published Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

A modest helping hand

The budget slashing proposed by County Mayor Jim Coppinger, and likely to be adopted Thursday morning by the County Commission, won’t just zero out funding for the county’s most vital civic-service agencies. It will effectively bleed out the heart of county government here and the varied social services that have become a hallmark of compassion and aid in the times of need for so many families here.

The cuts will leave only the inert shell of bureaucratic functionality. The county will still fill potholes and resurface some roads, staff the jail and sheriff’s patrol, replace street signs, keep the courthouse open and audit the constitutional offices that fill that space.

But it won’t provide a dime’s worth of social services for people and families in crisis or those with special needs, nor will it do anything to lift its constituents’ spirits. In fact, it will effectively gut, for the first time in the memory of most residents here, the very services that show any broad concern for the well being of county government’s constituents and taxpayers.

True, the county plans to still provide reduced funding for the state-mandated health department. But the cruel new budget would decimate the essential core of helpful social services that for long decades have demonstrated this county’s compassionate spirit and constructive help in both immediate crises and long-term services. Alongside that, it will also gut funding for the half-dozen agencies under the Allied Arts umbrella that often unveil the first rays of artistic endeavor into the lives of our most disadvantaged children.

Many of the agencies that now seem destined to have their county funding completely terminated have been household names for years.

Think Orange Grove, the county’s widely renowned center for intellectually handicapped children and adults, and the Joe Johnson and Fortwood mental health centers. Or the unique and valued services of the Chambliss Children’s Home and Shelter, the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, and the Children’s Advocacy Center, which collectively rescue, shelter and mentor children and families trapped in dire circumstances.

Add to these the services of the Speech and Hearing Center, the counseling and mentoring of Team Evaluation, the AIM Center and Signal Centers, and the restorative guidance of Chattanooga Endeavors and the Chattanooga Homeless Coalition.

There are no public alternatives to these agencies. The private non-profit entities that provide these crucial services exist from hand-to-mouth, in part through the goodwill of private donors who applaud their mission, and in part, until now, from an enlightened government that recognizes its social responsibility and the broader good of participating in the cycle of support for the services it can’t offer on its own.

Members of the County Commission have not, in our memory, turned their back so completely to the community’s social needs as they now contemplate doing. With a stunning $85 million fund balance, it isn’t necessary at all. Still, Mayor Coppinger and commission members are wrongly blaming the loss of an inequitable sales tax split with the city for their inability to sustain essential services that always should have been funded under the countywide tax base.

This is absurd. If the fund balance is so sacrosanct, it would take a modest tax increase of barely a dime — less than 4 percent on a $2.76 tax rate that hasn’t been bumped in four years — to keep these vital services alive. It would also take just a little heart — if there’s any left in the cold bureaucracy of county government.

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timbo said...

Harry, there you go again... This is an example of the basic difference in philosophy of government with progressives like the writer and conservatives like the county mayor and commission. Even more that that, it is a difference in economic philosophy between those that understand what we can afford and the the writer, who does not understand that fact.

First of all, some of us think that what the mayor and commission has done is reflect the fact that it is not the governments job to administer social justice. Although I don't agree, a lot of the programs he mentioned could be funded when times are good. When economic times are bad, a prudent person cuts back on things that aren't essential like Allied Arts, etc. This is what a businessman would do. Obviously, it is not what a liberal editorial writer would do.

Furthermore, why doesn't Harry get with some of his buddies like the Lebowitz's, Holmbergs, Siskins, etc. and other well-heeled liberals and write personal checks to save these programs. I am sure that they have enough money and if they really feel that these are essential it is their moral duty to pay for it personally. By the way, don't hold your breath that they will spend one dime.

If the county won't raise taxes to pay for this stuff, why doesn't the writer advocate that the main user of these services, the city of Chattanooga, raise taxes to pay for them? Aren't these "worthy" causes at least as important as giving Volkswagen a windfall of our tax money? If they hadn't signed that stupid deal giving away the farm they might have had enough money to pay for this stuff.

This is just more of the same old tired "progressive" (talk about an oxymoron) political crap. Arithmetic probably wasn't the writers best subject.

June 29, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.
bpqd said...

$328,000 to a former mayor for a website.

The editorial fails to express the true outrage many of us feel towards these obviously corrupt and self-serving government officials.

I do not, as a former state official, understand why these people are not under arrest right now.

They not only cut off the money for these human services, but they paid themselves and their friends with tax dollars for nothing.

I cannot see how their actions are lawful or in the public service. It really looks like theft disguised by task organization charts to me.

As a veteran of recent wars, I cannot fathom how it is our local people insist on being so cruel to their neighbors. Folks, if you are to the right of me, you are off in psycho land. Please get it together. You need to care for the homeless, the addicted, and the poor. This disgusting parade of Baby Boomer Me-Generation Newt Gingrich Tax Evader Talk has got to stop.

