published Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Roberts: Timidity will not bring progress

by Dalton Roberts

Out of the Blue Restaurant in Brainerd is closing, and my family is mourning as though we were losing one of our own.

My first contact with Out of the Blue was when they successfully outbid everyone to run the deli at the Fishing Center at the Tennessee Riverpark. All this gave me a profound admiration for owner, Peggy Roselle.

Moreover, in making my plea in a recent column for turning Brainerd into an arts district with a lot of speciality shops, this one certainly fit beautifully into that picture. Add the magic of a few good entertainment venues, and I can see this rainbow bubble that has always hung over Brainerd drop to the ground and become a reality.

But such realities take vision.

Someone recently asked me why downtown development had been such a success in Chattanooga. I said there were three main reasons: One is the power of an overwhelmingly single project like the Tennessee Aquarium; two is local businessmen seeing that downtown had become a good investment; and three is city and county government's unflinching support for the projects and for funding them.

While I was Hamilton County executive (1978-1994), the day came when we were passing a resolution to prove to all agencies of state and federal government that we were serious about building a quality riverport. But one commissioner voted against the project. He immediately scribbled off a note to me and passed it down the line. It said something like this: "Dalton, I really am for this project, but one of my supporters is in the audience." Apparently, this supporter wasn't in favor of the project.

After the meeting, I explained that we could stay at the courthouse forever, work our little brains and fingers to the bone and never accomplish a single thing if we waited for all our contributors to fall into line. That's why I say that city and county cooperation must be strong and united for anything to be accomplished.

Sometimes I seem to be tooting my horn out in the wilderness when no one is listening but the squirrels and the trees. But folks, the absolute necessities for gaining new industrial jobs like the Volkswagen plant are available sewers in the county and a supporting urban network, and we now see the wisdom and vision of an old '70s city government that built a $90 million sewer plant.

I am not trying to arm wrestle with all those who now are doing the work that I did when I was there. I'm just telling the truth, and that truth will determine the jobs we get in the future.

Our jobs program is in the hands of some good and able men and women. I had some good and able men and women. Some of them were too timid to be useful. Hopefully, we will discover a reservoir of fine men and women unafraid of making the hard decisions to pull in the better jobs as we look at the little governments in Southeast Tennessee.

I worked with them. They were good.

Contact Dalton Roberts at

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fairmon said...

Good jobs are the key to progress and ability to keep tax rates reasonable. You are so right when emphasizing the city and county must make the improvements that attract businesses to this area. People seem to ignore the fact that business taxes are included in the price of goods and services they provide therefore paid by the consumer.

August 28, 2013 at 4:49 a.m.
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