makeup and any change or addition of even one at-large council position deals a fatal blow to the “elected by all” argument.
It is also interesting to note that the current sitting mayor was elected with 10,271 votes. The current sitting council was elected with 17,224. So it could be debated as to who better represents an “elected by all” approach.
Third, Tennessee state law (Tennessee Code Annotated) section 5-5-109(b)(1) allows the county mayor to vote only on ties. The county mayor is “elected by all” and the state seems to have no trouble or worry in establishing this stronger separation of powers and responsibilities. No one on the charter commission would state that the limited voting powers of the county mayor position makes that position less powerful or influential than the city mayor. It was interesting to note that Mayor Kim McMillan would cite how other government organizations would operate when she believed it benefited her arguments. However, when the situations were reversed and examples of how others government functions operate such as the county mayoral voting procedures were used as support to change the way Clarksville does business, then it really didn’t apply or matter.
Fourth, several commission members stated it was important to know how the mayor felt or supported issues that come before the city and taking away mayoral voting would infringe on their right to know. This argument is weak in that mayors can currently vote when they feel like it. Historic and current situations show the vast majority of the time a mayor will not vote so how do you know what they think on an issue, unless they publicly state so.
Evidence suggests the more controversial the issue, the less likely most mayors will vote due to political fallout. When a suggested change to the charter would require the mayor vote on every issue (so folks would know how the mayor felt about every issue) and do so in the same time period as the council and without seeing results as other council members voted, these same commission members would not support it. They did not think a mayor should be forced to vote. I am not sure how you can have it both ways.
This subject will come up again at this week’s council session.
As citizens know, there have been issues with where past council members claimed their home residence was and a current council member is facing accusations that he is also serving one ward and living in another. An effort to tighten the definition/requirement was brought up at the commission. The mayor is aware of the controversy and seems content that current definitions are adequate. It seems time ran out before the commission could take up this issue.
I would expect to see this topic at this week’s council session.
I had proposed that groups that make recommendations or proposals that impose their actions upon the citizens and businesses of Clarksville should be composed of citizens that live in Clarksville. Others that live outside the city could be added to these groups for knowledge or other expertise, but could not vote.
This drew some dissent from commission member Dr. Beauchamp. She stated, “I’m one of those, so I’m really offended by it.” The March 26th “The Leaf-Chronicle” story on this issue reported that Dr. Beauchamp lived in the county. According to areport and others, she actually lives in Springfield, TN.
She implied that, since her business was here, that made it okay to make or recommend policy that city residents would have to live by. I stated that if people vote here then they are entitled to make the rules. Dr. Beauchamp mentioned that she voted in Clarksville. That drew a few raised eyebrows from other commission members on how you can live outside the city and yet vote here. I’ll leave that for others to figure out.
My proposal failed on a voice vote. I may consider raising this issue again at the council meeting.
If you will recall from my March 25th city update, I mentioned that a large concrete and steel cross (over 500 pounds) had been erected at the intersection of Old Farmers and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway/Hwy76 (going towards Madison Street). A number of you had concerns over its size and material, fearing it was a danger to those who travel this road.
The state would not enforce the law against this. Channel 5 News picked up on this issue and did a news interview with the family, who had erected the cross in memory of a family member, and me. The family contacted me and said they would take down the cross and they have done so. I appreciate their action and understand the need to remember a loved one. The matter is now closed.
If you noticed in the Executive Agenda I sent last week, Ordinance 72 was listed as amending the general fund operating budget for the current year. This is a directed city department budget reduction of almost $2.3 million by the mayor. It would seem this would be a news worthy item, but I have failed to see any mention of it in local media. I may have missed it. Let me take you back to the city budget battle of 2011. If you refer back to emails I sent at the end of June 2011 (I know you keep them all J) you will see that I and others on the council had serious concerns with the Mayor Kim McMillan’s proposed city budget.
The mayor used one-time money, stripping money from the Capital Project Revenue District fund and borrowing $2.7 million (which was increased to $3 million by the August 2011 regular council session – Resolution 10-2011-2012) to make her budget balance. Based on this, I and other council members stated that at least $2 million needed to be cut from the budget to help potential financial problems and avoid having to borrow money just to make the budget balance.
Less than 90 days later, after the budget was approved and about 45 days after gaining council approval to borrow $3 million, the mayor (September 21st 2011, http://www.cityofclarksville.com/news.php?id=275 ) asked city departments for budget cuts up to 5% or almost $3.4 million.
The mayor’s press release stated, “The Mayor stressed that this action was not related to the current city budget”. The mayor also stated in that release, “The possible cuts are not actions that require City Council approval”. It would appear the mayor was incorrect on both counts as the proposed action last week to cut department budgets will affect the current budget and has been brought before us for approval. At this time, it is difficult for the council to assess how the current year city budget will end up and what the new budget will look like.
With these actions, the budget cuts that half the council believed were justified and needed last June 2011 will occur. However, the delay in needed budget actions and the “hands-off” approach the mayor used in wanting department heads to take the heat for the cuts has lead to one department taking the brunt of the reductions.
Under the mayor’s 5% budget reduction approach the Clarksville Police Department would have lost $1.26 million out of a requested total city cut of $3.38 million. Under the proposal submitted last week the mayor will take $1.58 million from the police out of a total city reduction of $2.29 million.
If you recall, part of the $3 million the mayor had to borrow was to pay for police cars and equipment. According to information I asked and received at a Safety Committee meeting a couple of months ago, the police department will forgo replacement of some number of needed vehicles and equipment (over $550,000) and had spread out the hiring of new officer replacements to save money budgeted for such purpose.
The council spent the four previous years adding new police officer positions, raising pay and purchasing new equipment. The department is still not up to staffing standards and additional training and equipment needs have already been voiced for next year without this year’s being fulfilled.
With the charter and budget to discuss this week it should be an interesting council meeting.
Editor’s Note: This article contains the view points of Councilman Bill Summers and may not represent the views of the rest of the City Council, the City of Clarksville or ClarksvilleOnline.
Article printed from Clarksville, TN Online: http://www.clarksvilleonline.com
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