Chattanooga Times Free Press: Reporter's Notebook: Corker proposes federal spending cap

Posted on December 19, 2010

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., voted last week for a tax and spending compromise estimated to add $858 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade.

Corker called his support of the plan for tax cuts and jobless benefit extensions "a tough vote" that is necessary for the economic recovery in the short run.

To get a handle on future spending, Corker introduced a proposal to cap federal spending at 20.6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Spending now is 23.8 percent of GDP.

"Over the long term, nothing is more important than acting quickly to get spending under control and reduce our deficit," Corker said.

The measure is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and picked up the endorsement of Republicans Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, George LeMieux of Florida and John McCain of Arizona.

"We face many challenges as a country, but after four years in Washington and a lifetime in business, I believe unsustainable spending habits and fiscal insolvency pose the greatest threat to our economic stability, freedom, way of life and future as a nation," Corker said.

IT'S A COUNCIL CHRISTMAS

Toward the end of last week's Chattanooga City Council meeting, Finance Officer Daisy Madison was giving a presentation about city purchases when images began appearing on the wall behind the dais.

The projections showed enhanced images of council members: Councilman Andraé McGary in a newsboy cap, Councilman Jack Benson in a top hat and Councilwoman Carol Berz in a Christmas wreath.

Madison stumbled through the presentation and left the podium shaking her head. None of the council members acknowledged the pictures behind them.

Randy Burns, the council's management analyst and internal auditor, admitted afterward he used the JibJab online site to create a series of Christmas videos, one of them based on "A Christmas Carol," and showed it.

WHERE'S THAT PESKY PICTURE?

City Council members were intent Tuesday as they heard St. Elmo resident David Macallister ask them to abandon part of an alley behind his house between Seneca Avenue and West 45th Street. Macallister showed a video he made. After he finished, Councilwoman Carol Berz asked for a specific image of a house to be brought up again.

After several seconds of trying to find the house, Councilman Jack Benson started speaking.

Suddenly, Berz spoke up.

"Stop, that's it!" she said.

The image was of a slightly brownish house.

Benson stopped speaking.

"Stop the picture?" he asked. "Not me?"

"No," Berz replied. "Not you."

ALCOHOL SALES AT TIVOLI, MEMORIAL

Bids for vendors to sell alcohol at the Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium could be ready by mid-January, council members were told last week.

Missy Crutchfield, administrator of the city's Department of Education, Arts and Culture, said the contracts would be for one year, with two one-year extensions possible.

The Tennessee General Assembly this year exempted the two venues from a law saying municipal governments may not sell alcohol and changed the zoning for Memorial Auditorium to allow sales.

hodge clarifies statement

Elisha Hodge, counsel for the State Office of Open Records, on Friday repeated that she was not issuing a personal opinion when she sent a court case to Hamilton County commissioners who asked if they could privately interview other commissioners about the upcoming county mayor vacancy.

Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor on Dec. 13 cited Hodge when saying it was not a violation of state open meetings laws for commissioners to hold private interviews with colleagues interested in the county mayor position.

Mayor Claude Ramsey is stepping down Jan. 11 to join Gov.-elect Bill Haslam's administration as chief of staff and deputy to the governor.

In a statement, Hodge said she had "never been asked to address, nor have I addressed the question of whether or not those commissioners interested in the appointment and the other commissioners can interview one another outside of a properly noticed public meeting."

She said she had been asked "first by a citizen, and then by individuals associated with the county commission" to look for "any case law that addressed the ability of one county commissioner to make another county commissioner aware of his/her desire to be nominated for an appointment and thereafter ask for that commissioner to support his/her bid for the appointment."

She said the case she found, Jackson v. Hensley, "does not address, nor have I ever said that it addresses, the commissioners' ability to conduct private interviews; it addresses the ability of one commissioner to solicit the vote of another commissioner."

Hodge said that she told callers that the case "was a reported opinion that had not been overturned and therefore, based upon my research, the holding in the case is the current state of law on this issue."

Hodge concluded: "As I said before, I have not issued an opinion on this matter and I do not plan to do so. The holding in the Jackson opinion is clear and unambiguous. I have provided those interested individuals with the relevant case law, quoted the case in response to questions asked, and stated that based upon my research, this is good case law."