Today’s special call city council meeting is poised to consider a resolution approving a lease with a private entity and the city for development and operation of a city asset. The city will incur debt to finance, in part, this enterprise. Our City Charter has specific requirements for this type of enterprise, which, it would appear, are being ignored by our city leaders.
Some questions for the council before they vote on this measure, if you please.
1.) What are the terms of this lease agreement?
2.) How long will Mr. Batts be required to actually operate the marina?
3.) What is the projected time frame needed for the city to recoup the $32 million dollars of leveraged debt underwritten to pay for the creation of the marina and the redevelopment of Fairgrounds Park?
4.) Why are these details not listed in the published version of the council meeting’s agenda?
5. Where is the public referendum required by the city charter when the city enters into an enterprise where the city’s credit has been utilized?
This resolution may be about a lease agreement, but the city is extending its debt obligations, utilizing the city’s credit, to fund this project. In November, the mayor sought the council’s approval to taken on $32 million dollars of additional debt.
The Code of the City of Clarksville, Part I, Article VI, Section 8:
Section 8. Elections for giving or lending of city’s credit.The credit of the city may be given or lent to or in aid of any person, company, association or corporation upon an election to be first held by the qualified voters of such city and the assent of three-fourths ( 3/4) of the votes cast at said election. The city may become a stockholder with others in any company, association or corporation, upon a like election and the assent of a like majority.
Thus, according to our charter, a public referendum, with approval of three-fourths of those voting, is required before this project, much less this lease can be approved. There was no referendum on the November ballot. Too many questions have not been addressed here.
Transparency is key to public confidence and trust. Public view is very opaque right now. The City Council needs to apply a heavy dose of Windex to these proceedings and be the people’s advocate and guardian. The oath of office requires the council to consider and protect the welfare of the citizens of Clarksville, first and foremost. The referendum question should be addressed first. An opinion from the State Attorney General’s Office should be requested immediately to address this matter and preclude the appearance of undue local influence.
After all, $32 million dollars is serious money. Transparency and Public Confidence are dearer still. We can not afford to be foolish with either.