Drew's Views

Drew's Views

May 24th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

HEADLINE: Restructuring delays Chattanooga budget

THE RECAP: The Chattanooga budget is going to be delayed for months because of Mayor Andy Berke's restructuring of city government and the shuffling of money for new departments. Rather than agreeing to a new budget in June, as is usually the case, the Chattanooga City Council extended the current budget three months and hopes to have the 2013-14 budget in place in late August.

DREW'S VIEW: When a new governor takes office in Tennessee the release of the proposed state budget is customarily pushed back about a month. That allows the new administration extra time to rework the budget to reflect changes in priorities and updates to staffing and government structure.

The state budget is much more complex than the Chattanooga city budget -- not to mention more than 150 times bigger. Still, Berke seems overwhelmed with his comparatively small task of presenting a municipal budget and is asking for three times more additional time than a new governor gets to complete his task.

While Mayor Berke's city government restructuring understandably means a slowdown in the budget process, it's hard to understand why it will take Berke's administration three additional months to construct a budget when a governor can overhaul the administrative branch of state government and only delay the state budget by 30 or 40 days.

When Berke was running for mayor, and he refused to answer questions about what the city budget would look like or what, specifically, his administration would do, most of us assumed he was playing coy. Now that he's in office and he's begging the council for three additional months to complete his most fundamental duty, it's becoming clear that Berke wasn't really playing coy. He just had no clue what he was going to do. Now the city is treading water while he and his lieutenants come up with ideas.

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HEADLINE: Medical board fines Rep. Scott DesJarlais for sexual relationships with patients

THE RECAP: The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners fined U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais $500 for sexual relationships he had with two female patients that violated an "unprofessional conduct" state statute that governs physicians. The Jasper Republican is also responsible for up to $1,000 in costs for the state's investigation.

DREW'S VIEW: The last thing DesJarlais needed as he prepares to face serious opposition in the 2014 GOP primary is the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners' announcement that the now-congressman had, indeed, abused his authority -- and his patients' trust -- as a doctor by sleeping with at least two of his patients.

To make matters worse for DesJarlais, the conservative base of Tennessee's 4th Congressional District now is reminded once again that, despite claiming to be a social conservative, he was married at the time, and, oh yeah, allegedly forced his wife to have an abortion and smoked weed with patients, too.

Such shenanigans always go over big with the Christian conservatives in places like Tracy City, Winchester and Rhea County.

DesJarlais did receive a bit of good news this week, however, when state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, announced that veteran political strategist and former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman is managing his campaign for DesJarlais' seat.

How is it good news for a power player like Saltsman to join a rival campaign? As pointed out previously in this column, if there is more than one credible challenger to DesJarlais in the GOP primary, they will split the anti-DesJarlais vote, likely keeping DesJarlais in office as a result.

Carr and state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, have been playing a game of political chicken -- waiting for one to give up on the race and leave a clear path for the other to defeat DesJarlais in the August 2014 primary. Tracy, because of his longtime service in the state senate and his powerful connections, has been seen as the frontrunner between the two challengers. The addition of Saltsman to Carr's campaign and the recent announcement that GOP heavy hitters including state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin are throwing their support toward Carr likely means Carr is in the race to stay.

Will Tracy now exit the battle, or will both Carr and Tracy stay in the race, all but ensuring the re-election of the embattled, embarrassing mistress-having, abortion-forcing, drug-using, patient-cavorting DesJarlais?

Hopefully Carr and Tracy can come to an agreement allowing one of them to bow out gracefully before the campaign begins in earnest so that DesJarlais is replaced with someone the district can be proud to have represent them in Congress.

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HEADLINE: More Tennesseans supporting same-sex marriage

THE RECAP: A poll conducted this month for Vanderbilt University found that 49 percent of Tennesseans support gay marriage or civil unions, while 46 percent are opposed to both. Meanwhile, 62 percent of Tennesseans say health insurance and other employee benefits should be extended to the domestic partners or spouses of gays and lesbians. Only 31 percent oppose the idea.

DREW'S VIEW: It's exciting to see that more Tennesseans, of all ages and political persuasions, now recognize that every person, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation deserves equal treatment before the law.

Just as Tennesseans warmed to and recognized the truth that all people should have the same rights regardless of the color of their skin, Tennesseans will eventually recognize that all people should have the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation. After all, sexual orientation, like race, is not a decision, it's biology. And it's unconscionable to have laws that apply differently based on genetic factors and uterine environment.

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