published Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Tuesday’s primaries … Hamilton County endorsements

In coming weeks and months, Hamilton County could have many new faces in local elected offices.

There will be at least one new face on its nine-member county commission, and hopefully there will be six (out of seven potential) new faces there.

Regardless of your political leanings, be a part of our democracy and vote.

Below is a recap of the endorsements made in recent weeks on the Times editorial page.

County Commission

• District 1: Randy Fairbanks is a clear choice. A certified public accountant, he can put real analysis on whether Hamilton County saves money or loses money by continuing to hoard $105 million in a reserve fund ostensibly to have a AAA bond rating. Remember, we also had a AAA bond rating three years ago with just $85 million in our rainy-day fund. That $20 million difference could go toward schools or other needs.

• District 4: Pam Ladd will bring leadership and a sense of how county and city governments can work together to strengthen services and streamline costs. She believes it’s time for commissioners to be innovators. We agree.

• District 5: Isiah Hester is the choice on the Democratic ballot. Hester has energy, passion and a belief that county commissioners should serve a maximum of two terms so young men and women of vision can bring innovative ideas to the county. He believes the district — with three of the county’s four worst performing schools and a jobless rate about four times that of the county as a whole — needs more than just a spokesman.

• District 7: Sabrena Turner (if you’re voting in GOP primary) is the best bet for an eye on your family’s best interest in property values and schools. Meanwhile, we endorse Ezra Maize if you’re voting on the Democrat ballot. Maize, pastor of Friendship Central Community Church, is big on change and wants to see more of it in the county’s effort for education.

• District 8: Tim Boyd, the GOP incumbent, should get his party’s nomination for the District 8 seat. What Boyd may lack in tact and policy finesse, he makes up for in an ability to analyze a problem and a fearlessness about refusing to be rushed into uninformed votes. The GOP winner will face Democrat and former Hamilton County School Board member Kenny Smith in the August general election.

County Mayor

Jim Coppinger is the only viable primary candidate. Coppinger’s challengers are perennial candidate Basil Marceaux Sr., whose Republican platform includes learning why the country has a “fake flag,” and Independent candidate Richard D. Ford of Birchwood, whose hero is the late and famous Tennessee moonshiner, Popcorn Sutton. The GOP winner faces independent Richard Ford in August.

Sheriff

Chris Harvey, an 18-year veteran sheriff’s deputy and investigator in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, would bring change in this office and is the best choice. If elected, the 41-year-old Harvey will unseat his 69-year-old boss, incumbent sheriff Jim Hammond. Harvey says he would reverse Hammond’s trend of diverting salary money from officers to created civilian positions that previously were volunteer positions. That would put more officers on staff at the jail and more deputies on the streets. Hammond, a longtime administrator, has struggled to keep the department in the black with a $28 million budget.

Judges

• Chancery, Part 1: Pam McNutt Fleenor gets our nod for the chancellor’s position that soon will be vacated by the retiring Part 1 Chancery Judge W. Frank Brown, who has served since 1998. Fleenor began practicing law in Chattanooga in 1986, and has worked in areas such as personal injury, civil rights violations, employment defense, breach of contract and complex commercial litigation.

• Circuit Court Judge, Division 1: Catherine Cate White is the best choice for this post soon to be vacated by Judge Jacqueline Bolton. White has been practicing law for 25 years and has worked in areas including special counsel for Chattanooga, worker’s compensation, General Sessions Court, contract disputes, condemnations and family law.

Clerks

• Circuit Court Clerk: Larry Henry will make the best new Circuit Court Clerk and has pledged to get a handle on an office where expenses have outpaced revenues.

• Criminal Court Clerk: Gwen Tidwell is the easy and best choice for Democratic re-nomination to her post of 20 years as Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk. The winner will face Republican Vince Dean in August.

Register of Deeds

• Pam Hurst, a five-term GOP incumbent for the Hamilton County Register of Deeds, is the clear choice. Hurst, in the last 20 years led the state in electronically recording land record documents. She continues now to make even old deeds and documents accessible electronically.

