published Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

OUR PICKS FOR CITY COUNCIL: Fiscal conservatives fit the bill in District 1, District 2


Four candidates are vying to fill the seat vacated when current District 1 Chattanooga City Council member Deborah Scott decided not to run for re-election. District 1 — which includes much of the western portion of Chattanooga, including Lookout Valley, Raccoon Mountain and the area of the city between Red Bank and Signal Mountain — is the most expansive district in the city. It is fair to say that it also is the most fiscally conservative and small government oriented, as well.

There are two candidates in the four-man race who represent those values extremely well: Chip Henderson and Jim Folkner.

In their interviews with the Times Free Press editorial pages, both candidates displayed a commitment to prioritize the city's budget, work against tax increases and fill Scott's watchdog role on the council.

Folkner, a leader in the effort to recall Mayor Ron Littlefield, is clearly concerned about public safety and pledges to address the police department's salary and staff needs. In his valuable role as a grass-roots activist and gadfly, Folkner has seen the need for greater transparency and accountability in city government. His worthy ideas to make city records more readily available to the public would force city officials to be more responsible, while encouraging citizen participation.

While Folkner would be a terrific addition to the city council, the Free Press editorial page endorses Chip Henderson. What sets Henderson apart is his vision for reducing the city's burdensome litany of fees and permits on businesses and individuals, as well as his ideas for trimming the fat in City Hall.

Henderson's dedication to getting the city out of businesses that the private sector does more competently and economically has been missing from city government in Chattanooga. His goal of selling off city-owned boondoggles -- like insolvent golf courses -- and his vision for combining city services to make them more efficient are exactly the types of solutions Chattanooga needs.

Henderson, who owns a home construction business, is not new to public service. He served a four-year stint on the school board in the 1990s.

Longtime educator Tom McCullough — who claims that city property taxes are not too high and admits that he has not looked at the budget — and retired TVA employee Pat Hagan — who says he has no real platform, other than making sure that chickens are allowed in the city — are also running.


Voters in District 2 — an area that encompasses the North Shore, Stuart Heights and Northgate — have the opportunity to choose between three excellent candidates to replace retiring Councilwoman Sally Robinson. In a district that has been represented for far too long by a council member who views Chattanoogans as little more than sources of revenue and has used her position to benefit her family and friends, the prospect of having a council member who puts District 2 residents first will be a welcome change.

Businessman Roger Tuder and former Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department Director Jerry Mitchell have gotten the lion's share of the attention during the campaign. This is partially a function of their vigorous, well-funded campaigns. But it's also a result of the wearisome mud-slinging perpetrated by the candidates' grass-roots supporters.

While District 2 residents have been focused on Tuder and Mitchell, voters may have overlooked the best person for the seat: Priscilla Simmons.

Simmons, who formerly managed the city's Finance Department, knows the city budget better than anyone. She is committed to making sure every dollar is spent wisely by cutting wasteful spending and putting the savings toward infrastructure repair.

While her opponents simply pledge not to increase taxes, Simmons names several situations where poor decisions by city leaders can be cleaned up to save taxpayers' tens of millions of dollars. Simmons' budgeting experience and watchful eye would come in handy on the council.

City debt tripled from 2000 to 2012 and Simmons was the only candidate who voiced concern about how Chattanooga will respond to the deluge of bond payments that are coming due. She was also the only candidate with a low-cost solution for making better use of recreation centers.

If Simmons wins on March 5, she would be wise to adopt ideas championed by her opponents. Specifically, Tuder pointed out that the city's business and licensing regulations are too onerous and often do little, if anything, to benefit Chattanoogans. A review of the rules that small business owners face should be a goal of the new council.

Mitchell mentioned several cases in which building codes were not uniformly enforced in Chattanooga. Allowing a different set of rules for different people based on the whims of codes enforcers is inappropriate and unfair.

As a result of her commitment to protecting taxpayers' money, streamlining government and ensuring that necessary services are appropriately funded, Priscilla Simmons has earned the Free Press' endorsement over her two very qualified opponents.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Facts said...

Just home from a very long day. I've left a note for my wife to cancel our subscription to this former paper. The "right" side of this paper has absolutely no clue about the real information about these candidates.

My wife and I attended the North River forum and I own a business on Hixson Pike. The endorsement of Ms. Simmons shows this "editor" has something to prove, rather than offering information.

"Laughing stock" is the appropriate term. Let it apply to all of those it fits.

February 13, 2013 at 1:30 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Only in Chattanooga would truth and candidates backgrounds be deemed as "wearisome or negative" Chattanooga does have a high bar for malfeasance and prefers to ignore such matters, ask Ward. Then on until the Feds reported it to the FBI. Ms. Simmons was part of the enabling problem and had decades to impact city government and did nothing and she will has an impact now.

February 13, 2013 at 6:34 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Oh sure let's over look proven business talent and intelligence in Roger Tuder. In fact Drew, just step write over the proven, and get a life long government employee hack that could only accomplice a task she was directed to finish. Pathetic.

February 13, 2013 at 12:09 p.m.
MyGen said...

WHAT?! Drew Johnson has written and railed against Missy Crutchfield and her corruption and now has not supported the only candidate who has said her job should be eliminated? In my neighborhood association meeting and at one of the forums, Roger Tuder specifically said pet projects and jobs like Ward Crutchfield's daugheter's had to go. At those same events, Priscilla Simmons went out of her way to praise Jerry Mitchell, Ward Crutchfield's boy. Drew, you're either bought out by the same crew or you've just lost any credibility you may have had.

February 13, 2013 at 12:38 p.m.
psimmons said...

I want to thank the Free Press editorial staff for their endorsement today. I enjoyed the interview process so much and welcomed the opportunity to share my experience, my education and my platform. Today of all days I wish my parents were still alive. They were respected and well-known members of the community. My Dad who grew up in North Chattanooga was career Army and retired as a Colonel after serving in 3 foreign wars. They would have been very proud.

If I am fortunate enough to win this election I promise I will not disappoint you. During my many years of service at the City I sometimes had to challenge the executives of software vendors just to ensure that City funds were returned for non-performance. I know where the financial pitfalls are and I am willing to do whatever is needed to protect the taxpayers hard earned money. My late husband, Jerry and I lived in the district for 32 years, worked for many civic causes, had family who lived in Brainerd, Downtown & Hixson, traveled extensively, I lived in 2 foreign countries and we participated in 90% of all festivals, programs & events staged downtown so I believe I have an excellent idea of where Chattanooga needs to move forward.

Simcerely...Priscilla Simmons

February 13, 2013 at 3:52 p.m.
timbo said...

Yea, Folkner...... You're okay for a fat girl. The Endorsement of Chip Henderson over Jim Folkner was the most bizarre endorsement I've ever seen on an editorial page in my lifetime. You chose a known political hack with power structure connections over a conservative with a track record of going against the powers that be.

Maybe Drew should have done a little research into Henderson's last stint in a political office before he made this endorsement.

I was hoping Drew could avoid being sucked in to the Chattanooga power structure but it looks like I was being naïve.

Same song second verse.

February 14, 2013 at 12:38 p.m.
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