Local

Shelby County Swears in First Female Chief Public Defender

Shelby County swore in its first female chief public defender yesterday, The Commercial Appeals reports. Phyllis Aluko has spent 25 years in the office where she began as a volunteer, then moving to the trial division for 10 years, later transferring to the appellate division. Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said at the ceremony: "Phyllis Aluko is now, has been and will be an exceptional public defender … She understands the needs of the office, the needs of the community." Aluko replaces former Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush, who retired in February.
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Scooter Firms Eyeing Chattanooga Market

Commuters in Chattanooga will soon have another transit option: electric scooters, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Currently a common conveyance in Nashville and Memphis, the scooters have become ubiquitous on city sidewalks, with the municipalities grappling with ways to regulate their use. In fact, the scooters were initially banned in Nashville just two days following introduction last May, with city leaders expressing concerns over pedestrian safety and sidewalk obstruction. Nashville’s Metro Council eventually rescinded the ban, putting in place a permit process and new rules allowing the companies to be fined for scooters left on sidewalks, also requiring riders to stay off sidewalks in business districts and use hand signals when turning. City leaders in Chattanooga have expressed similar concerns and intend to methodically address these concerns over a 12-month pilot period. Companies that wish to offer the service in Chattanooga will pay a $110 fee for each newly permitted dockless vehicle.

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Third Stewart County Election Commissioner Resigns

The Stewart County Election Commission on Tuesday received its third resignation this month only hours before a scheduled meeting, The Leaf Chronicle reports. Martha Vaughn, a Democratic commissioner and the group's secretary, submitted the letter that only stated that she was resigning effective immediately. This comes just weeks after a joint resignation by former commission members James Adcock and Betty Gibbs, who left the group because of “unethical outside political interference” and the “lack of proper protocol, respect and decency" shown to members of the commission.

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Citizen Requests Ouster Investigation of Knox Commissioner Gill

Following news of settlement in the case where Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill was accused of abusing an 11-year-old autistic boy, a member of the county’s ethics committee and resident in Gill’s district is calling for her ouster, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Michael Covington, who is considering running against Gill in next year’s commission race, sent a letter to Law Director Bud Armstrong Tuesday saying: “Mrs. Gill, by her actions, has shown that she lacks the character and temperament needed to function effectively in her current role with the county.” Covington further stated that while he doesn't think Gill has done a good job in office, this goes beyond that because “this is an incident that suggests that we didn’t really know her.” Gill is currently the only Democrat on the 11-member commission.

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General Assembly Will Consider Changes to Open Record Laws

The General Assembly will consider legislation seeking to limit certain government record requests, despite pushback from open government advocates, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. One such bill — HB0335/SB0386, Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg — requires recordings of any emergency communications only be used for "public safety purposes and as necessary for law enforcement, fire, medical, rescue, dispatching, or other emergency services," a move Tillis contends will protect callers from news organizations using them in reporting, but detractors argue might obscure problems with investigations and limit government official accountability. Another bill — HB1107/ SB1346, Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville — builds on this, prohibiting personally identifying information including names and contact information from entering public record in motor vehicle accident reports. When asked about the measures, Senate chairman of the joint committee on open records Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga said: "We're trying to streamline the process and make it a more open dialogue on these exemptions to open record laws and (will) have a process of review after five years on any new ones that come along."

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Lawmakers and Advocates Push Back on Tennessee's Ban of Sanctuary Cities

Tennessee lawmakers and refugee rights proponents intend to advance legislation that will protect local governments over a state law prohibiting sanctuary cities, The Tennessean reports. Existing measures require local law enforcement officials conform to U.S. immigration policy or lose state economic development funds because of noncompliance. Bills introduced this year — SB507/HB558 and SB931/HB1110 — take aim at the law, requiring the state to reimburse localities for incurred expenses regarding compliance, and allow local police departments to take statements from victims and witnesses of crimes without asking their immigration status respectively.

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Why All Apartment Buildings in America Look the Same

Wood-framed balloon structures have become a ubiquitous part of our cityscapes, seemingly popping up overnight and changing the face of urban and suburban areas across America. No matter where you are, the buildings are ostensibly homogenous — blocky, colorful and three to seven stories tall. Bloomberg News examines the rise and controversy surrounding these ’stick framed’ structures, including why some municipalities seek to curb construction of the buildings in densely populated areas altogether.

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Nashville Mayor's Order Recognizes LGBT-Owned Businesses

Nashville Mayor David Briley recently signed an executive order that recognizes LGBT-owned businesses as a category for Metro procurement and contracting, The Nashville Business Journal reports. Briley’s order aligns with recent changes announced by the Nashville Metro Council, which intends to address complaints that minority-owned businesses are not equally benefitting from the city’s economic growth. “It’s my job as mayor to make sure that everyone in our city, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has equal access to economic opportunities,” said Briley. “Today, we’ve taken an important step towards better equity for LGBT-owned businesses in Nashville.” Nashville will be the first city in the South to instill such a policy.
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U.S. Supreme Court Considers Case Involving Tennessee Liquor Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments in Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair, considering whether states can pass laws with resident restrictions regarding the issuance of liquor licenses, Forbes reports. The dispute involves a family that owns a mom-and-pop liquor store, who moved to Tennessee from Utah and attempted to bring their business with them. Current Tennessee law requires license applicants to live in the state for at least two years. Additionally, the license expires in one year, and renewal requires residency of 10 consecutive years, effectively barring new Tennesseans from opening these types of businesses, which detractors claim stifles new business in favor of existing competitors. The Tennessee Alcohol and Beverage Commission recommended approving the license and declined to enforce the rule, leading the association to sue. The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision sometime this spring.

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Local Government Section to Host Reception at Tennessee State Museum

The TBA Local Government Section will host a reception at the newly opened Tennessee State Museum following its annual forum on April 11. Attendees of the reception will meet with museum curators and receive a staff-guided tour of the brand-new facility. This event is open to all Local Government Section members and those interested in learning more about the section; forum attendance is not required. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to learn Tennessee history while engaging with TBA leadership. You can RSVP for this event here.
 
When: Thursday, March 28, 5 p.m., CST
Where: Tennessee State Museum, 1000 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville
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