I am a senior at East Hamilton High School and lately there has been a lot of discussion about annexation by the politicians running for county commissioner in District 7. Just drive anywhere in the district and you’ll see Sabrena Turner signs posted at every corner claiming she’s the only candidate that fought against annexation. Last night I had the opportunity to attend a debate at East Hamilton which was hosted by one of my classmates as his senior project. This debate included all of the candidates for District 7.
After researching for myself each of the candidates online and seeing the way they interacted at the debate I have come to an obvious conclusion, along with many of my classmates (who are old enough to vote).
Phil Smartt is the candidate for the job; he is by far the most qualified candidate running for county commissioner and it showed. Throughout Mr. Smartt’s presentation he stayed calm and collected, whereas his opponents, namely Sabrena Turner, seemed aggravated and flustered. When the topic of annexation came up Sabrena Turner told how she fought annexation by collecting money from residents and hired a lawyer to handle the matter in the court system. Clearly she did help in the fight against annexation, but it is also apparent that Phil Smartt put a halt on annexation for residents in Hamilton County, just in a different way. Namely by forcing the city to accept responsibility for the sewer if they annexed neighborhoods within District 7.
Sabrena, her campaign manager, and other supporters were clearly agitated by what Mr. Smartt had to say about his fight against annexation. What was most shocking to me - this being my first “town hall” style meeting that I’ve attended - was the disrespect and anger that Sabrena’s campaign manager (Jonathan Mason) displayed towards Mr. Smartt. While Mr. Smartt was trying to tell the audience the facts behind his fight against annexation, Sabrena’s supporters began to yell “liar, false, that is false, lies.” Well, apparently this is what you do in a campaign when you can’t win on the issues or facts.
I’ve now researched Mr. Smartt’s claims regarding his role in stopping annexation and the facts are clear. Mike Carter, Larry Henry, Claude Ramsey, and other community leaders have stated (on the record for all to see) that Mr. Smartt did play a pivotal role in fighting annexation - contrary to Sabrena’s claim that she is the “only candidate to fight annexation.” What was most shocking was the fact that, when faced with publicly recorded quotes from city and county leaders on the issue, Sabrena, and her campaign manager refused to accept the blatant facts placed before them.
For a first-time voter, it’s important to me that candidates tell the truth, and can represent their constituents with respect, dignity and civility. Last night the Sabrena supporters were anything but civil. Phil Smartt is the candidate for the job and he has gained the respect and votes of my peers.
East Hamilton High School Senior
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I, too, was amazed and disappointed in the actions of Sabrena Turner’s campaign staff at East Hamilton’s roundtable discussion.
I am a supporter of Perry Perkins, but, Ali, I do agree that their actions were uncalled for.
I had assumed that civility would not be optional considering that this particular discussion was organized by a high school senior, and was well attended by his fellow students of East Hamilton. Sadly, civility had been forgotten by Turner’s campaign. I was close enough to hear the curses emitting from their lips as Turner’s stance that she was “the only candidate that fought annexation” was questioned.
Even after the discussion had ended, her campaign staff continued to feel the need to disrespect others in attendance.
I watched as Turner’s campaign manager, Jonathon Mason, made his rounds through the audience that was slowly thinning in East Hamilton’s gymnasium. He visited Phil Smartt and Perry Perkins supporters alike raising his voice and demonstrating a threatening character, while Turner stood back and watched. Mr. Mason, the supporters of fellow Republican candidates will not be bullied into submission.
We are the company that we keep, are we not?
I would like to personally thank Turner’s campaign staff for showing me which candidate to not support in the race for County Commissioner of District 7. I would like to ask them: through your actions at East Hamilton on Thursday evening, what were you hoping to teach the next generation of voters and residents of District 7?
Thank you, Ali, for bringing this to the public’s attention.
Sarah Hedrick, student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
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It’s encouraging to see young people engaged with the political process in our community. Ali Fugatt sharing his opinion and a classmate hosting a debate sends a meaningful signal. A signal of understanding the duty of following what’s going on politically, having an informed, logical position about the political ideas they support, and voting their voice on Election Day.
Americas are blessed with the right to applaud, complain, protest or petition; but, without our vote, these rights are meaningless actions, backed up by nothing. Thanks to the students and staff of East Hamilton for facilitating the debate and your leadership.
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I will first state that I am a staunch supporter of Sabrena Turner in the Hamilton County District Seven Commission primary race.
That being said, I was greatly impressed by the excellent essay submitted by Ali Fugatt which related certain events which transpired during the District 7 forum at East Hamilton High School this past Thursday night. The quality of the essay instills a renewed confidence in the education being provided by the HCDE, at least at East Hamilton High School.
Unfortunately, the veracity of some of Ali’s statement will be the focus of my submission. As Paul Harvey used to say, “and now for the rest of the story.” In order for a report to be considered accurate and, above all honest, all sides of the story must be told. My submission will focus on the actions of the four candidates Thursday night, which in my opinion caused the controversy. First, I must set the stage.
The forum candidates were seated on the stage platform next to each other. Starting from the left were Turner, Smartt, Perkins and Maize. Throughout the question phase Mr. Maize was the only one of the four who stood to answer most questions while the others usually remained seated.
As the forum came to its conclusion each candidate was allowed to make a closing statement. The forum had been very civil up until Mr. Smartt rose to speak. During the course of the evening it was Mr. Smartt’s contention that the fight against annexation failed due to factors other than the involvement of the Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation (HCRAA), the group in which Ms. Turner played a leadership role for the Hurricane Creek community. During his closing comments Mr. Smartt decided to stand. As he concluded, he decided to demonstratively drive home his point concerning the annexation issue and Ms.Turner’s role in it. He turned to face Ms. Turner, who was seated, stood over her and loudly proclaimed “You Lost, You Lost” while jabbing the pointing index finger of his right hand down at her. It was at this moment in time Ms. Turner’s supporters voiced their displeasure. In my opinion, their outburst was based more on the physical intimidation by Mr. Smartt, and his raised voice, than by what was said. Of course, the only way to verify my statement is to obtain a copy of the video made by the student who organized the event.
In conclusion, I believe it is best for all the candidates and supporters to remain civil and controlled in the future. District 7 should feel blessed to have so many good candidates vying for the commissioner position.
Ah, politics, don’t you just love it? Hm, maybe not.
Chattanooga City Councilman
Larry Grohn – District 4