Thanks, Sen. Watson and Rep. Carter
We couldn't let this week's end of the vehicle emissions testing program in Hamilton County go by without another thank-you to state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and the late Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, who steered the bill mandating the end of the program through the legislature in 2018 and then patiently waited as the process to unwind it went through labyrinthine federal levels.
Carter, who died last May, took up the cause after hearing the plea of many of his lower-income constituents, who, to paraphrase him, told him their cars failed the emissions testing program and failed again after hundreds of dollars of repairs. At that point, he said they told him, they either had to drive their cars with the risk of being ticketed for not having their registration tags or park them and not have an ability to get to work.
When he learned Hamilton County had basically reached the clean air standards set for it by the federal government, he moved on the legislation.
A grateful county thanks you both.
We have taken no position in the county's mayor race, but we did opine earlier this week it was a shame Republican candidate Weston Wamp was being asked to comment by the Tennessee Star on a letter his father signed about the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riots and the need for cooperation by more Republicans. We said the race should focus on county matters and not have fiercely partisan national issues dragged into it.
What followed was 1) a second story in the Tennessee Star on Wamp's tweets in which he has said, among other things, Trump wasn't a conservative (2018) and that Trump, at one point, was flirting with "tanking a solid economy" (2019), and 2) an email from a reader asking us why we were giving "Weston a pass" and pointing us to a 2021 article by Wamp in the Washington Examiner in which he cautioned that "[p]erpetuating the myth of election fraud could drag the Republican Party into an electoral death spiral."
So let us be clear. Wamp will have to answer for his own words about national Republicans and Jan. 6, if that's what county voters are interested in, but we still feel he doesn't need to answer for his father. This mayor's race would be better if it focused on the future of Hamilton County.
Gardenhire goes left - on the map
The Tennessee state Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Redistricting released its map of Senate districts Thursday, as mandated following the decennial census, and if it stands the scrutiny of the entire General Assembly, state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, will have largely a new constituency and perhaps more miles to drive.
Previously, his district extended along the southern border of Hamilton County (including downtown Chattanooga), over to Bradley County and then north toward Cleveland. The new district still includes the southern portion of Hamilton County but now extends west and north, encompassing all of Marion, Sequatchie and Bledsoe counties.
Fortunately for Gardenhire, he lives in Lookout Valley, so driving up the Sequatchie Valley may put a few more miles on his vehicle, but he won't have to come down and through Chattanooga every time he visits the northern end of his district, as he does when that end is in Bradley County.
Looking at the numbers, we would guess his new district also might be slightly easier for him to win. He won in 2012 with 54.3% of the vote, in 2016 with 55.9% of the vote and in 2020 with 53.2% of the vote, though he has never won his portion of Hamilton County.
'M' is for mum, not 'metro'
Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey may have raised a few eyebrows during the announcements portion of Wednesday's Hamilton County Commission meeting when he dangled the possibility of the merging of the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department and the newly renamed Chattanooga Department of Parks and Outdoors.
"Everybody on this dais has said at one time or the other they were interested in saving every single dollar in Hamilton County," he said, mentioning the merging of schools, 911 programs, jails and courts. Would the merging of the two parks departments offer potential savings? he asked.
Mackey went on to suggest a committee be formed to study the possibility.
When it was Commissioner Chip Baker's turn, he looked at his colleague and, with a deadpan expression, asked if "you were moving toward metro government," the suggestion of which has been an anathema to many in the county.
"Commissioner," Mackey said, equally deadpan, "I would never use that word - not in public."
When his turn came, outgoing Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger reminded commissioners how, in the past, some services between the city and county were merged, and the city helped pay for them for a short time, then the financial responsibility fell totally to the county.
He suggested there would be pluses in combining the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority with the city but took no stand on the parks departments merging.
"It's a lot to be thought about," he said.