published Sunday, March 17th, 2013


Did you know that Chattanooga tax dollars are wasted so people can play with mud?

It turns out that the City of Chattanooga owns and operates a pottery studio. The studio, located at the John A. Patten Recreational Center on Kellys Ferry Road, is a financial disaster that draws only five users a day on average -- raising the question of why the city is in the pottery studio business to begin with.

The pottery studio, which is managed by the City of Chattanooga's Education, Arts and Culture Department, is promoted as a destination for those seeking pottery-making instruction as well as workspace for local pottery artisans.

But don't get carried away by the memory of the famous movie scene featuring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in a romantic interlude at the pottery wheel while the soaring sounds of "Unchained Melody" crescendo in the background. This pottery center is hemorrhaging money. Your money.

According to city financial information obtained by the Free Press editorial page through an open records request, the pottery studio is a boondoggle. Our examination of records from fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012 found that for every dollar the pottery studio generates in revenue from fees and materials charges, taxpayers spend $1.76 subsidizing the insolvent earthenware facility.

Over the last three years, city leaders squandered $70,579 in tax dollars on the government-owned pottery studio, while the studio generated just $39,991 in revenues.

The problem is that, unlike the hundreds of private pottery studios that flourish throughout America, Chattanooga's government-owned facility has no incentive to treat customers well, to respond to consumer demand, to operate a clean, welcoming facility or to make money.

As a result, few people are interested in using the studio.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the pottery studio tallied a measly 1,104 visits by several hundred area residents. Since the studio is open about 220 days a year, only about five people a day on average use the facility. The pottery studio's finances are so far in the red that taxpayers spent $8.25 to subsidize each person who threw, glazed or fired pottery at the Patten Recreational Center last year.

In order to keep the pottery studio well-stocked for the few people who do walk through the door, EAC burns through thousands of tax dollars on clay and other pottery-related items each year. A sampling of several months of invoices from the North Carolina-based Highwater Clays reveals the city spends an average of $792 per month on pottery supplies and clay.

If taxpayers are forced to pay for expensive dirt, they should, at the very least, expect it to grow enough revenue to enable the pottery center to break even. But, because of EAC's poor management and the lack of incentive for the pottery studio to generate enough revenue to become self-sufficient, that's not going to happen.

The questions we must ask, then, is why are taxpayers footing the bill to fund a program that should exist as private business? What's next? A hotel? A cable and Internet company? A private airplane service facility? Oh, wait. Nevermind. We already have those.

Hopefully, with the election of a new mayor, change is coming.

Recently, Chattanooga Mayor-elect Andy Berke told the Times Free Press that during his transition into office he will focus on seeking public input regarding what is needed in city government.

Well, one thing that's not needed is a city-owned pottery studio.

Eliminating it would show that Berke is serious about putting the city's priorities in order, getting the government out of places it has no business and making sure that Chattanoogans' hard-earned tax dollars are well spent.

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GameOn said...

Mr. Berke should put Chattanooga on the Sandy Springs, Ga model and outsource everything.

March 17, 2013 at 12:14 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Chattanooga currently has a poverty rate of 29-31 percent, per census data. 29 out of 100 people in Chattanooga do not have their basic needs, food, medical care, and in some cases shelter. The Socialist city of Chattanooga is financially failing, with a poverty rate is increasing each year, and a crime rate parallels. As the poverty rate increase Chattanooga from 30 to 40, Chattanooga will indeed became Little Chicago, and it will cause urban flight.

So what does Chattanooga do? The leaders buy a blue rhino and metal scrap, bicycles, hotels, boat dock, airport hangers, pottery studios, create 6 figure jobs for cronies that are completely unnecessary, encumber taxpayers to the TIF developers (their friends) for $9 million at a country club, instead of investing in infrastructure, that will have no impact when the poverty rate is climbing. It is completely unacceptable to fund wasteful, nonessential services at this time, when the city has real essential needs.

The tax base in Chattanooga is predominately the middle working class and small business. Big business is property tax is exempt through Pilot agreement and other corporate welfare incentives. Further Municipal sales tax revenues do not reflect a return on these corporate welfare agreements.

So, it is the little people and working class, small business that are supporting the functions of government.

It is obnoxious to force tax money from working class Chattanooga's for these wasteful pursuits, to entertain citizens. Funding the EPB Porn business is just one of many wasteful City pursuits. If you want porn, do not expect the city taxpayers to fund it. In this case, the city taxpayers are funding the bond debt for porn distribution to it's citizens.

