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Clarksville City Council Regular Session Report – November 1st, 2012


Clarksville City Council - Ward 10Clarksville, TN – The city council met in its usual first of the month session. It was a long meeting lasting around 2.5 hours. Several items of note were discussed and voted on.

Ordinance 15-2012-13 (Human Relations Commission) – If you recall from my October 12th article, I had several questions and concerns about the commission proposal. I was able to address those issues last night.

As readers will recall, I had concern with the establishment of “ benchmarks” with any recommendations of this commission to the city. I asked Councilwoman Johnson to explain what she meant by the term. She did not have a ready definition as to what it meant and stated she would rely on the commission to determine that.

I had studied other cities usage of the term benchmarks and knew what they were looking for, and thought Johnson would be able to shed light on what she was looking for as sponsor of the ordinance. I did ask her, as originator of the ordinance, that any definition of benchmarks by this commission would not include any quotas or standards by which the city would be held liable. She confirmed that quotas or standards were not to be established.

Another concern was that a plan by this commission was to be provided to the mayor and council. For what purpose?  Initially, the discussion was the plan was something for the city to follow, since the city Human Resource (HR) function was to be involved from the start. That invoked a discussion of what if HR disagreed with what was in the plan? Based on that I made an amendment to have any plan submitted by the commission subject to city council approval. This was approved by a vote of the council.

Next, I brought up the expectations and impacts of any commission plan upon the city Purchasing Department.  Within the write-up of the ordinance, it described that this commission would promote “equal opportunity in the selection of vendors and contractors for city business”.

However, in the actual enabling section of the ordinance, it did not mention this. I asked Johnson what was her expectation upon the Purchasing Department with promotion of equal opportunity. She did not have a detailed response other than the commission could help with this promotion work.

My research showed that this had caused a major workload in other cities from tracking requirements, to periodic reviews to determine the number of minority and women based companies within a statistical metro area, to making sure that major contractors of city awarded contracts had properly contacted minority and women based companies that might do the work.  Our Purchasing Department is composed of 2.5 workers.

If new requirements were/are placed upon them for this promotion and tracking of opportunity, the city will have to increase this function’s personnel number.

The mayor jumped into the discussion to mention that the promotion of more opportunity in selection of vendors and contractors was not within the directive and the insinuation was why was I bringing it up. I pointed out that that if this was an objective of Johnson’s ordinance, then there could be an effect on the Purchasing Department, and with it not being mentioned in the heart of the ordinance there appeared to be a disconnect.

The mayor evidently did not consider this point and potential effect upon the city department. Councilwoman Johnson then stated her intention was the commission could/would assist in such an effort. The director for city purchasing was requested to come forward and he affirmed that his department could not handle much more than it was currently doing. Assistance with finding vendors or contractors was welcome, but any additional workload to his function would have an effect.

I raised another question about the makeup of the commission itself. Councilwoman Johnson has raised the issue of the city workforce not mirroring the population it served before. Having looked at other cities, I saw an effort to have a diverse group on their commissions. I proposed that the commission be composed in the same proportions of race, sex, age and educational and experience background as the city.

Johnson did not seem to have any issue with this, but the mayor jumped in and didn’t support it. She said the city’s population makeup was constantly changing and that this would be a problem. I stated we could use the 10-year census as the method to make that determination. By ordinance the mayor is to make the commission nominations. Given the council has final say on the nomination and that the mayor was not in favor, I withdrew the proposal.

In the end the proposal passed with an 11-yes and 0-no votes. The mayor did not vote and Councilman Steward was absent. I voted yes.

Noise Ordinance (#10)

The new noise ordinance was approved with a 10-yes & 1-no vote. I voted yes. The racetrack was another lively discussion, but the final decision was to put only one limitation on the track and that was to end racing by 1:30am on any day. The track may operate 7-days a week and as of the first reading, has no start time limitations. A start time may be amended in by the second reading next month.

There was a limitation to keep garbage trucks from starting residential pickups until 6:00am in the new ordinance. Many of us on the council (to include me) have received complaints about 4:00am and earlier starts with noise and banging of these trucks.

Councilman Burkhart made a motion to withdraw any limitation on garbage pickup basically citing it as too difficult to manage, restrictive to business, and hard to define what was residential. Councilman Harris also added we don’t want garbage trucks and school buses mixing at 6:00am. I am not sure about his point, as I see garbage trucks and school buses on the same streets at 6:00am. There was some thought to changing it to no earlier than 4:00am, which really isn’t much better than no ordinance coverage.

Burkhart’s motion passed by a 9-yes & 2-no vote.  I voted yes for a couple reasons. One being that the 4:00am option isn’t a viable answer to the problem.  The second is Burkhart’s move to protect garbage companies operations by removing the protected operational clause opens a backdoor option for those fed-up with the noise that he may not have considered.

