Cooper: Joe Smith preferred for county commission

Cooper: Joe Smith preferred for county commission

October 14th, 2016 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

The Times Free Press has two unique editorial voices: The Chattanooga Times, representing the liberal view, and the Chattanooga Free Press, representing the conservative view.

Joe Smith is running for the Chattanooga City Commission.

Joe Smith is running for the Chattanooga City...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Document: Sample Ballot

Hamilton County sample ballot for Nov. general election

Document: Hamilton County polling places

A list of polling places in Hamilton County

Two men who say they are conservatives, have been pastors at one point in their careers and have servants' hearts are running for one Hamilton County Commission position in November's election.

With those attributes, it's hard to go wrong with either choice.

But of the two, we prefer Joe Smith, director of mission advancement for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga, for the District 3 post. If Smith is elected, his opponent, Hamilton County Board of Education member and Realtor Greg Martin, can remain on the school board, where we have admired his independent voice and business sensibilities.

The winner will fill the unexpired seat of Marty Haynes, who was elected Hamilton County assessor of property in August. The district represents Hixson, Middle Valley, Lakesite and Big Ridge.

Smith, 62, has a compelling backstory of regrettable involvement with alcohol and drugs between the ages of 18 and 32, a diligent recovery and a career since of working to help improve the lives of less fortunate children and youth, but that is not reason enough to elect him.

What we like is his concept of a county commissioner who he says must be a cheerleader, a peacemaker, a problem solver, a fair allocator of funds and a fiscal watchdog as part of a larger whole.

"One commissioner is not going to change the system," he told the Times Free Press editorial board. "We have to work together to solve problems."

Smith says his passions have been his family, the children with whom he works and his community, and the fact that — as an independent candidate — he would take no agenda with him to the County Commission.

Martin, 53, similarly says he has "no axe to grind" and "no agenda." He worked earnestly since Haynes announced his bid for assessor to line up Republican Party regulars to support him for the commission seat. Not surprisingly, the Hixson Republican Caucus appointed him as the GOP nominee at its Sept. 8 meeting. And though insiders say Martin has his eye on even higher office, he claims the commission is the right place for him.

"I have government experience," he said, "and it's the right kind of government experience. I know how to make tough decisions."

Martin pointed out that he was the only one on the school board to vote against the board's decision to sue the state for a larger share of Basic Education Program funds (he says it's a mistake for one government to sue another government for more government money), that he made the motion to fire then-Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith last spring (a courageous motion not seconded) and that he supported retired Marine Corps. commander Shaun Sadler (a non-educator) for interim superintendent after Smith retired.

Those decisions, frankly, are why we prefer him to finish his term on the school board, a board whose members had too little business experience and had been less independent of the schools' central office than we liked.

Smith, as a county commissioner, said he would want to improve relations between the commission and the school board and to examine how the dollars allocated to the school board are spent. He knows the commission also will need to determine what to do about the overcrowded county jail, whether to build a new one and what to do about the fact the jail is one of the county's "biggest mental health treatment centers."

Martin, should he be elected, said "taxes are going to be an issue" and that a decision on a jail would require "more information to make an intelligent decision." But, he said, "I'd take schools over a jail any day."

Both men have recognition they can tout (Smith: Chattanooga Bar Association Liberty Bell Award, Martin: Tennessee PTA School Board Member of the Year); civic involvement (Smith: volunteer coach, North River YMCA, Martin: board of directors, Hixson Council, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce); Republican supporters (Smith: former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, former Hamilton County Mayor and Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey and former state Rep. Richard Floyd, Martin: state Sen. Bo Watson, state Rep./Republican Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond); and a previous claim to fame (Smith: Olympics boxing manager, Martin: school board member, Long Beach, Miss.). Both men also said they would advocate a senior tax freeze if property taxes were raised.

In the final analysis, we believe Smith, with his emphasis on solving problems together, is the better fit for the Hamilton County Commission at this time. We urge a vote for him on Nov. 8.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315