published Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Hamilton County Commission Endorsements: Brooks in District 6; Turner and Maize in District 7

Brooks in District 6; Turner and Maize in District 7

A vote for Hamilton County District 6 incumbent Joe Graham, a Republican, and one for his Democratic challenger, former Commissioner John Allen Brooks, will send each of them victoriously on toward the August general election. Neither man has opposition in the May primary.

But they opposed each other in 2010, and they will face off again later this year.

District 6 includes Lookout Valley, St. Elmo, Lookout Mountain, downtown Chattanooga, North Chattanooga and part of Red Bank. Voters elected Graham and ousted Brooks in 2010. Fewer than 3,250 ballots were marked in that district, and the election was won by 681 votes.

Brooks said he ran in 2006 because he felt Hamilton County was not getting its fair share of money from the state's Basic Education Program. It was his threat to sue the state over the inequity that led to some increase in funding. Brooks also advocated for combined sewer and water services in the county to make them more efficient.

But Graham slighted Brooks' work to force the BEP change and claimed Brooks hadn't been visible enough in his district.

Graham in his first term advocated greener, more fuel-efficient police cars, as well as the online publishing of commissioners' discretion fund spending -- both notable actions.

Brooks also is an attorney and former Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman who served one term on the commission from 2006 until Graham ousted him. Graham began his own printing company, Accent Printing, in 1990. He attended Lookout Valley High School and briefly attended Chattanooga State Community College. Graham also ran for Chattanooga City Council District 1 in 2009; losing to Deborah Scott.

We urge your vote of support for John Allen Brooks in the single-candidate Democratic primary.

District 7 is hot.

Left open by longtime Commissioner Larry Henry as he turns his sights to a possible new job as Circuit Court clerk, this commission seat is sought by five contenders -- three Republicans and two Democrats.

That makes this race -- if you live in East Brainerd, Westview, Apison, Collegedale, Tyner, Concord or Ooltewah -- a potential partisan primary-crossover attraction.

And make no miscalculation here: The stakes are high. This is still a growing area with annexation appeal (or not, if you don't want to be a city resident) and tremendous infrastructure needs. And did we mention the ignored East Hamilton County school-expansion continuing need that recently was spurned by the current County Commission?

Holistically, and if you're Republican, the best bet for a good eye on your family's best interest -- property values and schools (without good-old-boy schmoozing and get-along) -- is Sabrena Turner.

And heaven knows, we need a woman's and a property expert's eye (she's a Realtor) on the commission.

Similarly, if you vote Democrat, the best choice is Ezra Maize. He is pastor of Friendship Central Community Church. His wife is a teacher. And he's quick to tell you: "I'm big on change. ... And my biggest pet peeve is education."

Early on, the race seemed to hinge on annexation, but last week residents and candidates against annexation got new hope. Legislation ending Tennessee's 59-year-old "forced annexation" law was overwhelmingly passed by the House on Wednesday. The bill awaits Gov. Bill Haslam's signature. The measure would repeal an unpopular law that cities have argued is critical for their continued growth and economic development.

Under the legislation, Tennessee towns and cities could no longer annex property simply by passing an ordinance. Instead, the only way cities would be able to annex is through petition brought by property owners wanting to come in or if a majority of voters cast ballots to do so in a public referendum.

Now the issues will be more correctly centered on infrastructure and education.

We endorse Turner in the Republican primary and Maize on the Democratic side.

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