However the recall effort against Mayor Ron Littlefield turns out, there will be no real winners.
The mayor won a round Friday with a ruling by Judge Jeff Hollingsworth halting the planned August recall election. But an appeal of that ruling is likely.
And even if the mayor staves off the recall, it will be a limited victory. The recall push -- which has dragged on for a year and a half now -- has required an inordinate amount of his attention and reduced the time he has to focus on productive pursuits, such as economic development.
By the same token, even if the backers of the effort to remove Littlefield succeed, what will their victory be? The mayor's term in office will be reduced by only a few months.
City workers certainly aren't winners. They are reportedly under a great deal of strain as they wonder how long their current boss will be in office and who might replace him if a recall succeeds.
But most of all, the city and its residents will not be winners.
Chattanooga is undergoing a remarkable period of progress and transformation. Even before investments such as the Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South industrial park, signs of that transformation were all around. The amazing development along both sides of the Tennessee River and in other areas of the city has helped Chattanooga graduate from the South's best-kept secret to a city that is very highly regarded and frequently talked about worldwide. People from all over the globe want to visit, and companies want to locate here for reasons ranging from a good local workforce to the area's natural beauty.
That puts Chattanooga on the cusp of potential further development such as we can scarcely imagine.
But those prospects are to some degree jeopardized if outsiders see Chattanooga engulfed in bitter political strife and instability.
"We look like a city in chaos" as a result of the recall push, City Councilwoman Pam Ladd said in November. We're afraid that's still true, and that does not bode well for further progress in Chattanooga.
It's not that there are no reasons to object to some of Littlefield's policies. But those differences are best settled through regular elections that will be coming soon in any event.
It is unfortunate that process could be short-circuited.