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Cleveland mayor, Bradley County tea party chief defend roles in flier dispute

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2012 at 7:18 AM

published Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
Cleveland mayor, Bradley County tea party chief defend roles in flier dispute
By Randall Higgins
http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/aug/15/mayor-tea-party-chief-defend-roles-in-flier/?local

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Mayor Tom Rowland says the city has no reason to apologize for asking for a police investigation into who was distributing fliers to south Cleveland homes in June.

The fliers, which stated the city was planning to use eminent domain to take more than 300 homes in the name of development, were untrue, Rowland said Monday.

It is the Tea Party of Bradley County that needs to apologize for upsetting families, some of whom have lived in their homes for two generations or more, he said.

“They were in tears,” Rowland said.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, a lively, but civil, debate took place between council members and members of the Tea Party of Bradley County. In the end, the only common ground was that no one will apologize.

Donny Harwood, president of the Tea Party of Bradley County, said his organization has no reason to apologize, either. At the time they were distributed, the fliers were true, according to the latest public information, he said. It is the city that needs to apologize for intimidating the group’s members and seeking to deny them their right to free speech, he said.

The call for an investigation aimed to “essentially hunt down, arrest and expose members of our tea party group as we made efforts to inform the community of horrendous plans for their community,” Harwood said.

“This flier contained truthful information based on the last known public meeting,” Harwood said. The “white paper” on which the flier was based later was changed, he said.

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“We haven’t stopped your free speech,” Rowland told Harwood.

“Have you passed any leaflets out to apologize to the 300 homeowners that this was not true?” he asked Harwood.

Rowland said the investigation was only to determine if laws were violated, and since none were the point is moot.

“If you are man enough, you will go down there and apologize,” he told Harwood.

“There is nothing for us to apologize about,” Harwood responded.

The group, he said, held a town hall meeting to seek explanations but only one councilman, Bill Estes, attended. Other council members, and Rowland, said they got the invitation after the meeting was held.

Tea party member Dan Rawls said that isn’t true because he sent the registered letters.

Councilman George Poe said he got a late invitation to a meeting to discuss something he had no intention of doing anyway.

“We couldn’t afford to buy 300 houses in the first place,” he said. “We have never talked about what we are accused of.”

If Harwood’s group was so alarmed, Poe said, they should have come to the council first with questions.

Rowland and Poe said they have not read the “white paper” from contracted consultants on which the flier was based. Harwood said the paper was handed out during a three-day public planning meeting at Bradley Square Mall.

Councilman Richard Banks, who said he has read the white paper, told tea party leaders they took the “300 homes” statement out of context. The original question was what would happen in the community if Whirlpool stayed in its old location, he said.

Consultants said that up to 300 homes might have to be seized through eminent domain to accommodate the company’s expansion there. But Whirlpool moved to its new Benton Pike site.

It was only a “what-if” discussion, Rowland said.

“There is nothing for us to explain, because there was nothing to it,” he said.

Contact staff writer Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfree press.com or 423-314-1029.

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Tea Party confronts Cleveland City Council on first amendment

In Government on August 14, 2012 at 8:52 AM

Press release
Delivered to Cleveland Tennessee City Council
August 13, 2012

Tea Party of Bradley County
Cleveland, Tennessee

Mayor Tom Rowland and City Council,

On June 18th, 2012 I witnessed first hand the Cleveland City Council and it’s Mayor Tom Rowland display behavior uncharacteristic of a free Republic bound to the US, the State Constitution and the Cleveland Charter.

With this most recent breech, it is safe to say that our 1st Amendment rights are in peril in Bradley County, Tennessee. There is still an egregious resolution on the books that has yet to be reversed that limits our freedom of speech.

Cleveland, Tennessee City Mayor Tom Rowland, with a unanimous resolution vote of 7 to 0 by his council, ordered an investigation using police force to hunt down, arrest and expose members of my group as we made efforts to inform the community of horrendous plans for their community, thus criminalizing free speech. Thankfully the local Sherrif and the 10th judicial District Attorney saw this as what it was, an expression of free speech, thus curtailing a manhunt, further public humiliation and a possible federal prison sentence.

The Mayor and Council took offense to a flyer that was passed out to the community surrounding the old Whirlpool site warning of the demolition and redevelopment of 300 plus homes in south Cleveland. This flyer contained truthful and accurate information based on the last known public meeting where that information was provided. The White paper draft plan is the last known information that has been made available to the public in a public setting. Since much public outcry and protest of these proposed actions a revised edition of that plan has been revealed in what can be best construed as a change made in private setting.

Only after approximately 7 days of public humiliation was this latest information provided. The latest information was reportedly released after strong community concern and protest and the white paper was supposedly changed. This change then reflected the negation of the previous proposed draft that called for demolition and redevelopment of 300 plus homes in the downtown area. The latest adoption of this plan has not been made known to the public except when the press inquired about the original draft plan.

