Election Day is March 5. What should be the top priorities of Chattanooga's next mayor?
Editor's note: The Free Press opinion page is beginning a new weekly feature, the Right Side Round Table, in which we join a few prominent political, civic, business or religious leaders from our region to discuss a timely issue.
The first priority of Chattanooga's next mayor should be to quickly correct the shortcomings of the current mayor.
During Ron Littlefield's eight wearisome years as Chattanooga mayor, the city budget ballooned from $150 million to nearly $210 million, property taxes were hiked 19 percent and Chattanooga's long, sad traditions of cronyism, political paybacks and back-room deal making were faithfully upheld.
Our next mayor should trim city spending and work to reduce tax rates before residents realize how much more they pay in taxes than surrounding communities and begin fleeing.
The next mayor should demonstrate his understanding of the proper role of government by selling, leasing or shuttering the questionable business ventures the city is involved in - including a hotel, two entertainment venues, a cable and Internet service business, golf courses, a private plane service center and a marina - that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
Most importantly, the new mayor should work to end cronyism and secretive government by embracing government transparency. He should appoint the best people as agency heads and to fill vacancies on city boards and commissions, rather than people to whom he owes favors.
- The Free Press
Chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party
I think the top three issues facing the new mayor are crime prevention, wasteful spending and restoring trust.
Chattanooga is seeing an increase in crime. We hear stories of people jogging, working in their yards or enjoying our parks who are being victimized. This is not even addressing inner-city crime that we read about each day. Our police need the resources to meet criminals head on.
Wasteful spending needs to be cut. City leaders need to understand that the citizens of Chattanooga won't keep paying more and receiving less. The city can't keep raising taxes and not addressing spending.
The current administration appears to have some trust issues with many people. The new mayor will need to start rebuilding that trust. He needs to reach out to all citizens, not just the ones he thinks voted for him.
President of the Chattanooga Tea Party
Following an administration that has been full of controversy, disastrous policies and ill-devised plans, I contend Chattanoogans are looking for a "do-over" - a new start that will focus on servant leadership in government.
Servant leadership depicts doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It involves integrity, accountability and transparency. These are simple concepts that are seldom seen in government or, for that matter, even in life.
We desire a leader who is more concerned over the peoples' future than his own; a leader who is willing to be questioned and held to account for his policies and plans; and a leader who has nothing to hide and remains open to the inquiries of his employer: We the people.
In summary, we desire a leader who understands that government is "of the people, by the people and for the people."
Self-proclaimed superstar and operator of www.BasilMarceaux.com
Some people believe beautifying the city is very important; others say it is necessary to focus on parks. Education, budget and crime issues are all worthy of our attention.
The top priority, however, should be citizens. Until illegal traffic stops that allow the government to try citizens in a criminal prosecution for a civil matter are stopped in Chattanooga, citizens are not the most important.
Tennessee Supreme Court cases from the 1850s to today - including Meaher v. Mayor, Chattanooga v. Myers, Chattanooga v. Davis and my own cases - indicate that cities are civil and can only enforce ordinances, not state crimes.
Fines generated through improper arrests violate the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The new mayor must have courage to change the city charter to say that all court matters must go to circuit court, not criminal court.