When I attend city council meetings I have the sense that in that great chamber at 6000 Lindsay St. downtown the force of gravity is twice that found anywhere else.
Among the members and their proceedings every Tuesday night at 6, there seems to be a burden of thought, a weight on the limbs, a dragging earthward of the five senses, as if nothing can really be done by this body, and nothing can ever be sent aloft as if by feather.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
Generally, passive and reactive government is best for the people of Chattanooga and the U.S. The biblical model of the civil magistracy is that of a government inactive except when provoked into action by a crime or a dispute. The biblical model is government as judiciary.
In christendom’s notion, there is no executive branch or legislative branch (as the children of Israel had decentralized executive power in the individual, and God’s law as legislation). No executive state, but merely the court (with a sheriff to give service and oversee defendants). In ancient Israel, chiefs such as Moses and Joshua were judges.
In contrast to the limited and primitive view of civil authority is the concept of activist, interventionist, totalistic, absolutist, surveilling and peremptory executive government favored by Republicans and Democrats alike.
This humanistic state saps our productivity, turns us into obedient wage-slaves and continues to decline in reputation because of its violence, binge borrowing and incompetence. Elections, tax filing and other sacraments are disregarded.
Council should oversee errant executive
But city council should have something of an executive impulse aroused with recent outbreaks of violence by the Chattanooga police department under Mayor Andy Berke.
Mr. Berke pretends that policing and his office have nothing to do with one another. He convinces us he is a hands-off mayor when it comes to policing. Cops are independent and self-governing; he doesn’t politicize them or use this army for lowly political purposes such as bullying the poor and blacks.
Let Chief David Roddy mind his POST and CALEA standards, and all is well.
String of abuses
But corruption and scandal are simmering — corruption being simply violation of law and rejection of its authority. It appears time for the city council to throw off its passivity, the torpor weighing its every arm and leg, its glaze of sleep, to demand that the interest and rights of the people be respected by Mayor Berke and his armed fraternity.
The string of abuses began with arrest of Avery Gray’s daughter June 25, a girl dragged from her car and maliciously charged with resisting arrest though she raised not a finger by way of “force.” On July 7 was the arrest of Diana Watt, dragged from her SUV under the persistently abused Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55 transportation statute and victimized by officers who laid eight criminal counts against her, including a cockeyed charge of “retaliation for past acts,” which statute’s provisions are not reachable of the Watt arrest fact base by 35 feet.
Then there is the case of Officer Desmond Logan, hired July 27, 2014, who stands accused in public reports of three rapes or illicit sexual encounters while on the clock. This man has not been charged, arrested or fired. Perhaps Officer Logan might get the same treatment as that bestowed by partners in the fellowship of the finger (the cops and the DA, Neal Pinkston) upon Allen Trumbo, who escaped a DUI charge by tendering his resignation under the theory that a job loss is more grievous than a criminal charge.
Today there is the police department’s military-style raid on the house of Jesse Parker, a public school teacher and minister, who has been sheltering a daughter and husband and their six children in a pleasant abode near Eastgate Town Center. All nine family members endured rifle muzzle and harangues while forced out of their home in the middle of the night.
In November will be circuit court trial of city government and former officer David Campbell, who abused Hixson residence Hanson Melvin “walking while black.”
Oaths before God to uphold law
Mr. Berke and at least one city council member, Darrin Ledford, attended Tuesday the Hamilton County government swearing-in ceremony at the Trade Center involving 23 officeholders. These judges, commissioners and school board members made vows before God to uphold and support the state and federal constitutions and to take no bribe and show no favor.
City council members take a similar oath. Might not these oaths be reconsidered, so that city council might act militantly on behalf of the people and their rights and not just conduct routine rezoning in purchasing votes?
Yes, the oath is to uphold the constitution. But the oath of office traces the following line to its good effect. The oath lives in the heart of the city council member, and it pours through the constitution and all lawful laws and upon the bodies and blood of the residents in Chattanooga for their security and happiness.
End the ministry of accusation that are police
Taking the oath of office means to protect individuals and their property rights and their right to life and to be respected by the public authorities, and not condemned.
False charges and erroneous searches without a warrant are a form of condemnation.
Not having a warrant, the officers pointed their guns through the door at the family members, and demanded they come out, Tameka Parker the daughter says in an interview. Fearing for their lives, family members filed out, children as young as 5. Under great pressure, Mr. Parker capitulated to the state necessity of a search, since the cops had no authority to search the house without a warrant — or the hapless owner’s consent.
Understandably, municipal corporation police officers have less standing and far less privilege than federal law enforcement officers. Cooperation with federal raiding parties is questionable, but relatively remote as a problem to work on.
More immediately before us are those recited by broadcast journalist Marie Mott and Mr. Parker before city council. Condemnation without authority, especially of the poor and minorities.
Council should desire that the people be respected and that the mayor not abuse people through his staffers in blue, whether alone or in cooperation with “the good people” in Washington, D.C.
These city government employees, operate on a very high level of legal immunity, able to use threat and force and bluff unlike any other category of people in the city. The scale of their operation and its funding mechanisms make private gangs enjoying turf wars, illicit sex, petty larceny and trafficking in banned agricultural products look like schoolboys.
It is time for city council to get real.
It is high time for the people to demand an accounting through their representatives as against Mayor Berke, who seems impervious to appeals on these points and offers no discussion about them.
Speaking of commentary: There appears Tuesday in the Times Free Press a column by Mr. Berke, “Active voters make democracy healthy,” misdirecting his reader’s attention away from real questions of justice that electioneering can’t fix, but which police reform and care for the constitutional rights of the people might, if he and city council would just make note.