Times County Commission picks for District 1, District 7, District 9

Times County Commission picks for District 1, District 7, District 9

July 22nd, 2014 in Opinion Times

Randy Fairbanks

DISTRICT 1

Includes northern Hamilton County, Soddy-Daisy, Sale Creek

Registered voters: 19.881

Voting precincts: Includes Bakewell 1-2, Dallas 1-2, Falling Water, Flat Top Mountain, Mowbray, Northwoods 1-2, Sale Creek and Soddy-Daisy 1-4 precincts

District 1: Fairbanks is clear choice

By the normal rules of a county general election, Randy Fairbanks -- the Republican primary nomination winner with no Democratic opposition -- should be waltzing to a victory in the Aug. 7 Hamilton County general election.

And he probably still will.

But Board of Education member and Soddy-Daisy political gadfly Rhonda Thurman, pouting after Fairbanks, a certified public accountant, defeated her crony, longtime District 1 powerhouse Fred Skillern, decided that she would run a write-in campaign for the County Commission seat held by her mentor.

Fairbanks still should win the seat handily.

He's much better prepared and much more thoughtful of county needs and our tax dollars.


Ezra Maize

DISTRICT 7

Includes East Brainerd, Westview, Apison, Collegedale, Tyner, Concord and Ooltewah

Registered voters: 25,977

Voting precincts: Includes Apison 1-3, Collegedale 1,2 and 6, Concord 5, 7, East Brainerd 1-2, Ooltewah 1-2, Tyner 2 and Westview 1-3 precincts

District 7: Maize is best overall

District 7 has been and still is a hot race. In the May primary, the district touted the county's best voter turnout: 14.12 percent.

The winners were Democrat Ezra Maize and Republican Sabrena Turner -- both new to Hamilton County politics and seeking the seat now held by Larry Henry, who sought and won a term as Circuit Court Clerk.

Maize is a pastor. Turner is a Realtor. County government will be improved with either candidate's walk to the commission dais, but we endorse Maize.

Maize is fairly new to Chattanooga, but not new to politics. He ran and lost a race for mayor in Knoxville in 2010. Here, he leads Friendship Central Community Church, and he is big on change in education and wants to see more of it as the county struggles with gangs and youth crime.

He believes "everything starts at home" but he also knows schools should offer more education on how gangs get started to help youngsters and parents understand gangs are easy to get into but difficult to get out of. His wife is a teacher.

The stakes are high in District 7. This is still a growing area with tremendous infrastructure needs, including an ignored East Hamilton County school-expansion issue that recently was spurned by the current County Commission. But the stakes are even higher countywide with major issues in education, jobs and youth crime.

The best choice is Maize.


Melinda Bone

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

DISTRICT 9

District 9 includes Harrison, Birchwood and portions of Ooltewah and Snow Hill

Registered voters: 25,977

Voting precincts: Includes Birchwood, Collegedale 3-5, Harrison 1-6, Meadowview, Murray hills 2, Ooltewah 3-6, Snowhill 1-2 and Summit 3 precincts

District 9: Bone is natural leader

District 9, in the county's northeast corner, is Hamilton County's fastest growing district.

It's also one of four battlegrounds where Democrats are hoping to gain representation in the Aug. 7 county general election.

We support businesswoman Melinda Bone in that effort as she takes on Republican incumbent Chester Bankston, a retiree from the Hamilton County schools' maintenance department and a former owner of CB Electric.

Bone, of Harrison, is new to politics, but not new in assessing her community's needs and planning solutions for them. She knows her district needs more community spaces for recreation and fellowship. And she wants to help the county increase its offering of vocational and technical high school training, while also pushing an effort to bring a tax break for the county's elderly.

Also a wife and mother, Bone co-owns Edible Arrangements and the Chicken-w-Bones restaurant. Both businesses are in Brainerd. She has spent the spring and summer crisscrossing the district to shake hands, meet people and talk about their needs and her ideas.

Only one other Democrat has ever held the post -- Frank Newell, who served for just more than two months in 1980 to fill a vacancy. He did not run to retain the seat.

Bankston likes to bill himself as one who looks after the public's wallet, and he has served as chairman of the commission's roads, waste, energy, transportation and zoning committees. But when he and other commissioners voted to approve camera speed traps in the county, he didn't notice that the math used to justify the program simply didn't make sense.

The ticket payments were to fund a driver's education program that would cost the county $300 per student. Here's the rub: There are 23,195 licensed drivers between the ages of 15 and 22 in the county. It would take 24 tickets to pay for each driver -- or 556,680 tickets if all the eligible drivers took the course. There aren't that many residents, of all ages, in the county.

In April of 2013, Bankston took a stand against a subdivision in Ooltewah, but recently he told Times Free Press editors that District 9 most needs sewers -- the forerunner of housing growth. He also supported in June 2013 an effort for the county to "opt out" of the state's whiskey law that allows distilleries to operate in any city that permits both liquor by the drink and retail package sales, and in the unincorporated county around those cities. What year is this? And what part of liquor sales tax revenue do we want to turn down?

The Hamilton County Commission has been without a woman's view for too long: Charlotte Vandergriff and Lou Miller left in 2006, and JoAnne Favors left to serve in the General Assembly in 2005.

But more importantly, we endorse Melinda Bone for her no-nonsense know-how, her interest in vocational education and her continuing push for senior tax breaks.