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HomePoliticsClarksville City Council Regular Session Recap of April 4th, 2013

Clarksville City Council Regular Session Recap of April 4th, 2013

Clarksville City Council - Ward 10Clarksville, TN – The Clarksville city council met in its usual first Thursday of the month, April 4th, regular session.  It was a short, but potent agenda that lasted for a couple of hours.

Ordinance 67 (Ethics) – This was the second and final vote on this long and drawn out process. I proposed three amendments with one being approved. The successful amendment added a section to the Ethics Commission process requiring nominees fill out a questionnaire.

This questionnaire would provide council members information on the nominee’s business connections to the city, political activities for or against any member on the council, any current appointments to other city activities, any non-profit activities that receive city money, if they hold any other elected office and if they have been arrested, convicted or found in violation of ethical standards of any other activities they have been involved with.

It would also confirm that the nominee actually lives in Clarksville and is a registered voter. The mayor’s ethics commission standards does not require commission members to be registered voters. One of my previous amendments included the requirement for members to be registered voters, but that failed.

Information required in the questionnaire would have to be provided to council members seven (7) calendar days before a confirmation vote. Also, nominees will have to be present at the confirmation vote to introduce themselves and answer any further questions council members may have.  This amendment passed in a 7-yes & 5-no vote. Of course I voted yes.

It was puzzling, but not unexpected, that five council members voted against having such information. That information should have been part of the mayor’s original ethics requirements. Given that the members of the Ethics Commission could be sitting in judgment of anyone on the council, it would be prudent to know if they had any political or business ties with others on the council or the city.

My other two amendments were efforts to take the Ethics Commission nomination process directly out of the mayor’s hands. It would have shifted that responsibility to all council members to provide a nominee from their ward.  Thus, every ward would have had a citizen representing their interest on issues of ethics.

One council member didn’t think he could find a citizen in his ward to do this. My amendments also restricted the participation of commission members in their local political and business involvement with the city and council members. The mayor stated last month that she did not believe she could find people in Clarksville that could meet such requirements.

I know within Ward 10 there would be no problem with finding such qualified citizens and have had several contact me offering to serve that easily met the proposed criteria.

Mayor McMillan has touted how she was involved at the state level in getting new ethical standards and commission established and that she had used Nashville’s ethics commission setup as a guide. Interestingly, at the state level the executive position selects his nominees to their Ethics Commission and the legislative selects their own.

In Nashville, neither the executive nor legislative selects ethics commission members. No other large city in the state allows the executive positive to provide the nominees. Both of my amendments created a 6-6 tie vote, which resulted in the mayor casting a “no“ vote to kill both efforts.

While the Mayor publicly touts open government and uses the state and Nashville as ethical examples, she is unwilling to rise to the ethical and the minimal political influence standard they set for their citizens’ Ethics Commissions.

The mayor’s unwillingness to be so transparent as to totally separate the executive influence from the legislative decision-making and selection process on Ethics Commission nominees is a flaw these other government entities would not accept in their process.

Political insecurity in adopting a more open process is reflected in her vote to kill amendments that would allow for it.

Councilwoman McLaughlin also tried to restore the ability for citizens to provide anonymous tips for ethics violations. This effort resulted in another 6-6 tie, which the mayor broke with a “no” vote.

In the end the ethics ordinance passed in a 7-yes & 5-no vote. I voted no. One of the council members that voted yes (and had supported my amendments) said he did so just so we would have something on the books.

Ordinance 74 (Cluster Housing)

As readers will recall, the current Cluster Housing directives were found to have some loopholes. Changes have been made and a few more may be on the way.  The upgraded cluster directive was approved in an 8-yes & 4-no vote.  I voted yes.

Resolution 43 (CPD Funeral Procession Policy)

I brought readers up to speed on the issues involved with this request when I sent out the regular session agenda. As you know, if the Clarksville Police Department uses only one police cruiser for funeral escort, a limit of seven vehicles will be implemented that would be under the direct supervision of the police. Vehicles in the procession after vehicle number seven will have to follow normal traffic laws.

The proposed resolution asked the Mayor and Police Chief to reconsider this change in policy and revert back to the old policy. I had previously stated that based on the city code, I believe this was an operational day-to-day management decision that was fully within the authority and responsibility of the Police Chief and Mayor.

As readers know, I have no problem with addressing legislative issues to the Mayor. However, in this particular case I do not believe involvement of the legislative function of the City is warranted. Any concern over such a decision is fully within the rights of citizens to question.

However, because this is a daily operational workload decision on the use of staffing resources within a City Department, that decision should rest entirely with the Mayor and department head.

Therefore, citizens would need to submit their concerns directly to the Mayor. Due to this rationale, I did not see that the council (as a body) should be involved in being in favor or against an operational decision. Thus, I abstained on the vote of this resolution.

The final vote was 4-yes, 7-no and 1-abstain (me). It was interesting to note that one or two of the council members directly asked the Mayor to delay or reverse this decision, but yet were not supportive of the resolution asking for that very thing.  One or two of the “no” votes expressed the same rationale as I did that this was an operational decision, but chose to vote anyway.

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