Robinson: Property voting 'morally wrong'

It's legal, though, and allowed under city charter
Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:54 AM

City Commissioner Randal Robinson said that even though "1 percent" voting by property owners is allowed in the city, foes of liquor by the drink should not register to vote that way.

Before the voided Nov. 6 referendum, nonresidents legally registered to vote after being deeded a minimum of 1 percent of properties in the city, reportedly with no money changing hands.

"It's wrong, it's morally wrong," Robinson said in an interview after Monday evening's City Commission meeting, at which he and city attorney Jim Gass debated property-rights voting.

In a Jan. 21 letter to City Manager Earlene Teaster, Gass wrote that state law does not set a minimum percentage for property voting rights.

"I own eight pieces of property in Pigeon Forge," Robinson said. "I could transfer 1 percent to 16 people (two each per property). I could bring in friends and have them vote the way I want them to. It's manipulating the system. It's not fair."

Even so, Robinson said he supports property-rights voting, and he believes Pigeon Forge business owners also should be able to vote in municipal elections.

Pigeon Forge will again vote on liquor by the drink in a March 14 referendum.

At the commission meeting, Robinson looked beyond the March vote and raised the possibility of changing the city's charter to prevent so-called 1 percent voting. Gass replied that doing so would require an act of the Legislature and would affect the more than 40 Tennessee cities with charters similar to Pigeon Forge's.

The voting-rights exchange took place at the end of the meeting, during the commisioners' reports.

In other business, the commission approved:

- On first reading, an ordinance amending a previous ordinance on appropriations for the 2012-2013 fiscal year

- A FEMA grant to acquire and demolish a Kings Hill Boulevard house

- A BlueCross BlueShield wellness grant for city employees

- A $7,696.63 change order from Progression Electric for the Music Road traffic signal installation

- A copy machine for the trolley department

- Pagers for new Fire Department personnel

- An in-lieu of property tax contract from the city of Sevierville relating to the Sevier County Electric System

kburns@themountainpress.com