Charter commission to tackle legislative branch

It appears the legislative branch of local government will be scrutinized first, by the newly elected Claiborne Charter Commission.

The board, which met last week in its second regular meeting, rolled up its collective sleeves and delved into the matter of remaking county government to best serve the people.

They examined the possibility of reducing the Claiborne County Commission from its current 21 seat board to just nine members – one commissioner for each of the nine districts.

The board also spoke of adding two ‘at large’ county commissioners to the proposed nine member board.

Term limits were discussed. The board seemed to agree that however terms of office are set, they must be uniform throughout county government.

Some would like to see a clause written into the charter that expressly forbids conflicts of interest.

The board briefly touched upon current handling of fiscal/budget issues. Some suggested placing caps on spending. In the event the cap is breached, the matter would be sent to referendum vote.

For instance, using a suggested budget total of $56 million and a spending cap of five percent, the county would not be able to spend more than $2.5 million without first getting the okay from voters via the ballot box.

The recent election netted some wins without a true majority vote, due to the splitting of percentages by three or more contenders. The board considered including in the charter a ’50 + 1’ rule to address this issue.

County mayor Joe Brooks, who was in the audience during the meeting, was asked just how the creation of a charter government would benefit the residents.

Brooks said having a charter government gives citizens autonomy and creates more stakeholders.

“Everything that’s done by a charter form of government is done through the ballot box. The charter commission is going to draft the rules the county operates under. Those rules would then be submitted by vote through the ballot box.

“Once approved, your county commissioner cannot change it unless done through referendum. It’s the most simple and true form of democracy,” said Brooks.

During its next meeting, the Charter Commission will be reviewing the current structure and discussing ways to narrow the scope of the legislative branch of county government.

During its inaugural meeting on Sept. 20, the commission voted to gather on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The next meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 16, inside the small courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse.

Members of the legislative branch are invited. The public is encouraged to attend these twice-monthly meetings.