The EPB GIG service that no one can afford cost the taxpayer of $301 million in bond debt, and only has a couple of hundred customers. What if this bond leverage would have been put in schools, early education and intervention for children? Faster internet, television, are oppositional pursuits. We had cable.

The city taxpayers also own a hotel, boat dock, pottery studios, private air plane hangers, failing entertainment venues, Tivoli, Memorial, Golf Courses, Bicycles. The Socialist City of Chattanooga has vested the taxpayers into failing businesses. We should sell these entertainment venues, including EPB, pottery studio, Tivoli, Wilson Air to the private sector to free tax dollars for their intended and Chartered purpose. We cannot continue to lose 1 million a year on optional entertainment pursuits.

The taxpayers would greatly benefit from the immediate sell of all of this waste, to the tune of millions a year.

March 17, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
shen said...

I have a group that's been looking for such a studio. Maybe they just need to get the word out and let people know such classes exist.

Gameon, even if they outsource, won't it still be subsidized by the city with taxpayer dollars? Isn't that supposedly the issue these taxpayer groups claim to be so concerned about? Your, my and everyone's tax dollars?

When did these individuals become so concerned about Chattanooga's poor population? Aren't they the same ones who wanted all the poor and homeless gathered up and dumped across statelines?

March 17, 2013 at 10:06 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Shen, your group should lease the entire facility from the city to operate it, or buy all the equipment. By all means, take it off the wasteful nonessential city operations lists.

For the record, I am very concerned about the increasing poverty rate, it will hurt our tourism, increase crime rate. Crime and poverty rates are directly related. As the poverty rate increases Chattanooga will become more dangerous.

March 17, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.
shen said...

I disagree, ae1049. Crime rates actually increase with incidents of police brutality. It's like the molested and abuse child who goes on to molest others or becomes the bully on the playground.

Poverty has a direct correlation to bad policing. When that individual living in a poor community is constantly being pulled over, having his/her hard earned money confiscated before they can make it home or to the store to buy groceries, that often leads to those people seeking other means to provide for their families. Even when those means are illegal.

Imagine, just having cashed your check from that low wage job, then onethe way home you're stopped by the law. The money is most certainly going to be seized and it won't likely be returned without a fight. That three or four hundred dollars could cost up in the thousands to fight to get back. Money, the vast majority of people in those neighborhoods can't afford, because they're already living less than from paycheck to paycheck.

It's all a farce. A racket. One that's designed to keep a certain segment of the population from ever being able or even allowed to rise above a dire situation.

btw- since my and my groups tax dollars are already being used for the classes, why should we have to lease or buy anything?

March 17, 2013 at 1:12 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Poverty is a leading factor in crime. Page 226. If a person has access to employment opportunity, to support their family, crime deceases. It is common sense. Chattanoog'a poverty rate of almost 30 present is a contributor to crime. What is interesting in this study is mathematically crime will always exist, who would of thought?

March 17, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.
shen said...

Actually, it's the way the poor are treated that keeps them in poverty which, in turns, often lead to them committing crime just to keep their and their families afloat. Plus, the poor is an easier target for the judicial system, because they lack the resources to fight charges brought against them and are more like than not to plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit just go get a reduced sentence.

Once arrested, regardless of the outcome of the arrest, that arrest can harm not just the individual, but spouses and offspring. Preventing them from obtaining certain jobs, especially those that require certain levels of a security clearance.

Forget what the books and studies say or show. They don't necessarily reflect reality. They're usually written by individuals who have no real direct link to the causes, effects and triggers.

When outsiders, such as authority, can go into a poor area and, with no consequences, spread rumors then sit back and wait for the sparks to fly, those are serious contributing factors to the continued poverty and the deterioration and decimation of those communities.

March 17, 2013 at 5:59 p.m.
gjuster said...

The government should not compete against private business

March 18, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.
dao1980 said...

All caps huh?.. MUST BE EXCITING..

March 18, 2013 at 10:18 a.m.
Leaf said...

It seems to me that this is a tiny little amount of money, compared to the overall budget. Is there any large problem that you guys can identify, rather than going line-by-line through the Parks and Recreation or Arts budget?

You know, parking, policing, cronyism, tax breaks for people's buddies, gigantic wads of cash being spent rerouting roads so a developer can build some houses on top of a hill that will eventually slide off during a heavy rain? Come on, you can do better than this!

March 18, 2013 at 11:24 a.m.
shen said...

