Opinion: Continued lies about Hamilton County redistricting process should cease

Staff File Photo By Robin Rudd / Hamilton County Commissioner Katherlyn Geter, who while ill was allowed to be on an open phone and provide specifics on how she wanted her district shaped during November's redistricting process, is complaining that the process should have been more transparent.

Conspiracies die hard

Incredibly, nearly two months after commissioners called the Hamilton County Commission's redistricting process the most open and transparent in history, two commissioners are still grousing about the process.

The process, for the first time, all was done in front of the public, usually following the commission's weekly Wednesday sessions. The steps were explained at the outset by commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley, the meetings were streamed (and recorded for later viewing), and it was suggested that every commissioner meet with constituents in their districts.

As the process reached its conclusion, Smedley even allowed one commissioner who was ill to be on the phone throughout deliberations so she could tweak the map almost exactly as she desired.

That commissioner, Katherlyn Geter of District 5, is the one whose recent words to local alumni of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., according to WTVC, were unfathomable.

"If we as a commission could have been more transparent in what the process was going to be in terms of how we were going to do the redistricting process," she said, "I think ... the public would have said a lot, and done a lot."

Who is she kidding?

At the same meeting, Commissioner Warren Mackey of District 4 told attendees: "It was rather strange to me that the state comptroller said that there should be two minority districts. There was mine, District 4, 52% of our population is minority. District 5 has 51%."

The four-term commissioner, who is Black, surely knows it has been the "practice" of the commission - to use the word of county attorney Rheubin Taylor - to draw two minority districts to give minorities fair representation on the board. And, according to Taylor, the board could have not have decreased the number of such districts.

However, even more positive for minorities, one of the two new districts (District 11) gives them a better than average chance at a third seat on the commission.

Ginning up conspiracy where there is none is not a step toward progress or unity in 2022.

Rotarians point way to unity

Forecasted bad weather canceled this week's meeting of the Chattanooga Downtown Rotary Club, so the Rotary Club staff worked with the Chattanooga Convention Center to have the food that had been prepared for the more than 100 members delivered to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

Club President Craig Holley said Rotarians generally are known for creative ways in which they give back to the communities who support them, and that the donation made perfect sense with the situation. He also suggested other civic clubs look to following such a practice if circumstances dictate last-minute cancellations due to weather.

We strongly believe this is a much better example of unity in the community that should be fostered in our all-too-partisan culture today.

'Thrived' may be wrong word

Dr. Nakia Towns, who served as interim Hamilton County Schools superintendent since July, announced her departure from the district and the city in a video released by the schools system. In it, she said: "Our students, teachers, and staff have endured many challenges this year and have genuinely thrived, even in light of the obstacles they have faced."

Certainly enduring a pandemic is an "obstacle" or a "challenge," but we're not sure about "thrived."

While many schools showed growth in 2020-2021, assessment test scores declined in Hamilton County across all four major subject areas (English language arts, math, science and social studies) and were worst in the district's most struggling schools. Then, a dismal report on third-grade reading scores showed a lack of real progress in a number of schools at a critical juncture where the potential for future success for students is often measured.

We hope the new superintendent, Dr. Justin Robertson, will be able to move the district's measure of success from ephemeral growth scores to solid improvement.

Keyes to speak in area

Dr. Alan Keyes, a former United Nations ambassador, assistant secretary of state and three-time presidential candidate, will be the keynote speaker for the first stop on the Freedom Matters tour for 2022, and it will be in the Chattanooga area at the Vineyard at Howe Farms, 7600 Runyan Road, in Georgetown, Tenn., on Jan. 18, from 6-9 p.m.

The tour is sponsored by Tennessee Stands, a nonprofit organization working to protect the individual liberty of Tennesseans through litigation, legislation, and empowering everyday citizens to stand and defend constitutional integrity.

Tickets are free to the event, but registration is required at FreedomMattersTour.com.

The group was involved in its share of controversy last year when at least two venues, The Shed in Maryville and Union University in Jackson, disinvited the group because of one of the tour's speakers, an anti-vaxx preacher, Gary Locke of Mt. Juliet, demanded congregation members ditch their masks last year.

Freedom and health have proved to be a delicate balance during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be interesting to see how it is handled here.