Since this time, the Tea Party of Bradley County held a town hall meeting. The Mayor and 7 council members were invited by certified mail. Only one councilman Bill Estes and one County Planner bothered to show up to confront approximately 150 civilians, a great portion residents from the Southside of Cleveland concerned about their livelihood and the security of their private property.

This would have afforded a great opportunity for this Mayor and his council to address their concerns and put them at ease. Instead with the exception of one city councilman, this governing body missed a fantastic opportunity to answer the citizens question they represent. This missed opportunity tells of the disconnect this body has with the people they represent.

I am convinced that this initial offering of information was only a shot across the bow of what is coming to our community, specifically the downtown area. Since this time we have heard further debate of eminent domain, demolition and development at the Ocoee/25th street exchange and on highway 60 around and through the Georgetown community, where many acres of private property will be taken by proposed growth plans. The exact action where just a few weeks prior this body condemned, reprimanded and investigated citizens of this county for informing the community about. With this doublespeak and deception I am convinced eminent domain will be a major implementation tool to revamp the downtown area and the county as the BCC 2035 Joint Strategic plan is further implemented. The Chambers Doug Berry has said it is a given, I draw from this comment that eminent domain will be used to develop our city and county. With this most recent resolution the Mayor and his council have successfully criminalized free speech in Bradley County.

This move by Mayor Tom Rowland created much fear and caused several to hide in fear of retaliation. Since the Mayors press conference basically calling this action illegal, mean spirited and untruthful has caused a great pummeling by the local media, the Chamber of Commerce, locally elected officials and planners on many citizens of Cleveland Tennessee. While siding with Mayor Rowland this group has relentlessy worked to discredit and tarnish the reputations of many within our group with lies and falsehoods further adding to the endless attacks upon it’s citizens and criminalizing our actions.

The Mayor and his Council with one swift vote has caused great harm to the citizens of this community. This action should embarrass this administration as efforts were made vigorously to squelch our first amendment rights. The attacks have been consistent and have even led to further allegations of potential wrong doing on the part of the Tea Party.

The damage and embarrassment this administration has done to this community can probably never be undone but this Mayor and City council by rescinding this resolution and replacing it with a new confirmation may start the healing process. I am asking that this governing body make the needed changes within the next 2 weeks of this date calling for a revision and replacement of the aforementioned resolution and a confirmation that our free speech rights will remain intact in perpetuity.

We must not let this action go unchecked because of the seriousness of it’s content for it’s citizens. No Mayor or representative of government at any level should have the power to stifle and quash free speech and plant fear into the hearts of its citizens at his will simply for exercising their God given constitutional rights to assemble, speak and redress our government.

Let me remind you that this is no game and you cannot simply throw your constituency to the wolves as a sacrificial lamb for your own selfish reasons. The lives you intend to destroy from this pulpit are not willing to continue to take your repeated lashing at their integrity. Playing with people’s lives at the risk of political expediency is a dangerous game and leaves many potentially hurt within the path of tyrannical behavior.

Our forefathers wrote the constitution to prevent the actions that the Mayor and his council have taken. No form of government should be so mighty and powerful to think it does not have to answer to the people or to the constitution that protects us all. No Mayor or his council should ever appear from behind our constitutional cover and lash out toward the people you represent while swinging a swath of destruction that has no boundaries.

We are asking Mayor Rowland and his council to publicly apologize and strike down his freedom eliminating resolution and replace it with another resolution proclaiming that our liberties and freedoms are restored and respected by a government that is clearly out of touch with it’s citizens.

Our actions to retain an attorney was decided upon after a thorough evaluation of the seriousness of the charges that were levied against Cleveland and Bradley County Citizens. The continuous attacks by our government and others have had a temporary and long lasting effect on the movement of our Tea Party and has caused many to “hide” from fear of misaligned exposure and criminalization. According to recent information provided this is not the first action by this council to squelch free speech, a pattern of abuse of power is now presenting itself.

We must shed light on this runaway government and end it’s frightening tactics. We must end the tyranny today, for those that may choose to live in Bradley County tomorrow.

Liberty must outlast tyranny, the attacks of a few should never be accepted as the political norm and the law of the land, placing the Constitution as an afterthought. It’s people must continue to fight regardless of the attempts to take away those rights and on occasion must stand to reclaim those rights given to us by God almighty.

Sincerely,
Donny Harwood
President 
Tea Party of Bradley County

Here is an article by the Chattanoogan that refers to the hiring of our attorney Stuart James to fight this resolution or vote.

http://www.chattanoogan.com/2012/8/6/231744/Bradley-County-Tea-Party-Employs-Stuart.aspx

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