Voters in the Hixson area are fortunate to have the opportunity to choose between two thoughtful, principled candidates to represent District 3 on the Chattanooga City Council — incumbent Pam Ladd, the former owner of a successful small business, and Ken Smith, who works as chief information officer of The Johnson Group.
At first blush, it appears that Smith and Ladd agree on a number of issues. For example, they both hope to increase the number of police officers in Chattanooga, eliminate the wasteful Education, Arts & Culture bureaucracy and search for opportunities to responsibly consolidate city and county services.
Where the two candidates differ, however, are on fundamental questions of size, scope and cost of government.
Ken Smith's commitment to reducing the burden of government on the people of District 3 makes him the best candidate for the position.
Ladd has voted for a tax increase and told the Free Press that she would do so again, if necessary. She believes that Chattanooga's property taxes -- which are extremely high relative to surrounding areas -- are justified because of the amenities that are provided to city residents.
In contrast, Smith wants to trim the city's bloated budget by performing a thorough evaluation of city departments and agencies to determine which ones are failing to spend tax dollars wisely. He then plans to help prioritize the city's spending so that essential services aren't shortchanged because of tax dollars that are diverted instead to superfluous pet projects.
While on the council, Ladd has been successful in facilitating a number of infrastructure improvements to the district -- no small feat since the outlying, suburban nature of the district means that area needs don't always get the attention they deserve. For Smith, ensuring that the district's infrastructure needs continue to be met is also an important goal. His plans for prioritizing city expenditures make it more likely that infrastructure projects are funded and completed.
Smith is an outspoken opponent of tax increment financing schemes (TIFs) and payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs). Ladd has voted in favor of both risky ventures. Smith says the he will vote against them because he believes it is unfair to leverage funding for rich companies "on the backs of taxpayers."
Rather than using giveaways and preferential treatment to assist certain businesses, Smith proposes to help all businesses by making the licensing requirements less burdensome and fighting against tax increases.
As a member of the council, Ladd has not done a bad job representing the people of District 4. Ken Smith would simply do better. With his plan to focus on essential services and keep city spending in check, Smith deserves a place on the Chattanooga City Council.