published Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Gravitt best for East Ridge

East Ridge is at a crossroads. Littered with boarded up storefronts and plagued by unemployment, the city has become a prime example of economic stagnation. City leaders can take a path of working to jump start East Ridge's economic engine or choose the easier road of letting the city continue its decline until it, eventually, becomes a place where no one wants to live or do business.

Rather than working to revitalize East Ridge, the city council has wasted recent months banning smoking outdoors, preventing new revenue-generating, job-creating extended stay hotels from moving into the city and, most famously, running a family with a pet pygmy goat out of town.

Fortunately, the Nov. 6 election provides an opportunity to fill two seats on the city council with people who can serve as guiding forces in the effort to turn East Ridge around.

Unfortunately, judging by Monday's East Ridge City Council candidate forum, only one of the seven candidates running for the two seats has a clear plan to facilitate economic growth, improve run-down areas of town and make the city a more vibrant, livable community. That candidate is Marc Gravitt.

The Free Press editorial page has not traditionally endorsed candidates for East Ridge elections. In this case, however, Gravitt displayed such a clear vision for improving the city through growing the tax base, trimming wasteful spending and encouraging a more transparent government, that he is worthy of support.

We strongly endorse Marc Gravitt for election to the East Ridge City Council.

Speaking to the more than 150 East Ridge residents who filled the gym at Spring Creek Elementary School for the forum, Gravitt had impressive recommendations for trimming the city's ballooning budget. He called to dump the city's part-time contract attorney, who has billed East Ridge taxpayers an average of more than $160,000 over the past five years, and replace him with a full-time city attorney, saving taxpayers $50,000-$75,000 per year. The Army veteran and small business owner also pledged to work to stop the city's unusual and expensive practice of buying back city employee's unused time off.

While Gravitt is clearly deserving of one of the East Ridge City Council seats up for grabs, filling the other seat is the problem. The other five candidates at the forum should each be applauded for running for public office. They all clearly have the best interest of East Ridge at heart. They each, however, proved less than ideal candidates at the forum.

• Ann Pruett, the widow of former East Ridge Mayor Fred Pruett, is justifiably beloved for her service to the East Ridge Library and East Ridge History Center. The forum, however, revealed that the 75 year-old has little understanding of the problems facing East Ridge, or any reasonable ideas regarding how to address them.

• Patricia Cassady engaged in a violent attack on the principles of free enterprise. She claimed to want to shut down the fireworks stores, pawn shops, used car dealerships and tattoo parlors that line Ringgold Road. Cassady ignored the fact that, by closing down dozens of legal, successful private small businesses, East Ridge residents would lose hundreds of jobs and the city coffers would lose millions of tax dollars.

• Incumbent Denny Manning has been one of the most reasonable and fiscally conservative members on the city council. His vision for the city, however, is limited. When asked how to prevent gang activity in East Ridge, his solution was to build a swimming pool. When asked how to stimulate the East Ridge economy, his solution, again, was to build a swimming pool.

• Mimi Lowery claimed that her primary reason for running is her concern about how tax dollars are spent. Moments later, she pledge to squander tax dollars on a costly scheme to furnish taxpayer-funded grants to businesses to update their facades and signage.

• Coach and barber Stephen "Scooter" King had both the fashion statement of the night -- a pair of sunglasses resting on his head during a nighttime, indoor event -- and the line of the night -- "[if I don't know the answer], I got Google, baby!".

With Marc Gravitt in the race, the choice to fill one of the East Ridge City Council seats is clear. The other seat? Well, that's a tougher decision.

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aae1049 said...

The moderator of the East Ridge political event, really deserves combat pay.

October 17, 2012 at 5:49 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

"Job creating extended stay hotels"? We invite the editor to visit one.

Fireworks, pawn shops, check cashing and tattoo parlors have hurt the public image of the city. Damaging the public image of the community is bad for business overall. Trying to say that tax revenue will be lost by closing them down is a wash because there are too many of those. Our local business owners did not think about their impact on the community. Selecting what kind of business counts.

Having one or two of those businesses might be okay, but East Ridge is knee deep in five each.

Ann Pruett's husband was really the only mayor East Ridge ever had. He used his office as mayor primarily to settle disputes among council members. Knowing how to act like that is an example of a successful leadership vision for East Ridge. It's a proven method that works. The mayor doesn't have to order everyone around: it's the mayor's job to get successful projects going. Dispute resolution got the city functioning. Ann Pruett may have more to her than you think.

The swimming pool was, for years, a hub of the community. Many people went there. It was part of the reason why people liked living in East Ridge. That's why swimming pools and water parks keep coming up in political plans: residents remember having fun there. Those were strong positive experiences. Political and business leaders would do well to remember that.

Editorialists might do well to discover it before disparaging it.

What the editorial fails to express, due to its lack of research, is that one of the strongest political issues in East Ridge is, What has East Ridge become? People don't like to see cheap businesses that make the city look like a string of fast cash and tattoo parlors. One or two may be alright, but not five each.

People in East Ridge liked their community when it was doing well. They look around and see that right now, it's not. They want to build it better. It won't be because of one candidate and a handful of insults from the Free Press. Commerce in East Ridge will get better because more and more residents see that it's important and how it's important.

October 18, 2012 at 6:40 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

And while we're on it, East Ridge has the same problems as every other community in this area. If you want to see business blight, look no further than Broad Street, Hixson Pike, Dayton Boulevard, or Brainerd Road. All are covered in defunct businesses. Singling out East Ridge is unfair and unrealistic.

The next generation of monied families in this area left. They sold off the paper to Hussman instead of slugging it out in the hellhole that was a news organization. Same-same for many of our city's old, has-been "name" industries. We have had significant losses.

It's up to us to save ourselves. That saving is going to come from ordinary people like the barber insulted in the editorial up above. Many times in war and emergency, I have seen our local people do a helluva lot better than one might expect. An old sergeant once advised me that our people will do well when they realize a certain task is important. He's turned out to be right repeatedly. Our people are coming to understand just how bad our business crisis is; specifically, they're coming to understand how important business image is to commerce overall.

That's not only happening in the microcosm of East Ridge, it's happening all over. It's just that in East Ridge, the community is small enough to be influenced by grass roots populist support more quickly. For businesses in the county and city at large, take note because large corporations are not saving you. They are paying their CEOs $12.25 million a year while "laying off" hundreds in for-profit terminations. Amazon is claiming employment figures for people who will not go to work for years, if ever, really. VW is now asking to pollute more. Wacker just killed two people by using the cheapest concrete contractor possible. It's one corporate handout after another because people don't believe that they can compete.

The barber who might not look super-cool and super-smart: he's an ordinary guy who showed up. That's called demonstrating initiative, and it's one of our citizens' stronger qualities.

October 18, 2012 at 7:01 a.m.
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