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aae1049 said...

Great Job on Endorsement, Left side of the paper understands local politics and selected the best candidates overall.

May 4, 2014 at 12:14 a.m.
ddgala said...

It boggles my mind how some people can think that $28 million can still buy what we got a decade ago. The 1982-83 budget for the Oklahoma City Police Department was $29.3 million, and I know this since I was a principal person who put this budget together. In 2013-2014 we're talking about a $28 million budget. To me, this is strange. If anyone believes that Chris Harvey can do better with this money..., they would be in for a rude awakening. Mr. Harvey himself hasn't dealt with a budget of this size and the needs of the Sheriff's Office at this level. We would be getting an unknown variable in this situation, and this bothers me. The amount of misinformation put out by people at the watering hole (obviously looking for a job, if Harvey is successful) have done a disservice to our community, not helped it.

May 5, 2014 at 1:37 a.m.
ddgala said...

Considering the problems with the old jail (still being used) and overcrowding, the costs associated with the jail alone will be high. This doesn't begin to address the cost increases associated with fuel increases and increases in electric power, etc. When we have increases at home in our electric bill, the gasoline in our car, and groceries, we must adjust our budget to fit these additional costs or go without something that we want.

In law enforcement, we don't have these options, because of law mandated requirements. Many of these requirements can be foreseen and the budget is adjusted for the following year accordingly. If the Commission fails to provide the funds for the budget, there will assuredly be a visit to the Commission when these higher costs go into effect. Sheriff Hammond isn't any more to blame for this than we are for higher gasoline costs. However, the Commission needs to provide the monetary support for the Sheriff's Office instead of trying to embarrass the Sheriff for political reasons.

It is amazing that most of the time we have one patrol vehicle in Hixson, but no one criticizes the Police Chief for not providing more police officers, instead of police technicians. When Harvey suggests doing away with volunteers and adding personnel, at a greater cost, of course, this is acceptable to the Editorial Page Editor. I must be missing something here. Harvey has proven himself to be a capable politician. He says what some people want to hear, they drink his Cool Aid, and then they provide support. If Harvey gets into the Sheriff's Office he then needs to do as he says. If Harvey fails, then a new Sheriff will take over in 4-years. What our community will lose is a Command Staff that is second to none, and had provided excellent law enforcement protection for our community. What do these people care..., they would get into an Office that they have no idea what is needed in the way of leadership, management, or administration. The taxpayers suffer..., and as we have seen in the past, this seems to be okay to some influential people. Please keep these points in mind when you vote on Tuesday.

May 5, 2014 at 1:59 a.m.
ddgala said...

In the Editorial endorsements, the Editor endorsed Randy Fairbanks for the District 1 County Commission seat. In justifying this selection it was stated that the “$20 million difference could go toward schools…,” of which I have a serious problem.

When Jesse Register was over the Hamilton County Schools, he repeatedly reached deep into our pockets and whined that it was for the children. However, when the school system either did not replace a teacher who retired or quit, or teachers were laid off, no one ever explained who this was for in the end. Did the children benefit from the lack of teachers? And where did our money go when the teacher complement decreased?

By the way, I don’t have any problem with the endorsement for Randy Fairbanks, and I wish him the best. It’s the distribution of the money that concerns me.

There were other words used here, such as, “…or other needs” and I can only wonder why this money cannot be set-aside until there is enough available to build a minimum security jail that can concentrate on inmates sentenced and need treatment for drugs and alcohol use, and mental health problems in the jail. The old jail is a serious problem and shouldn’t be used. It is a matter of time before the wrong person is placed in this jail when the inmate population is high and the law suit that hits us will be staggering, all of which can be avoided. Unfortunately, this may be what is needed to get the funding. A little foresight on the part of the Commissioners would be appreciated, since I know that this has been brought before them in the past.

Who else do you think should get a huge chunk of the $20+ million? I would like to know.

May 5, 2014 at 2:24 a.m.
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