Citizens Go To Court To Try To Block City Climate Action Plan; City Council Votes 5-2 In Favor

  • Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A group of citizens have gone to court to try to block the city's Climate Action Plan. The group filed suit in Chancery Court on Tuesday, just before the City Council was to vote on the plan from Mayor Tim Kelly.

The council voted 5-2 in favor. Those voting approval were Raquetta Dotley, Isiah Hester, Marvene Noel, Carol Berz and Jenny Hill. Voting no were Chip Henderson and Chip Smith. Absent were Darrin Ledford and Demetrus Coonrod.

City officials said the plan is "a growth strategy that will protect Chattanoogans’ quality of life and increase national competitiveness amid changes to the climate and international economy.

The plan includes a series of actions to drive smart, clean-energy growth, protect natural resources, and strengthen the local economy, driving home Chattanooga’s leading position as a green, sustainable city in a changing world."

Mayor Kelly said, “At its core, this is a sustainability plan for Chattanooga, one that will lead to social and economic benefits that all residents care about – like more transportation options, good-paying jobs, more accessible parks and greenways, and energy cost savings for taxpayers. I want to thank our City Council for their vision and leadership in formally adopting the plan tonight.

“As we look ahead, I’m committed to ensuring community engagement and input remain at the forefront of this work. That’s why our next step will be to convene a committee with representatives from every corner of the city, who will help guide implementation of the plan in the years to come.”

City officials said the city "made a number of minor additions and clarifications to the plan this week, in response to the feedback received during and after the public hearing held on March 21. Additions emphasize the need for key progress measurements focused on public health and equity, and include a new strategy to analyze the region’s food systems, with the goal of better understanding how to plan for sustainable, healthy food sources over the long term. The Kelly administration also added a preamble to emphasize to residents that no action or data collection mechanism recommended in the plan will violate their privacy, restrict their movement, or lead to community-wide laws, mandates, or surveillance."

The updated version of the plan is available at

“The best cities are made up of residents who are engaged and civically involved, and it was inspiring to see so many folks share their thoughts and input in response to this plan,” said the City’s Director of Sustainability Erik Schmidt. “We look forward to continuing the conversation with the community as we work together to make Chattanooga’s neighborhoods more livable and sustainable for the future, as well as working with partner organizations who are already making great strides in their work to this end.”

Officials said the plan includes six goals and 104 strategies, which all include actions that fall into four main categories: transportation, buildings and waste, green spaces and waterways, and jobs and opportunity.

Officials said, "Together, these actions will preserve and protect Chattanooga’s natural resources by reducing the city’s carbon footprint and the amount of waste sent to local landfills. At the same time, they will lead to significant economic and social benefits – such as new, integrated transportation options, operational cost savings across city government, better, more accessible park systems and wildlife preserves, and new, good-paying jobs and skill-building opportunities."

A video explainer of the plan is available here.

Officials said, "Pursuing the actions in the plan will help qualify the city to receive a portion of the hundreds of billions of dollars in grant opportunities that are being made available by the federal government, as well as millions more in philanthropic and private investments that would have generational impacts.

"With adoption of the plan, the city will immediately begin work to establish two committees: an internal Climate Action Plan implementation committee, comprising City staff who will ensure the plan’s goals are integrated into all departmental work; and an external Chattanooga Climate, Sustainability, and Resilience (CSR) committee, which will include representatives from across Chattanooga who will work with city staff to engage the community in the implementation of the plan city-wide.

"The committees will develop and publish a full list of key performance indicators, and updates will be reported on a regular basis to City Council, published on the City website, and incorporated into regular Plan updates.

"The city will also seek City Council approval in the coming weeks to offer commercial property owners a financing approach that would make it easier for them to finance clean energy and resiliency improvements. The strategy, known as Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resilience (C-PACER), allows property owners to repay financing for clean energy and resiliency upgrades through voluntary special assessments placed on their properties, which are billed and collected as part of their annual property tax bills and then remitted to the lender.

"Benefits of the program include higher performing buildings and property values, and significant energy efficiency cost savings for property owners. More than 37 states currently have legislation enabling C-PACER financing, including Tennessee.

"As a privately financed economic development tool, C-PACER does not affect tax bills of non-participating residents, nor does it impact grants or other public funding."

Filing the suit against the city and the City Council were Robert Biles, Melody Garcia, Cecile Parris, Harriette Reid, Robert Sohn, Pam Skipper and Richard Walser.

A hearing was set before Chancellor Pam Fleenor on April 12 on whether a temporary restraining order should be issued.

The group wants a vote by Chattanooga residents on the plan.

Joda Thongnopnua, chief of staff to the mayor, said the mayor's office "was listening" when a number of citizens recently expressed opposition to the plan at a public hearing.

He said some modifications were made to the plan, including adding a preamble.

The lawsuit states:

Petition for Temporary Restraining Order and Request for Permanent Injunction

Now come Robert Biles, Melody Garcia, Cecile Parris, Harriette Reid, Pam Skipper, Robert Sohn and Richard Walser, henceforth known as the Petitioners, and file this Petition for Temporary Restraining Order and Request for Permanent Injunction against the City of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga City Council, et al., henceforth known as Respondents, to wit:

1. Chattanooga City Council is to vote on the adoption of a Climate Action Plan on March 28, 2023.

2. This plan calls for radical government overreach which is believed will not only cost the taxpayers of Chattanooga, Tennessee dearly, but also impact their ability to live free without invasive government interference, control, and surveillance.

a. Chattanooga will reduce disparity among socially and economically vulnerable communities - This provision will result in individuals paying for benefits from which they will not derive a benefit and prioritizing equity over equality on all facets of analysis.

