East Ridge Charter Study Committee In Tie Vote On Whether City Should Move To Larger Council

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - by Gail Perry

The 10-member East Ridge Charter Study Committee on Monday night deadlocked 5-5 on whether the city should have a nine-member city council rather than the present five members.

County Commissioner Tim Boyd, a member of the panel who favored the larger size, said afterward that currently "three people are in charge, then in another four years, the power shifts. This would require getting more than three votes to get something passed."

The East Ridge citizens that were appointed by the council members met to consider the section of the city’s charter dealing with governance. Commissioner Boyd said the work of the committee is winding down, then it will be up to the current city council whether to send its work on to East Ridge residents for a vote. Current council members Jim Bethune and Marc Gravitt were among those in the office at the city training room at the rear of City Hall.

Sections of the document being discussed centered on the composition of the city council and requirements for the position of a city manager. Committee member Darwin Branam, a former council member, and chairman of the committee Ken Meyer defended proposed changes they crafted.

Currently, the citys four council members and the mayor are all elected at large. An amended version of the charter by Mr. Branam specified that the mayor be elected at large by voters of the city, and eight council members, two from each of the four districts, be elected by voters in their respective precinct.

With the exception of the chairman, this change elicited opposition from the other committee members. Donna Reed responded that a small city of only 10 square miles with 21,000-22,000 residents does not need that many representatives. Half of the residents in East Ridge are renters and don’t care, she said. She also said that her belief is that so many elected officials will make the governing process more complicated causing decisions to stall. She told the committee that her research showed the average number of council members to be six in both large and small cities across the country. “I don’t see how that many will be helpful,” she said. "You’d be putting more people on the council that cannot agree. “You’d be doubling the politicians, not increasing representation.” 

Mr. Meyer said, “I think it would get more people involved.” Ms. Reed replied, “We are a small city and people who want to get involved will be.” Ms. Reed then asked how many on the committee attend city council meetings themselves. Only two answered that they did. Mr. Branam who does not come to the meetings, said he would feel better having two representatives from his district to look out for his neighborhood. The basic question is if this is for personal gain or betterment of the city, stated another committee member.

Increasing representation to two from each district and if done with staggered four-year terms would have another benefit, said Mr. Meyer. If a project takes longer than a council person is in office, having a second representative with a staggered term from a district, would provide continuity for a project that is not finished when one councilman’s term ends.  

Robert Bedwell’s concern with increasing the number of council members was about the cost. There will be an increase in salaries, training and travel expenses such as for attending conferences. Those extra expenses can be shared, countered those wishing to expand the council. Some would go one time and some another, and they could come back and teach what they learned, it was stated.

History has shown that a city manager stays in East Ridge for an average of only two years. Committee member Boyd’s perspective was that the committee needed to come up with the number of elected officials that would provide the most stable form of government plus stability for the city manager, whether the number on the city council is five, seven or nine. In response and as a compromise suggestions were made for electing one representative from each district and one or two others plus the mayor chosen at large.

A vote to make changes to the city council section of the charter, as written by Mr. Branam, failed in a tie roll-call vote. A second vote confirmed that the committee does want to consider a different change to the make-up of the city council, and members were asked to bring ideas to the next meeting of the committee.

Changes to the section of the city code concerning the city manager were also proposed by Mr. Branam and were under deliberation at the meeting. City Councilman Gravitt interrupted the discussion among the committee members to inform them the wording was still in error pertaining to qualifications necessary for a city manager. The word “minimum” before “bachelor’s degree” was still missing. This was the original mistake which had proved to be a stumbling block for the city finding a candidate for city manager because many applicants had a masters degree.  The new prerequisites for this position are “a “minimum” of a bachelor’s degree. “A minimum of three years in direct supervisory experience in municipal government management” replaces the restrictive requirement that the candidate’s degree be in public administration.

It will be recommended that the city manager will need to be a resident of Hamilton County, but not necessarily of East Ridge. And, Mr. Branam made the suggestion of adding a clause allowing the removal of a city manager after a 90-day period, by a 2/3 “super-majority” vote by the council.

A vote on the revisions  concerning the city manager that were discussed Monday night will take place at a future meeting along with recommendations for other changes concerning the city attorney, department heads, the city court and responsibility for sidewalks in East Ridge, among other issues.

On the 5-5 vote, in favor of the larger council were Mr. Branam, Commissioner Boyd, Mr. Meyer, Estes Cocke and Ruth Braly.

gailaperry@comcast.net



Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: BAILIFF, KEVIN BRENTON  1211 LAKESIDE DRIVE HIXSON, 37343  Age at Arrest: 29 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County AGGRAVATED ASSAULT DOMESTIC --- BARNES, RACHEL KATHLEEN  420 BOOTH ROAD CHATTANOOGA, 37411  Age at Arrest: 23 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga POSSESSION ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Council Continues Debate On Future Of Mountain Art Center

The status of Signal Mountain Arts Community Center (MACC) building A, the original and front section of the current structure, was under discussion at the work session of the Signal Mountain Town Council on Friday afternoon. After receiving the original estimate to completely renovate that part of the building at $1.2 million, the council asked City Manager Boyd Veal to pare the ... (click for more)

CVB Should Share Financials With The Home Folks

The recent debate over the Convention and Visitor's Bureau's funding and budget has gotten ugly. A Hamilton County commissioner has asked questions and made comments about the CVB. The director of the CVB has organized a campaign to dismiss the commissioner's questions and comments. The children on the playground are choosing sides and nothing useful seems to be happening. It's ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Haggling Must Stop

Far be it for me to suggest the Hamilton County Commission and the School Board need to spend more time at recess but it was obvious this week the two groups need to work at being better friends. We have nine county commissioners and just as many corresponding school board members to work together for the betterment of one entity – Hamilton County. Everybody who thinks that is happening ... (click for more)

Amazing Bradley Builds 32-0 Lead, Routs Cookeville 69-35 In Region 3-3A Tournament

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Bradley Central’s top-ranked Bearettes went into Friday’s Region 3-3A quarterfinal basketball game against Cookeville with several thoughts in mind. Sending a message was one of them. Stamp it delivered. The Bearettes, now at 30-0 with the tradition-rich program’s third-longest winning streak in its history, overwhelmed the Lady Cavaliers with a ... (click for more)

Macon County Ends Season For Signal Mountain Girls

The Signal Mountain Lady Eagles entered the first round of the Region 4-AA basketball tournament as the District 7-AA champions and riding high on a seven-game winning streak. The Macon County Tigerettes came to Signal Mountain Friday night for that first-round game on a two-game losing streak and still hurting after finishing fourth in last week’s District 8 gathering. But ... (click for more)