Roy Exum: The Worst Mayor Ever

Saturday, December 31, 2016 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

On this, the last day of 2016, I look back over my shoulder and find that I believe Andy Berke is the worst mayor in Chattanooga’s history. This year has been a huge fiasco. A study just released shows Chattanooga is No. 71 on a list of The 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States and, for the record, the United States Geological Survey recognizes 35,000 cities in the country.

What’s worse, we are all aware he can hardly be trusted. He was accused in a series of scandalous improprieties this summer, which – the truth be told – was the hottest story of the year. That’s when it was also revealed he and his staff had encrypted cell phones, of all things. The turnover on his staff has been incredulous, his so-called “ivory tower” once known as City Hall is all but impenetrable, and the public’s confidence has terribly eroded.

That Berke even has the brazen gall to run for re-election is a revelation of his shallow arrogance. It is alleged that two of the principle figures in the scandal – Stacey Richardson and Lacie Stone – both signed his qualifying papers when the fact both women are still members of his cabinet is almost as surprising. Berke has steadfastly denied any misconduct but the events leading up to the divorce between Bobby Stone and his wife were too tawdry to ignore.

Before the scandal, Berke was thought to be the Democratic Party favorite for a run at governor but when Bobby Stone publicly said “Andy Berke is f****** my wife!’ a bid for Nashville got put on hold by floundering party officials. It is widely believed a plan was hatched that would give Andy a “save face” position in Washington with the Clinton administration, allowing things to cool and grow old. Yet after Hillary got Trumped on Nov. 4, the terribly disappointed Berke reluctantly qualified for re-election about a month after the November upset.

The latest bomb to blow up in his face was when “Andy Berke Gives $1 Million To Children’s Hospital.” Are you kidding me? He’s never offered Erlanger as much as a penny for having to absorb $25,000 in indigent fees every time a purported gang member is shot, this easily more than once a week. There is little-to-no doubt his “gift on behalf of Woodmore children” was nothing more than an overtly-sleazy political ruse before the March elections.

Worse, it didn’t take long for the taxpayers to learn the pledge was actually public money – nothing from Andy’s own pile -- and that the City Council was unaware of the handsome donation until they were invited to the photo-op was an affront to the city’s other elected officials. Berke’s actions were inexcusable. How anyone could endorse or support Berke defies both logic and magic. Common sense fled the scene long ago and there isn’t a person on the City Council who can find where the $250,000 is coming from in each of the next four years.

Just this week a website, neighborhood scout.com, announced the top 100 most dangerous cities and Chattanooga, TN., is No. 71 when it comes to felony crime per 1,000 residents. Understand, this is just for cities with populations of 25,000-plus, of which there are roughly 1,500 in the USA. That said, no smaller city in America can match Chattanooga’s dismal numbers.

But can you believe we are right between Miami Beach and New Orleans based on FBI figures? Last year Chattanooga was No. 87 on the “100 Worst” list. To jump ahead of 16 other cities in just one year is even harder to fathom, especially when in all the years before Chattanooga was never on the horrible list. Do you see this is one of many disturbing trends under Andy Berke’s watch?

All told, there are 69.09 crimes annually per 1,000 residents within Chattanooga’s city limits, 9.88 considered as violent. Crimes classified as “violent” include murder, rape, robbery and assault and of cities in the United States with a population of 25,000 or more, the FBI believes the chance of becoming a victim in Chattanooga is one-in-101. That indicates roughly 98 percent of America’s cities are safer than Chattanooga. So much for the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Initiative.

What is equally startling are crimes we don’t hear as much about. Property crimes include burglary, theft, and automobile theft. Chattanooga’s burglary rate per 100,000 is 10.47 compared to 4.91 nationally. Theft is 43.75 compared to 17.75 nationally, and car theft is 4.99 compared to 2.2 nationally. In Chattanooga the chance of becoming a property crime victim is one-in-17, compared to one-in-34 in the other cities in the state with 25,000-plus residents. This is totally unacceptable

Again, according to FBI statistics, in all of the cities in America where the population is over 25,000 Chattanooga is safer than 70 other cities and, in all cities combined, is more dangerous than 34,930. I believe Andy Berke has hurt Chattanooga in other ways but that is yet to come.

