Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Charter politics

Knox County asked Chancellor John Weaver to put a 180-day stay on his June 9th decision which declared the Knox County Charter invalid. Mayor Ragsdale says he wants to "focus on restoring term limits." Obviously, I have great trouble believing that this is Ragsdale's real motivation. I can't read Mike Ragsdale's mind by any means, but I suspect that at the very least he does not care whether term limits exist in county law one way or the other, and at most he would prefer that they did not exist at all.

I suspect that Mike Ragsdale's real motivation is the fact that he does not want to return to what we in Tennessee would call a constitutional form of government-he does not want the primary motus of the county to be to enforce state law. What is not often mentioned in the local press is that this form of government is the form used by 92 of our 95 counties. There is no great push Statewide for counties to rush into charter government.

I suspect that the reason Mayor Ragsdale (and other county officials) are really all that interested in preserving a charter that is defective is that it increases their power and authority. I do not believe for a second that the preservation of home rule from far-away Nashville is the reason county officials want to maintain the charter. Home rule is a great thing, and I'm not opposed to the principles behind it. However, it has to be necessary, because while the States created the federal union (and have, I believe, the ultimate check-and-balance against the abuses of federal power), the counties did not create the State of Tennessee, they were wholly a creation of the State.

Since 93 of 96 counties do not have charter government, that leads me to believe that the State is not all-powerful in many of our counties, and if the State desires to abuse its constitutional authority, it is not very successful at doing so (and no, I have no faith at all in the present regime in Nashville-I just don't think they are doing much to flex their muscle at the county level so as to merit a mass movement toward charter government).

Those of you who support term limits-beg off of that question for a moment and consider the deeper question of charter government. Is a charter necessary to insure good county government, or can we be better served by reforming the present constitutional system?

2 Comments:

At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 9:36:00 PM, Blogger Steve Mule said...

Dave,
What's the difference between a charter government and a non-charter government?
I wasn't living in East Tennessee yet when the charter was passed and am unfamilar with why we (Knox Countians) voted for it. Thanks.

SteveMule

 
At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 11:50:00 PM, Blogger GoodGirl said...

Steve, Dave and others:

There are two counties in TN that are considered home-rule counties--Shelby and Knox. The basic difference between home-rule government and the consitutional form that the other 92 counties have (Davidson has metro) is that home-rule county commissions have the authority to pass legislation that has the force of law.

In other counties, if a commission wishes to pass a law, they must first take the issue to the State Legislature where it is passed as a "Private Act," or a law that applies to only one county.

It gives the county more independence to function, much like a city has. Hope this helps.

 

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