It's been an interesting and controversial end of the spring for Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.

You may have heard about the tax increase he proposed as part of next year's budget. Coppinger, who has made a reputation as a fiscal conservative and steady leader, included the 34-cent tax hike in his budget because he thinks the time is now for a significant investment in public education. The tax increase would generate about $34 million in revenue, all slated for the school district.

Whether Coppinger has five votes among Hamilton County commissioners just yet is anyone's guess. (As of last week's County Commission meeting, a general sampling suggests four against, three for, and two undecided.)

But he's riding a winning streak heading into the next 10 days of political maneuvering.

Coppinger came out strong against the UAW's attempts to unionize the Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South.

It was an expected conservative stance against organized labor, of course. And whether his 11th-hour push against UAW in a vote that was close had any effect also is anyone's guess.

"We have a good thing going here in Hamilton County," Coppinger told our paper's Mike Pare before voting started last Wednesday. "Our unemployment rate is below the national average and average weekly wages in our county surpass most all neighboring counties. And Volkswagen is a major reason for our success."

"Do we really want to risk it all?"

The answer from the VW workers was a narrow "No thanks."

But does that question now apply to Coppinger, who has pushed the chips behind a substantial tax increase two years after we taxpayers swallowed another property tax increase?

Does he really want to risk it all for a tax increase at this moment? Maybe.

But here's the other side of that question: Does he really have to?

Coppinger has a long history of being frugal with taxpayer money. He has not changed his core, but he clearly has changed his mind on the need for a tax increase.

He has a history of doing most of his work behind the scenes rather than behind a microphone. It has suited him, and here's betting he has not changed that approach, either.

But he clearly believes that putting his name and his stamp on two divisive — and on the theoretically opposing side — is the right move, right now.

I disagree with the tax increase; I'm not convinced with the pitch or the accountability, and I'm certainly not pleased with the influence of UnifiEd in the process.

Still, I tip my visor to our county mayor for taking public stands on two critical issues in our community. He is publicly, vocally selling the tax increase (mind you, there's no telling what arm-twisting is going on behind the scenes), and he unequivocally spoke against the UAW.

It's your call whether you agree with the proposed tax hike or the UAW presence at VW.

Our county mayor was willing to put his name on one side of each issue; that could be risky or controversial. It could also be a mistake.

But being willing to look at all sides of an issue these days also needs to be called good leadership.

Contact Jay Greeson at or 423-757-6343.

Volkswagen-UAW tensions