Brother Kevin Muhammad said he is disappointed that the chairman of the City Council will not allow him to present “The People’s State of the City Address” before the council at its regular 6 p.m. meeting as was done in May 2016.
He said current chairman Ken Smith was the one who spoke up in 2016 and arranged for the presentation.
Rev. Muhammad said this time he has only been offered the council's 1:30 p.m. planning session in the small J.B. Collins Room.
He said that would be before "a small group of people behind closed doors hidden from public view."
Chairman Smith brought up the issue with other council members on Tuesday and they agreed that groups are sometimes invited at 1:30 p.m. for presentations up to 20 minutes. Council members said the end of the 6 p.m. regular council meeting gives the opportunity for members of the public to speak for three minutes.
Rev. Muhammad issues this
An Open Letter to Councilman Ken Smith, Chairman of the City Council Regarding “The People’s State of the City Address”
We hope this letter finds you in the best of health and spirit. I am writing this open letter to bring to light a request made to the Chair regarding “The People’s State of the City Address.” The request was made to address public policy that affects the people of Chattanooga.
History has a way of repeating itself. George Santayana, writer and philosopher, is attributed with saying, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
On April 24, 2018, I sent you the following request: “Good Afternoon: We would like to request from the chair permission to deliver The People’s State of the City Address. What would it require to allow such? Thanks.”
Two weeks passed with no decision on your part. Finally, On May 10, 2018, I followed up the request, “Mr. Chairman: It’s been a little over 2 weeks since we made the request. Have you made a decision? Thanks.”
Your response was, “Yes, I know. Sorry for the delay. I have had several requests for time to present on different topics to the Council so it’s not just considering your request, but how the Council handles all similar requests. This is something the Council has never done before as you know. I have spoken to my colleagues and the desire is to allow up to 20 minute requested presentations at our 1:30 meeting. This meeting is where the Council is currently presented with information from the Administration and funded / partner organizations and makes the most sense for groups wanting to present information to the Council.”
Mr. Chairman. We are extremely disappointed in your handling of our request. If history serves us well, this has been done by the Council before. In fact, as Councilman, you created the platform for such presentations.
Two years ago, in April 2016, Councilman Moses Freeman, Chairman, mishandled the same request. It was you, Mr. Chairman who openly voiced your desire to hear from us in direct opposition to the then Chairman.
According to The Chattanoogan, “Councilman Ken Smith recommended that the council grant the request, saying he was anxious to hear what the group had to say "whether we agree with them or we don't." He added, "He does represent citizens in our community and I think it is our duty to sit here until they are due."
Mr. Chairman, as Councilman, you introduced me.
What motivated you then to recommend such a request as a Councilman? What has changed now that you have become Chairman? Why would you recommend such request before the full council during its regular session two years ago as a Councilman, but as Chairman, rather than deciding yourself, through your colleagues, recommend such a request during the 1:30 meeting? You stated the 1:30 time “makes the most sense for groups wanting to present information to the council.” For whom does that time make the most sense? For the working people of the City or for a small group of people behind closed doors hidden from public view? Who are the colleagues that you have spoken to regarding this specific request?
History records how we act without power and how we act once power is in our hands. History records our word then judges if our word is bond or if our word fails.
The 19th century British politician Lord Acton stated, “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
We leave you with these words from former City Councilman Yusef Hakeem and Chairman Moses Freeman as recorded by the Chattanoogan two years ago, “Councilman Yusuf Hakeem asked if the council was "doing ourselves a disservice to not hear what the citizens have to say."
He said that was especially true given "the pent-up frustration and the violence we have been experiencing."
Chairman Freeman then said, when council members make such a request, it should be honored.
He said Bro. Muhammad would have time on the agenda.”
It is obvious that as Chairman, you have already lined up countermeasures for our request and other similar request to better serve your interest and not the full interest of the people. Just when
We thought we had a Chairman for the people, you disappoint us like your predecessors.
May God grant you the light of understanding that you will not go down that same path as those before you. We do not believe the time you and your colleagues have granted makes the most sense to deliver “The People’s State of the City Address.”
You are the Chair. You have the authority to do as you and your colleagues have decided. By God’s grace and permission, we will deliver “The People’s State of the City Address.” Once a place and time is determined, the Chair and the Council are welcome to attend.
Thank you for considering these words.