There has been a lot of debate regarding the ordinance I sponsored last Fall, its passage by City Council, and its subsequent ballot referendum. I am glad that people are engaged on this issue. The intent of this letter to the editor is to remind people it is on the ballot and what the ordinance actually does. It doesn't redefine marriage; cities cannot do that. It doesn't bankrupt the city; those who cry foul about the cost should see how much we spend on lesser known things without incident or protest. If it passes, the city of Chattanooga will treat all its employees the same; just like Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Tennessee, Unum, Volkswagen, Amazon, and countless other Chattanooga-area employers. If it fails, it will continue to be legal for the city to terminate someone merely because they are gay. Chattanooga Police Captain Corliss Cooper was recently promoted from the rank of Lieutenant, after nearly 30 years of service protecting our community. She married her wife last Fall and should be entitled to the same employee benefits as her other counterparts. Captain Cooper is the perfect example of who this would affect. I am not, because I don't meet the strict criteria I wrote into the law.
In my 16 months on the council, I have encountered many issues and worked on them accordingly. When I ran, I didn't know what the legislative calendar would bring. I could not have predicted that the sound ordinance would be such a big deal in year two. A flying doughnut mural controversy is another surprise I was not expecting. While the bulk of my time is spent on constituent requests and neighborhood issues like repaving roads in St. Elmo and getting a new park for Alton Park, the press will absolutely never care about that or cover it. If you only go by the newspapers, I have spent all my time on the Non-Discrimination ordinance and Urban Chickens. A reasonable person knows that isn't true. Candidates run for office on a general platform but can't possibly predict every issue that will occupy their time over the next four years. Nor can a candidate or elected official control what the press covers or doesn't.
Since there is so much misinformation about this hot-button issue, I thought it would be best to simply put out the facts so voters can make an informed decision. Here is a link to the actual ordinance language:
As you can see from the language, a domestic partnered couple must demonstrate a level of financial and personal commitment to each other that even many married couples cannot demonstrate. Further, this is not about benefits decisions made by prior administrations regarding retirees. That is a separate issue for which no opponent of my measure has offered any solution. They merely use it as a distraction from what the real effect of this ordinance is.
I'm sure there are many good people in Chattanooga who will vote on both sides of this issue. It would be travesty, however, for someone to cast a vote based on incorrect information. A for vote will add sexual orientation to our non-discrimination clause and offer domestic partner benefits to our employees who meet several strict guidelines. Employees will still have to pay for those benefits; they simply will need to buy into the plan as many do now. The cost is roughly .08% (less than one-tenth of one percent) of our annual budget and will bring us in line with other competitive employers. An against vote would not enact this language or offer these equal benefits.
My position on this is well-known, so I'm not asking you to vote my way. I'm simply asking for you to make an educated decision based on facts, not hype. Take a few minutes and review the ordinance. If you approve, vote for. If you don't, vote against. Either way, the city will still be standing the day after the election and life will go on.
Chattanooga City Council