TIMES EDITORIAL: City board is out of line on meth issue

One year ago when the Manchester municipal election ushered in a new mayor and four new aldermen we were promised that things would be done the “right way” at city hall. Because, according to the new regime, things weren’t on the up-and-up during the previous administration.

A8_editorial cartoonWe were promised transparency, which seems to be the rallying cry for all political candidates nowadays. But, like most others in politics, the Manchester board spit on transparency last Tuesday night.

The board voted 4-2 on the first reading of an ordinance that, should it pass two more readings, will eliminate over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine-based products in the Manchester City Limits. We expect that such a hot-button issue that has garnered statewide discussion would at least have been listed on the meeting agenda. It wasn’t because the city was supposed to be waiting on an attorney general opinion. Apparently patience was wearing thin for aldermen Ryan French, Donny Parsley, Roxanne Patton and Russell Bryan as they charged on, pulling the ordinance off the table at the very end of Tuesday’s meeting and passing it along.

We opined in our July 10 edition that this move may not be the best to slow methamphetamines. But we understood, and still do understand, that both sides of this argument bring valid points to the table. But sidestepping the process only creates the perception that something isn’t right.

To think that local officials would go out of their way to buck their well-paid city attorney is cause for concern. Either those aldermen assume they know better than their legal counsel or they simply don’t care. Attorney Gerald Ewell’s opinions weren’t on the fence, either. He strongly suggested to the board that this move is outside of their legal authority and could certainly lead to litigation.

To balk at that advice and push forward seems like nothing more than a reckless disregard for taxpayers. Being told that you could likely be sued and offering up nothing more than “so be it” responses is almost an admission of guilt. A judge could certainly see it that way should the city be tied up in a civil suit.

Aside from the board’s complete disregard for proper procedure is a big unknown: will this actually work?

We find it doubtful that piecemeal legislation in certain cities will do much to combat meth. Even if a wide enough area of cities were to be on board with this legislation, Tullahoma has said it will not participate. It also places an extra burden on doctors and pharmacists to play police officer.

Let’s look at hydrocodone, a well-known pain medicine that is only available by prescription but has been at the center of widespread abuse. A recent national survey on drug use and health by the American Association of Poison Control Centers found that more than 23 million people over the age of 12 abused or misused hydrocodone. How on earth did they get control of a prescription-only substance? Perhaps more funding for a localized drug task force would be more appropriate to fight this battle at the local level than forcing law-abiding citizens to see a doctor for a runny nose. After all, meth requires a special skill set for police and current investigators are tied up trying to control the meth game.

We also find it unsettling that alderman French would make a statement that this move may be “nothing more than symbolic.” If Alderman French wants to make a symbolic gesture, we suggest that he make a motion to dedicate a bench in Rotary Park.

Making a motion to be “symbolic” while inconveniencing law-abiding citizens certainly isn’t the best way to conduct city business.

Perhaps those who are inconvenienced every time they sneeze should remember that and make a “symbolic gesture” at the polls.

Would you be in favor of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen banning over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine?

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Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 10:36 am