Drew's Views

Drew's Views

December 7th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

The Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium are under increasing scrutiny.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

HEADLINE: Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium manager resigns after missing money allegations

THE RECAP: Sandy Coulter, the manager of the city-owned Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium, resigned last month after an internal audit uncovered misappropriation of funds.

City Auditor Stan Sewell said the Internal Audit Department discovered the venues' administrators writing checks to cash and then paying vendors only in cash. Questionable financial management practices at the Tivoli Theatre were ignored for more than seven years, records show.

Missy Crutchfield, administrator of the Department of Education, Arts & Culture which manages the two entertainment venues, admitted she was aware of reports critical of how money was handled at the theaters, but was told by the city's internal audit and finance departments that the issue could be corrected later. Sewell denies telling Crutchfield to put the issue off.

DREW'S VIEW: The problem with this story isn't the missing money or the fact that either the head of the city Department of Education, Arts & Culture or the city's auditor is a downright liar. The problem is that the City of Chattanooga owns two entertainment venues that it has no business owning.

If a private company or individual owned the Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium, as should be the case -- and would be the case in any city where the leaders had even half a brain between them -- it wouldn't matter if some sleaze ball employees misappropriated funds at the venues. That's because it would be the owner's problem, not the taxpayers.

But here in the Socialist Republic of Chattanooga, where the government owns a hotel, a marina, a cable and Internet company, a private plane storage and maintenance facility, a skate park and a merry-go-round, when a couple of concert halls lose money, taxpayers have to make up the difference.

Davidson County doesn't own the Ryman Auditorium. Knoxville doesn't own the Tennessee Theatre. You know why? Because local leaders in Nashville and Knoxville know that they have no business owning and managing a concert venue. But here in Chattanooga -- where our government officials are dopes -- the Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium are hemorrhaging money as a result of the city's inept management.

This year, the two venues are projected to lose a combined $805,000 -- and guess who pays the bill. That's right, Chattanooga's taxpayers.

By the way, if Missy Crutchfield, whose job -- and entire department -- is a complete waste of taxpayers' money anyway, was actually told to address the improper handling of finances, she is a liar. If it is proven that she was told to clean up the venues' financial mess and didn't, Mayor Ron Littlefield needs to immediately fire her, both for being dishonest and for failing to act as a good steward of tax dollars.

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HEADLINE: 1,500 inmates to be held in new $208 million Bledsoe County prison

THE RECAP: In January, Pikeville's new state prison, the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, will begin housing more than 1,500 prisoners. The prison was opened on Tuesday to allow state and local officials to tour the 430,000-plus square-foot facility that cost taxpayers $208 million.

DREW'S VIEW: It's absolutely disgusting that, at the opening of the facility, Bledsoe County Mayor Bobby Collier praised the prison as a job creator. Rather than throwing a party because a huge airplane hangar-sized complex has opened to allow more Tennesseans to be thrown in jail, the state needs to take a serious look at why so many people are in jail and whether what they did actually deserves punishment.

Specifically, the state should ask if people should continue to be thrown in jail for victimless crimes, such as personal drug use, consensual prostitution and gambling.

Under the most conservative estimates, these "criminals" who aren't actually hurting anyone else, constitute nearly one-third of Tennessee's prison population. With 20,236 adult inmates in the state's prisons, more than 6,000 Tennesseans are behind bars, despite creating no threat to the public.

Housing a prisoner in Tennessee costs taxpayers $23,679 annually, according to the state department of corrections. That means the state is spending about $160 million every year locking up people who haven't done anything to harm any other person or their property.

But it's not just about the money. It's about the proper role of government. Why should the state be able to tell people what to put in their own bodies, who they can sleep with or how they can spend their money? Those things simply shouldn't be any of the state's business.

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HEADLINE: Chattanooga Greenlife store puts on Whole Foods name

THE RECAP: Two and a half years after buying the Greenlife grocery store in Chattanooga, Whole Foods Market finally put the "Whole Foods" name on its North Shore store on Wednesday.

DREW'S VIEW: Nothing makes me happier than to see a bunch of liberals, hippies, tree huggers and other folks who love the idea of Obamacare and higher taxes, and hate capitalism, shop at Whole Foods. That's because Whole Foods' co-founder and co-CEO, John Mackey, is one of the most outspoken opponents of government-run health care and greatest defenders of free market, limited government principles in America today. Keep buying groceries at Whole Foods. A small portion of what you spend ultimately goes towards fighting against big government, unions and other threats to liberty.

"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared in the Times Free Press over the past week. Follow Drew on Twitter: @Drews_Views.