Earl Wilson did it, didn’t he?
Wilson worked for the better part of six weeks to get more than 706 registered voters’ signatures on a petition calling for the sale of liquor in package stores in East Ridge. Now, the measure will appear on a referendum in the November election.
The voters will decide on the liquor sales issue.
But, wait. There will be a second referendum on the ballot. During last Thursday’s City Council meeting the panel unanimously passed on first reading an ordinance that would allow a person living outside of East Ridge to be the Municipal Court Judge.
However, this requires a City Charter change. So, in November the voters will decide if a person who lives in Hamilton County can potentially become the East Ridge City Court Judge.
Why would the council want to take such action, one might ask? Aren’t there any attorneys who live in our city that might want to challenge Judge Helton when his term is up in 2022? The man who ran against him in 2014, Ryan Hanzelik, has moved away from East Ridge.
Apparently, nobody on the City Council or inside City Hall can think of anyone either, hence the ordinance, referendum and Charter change.
What’s the issue with Judge Helton continuing on the bench for decades to come, just like his predecessors William Luther and Arvin Reingold?
Maybe, it’s the fact that Judge Helton was sued by the Internal Revenue Service for hundreds of thousands of dollars in February 2017. Maybe it’s the fact that Judge Helton filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April 2017.
Hey, lots of people owe back taxes and have issues managing their finances and are forced into bankruptcy. But a judge? A person who ideally should be a shining example of probity, ethics, character, and integrity.
Judge Helton’s current circumstances may not be unprecedented in the great state of Tennessee but I’ve got to say it’s a bit on the unusual side.
I would venture to guess that Judge Helton will come up with various creative ways to counter this referendum and potential Charter change. People in power have a tendency to want to keep it. I don’t think Judge Helton is any different on that front.
Liquor is a different story. A poll on East Ridge News Online shows that 70 percent of the readers who participated are in favor of having package stores in the city. It would be a convenience for our residents and those living in North Georgia to buy here instead of Chattanooga. It will also generate additional sales taxes for the city treasury. It’s gonna got the nod from voters.
I would also venture to guess that former City Councilman Denny Manning, who wants to return to the council dais after having served 12 years (2004-2016), will come up with some creative ways to counter the referendum and use the issue as the centerpiece of a campaign to regain a seat on the council. I would bet that Manning, who I’m told was out campaigning in the city last week, is promising the prohibition die-hards that if elected he’s got a trick up his sleeve to quash liquor stores at the council level.
Hang on to your hats, folks, the next few months leading up to the November municipal election is going to get nasty.