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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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Citizen representation on local boards: Are we in accordance with TN’s Open Appointments Act?

Clarksville is blessed with a talented professional population base. Abiding by the state’s own Open Appointments Act, TCA 10-7-601-611, which compels inclusion of minorities on all appointed decision-making and regulatory boards, commissions, committees and councils, should not pose a serious problem. A review of all such county and city government entities is presented for public review. Questions should be addressed to your local government representatives and heads. The law has been in effect for several years

Montgomery County has numerous appointed decision-making and regulatory boards, committees,commissions and councils. Citizens are appointed to all of these entities. However the public is not well-informed of whom among it are making decisions as their representative. This does not meet with the intent nor approval of the state law. The city government is equally at fault in this regard. Appointments are not well publicized and the selection pool seems rather restricted. With the vast array of talents present in our community, it would seem that widening the selection pool should not be a difficult task.

Examples:

The Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Commission is composed of city and county mayor designees, three city appointees and two county appointees. Its current make-up reflects a solid male majority of eight males and one female. The ethnic make-up is difficult to ascertain as no pictures or other identifying information and no professional information are provided for public review. Hardly an informative stance on government’s part.

Planning Commissioners: City Mayor Designee: Ricky Thomas; County Mayor Designee: Mabel Larson (Vice-Chairman), City Council Rep.: Richard Swift; County Commission Rep.: Joe Creek; City Appointees: Eric Burnett, Mark Grant, John Laida; County Appointees: George Marks, Gary Norris (Chairman).

Montgomery County Title VI Advisory Committee: It is composed of seven county employees including the chairman, Ed Davis, the County Director of Administration. There are five ethnic minorities, four men (- one white male) and three females (- one white female), which comprise the committee. There is no citizen appointee listed for this body whatsoever. Title Vi being such a serious and important element of government functioning, this seems a major misstep.

County Beer Board: No information is available on its composition at the county government website. No names of members or contact information whosoever.

The same goes for the Audit Committee, Building Advisory Committee, County Conservation Board, Investment Committee, Legislative Liaison Committee, Rules Committee, School Liaison Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and the Tax Freeze Committee. In fact the only county committee that provides anything more than a purpose statement is the Title VI Advisory Committee. where one must click on the “Who to Contact” button to see the information. It’s not labeled that one must do this to gain access to the information but it will display. There is NO such info whatsoever for all the other county government committees.

City Government:

On the city’s website, one must search under the “Links” tabs to find the standing committees listing. It is a complete listing of all 33 boards, committees, commissions and councils of and connected to our city government. The makeup of each body is listed and a point of contact is given. Gender parity may not be quite what one would like but women are named to many of these committees. Among these are Adjustments and Appeals, Airport Authority, Arts and Heritage Development Council, Fair Board, Ft. Defiance Committee, Gas & Plumbing Board, Historic Zoning Commission, Housing Authority, Human Relations Commission, Residential Development Commission, River District Commission and Downtown District Partnership.

There is no way to determine the level of ethnic parity within these committees with the information provided. Hopefully the annual reports required under the Open Appointments Act would yield such desired data. Both the county and the city should be more aggressive in providing the public with an easily accessible means to see this information about its government functions and composition.

An informed public is a better partner to government and society itself. This requires that you, the public, must step up and demand more of your government. How is it that a revised city charter is being presented to the state legislature for review BEFORE the citizens who will have to live under those provisions have a say on these new laws? There is something seriously off-kilter with that arrangement.

All government in Tennessee is predicated upon its service to and benefit of the people who authorize it. Dissatisfaction with that government is to be given swift and true redress by that government.

Article I of the Tennessee Constitution:

Sec. 1. All power inherent in the people — Government under their control.

That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; for the advancement of those ends they have at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.

Will you, the public, alert YOUR GOVERNMENT to your discontent? It will not change without such action.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It is not a false generalization to point out noncompliance with the law. This law is at least 20 years on the books and Clarksville/Montgomery County has not made a move to comply. That is the point of the article. The people remain unaware and govt continues to operate in avoidance of the law’s requirements. That is not a very tenable situation.

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