The Chattanooga Times endorses Pam Ladd for District 3

The Chattanooga Times endorses Pam Ladd for District 3

February 14th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Chattanooga City Council chairman Pam Ladd

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

In District 3, we endorse incumbent Pam Ladd who voted against Ron Littlefield's last budget but, yes, agreed to the 2010 tax increase.

Take those two votes one at a time.

"The frustration is that what we get to vote on is created from the administration. It's the mayor's budget. We can massage it, and we can say we don't like it. ... And last year I voted against the entire budget because there were too many pieces in there I just could not go along with," she told the Time Free Press editorial writers recently.

Nonetheless, it became the budget of the city. As had three before it.

In 2010, the city budgets -- complete with massages, negotiations, disputes, etc. -- landed council members in a situation where they were forced to find new revenue. That year, the city saw a tremendous decrease in sales tax revenue, all at a time when the city had to finance a new $1 million police academy and when the federal government mandated that city officials begin putting back $6 million a year in Other Post Employment Benefits. That mandate is known known as OPEB and is defined as benefits that employees will begin to receive at the start of retirement.

"I would vote for new tax only if it was absolutely necessary, and it was absolutely necessary in 2010," Ladd said. "This council worked diligently to cut the budget, and a lot of cuts we suggested [including merging the Education, Arts and Culture Department back into the Parks and Recreation Department] did not get cut."

The city's Office of Sustainability did get cut. This was something Ladd said she opposed because she saw that office as an investment that could lead to future savings.

Her opponent, Ken Smith, says he's running because he doesn't like how things are run and he wants a government more responsible to people.

"I believe we need to be focusing on funding essential services as opposed to spending taxpayer dollars on a lot of nonessential needs," he told editorial writers.

But he didn't offer specifics.

"I wouldn't target for cuts, I'd be making sure the mayor was doing his due diligence," Smith said. "My question would be why is this a necessity?"

Similarly he dodged specifics on questions of consolidating city and county services.

Ladd has specific ideas. She defends public art and culture in the city, but she thinks a private manager could better book and handle events at Memorial Auditorium and perhaps the Tivoli. She wants to be part of making sure a new water authority is formed to address stormwater and wastewater issues, and she doesn't think now is the time for the city to talk about taking control of Tennessee American Water Co.'s aging infrastructure.

She said she looks forward to working with a new mayor, and in the meantime she touts accomplishments she has been able to parlay in her district which includes the communities of Dupont, Northwoods, Murray Hills, portions of Hixson and the Highway 58 area.