One of the most difficult parts of an election is choosing between a long time friend and a neighbor, both of whom are distinguished. That is what I have faced as Yusuf Hakeem and Peter Murphy vie for the District 9 City Council seat. It would be easy to just sit back and take no position under those circumstances, but I haven't been known to keep my mouth shut. Therefore, here is my opinion.
I first encountered Yusuf at a Glenwood neighborhood meeting in the mid-70's, when I was struck by this young GE appliance repairman who captivated the crowd with his demeanor and grasp of issues on revitalization and community. We proceeded to work together in establishing a Neighborhood Housing Services program in Chattanooga's first successfully integrated neighborhood.
Through his neighborhood leadership, Yusuf was elected to the city's school board, where he served with the respect of an otherwise divided group. With the demise of city schools and the change of city government, he was elected to the new City Council. Again, he emerged as the voice of reason with a bitterly divided Council at the time, often choosing policy over politics. He was always at our Ridge meetings. He always listened, but asked good questions. My golfing buddy, Gene Roberts, and I always referred to him as the "gentle giant."
After his service on the Council, Yusuf was appointed by the governor to the Pardons and Paroles Board, where he served with integrity and without scandal. Now, he has offered himself again to represent his district.
I don't know Mr. Murphy very well, but I find him reasonably accessible and a dedicated and intelligent public servant. I commend his work on the Orchard Knob Reservation and other issues. If he wins, I will support him.
But, in the final analysis, I would strongly recommend electing Yusuf Hakeem to the seat, based on his above record.