Bradley Commission Holds Off On Changing Commission Selection Process; Common Core Still Hot Topic

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Bradley County Commission on Monday night held off on a controversial change to the way commission members are elected.

And advocates for the change Charlotte Peak-Jones and Jeff Yarber said it was decided that any change would not apply to the upcoming election, but to the one in 2018.

A resolution for the change that was on the agenda at the voting session was pulled off. Vice Chairman Adam Lowe, who presided in the absence of Chairman Louie Alford, said more input was being sought on the issue.

Commission members for the seven districts are now selected with the highest two votegetters for each district winning. The change would have separate voting for each of the 14 commission members.

Commissioner Yarber said the idea originated when he sought to have the commission trimmed to nine members - a move he said would have saved $100,000. But he said he "couldn't get that idea even to a committee."

He said, "Nobody up here is trying to be underhanded," and he said the new plan would not work to his advantage.  

Commissioner Peak-Jones said Bradley County will fall under the requirement of a separate vote for each seat when it reaches 150,000 population. She said, "It's already mandated. Evidently, the state saw some wisdom in it." The population of Bradley County was 98,963 in the 2010 census.

Out of 15 contacts from constituents, Commissioner Peak-Jones said only one was opposed.

But Commissioner Mark Hall said he had input from eight citizens and "not one was in favor of it."

He said an opponent of an incumbent "would have a huge disadvantage." He said, "When you try to slide one in on the people of Bradley County, I don't want to be part of that." He said that under the system "the third from the top could be seated."

Commissioner Terry Caywood agreed that the new system would give some "an unfair advantage." He said, "Just pick the best two people."

Agreeing with Commissioner Caywood, Commissioner Bill Winters noted that he ran in a field of four other candidates. But he said he would be open to considering the idea after getting public input.

Former Commissioner Howard Thompson advised, "Why fix something that's not broke? Leave it like it is."

On the Common Core topic, Commissioner Yarber questioned whether the school board was not "dragging its feet" on giving input to the commission, which earlier voted 14-0 expressing its concern with the educational set of standards.

Commissioner Winters, a former principal, disagreed, saying school officials were taking time to analyze how Common Core is working out in Bradley County.

Commissioner Caywood said the commission was "spinning its wheels" trying to overturn Common Core. He said it became engrained after the state accepted $500 million in "Race to the Top" federal funds.

But he said the strict requirements of the new system are driving teachers to quit and putting unreasonable requirements on elementary students.

Commissioner Winters said there are some good qualities to Common Core, including teaching students to research topics, but agreed that elementary requirements need to be toned down.

Dan Rawls, Tea Party leader, said Common Core is unconstitutional federal intrusion into education. He said only 15 percent of Common Core standards can be altered, and he said those don't involve grading.

Commissioner Caywood said as Common Core becomes fully implemented to watch for sharp changes in local test results.

County Mayor Gary Davis urged the commission to take some action on the animal control issue.

He said, "You have a short-term fix, but it expires in three months."

The commission, which has been given proposals from two private groups on operating a county animal center, earlier approved a six-month contract with the Cleveland Animal Center.


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