Last fall, Chattanooga city councilman Chris Anderson led a move to pass a city ordinance extending benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, including those in same-sex relationships. The Extended Benefits and Equity Ordinance passed 5-4 in November and was welcomed by the mayor. In praising the measure, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke echoed the sentiments of city executives around the state: “In the 21st century, we must ensure we attract talented employees and remain competitive.... That means hiring employees based on merit and offering a benefits package that retains and recruits the very best employees possible."

By December, however, the city was forced to stop enrollment for domestic partners in benefits, as a local group, Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency, managed to get enough signatures on a petition to put the issue on the ballot for voters to approve. Supporters of the petition drive, leaders of which have strong ties to tea party politics, point to the ease of collecting signatures as a sign of the unpopularity of the measure. At the time, Councilman Anderson, as reported in the Chattanooga Times Free Press said that he felt that the petition drive didn’t reflect the will of the people as its backers claimed. “I think it’s a very small minority of people in the city of Chattanooga, many of whom were misled into signing.” He also expressed confidence that the measure would pass a popular vote.

By mid January, it became clear that opponents of the measure were not satisfied with bringing the issue of domestic partner benefits before the voting populace - they intended to target Chris Anderson, Chattanooga’s first openly gay elected official, directly. A small group of citizens presented yet another petition, this time to the Hamilton County Election Commission, beginning the formal procedure to recall Anderson. With the approval of the Commission, the group would then have 75 days to collect the signatures of about 1,800 District 7 residents. The group complained that Anderson has ignored his district’s needs in order to pursue “matters Mr. Anderson considered more important.”

One of the men delivering the petition, Mahmood Abdullah, stated plainly, “"He doesn't represent what the people want.... His only goal is to boost homosexuality." Further calling the recall into question is the role of Charles Wynsong in the recall petition drive: Wynsong is not a District 7 resident, but he was part of the initial drive to block the city ordinance extending domestic partner benefits.

Anderson has stood strong. "I knew when I ran for public office that I would have to make decisions that were politically difficult," he wrote in an email to the Times Free Press. "If you want to recall me over the equal rights of the public servants that work so hard for the City of Chattanooga, bring it on." More recently, Councilman Anderson has decided to take the offensive against what seems to be a bias-motivated recall.

On February 18, 2014, Anderson filed suit to have the petition thrown out, pointing to the bias behind it and claiming that it represents a violation of his rights. Anderson's attorney, Stuart James, said, "It's discriminatory. It's our position that under the constitution you can't call a recall election" on that basis. The lawsuit seeks an order to halt the petition drive while the courts rule on the petition’s status. While a great deal rests on the outcome of the lawsuit, the success of the recall position then leads to a recall vote at the ballots, and according to state law, a successful recall of a city councilperson requires that “sixty-six percent (66%) of those voters [who vote] vote ‘for recall’” (Tenn. Code Ann. §6-31-307). So Councilman Anderson’s political fate may not be determined in the near future.

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Post-Covid travel planning

Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?

For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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