Drew's views

Drew's views

January 18th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

Andy Berke

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

HEADLINE: In campaign to be Chattanooga's mayor, Andy Berke chooses broad strokes over specifics

THE RECAP: Andy Berke has developed four campaign priorities: education, economic development, public safety and government accountability. But Berke has not directly answered questions about the city's water and sewer issues, possible metro government and whether he would increase property taxes during his administration.

That has been a hallmark of Berke's campaign: Focus on the talking points and leave the specifics for later.

DREW'S VIEW: It's a troubling proposition that Berke won't tell Chattanooga voters and residents his complete vision for our city.

In the 2012 GOP primary for the 3rd District U.S. House seat, Scottie Mayfield -- a candidate with the name recognition and money to win the race -- refused to offer any specifics about his platform or how he intended to vote if elected. As a result, Mayfield was defeated easily by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

A Free Press editorial that ran days before the August primary cautioned voters against voting for Mayfield because of his failure to offer specifics: "[A] candidate who is unwilling to explain and defend his positions is a poor candidate and a poorer use of a vote." What was true for Mayfield is true for Berke.

Buying a pig in a poke is bad when electing a Congressman, where Mayfield would have been one of 435 making decisions in the U.S. House. It's much worse when electing a mayor, where Berke stands to be the most influential single government official in the lives of Chattanoogans.

Moreover, Berke's history as a Tennessee state senator fails to offer voters much guidance as to what his views are, or what policies he may promote. That's because his track record is all over the place.

His legislative proposals in the state Senate range from the sublime (eliminating the sales tax on groceries and creating an inspector general for fraud, waste, corruption and abuse within all departments and branches of state government) to the ridiculous (a $30 million handout to bribe grocery store companies to build in certain locations, a $9 million scheme to give tax breaks for solar panels and develop green jobs, and a bill to allow pregnant women to drive in the HOV lane.) Question: How would a woman eight-weeks along prove her pregnancy to a cop? Or how would a police officer prove a lady with a pot belly wasn't pregnant?

Would Berke make a good mayor? Who knows? And that, quite frankly, is the problem.

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HEADLINE: Hemlock Semiconductor is laying off workers in Clarksville, Tenn.

THE RECAP: Hemlock Semiconductor is laying off three-fourths of its employees in Clarksville, Tenn., shortly before the planned start of production at its new $1.2 billion plant. Officials of the Michigan-based company said Monday they will cut 300 of the 400 jobs in Clarksville.

DREW'S VIEW: What does a business in Clarksville have to do with the Chattanooga area? Plenty since local residents' tax dollars where used to fund part of the $125 million in handouts the state gave Hemlock for locating in Clarksville.

This is just another in a long line of examples in which money was taken from Tennessee's taxpayers to lure a business to the Volunteer State and, ultimately, the giveaways produced relatively few jobs while wasting lots of tax dollars.

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HEADLINE: Groups call for ouster of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

THE RECAP: A prominent conservative blog, RedState, and a well-financed family values group, the Madison Project, are calling for U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais' ouster, adding to the national voices wanting new representation in Tennessee's 4th Congressional District. An article, which appeared on both organizations' websites, urges conservatives to reject DesJarlais in the 2014 Republican primary.

DREW'S VIEW: October would have been a good time for all of these national conservative media outlets and political organizations to stand up and fight to remove DesJarlais. That's when the news of the mistress-having, abortion-coercing, drug-using, patient-cavorting congressman's sordid scandals broke.

As a result of conservatives unwillingness to criticize -- or work to remove -- a Republican before the November election, the 4th District is stuck with their hypocritical embarrassment of a congressman for at least two more years.

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