JonRoss said... Shen possibly the number one contributor to poverty is the absence of fathers in homes. That is a statistical fact. And the left hates to hear that.

Maybe the father could and would be in the home, and children would would least likely grow up fatherless, if the father wasn't constantly being arrested for minor offenses, and shaken down for whatever monies he'd earned before he could make it home to provide for his family. Then while locked up the remaining parent (usually lone female) is forced to apply for the public assistance some of you so despise, or move into public housing (some despise even more) just to keep a roof over the family's head and food on the table.

March 18, 2013 at 9:50 p.m.
NeilG said...

Aggressive Article Lacks Perspective

The Spanish and Greek economies are 'financial disasters'; the Cypriot government's proposal to tax savings accounts is a poor response to an impending 'financial disaster'. A $10 thousand dollar a year investment to fund arts in the community is not a financial disaster by any stretch of the imagination. To refer to skilled potters and sculptors as playing with mud or expensive dirt says more about the author of the piece than the realities of learning to make useful households objects and works of art.

Chattanooga is an area that has reinvented itself in the past 20 years and the promotion of the arts has been a key component of this. This is not wasted money: art investment provides employment to local artists (of which Chattanooga has many fine ones), encourages tourism and the associated dollars, and fosters a progressive culture that attracts people to the area and deters skilled labor from leaving. The EAC Pottery Studio provides training for those artists, teaches children during the summertime and provides access to kilns, pottery wheels and other equipment that simply isn't readily available in the area.

I can only assume the vitriol in this article is aimed at people further up the food chain in the Education, Arts and Culture Department and the pottery center is merely innocent collateral damage. My experience of the facility has been that it is clean and well-run with a knowledgeable staff who go out of their way to help their patrons, of whom there are far more than five per day as the article suggests (a simple visit on a Saturday morning would have shown the author this).

While I'm not privy to the records that the author reviewed, there appear to be a number of factual errors in the piece. The studio is open for a total of 12 hours a week so the author's assertion that it's open 220 days a year needs clarification and casts suspicion on the other figures provided.

I can't help but feel that the author's word count would have been better spent promoting the pottery center and making the community aware of the facilities and training available to it rather than indulging in half truths and hyperbole. I encourage anyone who reads this article to write to the new mayor in support of this great facility rather than running it down.


March 18, 2013 at 11:24 p.m.
fairmon said...

The city also owns a pharmacy that competes with privately owned pharmacies as other non tax paying city owned businesses do. Get the city out of the business of owning and operating any business. Donate the pottery center to a private group and allow them to make a profit, provide jobs and pay property and other taxes. The same could apply to the zoo. Could that money be better spent traning and assisting those in need in obtaining employment? It appears more could be saved, according to shen, by not policing the poverty areas. It sounds like a way to reduce the shootings, gangs and other crimes since the police are causing the high crime rate? Those are serious charges you make shen, do you have personal knowledge and proof those shake downs and taking of money happening? If you do there are ways to intervene and have those involved brought to justice. If you don't have factual proof you are libeling a group of people that should challenge you and have you provide the information needed to correct the wrong doing.

March 19, 2013 at 3:29 a.m.
Lr103 said...

fairmon, how is a city owned pharmacy competing with private pharmacies when only employees and their family members can have their prescriptions filled at such a pharmacy? You guys are fighters, swinging blindly in the dark. Desperately swinging and hitting at thin air.

March 19, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.
fairmon said...

Lr103 said... fairmon, how is a city owned pharmacy competing with private pharmacies when only employees and their family members can have their prescriptions filled at such a pharmacy? You guys are fighters, swinging blindly in the dark. Desperately swinging and hitting at thin air.

Where would those city and county employees have prescriptions filled if not at the city or county owned pharmacy. It is not competing since that is the only option employees have for low price scripts. Any idea if the pharmacy is self supporting or are they subsidized? Do they pay property taxes and other expenses imposed by the government on private businesses? Does the public works department do a lot of the maintenance? That is not a blind swing and if it is I hit something. Fire fighters and police are under staffed and under paid and under supported while the mayor and commissioner yield to special interest and cater to those arts and society folks. Most citizens pay for their own exercise and activities centers but the city for some reason elects to provide the same for a small number of tax payers, why?

The city could not stand up to an independent cost benefit analysis of their discretionary spending.

March 19, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Alright, I actually would like to play with some clay, but I have been having a hell of a time finding the information on The web site is down, then the links are not there, maybe this is part of the problem, when you are spending someone else's money you don't even notice that "customers" cannot find you.