Since garbage pickup no longer has any operational time protection clause, it automatically falls under the decibel requirements/limitations for residential areas.  Most garbage trucks are loud (thus the many complaints).  If there is no further change by the council’s second vote, you will be able to call the police to come out and meter-check the noise. If the noise measures too high/loud, then a ticket/fine can be given.  Each instance can be a separate ticket.

For example, if a garbage truck has five pickups on a street and each homeowner wants the police to check the noise level and it exceeds limits, then that could be five tickets for the garbage company.   The night decibel hours are lower than daytime and extend until 7:00am.  Councilman Burkhart’s proposal may not have been good deal for the garbage companies.

The noise ordinance passed with a 10-yes & 1-no vote. I voted yes.

Ethics Ordinances

I have kept you posted on the “Keystone Cops” (reference the internet if you don’t know who they were) routine the council has been going through to close out ethics complaints made against some council members. We didn’t get any closer to “fixin” the issue at Thursday’s council meeting. The mayor had handed out a basic working copy of a new ethics code update at the very end of last week’s Executive Session (that was not discussed) and a final/complete version was not provided to council members until the evening before the mayor wanted to have us vote on it.

I commend the mayor on trying to develop a new set of ethics procedures, but the rush to get something on the books has left the ordinance with many questions and holes. Since the mayor did not have the new ethics ordinance ready by the executive session, she had to ask for a ¾ vote approval of the council to bring it forward (anything that is not officially on the executive session agenda has to have ¾ vote approval for the council to hear at the regular session – this stops late adds to the agenda). I voted no due to the many questions and problems I felt needed addressing before ANY effort to vote was attempted. The vote was 8-yes & 4-no, so ¾ was not achieved and it was not brought up.

The remaining ethics resolutions that had been reviewed at the executive session got detoured again by a late decision that they needed to be ordinances instead. After months of telling us to bring forth resolutions and all the run-around that has ensued, just days before the council will finally get to them, the rules change again.  The mayor made the decision that, although we had reviewed the resolutions and the content wasn’t changing to any major degree, the change to “ordinance” was a difference.  If we wanted the council to review and vote, they would have to have ¾ approval of the council.  Each failed to get ¾ approval with the mayor usually voting no.

I will bring you more info on the proposed new ethics ordinance in another article. The city attorney, who has been in the crossfire with the ethics issues, mentioned he thought the mayor’s new ethics changes really needed to go to committee first, before coming to the council. I doubt that this pleased the mayor, but bringing new ordinances before the proper committee has been the usual course followed and when it had not, the affected ordinance usually got sent there anyway.

I suggested to the mayor it be sent to the Procedures Committee (reference my emails of October 12th and 14th about the Procedures Committee). The mayor didn’t seem supportive of that idea and suggested the Finance Committee (again see my articles of October 12th and 14th and the makeup of the Finance Committee). The session ended with no decision on the committee review.

I will say this and save the rest for a separate article on the proposed ethics ordinance changes. I hope readers may have seen “The Leaf-Chronicle” story, this week on the Political Action Committee (PAC) that (according to the newspaper) is linked to Mayor McMillan through her campaign supporters.  Potential ethics issues abound in this story and will affect the new ethics policies.

If you haven’t, here are the basics. The story is titled “Mayor-linked PAC Enters Clarksville Council Races”(reference the newspaper online archives of October 28th or the October 29th newspaper itself). The mayor admits that some of her supports and friends wanted to get involved in the council races and “encouraged” them to form a PAC.

This PAC has launched political attacks against a sitting council member running for re-election (Councilman Allen) and another citizen (Jeff Robinson) that is running against an incumbent.  According to state records, the PAC is made up of members/donors (to include a McMillan family member) that provided money and/or served on Mayor McMillan’s mayoral campaign. The PAC’s donors also include a member of the Clarksville Department of Electricity’s Power Board whom McMillan appointed.

According to the paper, the PAC or members of the PAC are supporting those who likely will support Mayor McMillan.  It appears the PAC may have lied about its address to the state.  The address provided is a business here in Clarksville.  The business owner told the newspaper that it was not connected with the PAC and did not reflect the views of the business.

I state all of this because some of the involved PAC members are mayoral appointees on city committees (Tom Denney – Charter Committee) and Power Board member Leo Milan. These individuals have the same ethics requirements as any elected official, as they serve in a government capacity on these boards and committees.

However, their actions would seem to be in violation of several established ethics responsibilities to include 1) losing independence or impartiality, 2) adversely affecting the confidence of the public in the integrity of the government, or 3) giving preferential treatment to a person or organization, to name a few.

Given the mayor appoints and the city council approves Power Board members, one of those members actively involved in trying to remove a council member seems very questionable. Maybe others, to include those with city contracts, mentioned in the story need to be considered on ethics violations.

The new proposed ethics update establishing an ethics commission (again appointed by the mayor) appears to have no authority to review complaints by citizens or council members against those that are appointed to the boards, commissions and committees by the council.

Yet city code states these appointees are subject to same ethics principles and violations. Perhaps this is an oversight, but it points out just one of many issues we need to make sure the ethics policy addresses and doesn’t.

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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