City Councilwoman-elect Deborah Scott says she wants to patch up any differences that exist with other council members for the good of Chattanooga.
“I’m going to reach out my hand and try to be a good partner,” she said.
Several City Council members expressed frustration last week about campaign literature from Mrs. Scott that they said targeted the City Council as a whole instead of just her opponent.
Mrs. Scott faced former Councilwoman Linda Bennett in the District 1 City Council runoff. Mrs. Scott, who won the District 1 seat Tuesday night, said she now wants to focus on the future.
“I’m looking forward, I’m not looking back,” she said. “I can’t think it would be productive for me to look backward.”
Questions arose Tuesday night about the location of an event Mrs. Scott held that night at the Red Bank Presbyterian Church.
“We had pizza at the church,” she said. “We didn’t have anything else.”
Internal Revenue Service law restricts churches, which are 501(c)(3) corporations under tax code, from participating in any campaign activities that would favor one candidate over another, according to IRS documents.
The IRS states “501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
Mrs. Scott said there was no “victory party.”
The Rev. Everett Gossett, pastor of the church, said Wednesday it was “just a reception.” He said there was no favoritism shown toward Mrs. Scott.
“It was no political thing,” he said. “The election was over.”
IRS spokesman Dan Boone said he could not comment on whether any codes were violated.
“If anyone thinks there’s a violation, there’s a process they can report it,” he said.
The City Council will be sworn in 10 a.m. Monday, April 20, at the Tivoli Theatre.
After Tuesday night’s election, the complete dynamic of the council could change, council members said. Four new members — Mrs. Scott, Pam Ladd, Andraé McGary and Peter Murphy — will be sworn in.
Council members Jack Benson, Carol Berz, Manny Rico and Sally Robinson were holding budget hearings with area agencies Wednesday. Mr. Rico said he did not think any grudges would be held, and that what is best for the city matters most.
“None of it’s personal,” he said. “We will not have a problem with any of them coming on board.”
Mr. Benson said he felt the same way.
“I’m looking forward to her coming on the council and getting firsthand facts,” he said.
All of the new members also were invited to come to the budget hearings over the next few days, he said.
“We want to work them right in,” he said.
Joe Lance, a local blogger for TennesseeTicket.com and a political observer, said he couldn’t help but see the council change after the election. There are four new immediate members and Councilman Russell Gilbert was elected in November, making him still relatively new, Mr. Lance said.
He said Mrs. Scott would bring a conservative voice to the council. While the council members expressed disagreements with her campaign literature, that could be a “blip on the radar,” Mr. Lance said.
The City Council has worked in the past several weeks at strategic planning, making its own agenda and becoming more assertive in city affairs, and the new members could help with those goals, Mr. Lance said.
“It’s going to be a different mix all together than it has been in many years,” he said. “The aspect is that the City Council is trying to take a lead role in budgetary matters instead of being a rubber stamp. That can’t be anything except a good thing for the citizens.”
Dr. Berz and Mrs. Robinson said they see a continuation of the council taking the lead role even as the new council members step in.
With Volkswagen building at Enterprise South industrial park and suppliers looking to locate nearby, there will be no time for the council to remain entrapped in a “feudal” system of just looking at the needs of each of the city’s nine districts, they said.
“There’s not going to be any time for short-sightedness,” Mrs. Robinson said.
Dr. Berz said council members still need to focus on their districts, but they must focus on their neighbor’s districts as well. What happens in one district can and does affect another, she said.
“It’s a new day in Chattanooga,” she said. “We need to be thinking more globally.”
Seeking to build bridgesAfter blasting the Chattanooga City Council in campaign literature, newly elected Councilwoman Deborah Scott, who takes office April 20, says she will work to build a strong relationship with her colleagues.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...