Commerce is here to support civilization. That means you. You, my conservative friends, are the next victim in the game of life. You are the ones who need these facilities. You are the ones who will use these aid packages as you die. You are the ones who need every cent's worth of help you can get.

Provide it to our citizens as though they were your own kin and kind. One day they will be.

Paying the small taxes to keep these facilities open is the right thing to do. Operating a methadone clinic in this day and age of harsh drugs, is the right thing to do. Operating a halfway house for the mentally ill, so that they can live inside something that looks like an ordinary house as part of starting their lives back up, is the right thing to do. Providing basic counseling and health care to people in need, who cannot help themselves, is the right thing to do.

And paying for it without complaint, especially when you already have one of everything and beyond, is the right thing to do.

We need solutions, not evasions. It has become imperative that we expunge these cronies from office as soon as elections will allow. That includes self-appointed corrupt officials, their webmaster payoffs to out of office mayors, and the job creation for Senator Corker's right hand man.

$328,000 for a website. With a bulletin board. Tax dollars.

Six figure salaries for cronies appointed to offices without election or fair hiring practices. Tax dollars.

Failure to meet basic civic obligations while serving themselves tax dollars: that's what politicians, particularly local Republicans over 50 years old, are doing today.

We need to expunge these people from office immediately.

If we cannot take care of the poor, then we do not need to pay anyone six figures in city government for a website. When people appoint themselves to an office without election, we should not be required to pay their salary.

Save tax dollars. Expunge these corrupt politicians from office. And send their website with them.

June 29, 2011 at 8:05 p.m.
bpqd said...

Have a look at who attended what meeting to appoint Mayor Coppinger, and now notice who's all of a sudden getting paid six figures in ways we can't reasonably stop or understand.

City payments to former mayors are a part of this county payment problem because these people all got together in a circle and gratified each other.

Criminally.

The crime kicks in when people take money, like tax dollars, that isn't theirs for services they don't perform. That includes things like: holding office that's not theirs, selling us items that aren't within a quarter of a million dollars of the paid amount, and causing harm through direct negligence to these poor citizens who cannot reasonably care for themselves without help.

I'm telling you, leaving some of these people who are our neighbors, with nothing, because we choose to knowingly and willingly ignore our duty is gross negligence. History shows that if that goes on for more than a moment, a catastrophic accident like serious harm or death usually follows.

Are we really too cheap to help people stay alive when we are paying these bigwigs hundreds of thousands of dollars for nothing?

We're hit with claims that costs can't be sustained, and then they want hundreds of thousands for the people who gave themselves offices without election.

This is all inter-related, not through lawful organization, but through corrupt payoff schemes. We cannot read a report about these people's activities without seeing direct evidence that they are paying themselves outside of the limits the law allows. It's no coincidence the calendar of payments is unfolding as it is. It'll be tit for tat, until all the rich boys have paid themselves.

And we are told the poor are too expensive. They are cheaper than any of these corrupt payoffs.

Again, I cannot understand why these people are not being immediately arrested.

In another coincidence, that AIM center, that coordinates the housing for the mentally ill: the funding for that is getting cut off right as Prebul is scheduled to get out of jail.

It's in a former Prebul dealership building.

June 29, 2011 at 8:26 p.m.
bpqd said...

I mean, the Times published articles of a reporter who watched someone go around and carry on whispered conversations setting this up. Guys, it's conspiracy. Most conspirators are not stupid enough to actually do the whispering in front of a reporter. Most conspirators are not stupid enough to pay themselves in a city council meeting. Most conspirators are not dumb enough to tell us that they are about to charge us even more, by appointing a second official to an unelected office.

You cannot have a more clear and consistent display of criminal conduct from civil government officials.

You saw them whispering. You are now seeing themselves pay each other huge sums for no observable goods or services. You will see the payments go step by step. As soon as that website check clears, and the man who appointed Coppinger gets paid, then we will see details of these two budgets unfold so that they get paid some more.

When that money changes hands, we need an immediate criminal audit of what all of these people have.

They will continue to do this right in front of you because they have done so all along. It doesn't even matter if you tell them what's about to happen. They will still continue to pay themselves. We have to get executives with the power to arrest and audit in here to examine this.

June 29, 2011 at 8:56 p.m.
ceeweed said...

Being a Tennessean living abroad, (Louisiana), I did not realize how heartless and corrupt Hamilton County Government has become. It is all I can do to keep up with the shady deals that occur daily here in the Banana Republic. It seems our leaders can break the law without fear of prosecution, but even here in La., the law catches up to some of these grandiose public servants and they get taken down. The problem is that, in the next election cycle, we start over again dealing with the Devils we don't know.

June 30, 2011 at 6:52 p.m.
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