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South Pittsburg Housing Authority to discuss gardens

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Jay Greeson

The story echoed across the country.

On Sunday, this paper's Yolanda Putman told us about the housing authority in South Pittsburg informing its residents that gardens and crops were not allowed.

On the surface, the simple fact that citizens who need affordable housing in South Pittsburg have the same constraints as the inmates incarcerated by the Tennessee corrections system should have sent up red flags.

Seriously? No gardens or flowers?

The fallout has created national backlash, and rightly so. This decision was ludicrous on its face, and now has been spun as some sort of backwoods political back-and-forth between two of the folks squabbling over who will be the next mayor.

Quick side note here: The only political winner in this South Pittsburg mayor mess may be candidate Bill Stuart, who has no role in this debacle. Still, his silence speaks volumes. The two other candidates vying for this position think their squabbles are worth ripping one of the few life joys from the folks in public housing. Shame on each of you, and feel free — Housing Authority Board Chairman Virgil Holder and Mayor Jane Dawkins — to blame each other.

Holder said Dawkins tried to engineer this. Dawkins said Holder did it and spoke out against the measure from the start. In fact, here's what each had to say according to Putman's story in Wednesday's TFP:

"She went out and went to the individuals and told them that we were coming in with bulldozers and ripping plants out. We have not removed the first thing. But her and her followers went in and removed all of that to be hauled off like scrap," Holder said.

"It's resolution 937," Dawkins said citing policy. "The South Pittsburg Housing Authority, beginning on June 1, 2016, will impose a new landscaping policy for all residents of the South Pittsburg Housing Authority. The new landscaping policy states that all landscaping, including gardening, is to be removed from the housing authority property."

Let us guess. You want to blame the one-armed man or Professor Plum in the study with a candlestick, right? Whatever. You both should be ashamed for the ensuing collateral damage.

Considering the life station of some of these residents, including the 80-year-old woman who spoke anonymously to this paper's Putman on Tuesday and said, "Now I just sit here. That was my lifetime passion, my flowers."

Ma'am, if you'll let me, I've already reached out to the Barn Nursery with a $100 pledge to help you recoup your flowers. And Barn Nursery general manager Cole Webster said they will match that for your replacement plants with delivery. Let me know at, and we'll make this happen.

And there are two overarching outrages here.

First, the politics, where Holder and Dawkins have put their personal tug of war over the folks they allegedly are supposed to serve.

Proving your point or advancing your agenda at the expense of your constituents is why no one trusts government and why they are desperately looking at all corners for leadership.

Secondly, we are way too quick to legislate to close all loopholes rather than make decisions and stand by them.

Why? Because no one can say no and back it up, so we eliminate everything for everyone rather than make a tough decision and answer why. (One complaint closes one loophole, and goodness forbid someone feigns outrage about a cultural insult, then we have to rewrite the town charter.)

So we're left in a world where even on the local level government thrusts its presence into our yards to make sure they can keep their jobs rather than doing theirs.

Contact staff writer Jay Greeson at or 423-757-6273.