The noble thing would have been for him not to run for re-election. The smart thing would be for him to take his name of the ballot and move to California. Then again, no one has ever heard Andy Berke described as noble or smart. Yet during the year 2016 he has repeatedly been called The Worst Mayor in the History of Chattanooga.

* * *

To be fair, a number of Southern cities were on the Top 100. The worst in the nation was East St. Louis, followed by No. 2 Camden, NJ, No. 3 Memphis and No. 4 Alexandra LA.. Birmingham was No. 12 then No. 17 was Myrtle Beach, No. 22 was East Point GA., No. 26 Atlanta, No. 28 Daytona Beach, No. 40 Rivera Beach, FL, No. 45 Nashville, No. 54 Fort Myers, FL, No. 61 Albany GA, and No. 69 Gadsden, AL.

Behind No. 71 Chattanooga are No. 74 Spartanburg, SC, No. 76 Jackson, MS, No. 77 Anderson SC, No. 78 Rocky Mount, NC, No. 82 Tallahassee FL, No. 86 North Miami, No. 88 Baton Rouge, No. 95 Panama City, and No. 97 Orlando.

Chicago, where 3,649 have been shot and another 789 killed in 2016, was not on the list. Neither was New York City or Los Angeles due to such intense populations. But it is official that Chicago has had more shootings this year than New York City and Los Angeles combined.

royexum@aol.com



Commissioner Mackey Thanks The Voters

I am writing to thank the voters who have re-elected me to represented them on the Hamilton County Commission. I am especially humbled at the high level of trust that was given to me. In the primary I received 72o percent of the vote. In the general election conducted last week an amazing 83 percent of the voters supported me. Again I must say that I am humbled and I say ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: No Cell Phones Allowed

There was a time, not so long ago, when school-aged children would learn lessons from a prescribed text, such as a textbook. Today texting is far, far different and, as any of our teachers will tell us, cell phones have become the scourge of education. In almost every classroom, kids will silently text in the shadow of the desk in front of them rather than focus on the lesson. Yet ... (click for more)

Pinkston's Office Seeking The Death Penalty Against Trio Charged In Murder Of State Witness Bianca Horton

The office of District Attorney Neal Pinkston is seeking the death penalty against three men charged in the murder of state witness Bianca Horton. The intent to seek the death penalty was filed against Andre Grier, Courtney High and Charles Shelton. They were among 42 alleged members of the Athens Park Bloods gang charged in a state RICO action. Ms. Horton was gunned down ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Mayor, City Council To Appoint Phil Noblett As City Attorney

Mayor Andy Berke and the Chattanooga City Council said they will introduce a joint resolution next  Tuesday  confirming Phil Noblett as city attorney and chief legal officer for the city of Chattanooga. A native of Asheville, N.C., Mr. Noblett received his J.D. degree from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham and has been a licensed ... (click for more)

Baylor Rallies To Beat Stubborn East Hamilton

There’s nothing quite like playing one of the best volleyball teams in the state to open the 2018 season, but that’s exactly what the East Hamilton Lady Hurricanes did at home Tuesday evening. Facing the defending Division II state champion Baylor Lady Red Raiders, the Lady Canes didn’t seem to be the least bit intimidated by Baylor and even grabbed early momentum by winning ... (click for more)

CCS, Red Bank, Ooltewah Volleyball Winners Tuesday

Chattanooga Christian, Red Bank and Ooltewah all won volleyball matches Tuesday with CCS improving to 2-0 with the 3-1 district win over Grace. Soddy Daisy defeated Hixson by a 3-1 final while Lookout Valley split a pair of matches, the Lady Yellow Jackets losing to Gordon Lee before defeating Ringgold. Soddy Daisy prevailed by scores of 25-10, 19-25, 25-8 and 25-21.  ... (click for more)