Roy Exum: Our District 4 Problem

Monday, April 01, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Next Tuesday will be a big day in determining what happens in Chattanooga for the next four years. The voters of District 4 will select either incumbent Jack Benson or newcomer Larry Grohn in a runoff election for the City Council and, while it doesn’t at first appear to be a crucial decision, political insiders believe there could be some rough water ahead if the dean of the council – Benson – suffers an upset.

Think about this; we have four bright faces who will assume office on April 19 who have never served the people. We have two more who have just served one term. Moses Freeman, the District 8 winner, is coming back after not being involved in city government for a while, and in District 9 there is still a question. Peter Murphy, the incumbent, has sued after Yusef Hakeem was declared the winner but with either the experience level is small.

Benson, who has served for 12 years and is noted as a voice of stability and experience on the City Council, had 53 more votes than Grohn in the general election but, with Andy Berke as virtual shoo-in as Mayor, voter apathy was noticeable. Only 16.3 percent of voters registered in Chattanooga went to the polls. Election workers say the number of voters in the District 4 runoff could be even worse.

In my view there is no contest. Benson has a long history of service to the community while Grohn is a mystery man. He’s lived in one place after another and a Google search reveals he has never held office, never been a community activist or volunteer, nor served Chattanooga and its people in any way. He may be a fine guy but, according to news reports, he’s backed by the ruffled Tea Party and an irked developer. That’s not how a candidate should be chosen.

“The problem with Jack is that he isn’t like other politicians. He has never, not once, done anything for personal gain or reward. I have known him for 50 years and the best thing I can say is that he serves the city in a way that has brought dignity, honor and accountability to the City Council,” said a close friend.

“Jack’s decisions are good ones. He turned down a fast-food restaurant bid not long ago because he wants Erlanger to have a greater presence in a mixed neighborhood. That makes great sense unless you want to build a restaurant. The people who operate Hamilton Place know that a long-range vision will prevent what eventually happened to Eastgate Mall. If you were to canvas our city, Jack Benson is one of the most respected, trusted politicians we have ever had.

“Sometimes his tough decisions make a few people angry. That’s natural. But if you study any one of his three previous terms, you can see a very proud record of doing what is right for everybody. We have got to call on every friend he has to either vote early or be at the polls on April 9.”

Asked about Grohn, my insider shook his head. “Nobody knows much about him. He’s got no history of anything. I hope he’s a good guy. I hope that he’ll get involved in the community, but he’s pretty much a stranger. He’s not lived here long and what I can’t see is what his ultimate goal might be. We know Jack. He’s proven.”

After serving in education for 35 years (he went from a teacher to assistant superintendent), Benson was the executive director of the Chattanooga Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association. He is a past-president of the Association of United Way Agency Directors.  He has also served on the boards of the National Education Association; Tennessee Education Association; Southern Association of College and Secondary Schools; Chattanooga/Hamilton County Planning Commission; Tele-scripps Cable Access; Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services; Chattanooga Education Association; United Way Allocation Panel; Armed Forces Committee; Camp Ocoee; and Boy Scouts Exposition.

That’s an entire lifetime of service to others. Not long ago Benson told me, “I’ve done my time. If the Lord decided I should step aside I would understand that, but I also feel very strongly that I am needed as a new mayor and a young City Council are seated. I am proud of what I have done with my life but I want to serve one more term.

“I think it is important that I fulfill my obligation. In the general race there were five candidates (for District 4) and I think Ryan King, Tom Tomisek and Scott McColpin should find out ways to serve the community so they can learn if they want to run again. They are good people.”

Asked about his adversary in the runoff, Benson said, “I wish him well. I am like everybody else – I don’t know a thing about him – but right now our city needs institutional stability and people with experience. The future is going to be exciting, especially in District 4, and I think I need to have a hand in it one last term.”

royexum@aol.com


Roy Exum: Our Tubman Goat-Roping

Every spring there comes a bright day on the ranch when the straw-boss decrees a goat-roping should take place. What really happens is the veteran cowboys arm the greenhorns with some lariats late in the afternoon and take them to the pen that holds some Billy goats. This is before they get into bigger beasts -- horses and cattle – yet what appears to be easy most certainly is not. ... (click for more)

David Carroll: Touched By Alzheimer’s, A Thanksgiving Love Story

I want to share a Thanksgiving love story. Those smiles belong to Jim and Andi Erwin of Collegedale, now married 45 years. Jim is 68, Andi is 63.  I met them last summer, and fell in love immediately. Andi is a talker. Full of life, with energy to spare. Jim used to be a talker, an award-winning one. In his youth he was a teacher and pastor, very well-educated. Simply put, ... (click for more)

Grote Hall At UTC Campus Closed Due To Sinkhole

A sinkhole has prompted UTC officials to close off access to Grote Hall. Grote Hall employees have been told they do not need to report to work on Monday. Classes that are held in Grote Hall are called off for Monday. All other classes and campus activities are on for Monday. (click for more)

Bradley County Police Investigating Shooting; Victim Dies

The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a shooting that occurred in the area of Georgetown Road. The sheriff's office said Sunday night that the victim had died. The victim's name has not yet been released.  A BCSO officer was waved down at the intersection of 25 th Street and Peerless Road by the driver of a vehicle who told the officer a gunshot victim ... (click for more)

Football Mocs Receive No. 8 Seed For FCS Playoffs

The hugs, high fives and first pumps by the Tennessee at Chattanooga football players late Sunday morning let everyone know in Moc Nation that the Blue and Gold had received a highy-coveted seed and would be hosting a second round NCAA FCS playoff game Dec 6 at Finley Stadium at 1 p.m. "When the television announcers called our name as the No.8 seed (out of eight ... (click for more)

Missouri Hangs On, Turns Back Tennessee, 29-21

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Missouri pin-pricked Joshua Dobbs’ bubble of invincibility Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. The nationally ranked Tigers drove a stake in Tennessee’s heart with Maty Mauk’s 73-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Hunt in the fourth quarter, held Dobbs in check most of the game and beat the Vols, 29-21, before 95,821 fans on a chilly night on the banks of the Tennessee ... (click for more)