Drew's views

Drew's views

January 25th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

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

Photo by Alyson Wright /Times Free Press.

HEADLINE: Chattanooga City Council kills Hixson apartment and commercial project

THE RECAP: Critics of a plan to build Chattanooga Village, a controversial $100 million Hixson apartment and commercial project, celebrated victory Tuesday after the Chattanooga City Council turned back the proposal.

DREW'S VIEW: CBL's well-orchestrated effort to unfairly kill a project that would compete with its Northgate Mall property was successful -- for now. Still, that didn't mean that the city council meeting where the vote took places wasn't full of surprises.

For example, who would've imagined that council members Andraé McGary and Carol Berz would staunchly defend the right of property owners to use their land as they wish? McGary also spoke movingly about the importance of making sure certain zoning requests weren't held to different standards than others -- and warned of the problems such double standards could cause the city. Unfortunately, those words fell on deaf ears.

Everyone in attendance seemed flabbergasted by the sudden absence of council member Deborah Scott, who did not show up for the vote. Some had anticipated that, with Scott in attendance, zoning for the project would be approved, 5-4.

Perhaps the most surprising occurrence of the night was the behavior of council member Peter Murphy. He displayed all the backbone of a jellyfish and all the principles of Mayor Ron Littlefield (which is to say, none) when he intentionally changed the voting order so that he could vote in favor of whichever side of the issue had more votes when it came time for him to announce his decision.

Perhaps the only thing that wasn't a surprise was council member Jack Benson's unwavering commitment to prevent Chattanooga Village from being built. After all, as a result of the thousands of dollars that CBL has contributed to Benson's campaign coffers over the years, the mall conglomerate seems to have Benson's full support.

The truly unfortunate part of the city council's vote to deny the zoning necessary for Chattanooga Village isn't that the project won't be built (at least not as soon as it would have) -- the real tragedy is the message that the vote sent.

Even if landowners meet -- and far exceed -- every requirement the city has on the books related to zoning, an organization claiming to represent "the people," but actually serving as a front group for commercial interests and public relations firms can hijack the process, force the property owner to promise to adhere to invented standards and ultimately crush the owner's right to do something well-intentioned and responsible with his land.

For Chattanooga, which already is viewed negatively by some outsiders because of its history of nepotism, cronyism, corruption and shady deals, the Chattanooga Village saga is just another red flag that will push entrepreneurs and investors away.


HEADLINE: Panetta opens combat roles to women

THE RECAP: Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military's ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.

DREW'S VIEW: Is this more of a milestone for civil rights, or an admission by the Obama Administration that the U.S. doesn't have enough front-line troops for the invasions they are planning and the battles they expect?


HEADLINE: Lookout Valley ninth-graders learn importance of budgeting

THE RECAP: About 50 Lookout Valley High students participated in Tuesday's "Reality Check" exercise, which aims to give high school students a taste of real-life money management.

Tennessee and Georgia are two of only 14 states that require high school students to take a course in personal finance, according to the Council for Economic Education.

DREW'S VIEW: Now that these 14-year-olds have a grasp of balancing a budget and spending within their means, maybe they can take a field trip to Washington, D.C., and teach our members of Congress a thing or two.


HEADLINE: Surprise Chattanoogans! Your paycheck shrank

THE RECAP: Chattanoogans are starting to see the effects of the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations when they examine their first paychecks of the year. Most Americans earning up to $106,800 experienced a 2 percent increase in their Social Security tax because a temporary tax cut was not renewed.

DREW'S VIEW: During the fiscal cliff debate, when our elected officials promised that taxes wouldn't increase on the middle class, did you actually believe them did you? A family earning $50,000 this year will have $1,000 less to spend on food, clothes, medicine -- heck, anything they please. And the federal government will have $1,000 more of that family's hard-earned money to spend on various boondoggles, bombs and bailouts. (Unfortunately, hardly any of the money will actually go to fund Social Security, despite the name of the tax.)

"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.