Chattanooga: Council members lash out at candidate

Chattanooga: Council members lash out at candidate

April 12th, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in News

Several council members fired at District 1 candidate Deborah Scott for being fast and loose with facts and targeting the entire council in her campaign.

"We've felt like she's done this the whole campaign," Councilman Manny Rico said last week. "I had a lot of respect for her until I went into a forum and heard her speak."

Mrs. Scott faces Councilwoman Linda Bennett in the Tuesday runoff elections, which also includes races in Districts 8 and 9. Polls open at 8 a.m.

Over the last several months, Mrs. Scott, who is self-financing her campaign, has distributed fliers and mailers with "facts" about City Council expenditures. The campaign material has focused on the entire council and not just her opponent, Ms. Bennett.

Mrs. Scott said Friday she would be happy to speak to any of the council members disappointed in her stance.

"We're all entitled to our own, separate opinions," she said.

Mrs. Scott said her facts come from a mix of public records and observances of the City Council in the last three years. Sometimes the council makes decisions in haste without adequate research, she said.

"I don't think all the decisions the City Council has made are bad; I just think they needed to be done differently," she said. "It's not that I'm against everything."

Mrs. Scott said if elected, she and other council members could sit together as "adults" and make the best decisions.


Council members said her campaign "bullet points" about city expenditures are inaccurate.

"I could destroy every bullet point she has," Mr. Rico said.

If voters elect Mrs. Scott to the council, Mr. Rico said the members would be professional enough to work with her, but there still could be tension.

"Nobody wants to work with someone who calls them an idiot," he said.

Ms. Bennett said Friday getting anything done on the council takes five votes. Destroying relationships with potential colleagues would be detrimental to the district, she said.

"By alienating herself from the rest of the council, it would be very difficult for her to accomplish anything for District 1," Ms. Bennett said.

Mrs. Scott has run on a fiscally conservative platform, based on pledges to be accountable and spend frugally. Councilman Jack Benson, who last week called himself one of the more conservative members of the panel, said he does not like the direction of her campaign. She's taken complex issues and oversimplified them, like spending money on golf carts, he said.

"How can we have a good course without golf carts?" he asked.

Mrs. Scott also has attacked spending on the Summit of Softball complex on Apison Pike. Mr. Benson said in the long run the city will make money on the project. He said she seems to disagree with every move the city makes.

"It looks like we could elect a Dr. No," he said.

Councilwoman Sally Robinson said Mrs. Scott made several "blanket statements" about the council over the course of the campaign.

"You can run a campaign without demeaning an entire body," she said.

Mr. Benson and Ms. Robinson said they have actively supported Ms. Bennett's campaign. Mr. Benson contributed $50 to the campaign and Ms. Robinson said she has encouraged friends to vote for Ms. Bennett. Departing Councilman Dan Page contributed $100, according to financial disclosure reports.

Councilwoman Carol Berz has also supported Ms. Bennett with members of her staff hitting the campaign trail for her. Dr. Berz could not be reached for comment Friday.

Mr. Rico said he does not actively support any campaign and considers it unethical to do so.

Councilman Leamon Pierce said Friday he had not paid attention to the District 1 campaign because he has his own campaign to worry about. But serving for 19 years on the City Council has taught him one thing, he said.

"A person trying to get elected will use anything to get a vote," he said.