Even brilliant people are wrong from time-to-time, but then have a choice between covering up or fessing up. The sort of person who huffs and puffs and refuses to admit when they are wrong does not belong in a leadership position. As a voter, I try and look for positive signs of why a candidate should be elected, and for danger signs of why one should not. There are few danger signs more clear than when a person refuses to admit when they are wrong. And the Sabrena Turner campaign is simply wrong on the annexation claim.
I’m sure every resident of District 7 has seen the bright blue signs proclaiming “Sabrena the only candidate that fought annexation.” She must have felt very confident that this was a winning message because it’s plastered all over the district. But besides the poor grammar, has anyone really looked into the accuracy of this claim? It took me all of 30 minutes to find out for myself that this is a whopper by anyone’s standards.
That’s not to say she didn’t help spearhead the grassroots effort to stop annexation. She certainly did and I’m grateful for anyone and everyone who fought the annexation plans of the city. However, her claims that she is the only candidate that fought annexation, and that she “stopped the city dead in their tracks” don’t stand up to the facts.
Here are the basic (and easily verifiable) facts:
Sabrena Turner was part of the organizing body (Residents Against Annexation) that fought annexation in 2009 and beyond.
The Residents Against Annexation gathered signatures, hired attorneys, filed lawsuits, and tried every conceivable way to stop the city’s annexation plan.
On April 30, 2012 the lawsuits filed by the Residents Against Annexation were settled – not won. Their attorney stated the reason for settling: “Our chances of being successful had decreased dramatically.”
The city’s annexation plans were not “stopped dead in their tracks” as claimed by Ms. Turner, but merely delayed. Several neighborhoods who were part of the lawsuits are now within the city of Chattanooga and paying much higher taxes;
Phil Smartt was chair of the Waste Water Treatment Authority in 2009, and along with Mike Carter, they “ceded sewer rights” to the city. This meant that if the city annexed any part of the county, they had three years to install sewers. Apparently, a very expensive proposition. A legislative maneuver that the city called a “poison pill” against annexation by Mr. Smartt.
Mike Carter, Larry Henry, city attorneys, Mayor Littlefield, Claude Ramsey, Deborah Scott, Pam Ladd, Richard Beeland, and others are all quoted in the local press stating that the WWTA’s actions under Mr. Smartt’s leadership had a direct impact on the city’s plans for annexation. In my world, that means he fought annexation.
And let’s be honest. It’s not about who was most successful in fighting annexation, only the Tennessee legislature can truly stop forced annexation – and they just did by the way thanks to the leadership of Mike Carter. And it’s certainly not about who cares more. It is clear to me that all the candidates care deeply about the district. At this point it’s about who I trust to be honest, exercise good judgment, lead with integrity, and work effectively with city and county leaders. And that clearly is Phil Smartt. He’s done it before while a member of the School Board and Waste Water Treatment Authority. Maybe that’s why he has been endorsed by every prominent Republican in this area – Claude Ramsey, Harold Coker, Bobby Wood, Gerald McCormick, Justice Mickey Barker and others.
But back to Ms. Turner’s claim, it makes me wonder how she would handle complex and sometimes contentious negotiations with other commissioners, city leaders, school board members, etc.? Will she be able to evaluate the facts and come to the right conclusion? The facts don’t support her annexation claims but Ms. Turner and her campaign have decided to double down. At the most recent debate she emphatically said “the signs will not come down.” And each time I pass one those bright blue signs, it will serve as a large reminder of why I’m not voting for Sabrena Turner.