The campaign to represent District 7 - which is comprised of Downtown, Alton Park, East Lake and St. Elmo - on the Chattanooga City Council is shaping up to be the most interesting race on the March 5 ballot. Two-term incumbent Manny Rico is fighting off a vigorous and well-deserved challenge by Chris Anderson, the director of food and beverage services for Bluff View Art District.
No member of the council goes to more ribbon-cuttings, street fairs, potlucks or neighborhood meetings than Rico -- and all that glad handing counts for something. But so does being the council's most reliable rubber stamp for Mayor Ron Littlefield's crony-riddled, budget-busting, tax-increasing administration.
For voters who prefer a council member who is knowledgeable about issues, committed to representing the district well and will work to make city government more transparent and accountable, Anderson is the best option.
As a result, the Free Press endorses Chris Anderson for Chattanooga City Council.
While Rico claims to be a "registered Republican" (even though there is no such thing in Tennessee) and Anderson is a proud Democrat, Anderson appears far more fiscally responsible and concerned that tax dollars are spent well than Rico. In fact, except for Anderson's vexing desire to pour more money into public transportation boondoggles, he is more fiscally conservative than Rico on every single issue.
When he spoke to the Free Press, Rico claimed that "government is not the answer to everything." This editorial page could not agree more. Rico's voting record, however, tells another story. The number of expansive government programs he has supported over the last eight years is extensive.
Perhaps the most damning indictment against Rico's claim of fiscal conservatism is his support of a 37-cent property tax increase, even after stating that it was a terrible time to make taxpayers pay more. For his part, Anderson told the Free Press that he is "not interested in tax increases." Neither are taxpayers.
Anderson believes the city should stop its annexing binge, since annexation stretches tax dollars, police protection and public works services thin.
He also calls the City of Chattanooga's Department of Education, Arts & Culture an expensive "act of cronyism" by Mayor Ron Littlefield to provide a well-paying job for Missy Crutchfield, the daughter of political ally Ward Crutchfield. Anderson would address the issue by pushing for the Parks and Recreation Department to reassume EAC functions. His vision for selling off the city-owned Memorial Auditorium would benefit the facility and taxpayers.
With the money saved by ending the taxpayer-funded subsidy to Memorial Auditorium, Anderson proposes to make good on the promise to increase the pay of police officers who received advanced training.
Manny Rico may be the most visible member of the Chattanooga City Council, but Chris Anderson, with his prudent proposals to improve District 7, is a better choice.