Roy Exum: We Must ‘Fail Better’

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Hardly a day had passed from the time the head of Chattanooga’s Violence Reduction Initiative was arrested on alcohol and drug charges before a 40-year-old mother was murdered in the same city. The man suspected in the killing is obviously a violent man and past police records show he would have surely benefited from such a program before using a gun to determine his future.
Richard Bennett, who was awaiting approval on a $329,000 contract with the city before finding himself in the center of a tawdry mess inside a minivan, is a sore disappointment but instead of throwing up our hands and declaring our initiative as laughable – the chagrin triggered by a numbing number of shootings since its inception – let’s be smarter than all of that.
Samuel Beckett, the late Irish poet, told us precisely what to do in a line from his book, Worstward Ho: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Quite simply, we must forge on. There will be more disappointments and more embarrassments as we “fail better” because, sadly, there is no alternative route. Some voices yell to lock ‘em all up and throw away the key but those are foolish – our jails are overcrowded and crime continues in our streets.
The first person we ought to save is Richard Bennett. If the allegations are true, it will be a good while before he can assume a position of public trust but we must recognize neither of the counts he is charged with is a felony. I have no idea of his past – that’s part of the court’s duty – but he has more recently demonstrated his ability to help deter crime in our city.
We shouldn’t let one night of stupid ruin him, or allow his behavior to sidetrack the Violence Reduction Initiative in any way. When Paul Smith, the city’s public safety coordinator, was the principal at Howard School he famously gave some “second chances” and, while Bennett will pay dearly for his embarrassment, let’s give him the same kind of chance the initiative is offering others to straighten up.
At the same time, we get a stronger grip on some of the characters who flaunt the initiative’s efforts. The suspect in Sunday morning’s murder was arrested on Nov. 13, 2013, with an illegal handgun stuffed down his pants and marijuana in his pocket. On Feb. 14 of this year he was arrested again on criminal trespass. How is it that somebody like this guy is still on the loose?
The hard part of the Violence Reduction Initiative is making sure it has sharp teeth. It’s all warm -and -fuzzy to offer another chance and have people go to a lot of trouble finding jobs and housing but it is another thing altogether when one of the worst commits further crime. We need to come down hard on the initiative’s failures in order to show its strengths.
At the same time, I believe we ought to get tougher on anyone who is caught carrying a gun without a permit. I’m a strong advocate of the right to bear arms and have a permit to prove it but I am also of the belief anyone caught carrying a gun illegally should pay heavily. Any law enforcement officer will tell you that criminals don’t have permits because they’ll get caught.
For the record, the state of Tennessee issued 192,613 handgun carry permits in 2013, this according to new figures released by the Tennessee Department of Safety. Males obtained 133,780 permits and 58,833 were acquired by women. In 2012 Tennessee issued a total of 114,031 permits, 81,677 to men and 32,354 to women.
Do you notice the increase, especially among women? But the figure you fail to see is that in just the last two years about 325,000 permits have been issued in Tennessee and each handgun, whether the dreamers want to admit it or not, represents an individual’s Violence Reduction Initiative.
People are fearful. That should not be, and that is precisely why we must strive to “fail better.”

Joe Smith Will Make An Incredible Difference

While now in retirement several hundred miles from Chattanooga, I was still quite excited to hear that my friend and colleague of many years, Joe Smith, had decided to run for the District 3 seat on the Hamilton County Commission. What an incredible difference he will make as he serves your community.  For a number of years I served in a counseling position at McCallie School. ... (click for more)

Run, Gerald McCormick, Run For Mayor

Run, Gerald McCormick, run for mayor!  That was the best news I have read all week.  Save my hometown from grossly failing circus tent policies that are not renewing the inner cities, infrastructure, and reduce the long term bond debt of Chattanooga leveraged against the tax base of about $900 million.  The huge circus tent on Lindsay Street is in need of ... (click for more)

City To Begin Shipping Much Of Its Garbage To Bradley County

City Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said the city plans to begin shipping much of its garbage to Bradley County. He said the deal is projected to extend the life of the city landfill at Birchwood by 15 years. Mr. Holland said Bradley County "has a huge landfill and takes garbage from Knoxville and other municipalities. It's regional." He said Bradley County charges ... (click for more)

Man Says He Did Nothing To Provoke Shooting At Bakewell Gas Station; Suspect Says Victim Was Coming Toward Him

A 33-year-old man who was shot in the face during a clash at a Bakewell gas station said he did nothing to provoke the shooting. The man charged said the victim cursed him, then started toward him. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, after a hearing on Tuesday, bound to the Grand Jury a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Donald Stuard II, 29, of Old Washington ... (click for more)

Smart Running: Vradenburgh, Boyd Win Again

There’s a lesson to be learned for those young folks who choose cross country as their sport in the fall:  It’s impossible to win a race in the first mile, but you can surely lose one in that same space. As anyone with much running experience can verify, the fastest person doesn’t always win.  Running smart and using a tactical approach with planned pacing often produces ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Wins 7-AA After Beating Notre Dame

The Signal Mountain Lady Eagles took care of business at home Tuesday night as they swept visiting Notre Dame by scores of 25-15, 25-19 and 25-19 to claim first place in District 7-AA with a 10-0 district mark and 30-8 overall. Audrie Johnson had 11 kills while Kate Barry added 17 digs and 11 assists.  Nicole Terfloth finished with 18 digs and three aces for the winners ... (click for more)