Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Public Responds

Ron Littlefield has gone public with his desire to take a corrupt and dishonest politician (Marti Rutherford), who has not been legitimately elected since 2005, and put her back on the public payroll for three days (this is after the city attorney took her OFF the public payroll), so that she can qualify for taxpayer-subsidized health care (assuming she gets credit for the years she was serving illegitimately). That was yesterday's news.

Today, let's check in with the public's reaction:

The Times Free Press is collecting commentary here.
Also from the TFP: Hot topics provide tinder at Littlefield roast

The Chattanoogan.com is collecting responses:

Littlefield Help For Rutherford Shows Mayor's Mindset

The Mayor Did It Right

Recall Mayor Littlefield - And Response

Chattanooga's Little Lie

More Evidence Of Incompetent City Government - And Responses

When Is Insurance Fraud The Right Thing To Do?

What kind Of City Jobs Could Marti Do For The Next 3 Days?

At Least This Mayor Is Open

Now It's Time To Oust Littlefield - And Reply

... and the blogosphere weighs in:

mkelly: Mayor returns Rutherford to city payroll, future benefits to follow

Irresponsible Journalism: Corruption Begets Corruption

         also note the comment Mesh added to this post:
I really like the bit where he explains that he tried to handle the matter "behind the scenes" until it "accelerated." And then opened his letter to the City Council with this:

"I do not wish for you to be caught unaware of my intended action regarding Ms. Rutherford's benefits."

Well, actually, yes he did. But let's not get hung up on details.
Worst Mayor Ever: Oh. No. He. Di-int.

Tennessee Ticket: Another "Worst Mayor"

Tennessee Ticket: Just who are Littlefield's community?

Irresponsible Journalism: "City Employees Are Disgusted"

10K Monkeys: City Council Votes Unanimously To Fight Littlefield On Rutherford Benefits

BillColrus.com: Hillary Ronham Littlefield

Tennessee Ticket: Marti Rutherford to resign more than a month after she, uh, resigned

Tennessee Ticket: Mayor Littlefield blasts council for "vindictive" treatment of Rutherford

Worst Mayor Ever: Spiteful, Small & Mean

Also, the morning press has featured the story this week, though the feature they call a "blog" doesn't allow for linking to individual posts (which is probably why they're rarely cited.)

And from the October 24th edition of the Times Free Press, we hear from the left side of the editorial page (not a peep from the right!):

The illegal nature of Marti Rutherford's tenure on the City Council the past 2-1/2 years apparently is easily, if generously, overlooked by Mayor Ron Littlefield. He has decided arbitrarily that he should return her to the city payroll for three days, a questionable period at best, so she can get credit for serving on the council until her 62nd birthday — and qualify for the city's taxpayer-financed health insurance for the rest of her life.

That has angered other City Council members, and rightly so. The mayor says his action is merely "humane." That's a lame excuse under the circumstances for handing out a huge personal benefit, one that many city taxpayers would envy. Rather, it looks more like the cronyism of old-school politics to help an ally and woo her supporters.

As any Chattanoogan who followed Ms. Rutherford's forced resignation from the Council recently would know, Ms. Rutherford should not have held the District 6 seat she assumed on April 18, 2005. She was not a resident of her district, and she knew that. Instead, she rented — if paying a low electric bill could be called rent — a grandmother's apartment in District 6 from a friend and wrongly, yet deliberately, claimed that as her legal residence in District 6, though she never moved or lived there. In fact, she lived in District 5 throughout her tenure, and was not legally eligible to hold the City Council seat for District 6.

When her circumvention of the City Council residency ordinance came to light through a lawsuit, she was forced to resign from the council. She took that step only grudgingly on Oct. 9 — well short of her 62nd birthday on Nov. 3 — after weeks of equivocation and refusing to say where she actually lived. And even then, she resigned only after the city attorney's investigation and his filing of an ouster lawsuit in Chancery Court. She also still refused to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing. Given this recent history, most City Council members are rightly chagrined that Mayor Littlefield and his chief lieutenant, Dan Johnson, have paved the way for Ms. Rutherford to waltz in and claim a health care benefit, and possibly a small pension, to which she was not entitled. Indeed, after all the criminal cases that Messrs. Johnson and Littlefield have brought against former city employees the past 18 months for wrongly taking city property, it is somewhat surprising that they would turn around and give away an unearned entitlement. Of course, Ms. Rutherford and Mr. Johnson were once fellow officers in the local Republican club.

Mayor Littlefield's rationale is intriguing. "Sometimes you do what's right and not what's popular," he said Monday. "In this case we're trying to resolve an issue so the community can move forward." Yet it's hard to see how this decision in Ms. Rutherford's behalf will help move the community forward.

Certainly it didn't enhance the mayor's standing with the City Council. Its members properly see bias and inequity in the special reward given Ms. Rutherford despite her fraudulent election. They also object to the city's subsidy and potential medical liability for providing her retirement health insurance. At the city's present dollar costs of $368.18 a month for her premium, the city will pay $160.46 and Ms. Rutherford will pay the $197.72 balance. Over time, those costs clearly will rise.

The mayor also justified his cavalier approach to that handout on the grounds that the city has bequeathed such favors before. That has further intrigued council members. They reasonably want to know how many people have been similarly treated, and under what circumstances and at what cost. That raises the likelihood that Mr. Littlefield's unmerited generosity will cost more than he reckoned. His action deserves the backfire.
And from October 25th's Times Free Press comes this letter to the editor:
Rutherford's health not city's problem

In Monday's article titled "Rutherford to go on payroll 3 days to gain benefits," Mayor Ron Littlefield is quoted as saying, "sometimes you do what's right and not popular." That overused quote was plastered above every white board in every elementary school classroom I ever sat in. I obviously interpreted its meaning much differently.

Under what guiding moral principle is the mayor relying on? If giving Marti Rutherford health insurance on the taxpayer's dime is the right thing to do, then so is extending the same courtesy to me after I'm bumped off my parents' insurance plan upon December graduation.

Don't get me wrong, I believe we should have universal health insurance, but we don't. So until I land my "dream job," I'll have to make do like the rest of the uninsured Chattanoogans. It is not the mayor's place to go around doling out health insurance. What he cites as the "Golden Rule" I see as more of the "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" mentality that got Marti into this mess in the first place.

I think Marti can, and should, take responsibility for her own actions.



poopie said...

Dont'cha just hate it when things accelerate?

Josiah said...

I realize I'm biased in every which way, but dang, did Mesh catch the Mayor in QUITE the lie.

Spike said...

If anyone had asked my two cents I'd probably have made a comment about how I'm tried of politics in this town being such a gross exaggeration of national trends, or in a more acrid and overgeneralized way, I wish the money up on Lookout would stop trying to get elected just to squeeze more money out of us ditch dwellers. It's such a turn off.