Clarksville, TN – The Clarksville City Council met on Thursday, December 13th, not the Charter-mandated first Thursday of the month date, for its regular session. It was interesting that, as part of the agenda, the approval of prior council meeting minutes is required.
The usual council regular session should have met December 6th, but the mayor went out of the country and evidently did not want to miss the council meeting, so she moved it. However, the mayor had the council minutes written for a December 6th council meeting stating that due to a lack of a quorum, no meeting was held and the agenda would be considered on December 13th.Well, there is a bit misinformation with using that phrasing if someone came back to research council meeting actions. A lack of a quorum means not enough people showed up to have the meeting. Which could make one wonder did the council go on a drunken bender and most couldn’t stagger in for the meeting?
That was not the case at all. There was no meeting per the mayor. This invoked a long discussion with the final version of the minutes rewritten basically stating that there was no meeting on the 6th because the mayor was going out of country/town and moved session to the 13th.
That was an early indictor that, while the agenda was fairly short, the discussions and meeting would not be. The session was almost three hours.
Noise Ordinance – (Ordinance 10-2012-13)
This was up for its second reading and got pulled from the consent agenda to hammer a few more points/amendments. One of those points was the operational times for garbage pickup in residential areas. If you will recall, Councilman Burkhart got any operational time constraints deleted last month.
I advised readers that, if that action remained, you could call Clarksville Police and the noise meter rules apply. Some of you were ready to go with that option and I told the council that.
In a compromise, operational limits were imposed. Garbage trucks cannot operate in residential zoned (the key word is zoned) neighborhoods from 10:00pm to 5:00am. That beats what is on the books now, which is nothing.
Other amendments to limit the racetrack times or eliminate any constraints on equipment noise (lawnmowers, saws, etc.) were defeated.
With that, the final noise ordinance was passed. I believe the vote was 10-yes & 2-no. The reason I said “I believe” is the voting computer and speaker systems were not operational. I voted yes.
Parking Meters – (Ordinance 31-2012-13)
This item was also up for its second and final vote and was yanked from the consent agenda for further review. The issue was the Two Rivers function along with a couple of other functions/organizations were reported to be preparing to look at parking downtown and its effects on business.
If you have read the newspaper the past few weeks, to include the December 14th edition, you have seen businesses and citizens expressing dissatisfaction with the decisions and management of Mayor McMillan’s appointed Parking Authority. As readers will recall, I too have had reservations over some actions and decisions taken by the Authority over the past 12 to 18 months.
A 19-year downtown business is closing shop this weekend. Issues with downtown, particularly parking, are listed as the reasons in the newspaper article. It seems downtown is now being hammered with an exodus of businesses. One eatery closed recently and Brunie’s closes next week. A few new businesses have come in, but the question is how long will they stay?
I have visited with other downtown business owners who have told me directly that they are fed up with the lack of action by Clarksville leadership in determining the downtown’s future direction and associated parking issues. Some have stated they may “hang it up too” in the not too distant future.
The debate was should the Parking Authority be authorized to spend an additional $19,000 for new parking meters if another change in parking direction was going to occur? I was not satisfied with the answers given and am still not sure if there is a defined plan for parking in Clarksville’s future. If there is, it appears it is not being communicated to those who must live with it.
The funding was approved in an 8-yes & 4-no vote. I voted no due to what I stated above.
It has been a long and winding road on ethics for the past 4-5 months. Let me briefly recap the series of events.
1. After a couple of months of dancing around the topic, it is put on the September 27th, 2012 Executive Session to discuss. Listed under item 10 (Mayor and Staff Reports). At the session Mayor McMillan states that if anyone wants to vote on an ethics matter they should put it on the agenda (regular session for October 4th). This guidance/direction by the mayor is documented on the 9/27/2012 video minutes of the session
2. Based on the Mayor’s guidance, Councilwoman McLaughlin formulates Resolution 21-2012-13 to resolve complaints against sitting council members. The resolution is placed on the October 4th, 2012 for a vote per mayor’s directive.
3. During the October 4th, 2012 regular council session McLaughlin’s resolution is addressed. It is blasted for various procedural/content reasons. After a long debate, the resolution was directed to the Procedures committee for further review (document on the 10/4/2012 video minutes of the session). The Procedures Committee would meet on October 15th. The Mayor revamps the committee membership makeup (to include herself) less than 24 hours after the October 4th regular session. I covered this in details in my October 12th, 2012 article recap of the October 4th regular session.