March 19, 2013 at 4:46 p.m.
fairmon said...

BRP...Could it be the close knit group of potterist supported by your tax $ prefer you not attend the party, just pay for it?

March 19, 2013 at 11:30 p.m.
joneses said...

Shen is the perfect example of the liberal ideology that as long as people treat you as a victim then you need not take personal responsibility for your actions and people living in poverty has to be the fault of someone else. God forbid the role the individual plays in his choices that put him in poverty and keeps him in poverty. Shen would say that if someone living in poverty won a million dollar lottery and was broke within a year it would be someone else's fault. Liberals like shen have no concept of the consequences of personal choices as they need victims to make them feel good about themselves. Read his post and you will see there is no hint of personal responsibility. He says it is law enforcements fault for arresting these people for breaking the law. He has no idea how idiotic that sounds. Shen is more proof that liberalism is a mental illness.

March 20, 2013 at 8:17 a.m.
OscarT said...

BigRidgePatriot, the City's website was temporararily down yesterday (it happens). Try typing "pottery" in the search box and a link to the studio page should be the first result. Contrary to fairmon's assumption, I think the folks at the studio would welcome your presence. I know my experiences at the studio have always been positive.

March 20, 2013 at 8:46 a.m.
jjmez said...

JonRoss said... A lot of us understood that 50 years ago when the welfare industry began to provide benefits to women with fatherless children

Until the Civil Rights Movement most now against them were all for those social programs.* Largely because they were exclusive and limited to only a selected few

With the exception of Poss Home Public Housing, all public housing locally started out being for whites only. Boone Hysinger, East Lake, Alton Park etc. were once all white. Families were allowed to remain intact with a father in the household. Allowing them to build a solid and stabled foundation where they could move upward and out.

Then when blacks started to move in the rules changed. The new rules were, "We'll take care of the women and children, but only if there's no man in the household.

During that time, black males still being the last hired first fired and unstable working conditions the women under threat of losing what little stability they had, desperate to maintain a roof over their and their childrens heads and food on the table, systematically began to run the men off. Which pretty much helped to create that generational curse we're having to look in the eye and deal with today. That along with the over abundance of incarceration of primarily able bodied black males for minor offenses over the past several decades, which led to further deterioration in their lives and communities. Which has largely played a role in bringing us to this dire point and time in history.

March 20, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.
jjmez said...

Alton Park public housing was still originally white only, JonRoss. The same as East Lake, Boone Hysinger (now Harriet Tubman). It doesn't matter whether your family actually ever lived in public housing. There are black families who never lived in public housing too.

What can be done? Well, stop the practice of routine arrests of primarily young black males in poor neighborhoods. That would be a start. Ever notice how the rules suddenly change and the crime isn't so bad after all, when the arresters are caught breaking the law?

Yes, the very first public housing built brand new that started out housing black families from the get go was Poss Homes. Poss Homes wasn't even built until 1959 or 1960. All public housings built before, 1930s and 1940s, then were originally and primarily White Only.

There are remain public housings around the nation to this day that are primarily all White.

I can't actually say my White family was poor however. Unlike blacks back then who had to beg, fight and plead for work to acquire just the basics to feed and house their families, then fight even more for equal and fair wages, jobs came more easily for my family just for the privilege of being white. Therefore, even if we were considered poor by white standards, our living standards were still well above those of most all black families of that time.

March 20, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"They were as poor as anyone in this city but it never occured to them to seek "public housing"."

Many of those poor that lived just across the way in East Lake did live in public housing and many more white families across Chattanooga did as well during the 1940's-1960's. Just because you didn't doesn't mean other people didn't either.

"And I am not really sure it was available during the time Alton Park was primarily white as you state."

It was. Sorry to burst your bubble. but white people lived and still do live in public housing. Again, just because you weren't aware of it doesn't mean it didn't occur.

"And 99.99% of the men married their women, stayed with them, and created stable and thriving families."

Also false. There were many single mothers during that time all around the downtown area.

"So what can we do to encourage men (particularly black men) to not procreate without the benefit of marriage or not living with the mother of their children ?"

Better education, sex education, and contraception tend to work wonders. The empowerment of women tends to work wonders to eliminate poverty in the poorest areas of the world. Those things would be a great start.

jjmez hit the nail on the head! Great post!

March 20, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
jjmez said...

Thanks Easy123

Today most people can't even begin to grasp what things were like for many black families back then. Most family's white poor, mine included, would have been considered middle class for many black families.

March 20, 2013 at 9:28 p.m.
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