published Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Hamilton County Commission Endorsements: Smartt, Maize picks for District 7

Smartt, Maize picks for District 7

District 7

Chances are, if Republican Larry Henry, the present District 7 county commissioner, had run again, he would have easily retained his seat. But the three-term commissioner chose to run for the open Circuit Court clerk's post, leaving the field wide open for both Republicans and Democrats.

Any of the three Republicans running would ably and impressively fill his shoes, but we believe Phil Smartt deserves support in the primary over Perry Perkins and Sabrena Turner.

In the Democratic primary, Ezra Maize is our preference over Don Brown.

Smartt, a retired businessman, is a former Hamilton County Board of Education member and chairman and a Hamilton County Waste Water Treatment Authority board member and chairman, but he has numerous other involvements -- including a recent two-year stint as a missionary in Bosnia -- to burnish his credentials.

Maize, pastor of Friendship Central Community Church, is relatively new to the city but not new to politics, having lost a race for mayor of Knoxville in 2010.

Perkins, who owns a painting business, touts his experience on the board of governors for Shriners Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and on the local YMCA board, and says he would "reach out, work with people and make things happen." Turner, a Realtor and the 2012 Realtor of the Year (as selected by the Chattanooga Board of Realtors), says "we can do better" as a county and that she "understands how to get something done."

Smartt boldly says he would do away with the commissioners' discretionary fund, because he believes that it buys "influence with money," and that parents deserve more choices to decide where their children attend public school. Turner said she is "rather for [the discretionary funds]" but with "more oversight," but if commissioners voted to do away with them, "so be it."

Perkins says there is "only so much" available to build schools, but he believes Chattanooga School for the Liberal Art could tap business and community leaders -- similar to what Signal Mountain residents did several years before its middle/high school was built -- for seed money for a new school.

Smartt and Turner both tout their activism -- in different ways -- to stop annexation of several East Brainerd neighborhoods in 2009, while Smartt and Perkins say education is the No. 1 issue in the district. Smartt even supports a new vocational tech school for the county.

Maize is preferred on the Democratic side if, for nothing else, he understands that "everything starts at home" with the "gang struggle." He believes schools should offer more education on how gangs get started and that gangs are "easy to get in but difficult to get out."

His primary opponent, Don Brown, would like to put the "board of education" (paddle) back in schools and maintain the present school buildings without erecting new ones.

•••

Two unopposed in District 6

District 6 (Unopposed)

Joe Graham is completing his first term as District 6 county commissioner, and, perhaps because of his good service, has no primary opposition. So his name will go under the Republican banner for the August general election against Democrat John Allen Brooks, who also has no primary opposition.

The election will be a rematch of the 2010 general election, when Graham ousted Brooks after one term on the County Commission, accusing him of being absent in his district.

Graham, a printing business owner, who represents Lookout Valley, Lookout Mountain and part of St. Elmo, chairs the Commission's finance committee. During his first term, he has advocated greener, more fuel-efficient police cars, the publishing of commissioners' discretion funds spending on the county's website, requiring Commission approval for matching grants (voted down), heightened Hamilton County Courthouse security, video visitation for Hamilton County jail inmates and smaller property tax bills.

"I'm not afraid to put something out there and have a discussion about it," he said, according to a previous report in the Times Free Press. "If it passes, great; if not, we'll move on."

Brooks, an attorney, said in 2010 that he ran originally because he didn't believe the county was getting its share of the Basic Education Program money and that his threat of a lawsuit led to an increase in BEP funds for the county.

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