4. The Procedures Committee meets on October 15th. The effort was to look at or consider individual ethics cases instead of the all-in-one approach in Resolution 21. This was one of the major issues mentioned in the October 4th regular session meeting. The Mayor backpedals from her direction/guidance of September 27th that council members should bring these ethics issues forth. She basically states she want no further action to address these cases.
5. Councilwoman McLaughlin requests a template from the city attorney for council members to use to build individual ethics resolutions for submission to the October 25th, 2012 Executive Session of the council. Nine ethics resolutions from four council members are submitted for the session.
6. A lively debate ensues at the Executive Session of October 25th. The mayor is not happy about the ethics issues being brought up and the path being taken. She states members should be cautious about what they say and claim. At the 39-minute mark, and for the next two minutes of council video minutes of 10/25/2012, the mayor takes aim at me. This was an interesting turn of events and was likely due to two reasons.
First, I had now sponsored an ethics action to clear a council member, but called for the city to cease business with the law firm mentioned which was really the root of the ethics complaint. The mayor wasn’t supportive of that action and made a point of mentioning a resolution that called for cancelling the contract with a law firm; and mine was the only one calling for that. This firm has had political ties with the mayor.
Second, while she does not mention me by name, she makes reference to a council member that sends out “City Council Updates”. Well, since I am the ONLY council member who spends considerable time to keep their constituents informed in that manner, it narrowed the field of accused very quickly. It appears my article and email updates to constituents of October 12th and October 15th, which addressed the ethics issues and revamping/results of the Procedures Committee, hit a nerve.
She cited that my articles and emails accused her, and other members, of unethical conduct, fraud and other matters. She claims what I had stated is untrue and are opinion and to use the resources of the city (city council email system) to send this out is the wrong way to do it. The insinuation was that perhaps such actions should also be the issue of ethics debates.
In response, I helped setup the council email system format. Its purpose was for communication between the elected official and the constituent. I use it for that. Given that in those emails I made predictions as to what might occur/change and the results of those actions. As I go back and review my comments the projected actions/reactions were spot on.
One of our more spirited presidents, Truman, had an excellent saying that may apply here. He stated, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.”
7. October 26th, 2012: it is determined that the ethics resolutions presented on the 25th are not in the proper format and need to be listed as ordinances. Council members scramble to convert the resolutions to ordinance format. Basically, it is changing a few words without affecting any content.
8. November 1st 2012, Regular Session: The mayor decides these “ethics ordinances” (if only as a title change) are different and will be treated as a previously unseen documents. This will force a ¾ approval of the council to bring them up for action that evening. That does not occur and action is averted for another month.
9. December 10th, 2012 Executive Session: Just as in the movie Poltergeist, the Ethics issues are still on the agenda. “They’re back”
10. December 13th, 2012, Special Session or the Regular Session held a week late: The council session video minutes are the silent movie type. There is no sound due to technical problems. However, the words, the talking out of both sides of the mouth and music are the same as past sessions. The mayor wants the ethics ordinances killed because we have no procedures to deal with any that might pass and require further action.
That evidently was not a concern when the mayor directed council members to submit their ethics issues back on September 27th. It did not seem a concern when the city spent thousands to investigate Building and Codes and allegations of potential ethics issues were made against a council member that could have required further actions if proof had been found. Now it is a concern.
Motions were made to postpone indefinitely my ethics ordinance and those that remained on the agenda. The postponements passed. Thus, the ethics issues appear to be in limbo….for now. The games and frustration continue. However, while the official ordinance I sponsored may be in limbo, the action I recommended IS occurring so I do feel vindicated by fighting the battle.
The city and law firm mentioned in my ethics ordinance have agreed to end current legal contracts to avoid further controversy and will not receive any others while Councilman Wallace is in office. That was part of the action I was seeking in my ordinance. By taking such action it will avoid any further “appearance” of wrongdoing.
Furthermore, I had stated that Councilman Wallace had not done anything illegal in the ethics ordinance. I do appreciate the city and law firm taking that action. Thus, mission accomplished, if by a very convoluted route.
The mayor had presented a late Ethics Code update the previous month. It didn’t get the needed ¾ vote to review it. There was nothing about a new Ethics Code for this session. However, the mayor will hold a special session around the end of January to go over a new Ethics Code. I believe there have been some changes to the version sent to us last month. I’ll guess we’ll see in the coming weeks.
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.