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Clarksville City Council Update, September 15th, 2012

 

Clarksville City Council - Ward 10Clarksville, TN – I have been working on improvements and stoplights for the Exit 11 and Sango Road area since 2000. This was long before I got on the council for Ward 10. After being elected to the council, in 2007 I tried again as well as in 2009.  In the past year, we finally had some success. So persistence, help from Tennessee State Representative Curtis Johnson and others has finally paid off.

I have been informed by our Street Engineers that the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) selected a contractor to carry out the construction project a few weeks ago. There are likely several more weeks of work to finalize any issues and construction requirements. It is possible that work could begin within a couple of months.  The project is scheduled to be complete not later than June 2013.

The project will include the addition of lanes to the East bound Exit 11 off-ramp and the installation of stoplights at the ramp and Sango Road. Then stoplight coordination with those already in place in the West bound Exit 11 off-ramp will occur. If TDOT signs off soon on the final aspects of the Sango Road improvements at Hwy76-Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, that project could be under construction/completion around the same time frame.

After years of  “gnashing teeth”, frustration with getting traffic counts to support the need, and some cussin’ thrown in for good measure, success is about to be claimed on these vital road improvements. I greatly appreciate the support and patience of the Ward 10 citizens, the staff and engineers at Clarksville Street Department, and others such as Rep. Johnson to make this finally happen.

Madison Street/Hwy76-MLK Improvement Project Concept

In a previous article, I mentioned I was looking to “stir the pot” on another potential road improvement project in our ward. I just hope it doesn’t take 12 years to accomplish. Since there was finally success on the Exit 11 project, I might be on a roll. This project is based on the changes in our community, traffic issues and accidents, input and concerns from citizens, and my own observations and experiences from living in the area for 18 years.

I have been gathering data on potential road design and engineering, legal issues, upcoming state projects that could affect the concept and potential affects on properties involved. Due to changes last week by Mayor McMillan on how council members will approach and conduct work performed on behalf of our ward and constituents (more on that later in this article) I will have to “let the cat out of the bag” before I have all the pros and cons developed (I like to have all of my homework done on any project I propose to make sure it is valid and not to excite or upset those that may/may not be affected before viability can be confirmed and documented.  I won’t be able to now). I intend to present my plan next week and will provide readers with more details at that time.  So stay tuned.

Events This Weekend

September 15th and 16th will see the 150th Civil War anniversary of the Battle of Riggins Hill.  A living history camp, musket demos, a play and other events will take place this weekend at the Fort Defiance Civil War Park.  Due to the expected turnout and limited parking, a shuttle service will be provided on Saturday from the Two Rivers Mall/Center on Riverside Drive.  So park at Two Rivers and ride the shuttle.  Shuttle service will run every 15 minutes from 10:00am to 3:00pm on Saturday.

Saturday events run from 10:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.  For more details check out:

http://www.fortdefianceclarksville.com/events.htm

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan on Trip with State Leaders

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan and Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers are with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam visiting Japan and meeting with executives from Japanese companies that have business interests in Clarksville and Tennessee this week.

I support such business meetings where city, county, and state work together to strengthen or develop new business ties with national and international companies for the good of our community. Mayor McMillan took her Chief of Staff on the visit.

The trip was a bit of a surprise to a number of us council members, as we didn’t know the mayor was even out of the country until several days after she left. Even then we didn’t find out about it through the mayor’s office. We think the mayor returns next week.

Working Constituency/Ward Requests and Issues

On September 7th, 2012, council members and city department heads received an email from Mayor McMillan (see at bottom of article). This email concerned council members “assigning or requesting work directly to Department Heads and/or individual employees”.

This issue also was a concern during Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper’s term. Mayor McMillan considers this a violation of the city charter per Article II, Section 15 which states “The council shall act in all matters as a body,……“ and Article IV, Section 2 which states “The mayor shall be the executive head of the city government,….”.

There has been suspicion in the past, and perhaps again in the present, about council members asking for city/department information for their private business concerns or for people and reasons that are not part of that particular ward constituency. It might be understandable if a mayor felt that such requests were not a fair use of city department time to be fulfilling.

However, any person or organization can make an inquiry through an open records request for any information the city has whether the mayor approves or not. As long as the request does not violate some state or federal law, the city would have to respond. A council member does not have the authority or right to assign work, but certainly would have the same right to request information/action just as any citizen does.

However, now it would seem the Mayor prefers citizens to have better direct access to information or action from a city department than a council member has. The mayor’s email states, “That any request from individual council members for the creation of documents, studies, plans, assessments or other similar matters should be routed through the Mayor’s office”.

That would make the mayor’s procedure an approval/review process of a council member’s request. In Part II, Title 1, Chapter 3, Section 1-302 it states the mayor shall have general supervision and control of all city officers and employees of the city.  That mayoral authority to supervise and control does not extend over elected council members.