b. Chattanooga will become a net zero carbon community - This provision involves the imposition of solar energy on citizens who may not wish to participate and is ripe to create taxes, potential fines, or penalties for not participating. This provision by design imposes a normative vision on society and citizens who may otherwise not agree with this worldview.

c. Chattanooga will become a net zero waste community - This provision restricts land use and constitutes unwarranted invasion into individuals private use of their property.

d. Chattanooga will build a more sustainable city - This provision will create governmental overreach in control over output, it will undermine capitalism, and impose neo-Marxists duties of conscience, per the World Economic Forum. This provision indefinitely prevents innovation and is anti-progressive because it is, by definition, circular.

e. Chattanooga will preserve and improve natural resources integrity - This provision calls for governmental overreach and interference with a private property owner's use of their property. This provision is suggesting the imposition of a sustainable normative vision, not left up to the choice of the people.

f. Chattanooga will be a leader in the green economy - This provision will impose overreaching governmental control and under the guise of incentivizing businesses to participate, potentially creates taxes and penalties for businesses who do not want to participate, and it imposes a normative vision. The green economy imposes a will that did not come forth from the people or the elected and that this will is a special worldview.

g. The Plan also calls for invasion of privacy through the use of bi-directional data flow, which will enable the capture of information on an individual's phone who happen to come into proximity to the devices that are to be installed. It also calls for recording devices, which will violate a person's reasonable expectation of privacy.

3. It is submitted Chattanooga residents living in the City limits have not been properly informed or educated on the impact of this Climate Action Plan.

4. No referendum has been taken; therefore, the Chattanooga City Council should not take a vote on the adoption of this Plan as it threatens to impact the freedom and property rights of the people as well as their pocket books without asking the people first. If the City of Chattanooga violates a citizen's property rights, the City of Chattanooga is violating their being. In the United States of America, rights to property are sacred.

5. Without giving the people a right to first vote or have a voice on the Climate Action Plan by referendum on a ballot during the General Election on Thursday, August 1, 2024, the implementation of the Plan to include the installation of surveillance and recording equipment will cause immediate and irreparable harm. Thus, a Temporary Restraining Order is needed to stop the Chattanooga City Council from voting to adopt this Plan before a referendum occurs.


6. This Schwabian plan violates the 5th and 14th Amendment. The Framers of the American Constitution venerated the right to property, both for its own sake and as a means of guaranteeing personal independence. Property is one with liberty and is a guarantee of the people's legal rights. The Framers believed that neither liberty nor property could exist without the other.

7. This plan is unconstitutional. Marbury v. Madison (1803) - anything against the Constitution is null and void.

8. The plan includes a vision for connected vehicles that provides technologies required for robust vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communications. This functionality that implements bi-directional V2I data flow and is capable of pushing data to a vehicle. This violates Tennessee Code Title 39 Chapter 13P Part 601 - Wiretapping and electronic surveillance Prohibited plans Exceptions which states a person commits an offense who intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication.

9. The recording devices violate Tennessee Code Title 39 Chapter 13 Part 605. Unlawful Photographing in Violation of Privacy which states it is an offense for a person to knowingly photograph, or cause to be photographed an individual, when the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the prior effective consent of the individual, or in the case of a minor, without the prior effective consent of the minor's parent or guardian, if the photograph: Would offend or embarrass an ordinary person if such person appeared in the photograph; and was taken for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant. The photograph depicts areas of the individual's body, clothed or unclothed, that would not be visible to ordinary observation bur for the offensive or embarrassing manner of photography.


10. Jurisdiction is proper in this Court as equitable relief is sought and because all petitioners are either residents of the City of Chattanooga and live within City limits or have businesses within the City limits.

The resolution before the City Council said:

WHEREAS, the City of Chattanooga has a history of proactive planning and
leadership in sustainability, including adopting the 2009 Chattanooga Climate Action Plan, participating in the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge, and creating the 2020 Regional Resilience Report; and
WHEREAS, the City of Chattanooga is poised to establish itself as a regional and
national leader in attracting and growing the "green" economy of the future, including being
the home to Volkswagen's all electric SUV and the nation's first domestic manufacturer of
clean battery materials; and
WHEREAS, natural resources are the core of Chattanooga's international
reputation, a major driver of economic activity, and an essential resource for the health and well-being of all Chattanoogans; and
WHEREAS, extreme weather events such as droughts and wildfires, record rainfall,
damaging winds and tornadoes, and extreme temperatures have become more common and more destructive; and
WHEREAS, the impacts of the changing climate widen the disparities that exist
across Chattanooga; and

WHEREAS, the 2023 Climate Action Plan will enable the City of Chattanooga to
access the billions of dollars in federal, state, and private funding available for climate
change, sustainability, and resilience; and
WHEREAS, the City of Chattanooga 2023 Climate Action Plan has six goals that
will maximize these opportunities and address these challenges and will allow the City of
Chattanooga to harness the City's resources into a structured and collaborative framework, catalyzing long-lasting, community-wide change in the years to come:
City of Chattanooga 2023 Climate Action Plan Goals:
1. Chattanooga will reduce disparities among socially and economically
vulnerable communities;
2. Chattanooga will become a net zero-carbon community;
3. Chattanooga will become a zero-waste community;
4. Chattanooga will build a more sustainable city;
5. Chattanooga will preserve and improve natural resources integrity; and
6. Chattanooga will be a leader in the green economy.
WHEREAS, full implementation of the 2023 Climate Action Plan will require
consistent, dedicated effort by the City of Chattanooga and partners across the city; and
WHEREAS, the City of Chattanooga will convene a Climate, Sustainability, and
Resilience Committee that will be responsible for implementation, oversight, and reporting on the Climate Action Plan;

TENNESSEE, That it hereby adopts the City of Chattanooga 2023 Climate Action Plan.

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