published Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Times County Commission picks for District 6, District 8

DISTRICT 6

Includes Lookout Valley, St. Elmo, Lookout Mountain, downtown Chattanooga, North Chattanooga and part of Red Bank

• Registered voters: 23,067

• Voting precincts: Courthouse 1-2, downtown 1-2, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Valley 1-2, Moccasin Bend, Moutanin Creek 2-3, North Chattanooga 1-2, Red Bank 1-2, Riverview, St. Elmo 1-2

District 6: Brooks is clear choice

It's time to return Democrat John Allen Brooks to the Hamilton County Commission District 6 seat.

Republican District 6 incumbent Commissioner Joe Graham is being challenged by Brooks -- the very man whose seat Graham took in 2010 when fewer than 3,250 ballots were cast in a district that then had 18,313 registered voters. At the end of the day, the election was won by 681 votes.

Graham was the first Republican to win District 6, said to be a majority Democratic district, since the commission was created in 1978.

Now Brooks aims to return the district to its blue roots, and we support him.

Along with calling for a comprehensive economic development plan that includes the designation of more land with sewer lines for future economic development, Brooks says the county needs to fight harder to get more state funding for education. He also says county schools need a vocational option, and he wants to see commissioners' discretionary funds abolished and commission meeting times made more convenient for John Q. Public.

"I would like to see us have meetings after 5 p.m. to allow the average person, the working man and woman, to come and be able to listen to it. I think that would make it more accessible," Brooks told the Times Free Press recently.

He also said he would do more to lobby the state for school aid from the state's Basic Education Program -- BEP. That was something he did with some success while in office before. It was Brooks' threat to sue the state over funding inequity that led to a small increase, but he and other officials say more work is needed to get the county's fair share. But the effort to obtain more BEP money appeared to be derailed when Brooks lost his commission seat to a Republican.

"If you are going to be a commissioner for this county you have to stand up for it. You can't look at the governor and say, well, he's in my party, we can't do anything about it," Brooks said.

Meanwhile, District 6 schools have taken a double hit under Graham. Out of $100 million in capital projects recently approved, District 6 didn't get a penny. "It's time to build a good high school downtown and make it a centerpiece ... perhaps a vocational (and technical) school," Brooks' notes.

Graham, on the other hand, told Times Free Press editors recently that he'd like to see the school system budget turned "upside down." He implied that the system's central office might get along with half the money it now receives in order to put more money in the classrooms.

Like ousted District 1 Commissioner Fred Skillern, Graham said he believes there is no problem holding money hostage in the county's so-called "rainy-day fund" even though the county has had an excellent bond rating for years with far less in the fund. Meanwhile our school system has been failing -- in part from lack of funding for things even as basic as reliable Internet access.

Graham in his first term advocated greener, more fuel-efficient police cars, as well as the online publishing of commissioners' discretionary fund spending -- both notable actions. But Graham also was the commissioner who proposed and won a resolution amendment that requires funds from the sale of schools go to the county, rather than the schools, and be spent toward school capital projects. At the time, school board Chairman Mike Evatt said he was disappointed with the amendment. He said 11 school buildings are titled to the county government or jointly to the county and the school system. The rest of the county's school buildings, including Ooltewah Elementary which was recently sold, are owned by the school system, and the schools historically used the money for capital improvements.

Graham's action simply gave commissioners more political strings over school decisions -- something they may already have too much of.

Graham has claimed that before he took office people in the district didn't know who their commissioner was because Brooks hadn't been visible enough in his district, and he says he's been to more than 950 community meetings in the district. Too bad he can't see the forest for the trees to really help the people of his district and county.

Brooks is an attorney and former Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman. 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 for John Allen Brooks.


DISTRICT 8

Includes Missionary Ridge, Concord, Hamilton Place, East Ridge and parts of Brainerd

• Registered voters: 25,062

• Voting precincts: Brainerd, Brainerd GHills, Concord 1-4 and 6, East Ridge 1-4, Missionary Ridge

District 8: Smith is best bet

Former Board of Education chairman Kenny Smith, a Democrat, is a clear choice for Hamilton County Commission District 8 over incumbent Republican Tim Boyd.

It's clear because Smith is someone who can come to the table and work with other elected officials to get things done.

"I don't believe in being a rubber stamp for anybody. But I also don't agree with being against everything," Smith said. "I just want to do what's best for District 8."

Boyd, in his first term as a commissioner, developed a reputation of being one who was not particularly easy to work with. Still, his pointed determination to question status quo allowed him to prevail in his primary last May over longtime District 8 commissioner Curtis Adams and East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert.

In 2010, Boyd became the second Republican to get elected in District 8 -- only because then-incumbent Commissioner Adams flipped to the GOP just before the 2006 election. When Boyd beat Adams in this May's primary, Adams threw his support behind Smith for the upcoming Aug. 7 race.

Smith also has a focus as a strong education advocate -- and particularly of vocational education, something he lobbied for in Hamilton County in 2010 long before it became the new local call to arms.

"I'm very passionate about ... a stand-alone career and technical high school. I think it's needed. It's not to discourage anybody from going to college. It's just another avenue people can take to get jobs," he said.

Smith is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and he is the training director of the Chattanooga Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Center.

Both Smith and Boyd think Hamilton County and its municipalities need to look at ways to consolidate some services and save money.

Smith, with his strong track record of negotiated wins, is the best man for the district and for the county.

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