Darrin Ledford, member of Chattanooga city council, says he wants police to treat people with respect. (Photo David Tulis)

City council member Darrin Ledford pushes back against the implications of transportation administrative notice, worried that if people have liberty to travel freely, careless travelers will get away with “drunken driving” and other evils without the state having any way of holding them to account.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

Mr. Ledford in a meeting to discuss transportation administrative notice labors to understand the implications of the notice for city government.

He understands the claims of liberty respected by by the statute, but worries that liberty will be abused by the people if city police are forced to recognize and respect it.

The DUI problem in free society

He ultimately appears to reject the idea of free travel because it would give police no authority to arrest and charge people who are drunk on the road. His objections are similar to those of council member Chip Henderson. In an interview about Tenn. Code Ann. Title 55, the transportation law that applies to transportation, Mr. Henderson projects roadway mayhem if police power is curbed

Mr Ledford. insists that I ask people whether they would agree with an enforcement policy that gives officers no authority to arrest someone weaving under a drunken spell behind the steering wheel of a car. (The answer is, maybe, but not under Title 55.)

He rejects my idea that the city employee  who wears the blue would be extending an act of mercy to take the wobbly person home. So now, police officers are taxi drivers? Mr. Ledford demands, shocked.

Yes, I say. They have no arrest authority over private users unless they see a crime being committed, and would have to act as firefighters do, as agents of mercy and rescue. It occurs to me only later that cops would have authority to affect an arrest of a private traveler who is drunk under the nuisance statute.

Coercion for social good

Mr. Ledford, as he starts the thinking process about police reform, wants police power to bring about a social good. Police power has a very strong appeal to progressive liberals and typical conservatives — to be able to use authority to save lives and improve public safety. It almost doesn’t matter, in this line of thinking (seems to me), whether the law allows such exercise.

Mr. Ledford cites roads in his district that are used by speeders and the need for there to be warnings and enforcement around bus stops, for the safety of children. He is highly empathetic to victims of motorists and drivers who are injured in car and truck accidents.

Liability for city?

Mr. Ledford also is concerned about liability for the city if Title 55 reforms are made in obedience to the statute. Could the city be sued for not enforcing the law as it might have had in the past? He wonders. If someone is killed, could the surviving parties sue over the change in policy that theoretically could be cited as a proximate cause of that person’s death? (No, a city cannot be sued for obeying the law, even if its activities are sharply reduced from what it did previously.)


I don’t hide the seeming blemishes to the TAN project. While the notice makes clear statute and case law respect the travel-transportation distinction, the supreme court and court of appeals do not. What an uphill fight! Why change police enforcement custom pursued by 100 percent of the state’s cities and counties?

They hold that travel is a very, very narrow concept. Travel, to them, is nothing more than change of domicile from one state to another. The court’s position is that of a legal fiction, and the court is an activist and lawmaking court, violating the separation of powers. It upholds what I conveniently call “commercial government,” a term I used at least once in my chat with councilman Ledford.

Political opportunity — totally new agenda item

Mr. Ledford demurs in saying whether he has any political ambitions beyond city council. He is a politically active conservative and a “nuts and bolts” entrepreneur who runs a printing business. Being on city council member has cost his shop, partly because council takes up so much of his time. The workload has tempered loftier ideas in politics.

Thus Mr. Ledford is not too impressed with my pitch for the political implications of “Double Nickel” reform. This reform is brand new on the American political scene, I allege, and has potential constituencies on both sides of the aisle.

On the left, I say, parties serving minorities such as the NAACP and ACLU, immigration supporters, unions and open border Democrats would be in favor. Unions arguably could behind such reform because it serves working people going to and from their jobs who are under statute free to do so without state permission.

As Double Nickel reform would limit enforcement only to commercial users, it would create a sanctuary city from Title 55. It would make Chattanooga a haven or city of refuge from abusive (current) enforcement. Sanctuary cities is not a concept that belongs to the progressive left, however; it is a biblical concept and is a Christian-libertarian idea.

On the other side of the political spectrum, I say,  would be constitution-honoring conservatives, libertarians and Christians who understand that commercial statute enforcement against the poor and strangers is unjust.

Opponents of double nickel reform in Tennessee and Chattanooga would include mostly so-called conservatives (really, old-fashioned socialists). These would include pro-cop organizations, police unions, supporters of the prison-industrial complex and insurance companies, who would lose a great deal of business from people no longer compelled to buy coverage.

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