Yet, the mayor states in the same email, “Specific constituent requests for assistance within a Councilmember’s ward can still be directed to the individual Departments but notice should be given to the Mayor’s office since many of the requests for assistance also come to our office and we do not want to duplicate the work, time and effort of the Departments.”

So basically, unless it is a duplicate request, the department is to carry out the request if a citizen asks for it. If the mayor is worried that council members may ask for too much information or help and must have her personal review for approval, then when does a citizen’s request for too much assistance cross the boundary and call for an open records request?

If a council member wants to really mess with the mayor’s system, he or she could get a citizen to make the request or ask for data directly or through the opens record request and the city would have seven (7) business days to respond or explain why they didn’t or couldn’t. That would be quicker than some of the turnaround times council members receive.

While the charter states rather clearly what the duties of the mayor are, it is rather skimpy on what the duties of a council member are outside of acting as a body and serving on committees.

However, Article II, Section 15 also states “Nothing herein contained shall prevent the council from conducting such inquiries into the operation of the city government and the conduct of the city’s affairs as it may deem necessary.”

If the mayor wants to narrowly interpret that the daily actions/requests that council members try and carry out on behalf of their constituents is to be performed as a body, then should the council list every member request as a resolution that must be voted on or investigate every request that mayor disapproves of?  I bet we could make council meetings six hours long with that.

It appears a mountain is being made out of a molehill. A little bit of leadership and a splash of management would appear to be the solution to this problem without tying up the office of mayor as the information gatekeeper.

We have excellent department directors. I believe that I, and most other council members, have a good working relationship with these directors.  I have always relied on these directors to give me their honest opinions as to what they can do and when they could do it.

If it was a very large project that the director believed was beyond their capability or a needed timeline was too tight, then the request would be sent up to the mayor for a review and decision.  Council members are in no position to demand or direct anything from a director or department employees. I believe we serve as facilitators between the public and the departments of the city that provide services.

Recently I was requested to meet with citizens that had a major issue with one city department. They were not getting the answers they wanted/needed, the repairs needed or the services they were paying for. The apparent lack of response reflects directly (fairly or unfairly) on that department director and the mayor.

I met with these folks to work their problems because I believe that is the job of a councilman, although it is not spelled out in the city charter. There were about two dozen homeowners represented and I listened to their concerns and told them what I would try to do to fix the issues.

I met directly with the department director and also communicated with him via email on the issues presented to me. I think things worked well and there was good dialogue between the director and myself.

The meeting between the director and myself appears to have fixed and/or put into action procedures that are now addressing the concerns of those citizens. The citizens have reported back to me that things seem to be improving. I did not need the input or review of the mayor to address this issue.

Does the mayor believe the city operations would have been better served by having two-dozen very concerned citizens submit the same requests for help and then possibly having them submit open records requests as to why this department had not or could not provide the service instead of one councilman working to fix the problem?  We’ll see where this goes.


Mayor McMillan’s Email to Council Members & City Department Heads

All-

It has come to my attention that more than once over the past couple of weeks we continue to have an issue with individual City Council members assigning or requesting work directly to Department Heads and/or individual employees.  Not only is this inefficient and disruptive of the Department Heads’ and employees’ regular duties, it is a violation of the City Charter.  Although I have previously brought these provisions of the City Charter to your attention, I will do so again to make sure you are clear on your role, duties and responsibilities as Council Members.

Article II, Section 15. Restrictions on councilmen

The council shall act in all matters as a body, and no member shall seek individually to influence the official acts of the mayor or any other officer or employee of the city, or to direct or request the appointment of any person to, or his removal from, any office or position of employment, or to interfere in any way with the performance of duties by any officer or employee.  Nothing herein contained shall prevent the council from conducting such inquiries into the operation of the city government and the conduct of the city’s affairs as it may deem necessary.  The office of any councilman violating any provision of this section shall immediately become vacant upon his conviction in a court of competent jurisdiction.

Article IV, Section 2. Mayor; duties and powers generally

The mayor shall be the executive head of the city government, responsible for the efficient and orderly administration of the city’s affairs.

I believe these provisions make it abundantly clear that the City Council may only act as a body.  I would hope that we could all work together to respect our Department Heads and our departmental employees and their time and expertise on matters that concern the operation of city government while at the same time abiding by the terms of our Charter.  Effective immediately, I am advising all Department Heads that any requests by individual Council Members for the creation of documents, studies, plans, assessments or other similar matters should be routed through the Mayor’s office.  Specific constituent requests for assistance within a Councilmember’s ward can still be directed to the individual Departments but notice should be given to the Mayor’s office since many of the requests for assistance also come to our office and we do not want to duplicate the work, time and effort of the Departments.

I am copying the members of the Power Board on this email since the operation of the Department of Electricity is unique as a result of the existence of the Power Board.  Further questions regarding the operation of that entity should be directed to Wayne Wilkinson, Chairman.  Other questions regarding the legal ramifications of our Charter can be directed to Lance Baker, City Attorney.  Any other issues, concerns or questions can be sent to me or Charlie Koon.

Thank you,
Kim


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.


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