Drew's views: Fireworks at City Hall and a fraternity house

Drew's views: Fireworks at City Hall and a fraternity house

April 12th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

HEADLINE: Larry Grohn defeats Jack Benson in District 4 runoff

THE RECAP: Larry Grohn defeated longtime Chattanooga Councilman Jack Benson on Tuesday, collecting 1,077 votes to Benson's 692. Grohn, 65, will be sworn in Monday as the District 4 city councilman, along with the other eight council members.

DREW'S VIEW: This page has been quite critical of Jack Benson as a council member, and for good reason. His tax and spend mentality, his penchant for cronyism and his history of voting in ways that appear as if he cared more about his donors than his constituents has no place in city government and will not be missed. What will be missed, however, is Benson's unquestioned commitment to this community, especially its children.

Benson served for 35 years in the old Chattanooga Public School System, first as a teacher, then as principal at four different schools. He then worked as director of curriculum and assistant superintendent before retiring from the district.

In recent years, when he wasn't wastefully spending tax dollars and increasing taxes, he was busy advancing the causes of a number of cherished nonprofits, including the Chattanooga Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association, the United Way, the Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services, Camp Ocoee and the Boy Scouts Exposition.

I am thrilled to have Larry Grohn filling Jack Benson's seat on the council. Grohn will represent District 4 residents more ably and dynamically than Benson has in recent years, and will be the voice of fiscal restraint and accountable government that Benson never was.

Because of the children he taught, the families he helped and the nonprofits he served, however, few people have left a more lasting or more powerful impact on Chattanooga than Benson.

Jack, Chattanooga appreciates what you've done.


HEADLINE: Bottle rocket video prompts UTC fraternity probe

THE RECAP: A shaky cellphone video posted to Facebook in September 2012 showing a shirtless man setting off bottle rockets up the pants of an unconscious man at Phi Delta Theta's Oak Street fraternity house has prompted UTC officials to reopen an investigation into the situation. The fraternity's international office has suspended individuals it identified as being involved in the incident.

DREW'S VIEW: News of fraternity house hijinks always make for a good laugh (butt-chugging, anyone?). Unless, that is, the fraternity in question is the fraternity that you were in and the hijinks occurred in the city where you are the local newspaper's editorial page editor. In such cases, the incident loses its humor fast.

While college kids acting like dopes is nothing new, the ability for college kids acting like dopes to post videos of their dopey behavior to YouTube and Facebook and confirm what dopes they are to thousands of people is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Not so long ago, if a buffoon shot bottle rockets up the pants leg of a man who was apparently blacked out on a fraternity house porch, it's likely no one would know except for the immediate party involved.

Now, since everybody has a friend dumb enough to hit "record" on his or her smartphone at a moment's notice, poor decisions, youthful indiscretions and outright assault (like this situation) quickly become public spectacle.

As a result, being young and stupid today comes with a different level of responsibility. Rather than just embarrassing yourself by acting like an idiot, social media allows you to embarrass your family, your friends and pretty much anyone else who knows you -- and even people who just happen to belong to the same organization as you.

We can all learn an important lesson from the knuckleheads at the UTC Phi Delt house: Don't do something stupid, but if you do something stupid, don't record it and post it online.


HEADLINE: Mayor-elect Andy Berke cleans house at Chattanooga's City Hall

THE RECAP: Mayor-elect Andy Berke swept out City Hall on Wednesday, letting go 18 of 21 people who served under Mayor Ron Littlefield. At a three-minute news conference, Berke said he will soon announce appointments to fill key administrative and staff positions.

DREW'S VIEW: Berke took an important first step in setting the tone of his administration by passing out pink slips to a number of city agency directors and department heads serving at the pleasure of outgoing mayor Ron Littlefield.

Several of those let go headed agencies that Berke will likely eliminate, several more apparently don't fit his vision for the city, and several others, Berke undoubtedly believed, were either not the most competent person for their position or rose to their rank through Littlefield's system of cronyism and favoritism.

While the housecleaning isn't easy for many of those who now find themselves without a job, it's only fair to allow Berke to fill his administration with lieutenants whom he believes will serve Chattanoogans best while offering him the greatest chance of success as mayor. Littlefield, after all, was afforded the same opportunity. And many of the same people who now find themselves without jobs were put in place by Littlefield after he cleaned out a number of people appointed by former Mayor Bob Corker. Such is life, especially when your life is politics.

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