Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Commissioner Briggs Wants to Make it Easy for the Lazy

Commissioner Richard Briggs is proposing a massive redo of the Recall Charter Amendment that Knox County voters approved. in 2008 The voters approve something and then Briggs and his cronies want to tweak it for their benefit.

Briggs stated that he was trying to clean up the number of days between a recall election and the General election. Currently there is a required 90-95 days and then 70 - 75 days till the General election. Brigg stated that each election cost $250,000.00 and what he is really setting out to do is reduce the number of signatures required to have an recall election. For example in August 2008, 34,000 voters elected Knox County Law Director Bill Lockett. 3,800 voters elected Eighth District School Board Member Bill Phillips. Currently in order for a recall of Phillips to appear on the ballot then 15% of the registered voters in district eight must sign the petition within 90 day. The required number is 4,800 registered voter signatures. Briggs said that he has talked to the organizers of the Phillips recall in the 8th district and they have said that it is impossible unless you are wealthy and can spend the money on a recall drive.

Briggs wants to reduce the required number of signatures for a recall election to be 50% of the number of voters in the election that elected the person. Briggs said that in the 2008 election for Sheriff 44,000 votes were cast and with his proposal it would require 22,000 signatures to place a recall on the ballot for Sheriff.

So, Briggs wants to reduce the number of signatures required to place a recall on the ballot. He said that he wants a 1 year waiting period (that provision is already in the Charter) He also wants to set the time to circulate the petition. The Charter Amendment already sets the time period as 90 days.

Commissioner R. Smith said "I like it, but I would like the percentage to be 51% so that it is a majority.

Commissioner Brad Anders said I agree we need to clean up some of the language. However, voter apathy is NO reason to lower threshold. If you are elected in a 51 -48% election. One vote making 4% of the population mad will result in a recall effort. Commissioner Anders said that this change could result in every elected official being on the ballot every two years.

Commissioner Mike Hammond said that any registered voter could sign the petition even if they didn't vote in the election. The people who are registered and never vote and simply just want to keep controversy will sign a petition. Hammond believes an election should be held sooner rather than later. He said that he is struggling with percentages.

Commissioner Ed Shouse says that the Convention Hotel Recall had professional help. The Charter Referendum Recall had professional help. The wheel tax recall petition drive did not have professional help. If we use the General Election numbers, why would we even bother to vote? Shouse asked Commissioner Dave Wright if Phillips ran unopposed . Wright said YES.

Briggs in responding to Anders said if people are going to elect you every two years that happens with Congress and the legislature. Plus the recall people will have to work. In addition, a majority of states require 25% of the people that voted in the election. When California recalled Governor Gray Davis it was 25%.

Anders in responding to Briggs said that the legislature running every 2 years. That is their term. Your term as a Commissioner is four years or the next term 6 years. The excuse of a cooling off period of 1 year is not valid as people get riled up. This lowering of the threshold is a knee jerk reaction. It should be hard to recall someone. A majority of states have an income tax so if you would like to have one go ahead. The voters that elected Commissioner Sam McKenzie in the first district was low. A thousand people could recall the first district commissioner. Only 800 people voted in the election of First District Commissioner Sam McKenzie, so 400 signatures could place a recall election of McKenzie on the ballot.

Hammond said the cost of a countywide election is $25o,000.00. A district election would be cheaper. Cost is a consideration.

Commissioner Mark Harmon said that he believes that Briggs is setting the bar too high. Circulating a petition is an arduous task. 25% of a turnout is the average of other states and communities. Briggs has set the bar at 50% Harmon calls this a reasonable plan.

Commission Chairman Tank Strickland said Briggs is making it too low. It should be high like Anders said. We need to look at it, study it. 15% of the registered voters may be high. But, 500 people could recall the first district Commissioner.

In response Briggs said that Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President. We serve at the pleasure of the public. Again, Briggs continuing to compare the Knox County Commission to Congress, the legislature and the President's cabinet continues to fuel the rumors and innuendo that Briggs suffers from Bill Frist syndrome. Meaning that Briggs a heart surgeon has aspirations for higher office like Heart Surgeon Dr. Bill Frist that went from U.S. Senator from Tennessee to become U. S. Senate Majority Leader and is frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for President of the United States.

In the Finance Committee, Anders voted NO. Strickland abstained. The entire Knox County Commission will take up the issue Monday December 14, 2009. The meeting begins at 2:00 p.m.

1 comment:

AverageJoe said...

Legislators can't legislate citizen involvement in government. They can, however, help ensure citizen participation mechanisms can't be easily corrupted. Making it so just hundreds can recall any given official is a dangerous approach that has more detriments than benefits.