And another thing ... Rhonda's revolt, unlocking the lock, circus circus

And another thing ... Rhonda's revolt, unlocking the lock, circus circus

May 21st, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Replacement of the Chickamauga Dam lock should speed up with passage of the bipartisan water resources bill.

Replacement of the Chickamauga Dam lock should speed...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Better ballot box than recall

Hamilton County School Board member Rhonda Thurman wants District 1 voters to have an option in August's County Commission general election, and she's decided to be the option.

Longtime District 1 Commissioner Fred Skillern was defeated by 52 votes by Soddy-Daisy accountant Randy Fairbanks in the Republican primary earlier this month, and that didn't sit well with Skillern's northern county ally. So she's decided -- after voters approached her, she said -- to campaign as a write-in candidate.

Thurman, a hairdresser, is not up for School Board election this year, so she plans an aggressive campaign not only against the primary winner but also to educate voters that they will have to darken an oval on the ballot and write in her name.

She has an uphill job. If the same number of people vote in the general election as the primary, she would have to get all the votes Skillern got -- as write-ins -- plus 53 more. But no write-in candidate in modern history has been successful in a Hamilton County election.

In truth, all governmental bodies need a person such as Thurman to ask if something is necessary or to question if there is a more economical way of doing things. She is that for the School Board, but we believe Fairbanks would join Tim Boyd (if he is re-elected in District 8) in playing that role on the County Commission.

Not only that, but Fairbanks said in a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board his voting pattern would not differ much from that of Skillern. So we believe he would offer conservative votes with a watchdog eye, while being more accessible than Skillern.

If nothing else, Thurman should at least be credited with taking the electoral route and not becoming involved in an effort to recall an elected candidate as voters recently did with Chris Anderson on the Chattanooga City Council.

That recall, though legal to launch but now fraught with trouble since the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating possibly false signatures on the recall petition, fizzled, as it should have. Thurman's effort is likely to do the same -- at the ballot box.

Picking the lock's lock

U.S. Rep Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, has been in office nearly four years, and it certainly wouldn't be correct to term him a one-issue congressman, but there is one issue he has been working on for the entire time he's been in office: new funding for the half-finished Chickamauga Lock.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House passed -- by an incredible 412-4 vote -- the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The bill, which must be voted on by the Senate, would free up money for unfinished lock projects and revamp the funding formula for such projects. The funding formula, Fleischmann has said, has caused the majority of funds for the last four years to be directed to the new $3 billion Olmsted lock and dam on the Ohio River but left other projects high and dry.

The water resources bill, combined with a rise in the diesel fuel tax that operators themselves support and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R. Tenn., has been behind, provide the best opportunity for lock action since the work stopped.

Elephantine settlement

The lies told by several animal rights groups came home to roost recently when the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received a combined $15.75 million to settle allegations that the groups and their lawyers bribed a former circus employee to allege charges that the circus abused its Asian elephants.

Feld Entertainment, the Florida-based parent company, brought the suit in 2000 when it emerged that several animal rights groups had paid close to $200,000 to Tom Rider, the former circus employee who then claimed the company had abused its elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Among those who will pay the damages are the Humane Society of the United States and Fund for Animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had already paid Feld $9.3 million in a separate 2012 settlement.

The settlement is the latest chink in the armor for the often extremist animal rights groups. A senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom, for instance, noted in the New York Post that the national Humane Society gives just 1 percent of its $120 million budget to local pet shelters and that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals killed 82 percent of all dogs and cats in its care in 2013 (and has eliminated more than 31,000 since 1998).

Unfortunately, continued abuse by those who charge abuse only gives such groups less credence by those who truly want to do what's right by animals.