Coppinger: Hopefully he can grow into job

Coppinger: Hopefully he can grow into job

April 12th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Jim Coppinger

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Given the field of candidates for Hamilton County mayor, we endorse Jim Coppinger.

Truthfully, it's less an endorsement than an acknowledgement that he is the only choice -- still, a lukewarm one, at best.

A Republican, Coppinger's challengers are perennial candidate Basil Marceaux Sr., whose Republican platform includes learning why the country has a "fake flag," and Independent candidate Richard D. Ford of Birchwood, whose hero is the late and famous Tennessee moonshiner, Popcorn Sutton.

Coppinger was appointed county mayor in January 2011 by county commissioners after former Mayor Claude Ramsey left to join the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam. Coppinger later was elected county mayor in a 2012 special election.

He and many on the nine-member County Commission seem to thumb their noses again and again at the public's right to know and at taxpayer accountability. The best example of late was the blatant non-discussion -- at least publicly -- of what new and expanded school facilities would be funded and why.

When parents and the newspaper editorial pages expressed outrage that discussions were not public, Coppinger blamed the events on the commission chairman: "It's the commission's meeting, not mine," he said, noting that chairman Fred Skillern asked him not to announce in a commission meeting his recommendation, but instead to meet with each commissioner privately.

Skillern, however, blamed it on Coppinger: "We didn't have enough information," Skillern said, noting that Coppinger had not supplied them with figures on costs or available funds.

Hooey to both of you. That farce was either an example of outrageous subterfuge or an example of ineptitude of leadership.

Coppinger in the next week went on to have private telephone conversations with each commissioner individually to work through the schools list. He said that because he is not a member of commission and does not have a vote on the commission, those phone conversations were not subject to the state's open meetings and Sunshine laws.

In meeting with the Times Free Press Editorial Board recently to seek our endorsements, Coppinger defended the actions:

"We need to all stay in our lanes. ... I stay in my lane."

Indeed.

On other topics, Coppinger boasts about the county's AAA bond rating, and his assessment now that the county doesn't need to raise taxes. He touts the county's 80 new or expanded businesses and 7,000 new jobs in recent years.

He says the county will work with Erlanger "to help (the hospital) draw down more (state or federal) money" and get help from other governments, but "we don't have any intentions to increase the $1.5 million amount that we already give to them."

Yes, Mayor, you stay in your lane, but your lane appears to be little more than a path. In the 21st century, Hamilton County needs more vision and more leadership.

There is little doubt that Coppinger will win the election. Hopefully many new faces also will win county commission seats to bring younger, better, more innovative ideas to our county government.

Perhaps then the county mayor will broaden both his lane and his vision.