Charter amendments add to long ballots across Tennessee

By: - August 4, 2022 7:00 am
Photo of campaign buttons saying Vote 2022. (Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

Partisan races aren’t the only ones on Tennessee ballots Thursday, as voters in Davidson, Hamilton and Shelby Counties will also be voting to ratify — or not to ratify — a clutch of amendments to county government charters.

Davidson County

The Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County approved four amendments in May but each amendment must now receive majority approval from voters. 

Charter Amendment One rewrites Article 19, which specifies procedures for ballot initiatives and referendums. 

One change is the requirement that 10% of registered Davidson County voters sign a petition instead of 10% of Davidson County voters who voted in the last election — creating a much higher burden for those seeking to get on a ballot. Petitions for a ballot initiative can contain only one proposed amendment and only one referendum to amend the Metro charter can be voted on in any two-year period. Finally, the amendment will establish a seven-member Charter Revision Commission to hold hearings and advise Metro Council on charter amendments. 

Members of the proposed commission will be appointed by the mayor and approved by Metro Council for four-year terms to make recommendations to the Metro Council; overseeing the validity, preparation and circulation of petitions to change the charter; and approving the form of referendum ballots.

The proposed amendment follows a months-long legal battle over a 2021 anti-tax hike referendum aiming to curb Metro Nashville’s ability to increase property taxes and change how the city handles public official recalls and other issues. The original petition was initiated by 4GoodGovernment and was struck down in 2020 before being revived in 2021. 

Amendment Two  changes physical qualifications and citizenship requirements for police department employees. Instead of needing to meet the physical requirements for admission to the United States Army or Navy, employees would now need to meet physical requirements by the Civil Service Commission. 

Amendment Three defines the relationship between the Board of Health and the Metro Public Health Department, adds a member to the Metro Board of Health, changes membership requirements, and changes qualifications for the director of health to allow candidates that are not medical doctors but have other relevant  experience in public health or policy to be eligible for the position.

If the director of health is not a medical doctor, this amendment requires the appointment of a medical doctor to serve as the chief medical officer.

Amendment Four creates the Nashville Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure to oversee transit roads, collection and disposal of garbage, control and repair of automotive equipment, enforcement of laws related to permits and licenses, among other duties. Under the amendment, the Department of Public Works will no longer exist by name, but most of its duties will be absorbed by the NDOT.

Former Vice President Mike Pence greets Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland (left) at a 2020 event. Strickland has said he will run for a third term if a charter amendment permitting third terms passes in the Aug. 4, 2022 election. (Photo by © Karen Pulfer Focht)
Former Vice President Mike Pence greets Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland (left) at a 2020 event. Strickland has said he will run for a third term if a charter amendment permitting third terms passes in the Aug. 4, 2022 election. (Photo by © Karen Pulfer Focht)

Memphis-Shelby County

The Memphis City Council approved a resolution sponsored by councilmember Martavius Jones to extend the current two-term limit to three-terms for both the mayor and members of the city council. 

Term-limited Mayor Jim Strickland has already said he will run for a third term if the referendum passes. 

Chattanooga-Hamilton County

The first proposed amendment seeks to remove the position of city court clerk in the municipality of East Ridge from being an elected position to being appointed by the city manager. The city court clerk is responsible for the administrative duties for city judges Sherry Paty and Russell Bean.

The second proposed amendment seeks to correct an error by substituting the residency requirement for the city court judge from the city of East Ridge to Hamilton County. It also proposes that no city court judge may hold other nonjudicial elected offices – either federal, state, county or municipal.

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Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.