There are a number of good reasons to elect Mitzi Yates to the District 3 seat on the County Commission. Here's a short list:
• Given the county's pace of new development, she wants the commission to foster better growth planning in District 3, more respect for quality of life, more public engagement and more open discussion at commission meetings before acting on new development and building projects in her district, and more broadly around the county.
• She wants to promote transparency and open discussion of the commission's business, including timely public access and open comment periods at County Commission and committee meetings before the commissioners vote on agenda items.
• She advocates holding open public interviews and discussions by commissioners when they are required to appoint new members to various public bodies when vacancies arise, for example, on the school board, Sessions Court and the commission itself.
• She advocates more balance for human and social services in the commission's budget, especially for the county health department.
• And she seeks more balance on the commission — which hasn't had a woman as a member for some time.
All of these goals should resonate with District 3 residents, who have often been frustrated by the commissions closed and arrogant back-room politics, and backward views on the need for growth planning.
Yates, a lifelong resident of the Hixson area and an employee of Blue Cross-Blue Shield, speaks respectfully about the commission, but she is raising the right issues.
Our view is that the commission (a) isn't responsibly engaged in growth planning, and (b) that it doesn't care a whit about public transparency in the way it handles public business.
Commissioners regularly abuse their public authority by wrongly conducting most vital business in secrecy and in blatant violation of the Sunshine law. Most of the appointments its members have made, for example, have been determined by private interviews, and then rubber-stamped with no discussion and without a proper public comment period or hearing.
When commissioners walk into their meetings with minds and votes already determined on new appointees to the school board or Sessions Court, for example, it's undeniably clear that they have wrongly, illegally, communicated behind the scenes to avoid public participation and more focused accountability. They should be held accountable for such actions.
Yates, the mother of an 11-year-old son, could bring sorely needed focus to the commission's arrogant misconduct by simply asking for, and advocating, more transparency. Other proposals she suggests include posting more information on the commission's website regarding schedules, proposals and public hearings on a range of vital issues, from proposed commercial developments to quality of life issues.
Yates' opponent for the District 3 commission seat is Marty Haynes, a Republican and industrial sales representatives. He agrees that quality of life in District 3 is necessary to attract more jobs, but he proposes nothing specific to improve quality of life or jobs except maintaining small government and low taxes. Without more specific and meaningful goals, he likely would blend into the same-old, same-old of nine men on the commission without any impetus to change the status-quo of backroom politics and laissez-faire sprawl.
Hamilton County government needs new energy and responsible concern about public transparency. Yates would bring some of that, at last, to the job. We strongly endorse her election.