published Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Right Side Round Table: What should be the first order of business for the new city council?

Question: A very different looking Chattanooga City Council will convene next week. What should be the first order of business for the new city council? ‬

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    Drew Johnson, Editor of the Free Press opinion page at the Chattanooga Times Free Press

Drew Johnson

Editor of the Free Press opinion page

As a result of two retirements and the defeat of every single incumbent councilmember who faced opposition, seven of the City Council’s nine seats will be filled with new members on Monday.

Recent city elections made it clear that Chattanooga voters wanted a do-over; an opportunity to start from scratch.

The new city council should follow the voters’ lead by stripping down the city’s bloated $209 million budget and starting over. Most of the recently elected councilmembers ran on platforms that called for prioritizing spending, eliminating duplicate programs, trimming waste, cutting unnecessary agencies, privatizing insolvent city-owned facilities and streamlining government in general.

In the long term, Chattanooga’s biggest problem isn’t crime (which is at its lowest levels in years), it’s the city’s comparatively high property tax rate. If Chattanooga’s new policymakers continue in the tax and spend tradition of its former ones, the city’s tax burden will become so onerous that many residents will realize that moving just on the other side of the city limits could save their families thousands of dollars a year. The result of taxpayers — especially affluent ones — fleeing the city would be disastrous.

The new city council — and the new mayor — can go far to avoid a future of depopulation and stagnation in Chattanooga by making wise decisions the coming weeks. All that’s needed is to determine what the city government should be doing and what it shouldn’t, then properly fund the necessary functions and leave the rest to individuals, businesses and nonprofits. The result would be a vibrant city with a growing tax base and a bright future.

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    Chip Henderson will represent District 1 on Chattanooga's City Council.
    Photo by John Rawlston

Chip Henderson

District 1 councilman-elect

Audio clip

Chip Henderson

‪The new City Council will need to hit the ground running because our plate will be full of important decisions that need to be made in the first 90 days.

The first order of business will be housekeeping, including chair, vice-chair and committee chair appointments.

Together, we will have an opportunity to blend the new mayor’s vision with the new Council’s vision. We can and must accomplish this by prioritizing budget items, which will then drive city operations.

I am looking for the elimination and restructuring of some departments. We need a leaner and more efficient city government to better meet the needs of our communities and businesses. We also need to address some unanswered questions relative to Moccasin Bend Clean Water Authority in order to determine its direction going forward.

I am confident the new Council is up to the challenges that lie ahead.

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    Jerry Mitchell will represent District 2 on Chattanooga's City Council.
    Photo by Tim Barber

Jerry Mitchell

‪District 2 councilman-elect

‪The first order of business for the new City Council should be to fulfill the promise that most of the candidates made to the voters, making the business of government more open to the public. Chattanooga became a great city by involving its citizens in the decision-making process. We must return to that way of governing.

We promised more transparency and we should begin by using technology to give the people access to the decisions the Council is making. One relatively simple way to give more access would be streaming over the Internet our committee meetings, where most of the debates on issues, resolutions and ordinances take place. Many of the cities our size around us are already doing this.

On major directions and decisions such as the Clean Water Authority, more public meetings need to be held, at times that people can attend, to get the taxpayers input and approval before enacting. It is time to have a city government of the people, by the people, for the people. We can have that by working openly together.

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    Ken Smith will represent District 3 on Chattanooga's City Council.
    Photo by Tim Barber

Ken Smith

‪District 3 councilman-elect

Audio clip

Ken Smith

‪Initially, I would like to see the City Council focus its efforts on addressing the public safety needs of our community and making needed infrastructure investments, which will help grow our economy, create more jobs and improve our quality of life.

In order to accomplish this goal, the City Council will need to take a very hard look at the budget and make determinations of what city services and projects are absolutely needed to serve the essential needs of all taxpayers.

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    Chris Anderson will represent District 7 on Chattanooga's City Council.
    Photo by John Rawlston

Chris Anderson

‪District 7 councilman-elect

Audio clip

Chris Anderson

‪We must first be concerned about crime. No one who lives in Chattanooga should be afraid to be in their own home. The solutions we develop over the coming months, in cooperation with the new mayor’s office, will address the root causes of crime.

