McGary for District 8 City Council

McGary for District 8 City Council

February 16th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

AndraƩ McGary speaks at a news conference at the Hamilton County Democratic Party headquarters.

Photo by Alyson Wright/Times Free Press.

After losing a bid for Tennessee's 10th District state Senate seat to Republican Todd Gardenhire, District 8 City Council member Andraé McGary recanted on a decision to retire from the council. The Free Press is glad he decided to throw his hat back in the ring and endorses his re-election to city council.

McGary isn't the most fiscally conservative member of the City Council, but he certainly has proven that he respects tax dollars. He looks for places to save money, he has voted against a property tax increase and, most importantly, he is a leader in reforming the Chattanooga budget.

His plan for implementing a zero-based budgeting system would force city leaders to come up with goals first and then decide how much taxpayer money is necessary to meet those ambitions. McGary estimates that, if adopted, zero-based budging could cut cost by 20-30 percent, saving taxpayers millions.

The former WGOW talk radio host is also sensitive to the crime, homelessness and affordable housing issues that affect all of Chattanooga, but are particularly challenging in District 8, which encompasses a number of disadvantaged areas of the city -- including Avondale and Bushtown. Unlike other council members, however, McGary seems to understand that addressing those challenges isn't government's responsibility alone. He prefers to incorporate nonprofits, community organizations and religious groups when developing solutions to those problems. That philosophy both respects tax dollars and increases the likelihood of success.

McGary's opponent, Moses Freeman, is a longtime community activist and public advocate. He has an impressive history of service to Chattanooga's children and low-income population.

In his endorsement interview with the Free Press, though, we could almost hear the cha-ching of cash registers going off as Freeman listed off a litany of ways he hoped to spend Chattanoogans' tax dollars. Freeman believes the city should use public funds to entice people to buy houses in downtrodden areas and he wants the government to install video cameras to police the streets (and spy on unsuspecting residents).

Freeman sees no opportunities to reduce spending in the city's expansive $209 million budget, and admits that he would have no problems voting for tax increases.