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Editorial: Hill has no business meddling in Bluff City’s affairs

Staff Report • Jun 17, 2013 at 8:36 PM

State Rep. Timothy Hill asked 1,500 residents of his Third House District — only a fraction of whom reside in Bluff City — if, in effect, they’d like to be able to break Bluff City’s speed limit with impunity.That sounded good to about 81 percent of them. So Rep. Hill plans next year to usurp the authority of the Bluff City Board of Mayor and Aldermen by state legislative fiat and use the General Assembly to overturn a lawful vote and legal contract by which Bluff City tickets speeders in the interest of public safety.To even suggest such a thing seems an abuse of legislative authority. Where does a state representative get off instructing a municipality how to conduct its affairs?Hill introduced legislation earlier this year to shut down Bluff City’s two speed enforcement cameras on Highway 11-E, but suddenly took it off notice. There was no attempt to advance the bill in the state Senate. But Mr. Hill has now taken a poll.“It is very clear the district as a whole (doesn’t) want (the cameras),” said Hill. So he’s going to attempt to persuade fellow state lawmakers to ban them.It’s safe to assume the majority of Hill’s constituents also don’t want to pay property taxes. Perhaps he should ban taxes as well.Bluff City lowered the speed limit from 55 mph in its business district 13 years ago. But violations persisted. The city turned to speed cameras four years ago only after a Tennessee Department of Transportation road study revealed a heavy presence of speeders on that section of Highway 11-E.The study showed that more than half of the estimated 36,000 vehicles on the road each day were traveling in excess of five mph over the speed limit — nine percent in excess of 10 mph over the limit. The average speed of 114,991 vehicles that traveled the road during that study was 47.9 mph.Faced with that, Bluff City installed the cameras in December 2009, and they’ve been a thorn in the side of speeders since. That the city could lose more than $260,000 in annual revenue from traffic citations demonstrates the continued need for the cameras. That money also represents a significant part of Bluff City’s annual budget, and without it, the town would have to eliminate services.That doesn’t seem to trouble Mr. Hill. Of course, he doesn’t reside in Bluff City. If he did, he could run for the BMA and attempt to overturn the law. If he did, he could directly affect how he says Bluff City should operate: “I would really like to see Bluff City grow instead of relying on this technology for any part of its budget,” Mr. Hill opined. “I want to see them try and recruit some businesses in and then operate off that tax base as opposed to what they are doing now.”Why not leave those matters to Bluff City, Mr. Hill?The state should not overturn an ordinance legally adopted by a city when it does not violate the state constitution or conflict with existing state law.And even if the state has such authority, why should it interfere in the business of any of its cities absent some constitutional conflict?

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