To create a safer community, there must be real opportunities for employment and positive activities for adults and children. Those jobs need to be living-wage, not minimum wage. They must pay enough to support a family. Recreation facilities should be a center of community life, especially in impoverished or underserved areas. We should offer real options to keep children occupied with positive activities. Sports isn’t the only answer; sometimes it’s art, music, educational programs, etc.

Many people in Chattanooga would love to volunteer their time to make a difference in a child’s life. I want to create more opportunities for them to do that. Our city will be much stronger overall as a result.

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MasterChefLen said...

The first order of business should be to eliminate Ron Littlefield's handpicked positions for Anita Ebersole and Richard Beeland. $98,000 for a position that requires an associate's degree? How these actions can pass the light day is truly amazing. The second order or business is to do a full independent audit of the city. If everything turns out fine, great. If however, there is questionable and/or illegal stuff that turns up, investigations and indictments may be in order. Generally, banks find fraud when the people committing it go on vacation. The same may apply to former political officials to the City of Chattanooga.

April 11, 2013 at 12:35 a.m.
AndrewLohr said...

Crime may be low but terrorizing evildoers is the government's business (Romans 13), so try to get it lower. Fast sure sentences for minor offenses works in New York (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

One way the city can lead the country with an innovation would be let city taxpayers keep their share of what's being spent on things the city need not do. Add a page to the property tax bill listing things we might rather keep our money than pay for (and can give more for if we wish.)Take public art, across the page, for example:

$265,000 a year for 160,000 people. say $1.65 apiece. My city tax bill was around $300. My wife and I have two kids plus four half-kids (custody shared), count as two more for us and two for the other parent, total six people in this household. We'll take our $1.65 x 6 = 9.90, please. Seriously, lots of things the city does could be put on an optional basis this way--golf courses, newcanuck can chip in his extra bit, if he wants, and those of us who'd rather spend our art money on used books and 39-cent videotapes at America's Thrift Store can do that.

April 11, 2013 at 1:38 a.m.
jesse said...

Fire all the top administrators in every dept!(clean house!!)


End the stagnation and croneyism that has prevailed for at least the last 8 years!

April 11, 2013 at 4:08 a.m.
fairmon said...

Do a financial cost benefit analysis of every activity beyond fire and police which is the responsibility of city government. Assure these departments are properly staffed, trained and compensated. Divest the city of all owned businesses and real estate and have the new owners pay the associated taxes and fees. Of course sanitation, infrastructure and general services that benefit all citizens not just a few are essential. The city is involved in too many activities that are not essential and should be provided only under the user pays principle. It would be a shock to see the council aggressively address efficiency and comparable to the private sector compensation in the bloated administrative operations. It would be a good transparency initiative to make public the unfunded future liabilities of the city which at some point will be detrimental to the city and every citizen in the city.

April 11, 2013 at 4:27 p.m.
shen said...

AndrewLohr said... Crime may be low but terrorizing evildoers is the government's business (Romans 13), so try to get it lower.

That's already been tried, Andy. All it led to was a lot of innocent Chattanoogans getting harassed by police and caught up in he web of taking a bite out of crime.* Many good, innocent people left the city with bad and negative memories of their experience. Which they've no doubt passed on to others in warning who might have considered relocating to Chattanooga. Individuals who could have made a positive impact in many of Chattanooga's troubled communities.

Fast sure sentences for minor offenses works in New York (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Actually what's happened in New York is it has had to pay out massive lawsuits and created a volatile atmosphere that will likely explode at some point. They've had civil liberties groups and attorneys crawling all over the city for quite sometime, warning of the potential for their strategy doing more harm than good. See first response: Targeting innocent citizens.** Psst! Andy, even NY is rethinking its destructive strategies and policies. Especially after having to pay out millions in lawsuits for those destructive and often inhumane policies.

April 11, 2013 at 6:27 p.m.
lightkeeper said...


April 13, 2013 at 9:52 a.m.
lightkeeper said...

I agree with you Shen. I hate to say it because Chattanooga is my hometown, but out of all the places I have been in my life Chattanooga (despite all of the wonderful things that has been done here) is one of the most hateful narrow minded, unfriendly, backward, nasty attituded police place I have ever been in my life, and I would not suggest anyone to live here only visit.

April 13, 2013 at 10:18 a.m.
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