District 3 Needs Ken Smith - And Response (2)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

After watching Pam Ladd for the last four years, I look forward to casting my vote for Ken Smith and encourage other to do the same come election day.  I believe District 3 needs a new voice on the City Council – someone that will strongly advocate for the best interests of taxpayers, local neighborhoods and small businesses and truly represent the views and values of the community. 

During her tenure, Pam has ignored the wishes of the community on a variety of issues, including her vote to increase property taxes and park police cars that basically reduce the police presence on our streets.  It’s time to elect someone that will challenge the status quo at City Hall versus serving as a rubber stamp for the mayor.  It’s time for our community to have a representative that will fight to adequately fund essential city services before funding non-essential projects – and without raising taxes.

Ken is a businessman and community leader that truly understands what representation means to our community.  His background and experience, along with his endorsement from local firefighters and police officers, are the reasons why I’m supporting Ken Smith for District 3 City Council.  I hope you will too.

Paul Barnett

Chattanooga 

* * * 

Paul Barnett's recent letter endorsing Ken Smith for City Council District 3 accused Pam Ladd of having "ignored the wishes of the community" with her vote to increase property taxes, while ignoring the circumstances that forced an increase for the first time in eight years. Distrct 3 voters deserve the explanation that Barnett denied them. 

The tax increase that Mayor Littlefield proposed, and which the Council reduced by more than half, was necessary to meet the multi-million dollar EPA mandate on the city's sewer system and to address a looming shortfall in the fire and police retirement fund. Barnett, whose letter surely reflects Smith's campaign talking points -- and doubtless was written by a PR firm -- doesn't address what Smith would do if faced with a similar fiscal challenge, and for good reason. He wants voters to believe that he, the challenger, would never, ever raise taxes.  

That's a luxury that all would-be officeholders enjoy, but it's also dishonest. City government is as vulnerable to inflation in the cost of its services as households and local businesses, just on a much larger scale. As a businessman, Smith himself certainly knows that. What he apparently doesn't understand are the factors that necessitated the tax increase. Judging by his letter, neither does Barnett. 

One key factor was funding for a new police academy class and the personnel costs of putting more officers on the street. Another was the requirement to put a lot more money into the fire and police retirement fund to head off an imminent shortfall. That is likely to be a recurring problem, especially as more officers and firefighters retire. And the next Council, whatever its makeup, will face a continuing battle to reduce the more than $40 million in street paving needs citywide. That in itself could drive the need for another tax increase in the future. 

One thing is certain in the District 3 race, however: Pam Ladd has proven herself to be an excellent who has a sure grasp of the many issues facing Chattanooga -- and a clear understanding of how best to serve the citizens of the District as well as the city at large. 

Michael Loftin
Hixson

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After reading Michael Loftin’s response, I believe District 3 voters deserve a factual response to the claims he makes in his letter.  

First, Pam Ladd’s vote to increase our property taxes by 19 percent was made in 2009, which is three years before the EPA issued its mandate on improvements to the city’s sewer system.  Plus, the EPA mandate will not be funded through property taxes.  It will be funded by our sewer rates and stormwater fees, which by the way have been increased by more than 191 percent thanks to Mayor Littlefield and this City Council.  As for the police and fire retirement fund, this is another misnomer being pushed by Mayor Littlefield and this City Council.  I encourage you to contact the pension board to learn more about the pension plan and how they are making sure the pension fund is sustainable. These are facts.

Yes, as a businessman, Ken Smith understands the challenges of managing a budget during difficult times and making tough decisions on what “needs” should be funded first before funding a “wish” or “pet project.”  On several occasions, Ken said he wants to do what Mayor Littlefield, Pam Ladd and others have failed to do – conduct a thorough review of all departments and assets to determine if they are essential to the mission of city government.  I, along with others in District 3, believe this single process will identify adequate funding to support our essential city services without raising taxes. Rather than identify ways to reduce government spending and avoid a tax increase, Pam’s vote was to take the easy route and accept a 19 percent tax increase during one of the toughest economic recessions on record.  This is not leadership nor does it reflect the views of a fiscal conservative. 

I also find it hard to believe that Pam’s vote to increase our taxes had anything to do with funding a new police academy and addressing needed road improvements.  After voting to increase our taxes three years ago, police staffing levels remained flat until this year.  During this same time period, the Police Department had to cover a larger area due to annexation and service a larger population during a period when local crimes and gang-related shootings were dominating the headlines.  I do find it strange that despite raising our taxes by 19 percent, Mayor Littlefield and Pam Ladd could not find the money to restore the take home car policy for police officers, which would increase the level of police presence in our streets.  

As for roads, Pam Ladd has chaired the City Council for the last two years while ignoring a taxpayer funded study that recommended the city spend $5 million per year for road maintenance.  Under Pam’s leadership, this City Council continues to spend only $1.7 million per year on road maintenance. Decisions like this impact the Hixson community and make it impossible to address the more than $40 million in street paving needs citywide.

As for the need for another tax increase, I believe the City Council should first look at other options, such as prioritizing spending so we can better support our essential city services while making government more efficient and effective.  At a recent community forum, Pam Ladd said she believes the “city administration is too top heavy” and “should be cut” during the next budget cycle. Yet, Pam’s voting record includes numerous votes to support a top-heave administration and inflated budgets for non-essential services and pet projects while our essential services remain underfunded.  This culture is something Ken Smith is committed to changing. 

Yes, one this is certain, we cannot handle another four years of Pam Ladd’s leadership.  I look forward to casting my vote for Ken Smith, and I strongly encourage others to join me at the polls to ensure the Hixson and Highway 58 communities have a new representative at City Hall.

Vince Butler
Hixson


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