Pam's Points: Green lighting, lawmakers' work and Berke's year of change

Pam's Points: Green lighting, lawmakers' work and Berke's year of change

April 21st, 2014 in Opinion Times

Global Green lights, the city and EPB

Like players in a tortured love triangle, the EPB, the city of Chattanooga and an entrepreneurial company called Global Green Lighting are spinning away energy, dollars and precious time.

Don Lepard, owner of Global Green, says the city and EPB are stalling on a contract with him while he sits on 5,000 new LED street lights that will save the city millions -- after the city pays some millions up front. Part of the problem is that EPB has suddenly decided to charge $2.8 million for the installation of those lights and to refund EPB for old lights being removed. Never mind that the city-owned utility distributor already is being paid $3 million a year by the city for lighting and lighting maintenance.

But EPB says the LEDs haven't worked as promised. And besides, EPB is losing business in this deal -- decreased maintenance after the lights are installed and decreased power use. Further, EPB says it is acting on orders of the city in delaying installations.

The city's chief operating officer, Jeff Cannon, says the city is studying the complaints and the money involved in the Global Green contract that was OKed by a previous City Council and a previous mayor. The council has asked for a city auditor's report.

Come on, folks. Yes, the ardor in this triangle may have cooled between administrations. But not only are the lights an incredibly smart idea and a long-term savings, but the company also is an entrepreneurial business that promised up to 250 new jobs.

Isn't this what Chattanooga is trying to do -- reinvent itself as an entrepreneurial hub with an environmental conscience and an eye for smart money and smart money savings? Tell EPB to take its thumb out of its mouth and get on with the business of giving Chattanooga safe and environmentally sound lighting. And honor the city's contract. If you don't, future whizbang entrepreneurs may take a lesson and steer clear.

General Assembly follies

Sometimes the Tennessee General Assembly is better for what it doesn't do than for what it does.

This is one of those years. Our lawmakers adjourned and left Nashville last week without ending daylight saving time, without allowing the open carry of handguns without a permit, without doing away with local control over banning guns in parks, without allowing adults to ride motorcycles sans helmets, and without prohibiting standardized test scores from being tied to teacher licensing.

On the plus side, they did ban cities from annexing land without a referendum. Unfortunately, they also did delay testing associated with Common Core education standards by one year.

Mayor Berke's first full year

In his first year as Chattanooga mayor, Andy Berke turned City Hall as we have known it on its head. He replaced lifelong bureaucrats with young people brimming with new ideas. He reformed the police and fire pension fund in a way that won praise from the president of the Fraternal Order of Police and saved millions in taxpayer dollars. He found a way to buy the former Harriet Tubman public housing site in hopes of sparking job growth in the core city. He turned worn-out recreation centers into reading hubs. And he introduced a new crime-fighting initiative to reduce shootings and gang violence.

Often these changes made for bumps and controversy, but this focused, albeit shy, former state lawmaker-turned-mayor seems to have reached his stride with what he calls "total immersion" in leading the city.

"The emotional pull of being a mayor is more than I had expected," Berke said Friday in between spurts of working on the State of the City address he will give today at 5:30 p.m. at The Chattanoogan.

"In the Legislature, you share responsibility. There's always someone else to blame. That's not the case in an executive office," he added with a smile.

Today, he'll talk about the changes, his focus, the accomplishments, the challenges and his agenda for the coming year. The address is free and open to the public. It also will be live-streamed on the city's website at www.chattanooga.gov.