Chattanooga Tea Party Members:
First, let me say how privileged I am to serve each one of you and what an honor it is to represent the values and principles that we mutually stand for. Each day I realize the tremendous responsibility that each of us shares in not only moving forward the nobles values and principles that we stand for but doing so in a manner that respects others as we debate issues, policies and opportunities.
As many of you know, at our monthly meeting in May, the unanimous decision of the members was that the Chattanooga Tea Party should actively engage in the local effort to oppose the Mayor’s property tax increase. The simple reason for our opposition was that to raise taxes in this current economic climate would serve to exacerbate an already difficult and trying time for most citizens. Over the next month or so we actively participated at city council meetings to the apparent dismay of some of the city council members. While citizens’ opinions were strong, they were respectful. That respect was not returned by some of our city leaders but that’s a whole different story.
Despite a very active, vocal, and organized effort to convince the Mayor and City Council of the imprudence of raising taxes 19% during this tenuous economic climate, by a narrow vote of 5 to 4, the Mayor’s will was imposed contrary to the clear and unmistakable Will of the People – those to whom he has a duty to serve.
Because the Will of the People was so openly resisted and ignored, it became apparent that the most logical recourse (given the Mayor’s remaining term of more than 30 months) was to pursue the statutory right afforded to them in Recalling Mayor Littlefield. The CTP agreed to come alongside the effort that was launched by Jim Folkner through the “Citizens to Recall Mayor Ron Littlefield” and also supported by Chris Brooks through Chattanooga Organized for Action.
While results and success were slow to begin with, it was absolutely amazing to see the clear shift in momentum that began to gather over the last couple of weeks of the effort. I must personally thank the three primary organizations involved and the hundreds of volunteers who personally sacrificed and would not be denied, despite the fact nearly all the “experts” said it could not be done!
I suppose one of the most disappointing realities that I’ve come to realize in all of this is just how few of our city and community leaders stood up and were counted in this historical undertaking. While so many of our “leaders” may have in their hearts agreed with the basic premise of opposing a tax increase of this magnitude in this dire economic climate, it’s astonishing to see how the vast majority simply sat back and did little or nothing to support this worthy endeavor of THE PEOPLE.
And yet, THE PEOPLE spoke – in a unified, resounding manner that could not be misheard: “The Mayor’s policies were unacceptable, out of touch and not to be tolerated!” The result: 9,903 signatures (out of over 15,000 collected) were validated by the Election Commission – equal to 55% of the total votes cast during the last Mayoral election. This cannot be denied and was in fact acknowledged in court this week by the Mayor and his legal team.
So why is our Mayor Littlefield still in office? The plain and simple answer is because of legal technicalities and flawed advice. The politicians will argue otherwise but the PEOPLE know differently. There has been ample coverage of the trial itself so I won’t take the time to cover it here. But know this: Every instruction that was given to the Petitioners was followed – from the wording of the Petition to the forms used and the number of signatures collected. And certainly numerous legal minds and professionals supported and agreed with the premise that the number to collect was 8,957.
Are we satisfied with the result and ready to move on to bigger and better things? We think not!
Would I dare to equate our battle to that of our original forefathers in their dispute with King George? Of course not. But I would venture to say that we should follow their examples and carry on – not quitting and going home but rather regrouping and pushing on to ultimate success. This is what we must learn from history. And it is what we must do now.
What we achieved was success without finality. So we must now carefully, logically and with proper and reliable advice move forward. And here is our initial plan. It involves a two-track process. One, we have been and are securing legal advice from very sound and reputable lawyers who will be assisting us in arriving at the best of several legal options. As that option is crystal clear we will share it with you. Our second track involves the potential that we will develop a new Recall Petition that will meet all of the “technicalities” that were used to throw out the 10,000 signatures this week. Doing this will insure that when a new Petition hits the streets and 15,000 signatures are collected, it will pass any legal scrutiny, and success with finality will be secured.
While we are working expeditiously it may take a few days or longer to be able to definitively report back to you the details of our plan. As soon as it is finalized though we will brief you.
Finally, let me comment briefly on the Mayor’s “Unity” news conference yesterday. First, I, as did every other Recall leader, learned of the conference via an article on a news website. Further, I was intrigued at the word chosen to describe the conference: UNITY. And then it was even more interesting to realize that those who were not invited to this UNITY conference were the 9,903 folks who called for the Mayor’s recall.
If one is to have unity, it must involve more than just one’s allies. Yet, this conference was stocked full of allies and proponents of a 19% tax increase. Surprisingly, the news clips showed Congressman Zach Wamp, who stood alongside the Mayor in support, joking about the Mayor’s tax increase. The sad reality though is that this 19% tax increase is no joke to those who are struggling under the strangling burden. I was further astonished to hear the political elite tell the PEOPLE under what circumstances we should be allowed to commence a Recall. The truth is the Recall statute does NOT define the circumstances under which a Recall may occur. It is up to the PEOPLE to decide not the politicians or commentators to lecture.
In closing, let me encourage each of you to stay the course. “To whom much is given, much is required.” We have all been given much as a result of our citizenship in America and our residency in the Chattanooga area. We have a beautiful city with wonderful residents. But we have a broken government, and we must and can restore it to the level we all deserve – if we will give what is required: A little time, a little service and a lot of prayer.
Thank you for your friendship, support and encouragement.
Mark West, President Chattanooga Tea Party