Roy Exum: We Are Getting Passed By

Thursday, July 6, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

If Hamilton County could look in its rear-view mirror, everybody could see pretty clearly that Rutherford County – think, Murfreesboro – will soon pass us as the fourth-largest county in Tennessee. Due to the phenomenal growth in the Midstate and a flourishing economy, there are now 43,500 children going to school in Rutherford County compared to 43,000 in Hamilton. 

So maybe that is what brought Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackay to take one last dig at a FY2018 budget that allows a 1.7 percent increase over the 2017 budget and gives our burdened public schools barely enough to give our underpaid teachers a three percent raise. Mackey believes that not having a tax increase in the last 12 years is going to cause Hamilton County to fall behind in a quality of life for those who live here. 

“If you take any household and deprive it of any additional funding for that long, it and the people who live in it will suffer,” he said at the weekly commission meeting. As one who thinks we’ve been penny proud and pound foolish, this for three straight County Commission terms, I’m about ready to send out a scouting party to take some lessons from other folks in government. 

Rutherford County is 624 square miles while Hamilton County, decidedly prettier, is 576 square miles. Meeting at the county seat, there are 21 Rutherford County commissioners elected from as many districts, all equal in population. Several weeks ago Hamilton County, its commissioners voting 8-1, approved a $691.5 million budget. Last week the Rutherford rulers were unanimous on a $563.2 million budget for FY2018. How is there a $128 million difference in the cost of doing business? 

A last-minute add-on in Murfreesboro was when construction of the new Rockvale High School came in with some $11 million in overruns so they took the money from over $100 million in reserves. 

Knox County, on the other hand, unanimously approved a $798 million budget that included a multi-million-dollar behavioral health urgent care center, fully funds the schools and, like Murfreesboro and Hamilton County, included no tax increase. Granted, Knoxville has about 100,000 more people than the Chattanooga area. Knoxville has 11 commissioners. 

Nashville – twice as big as Chattanooga --- presented a $2.209 billion (with a ‘b’) budget, which was a 5.8 percent increase over 2017. Nashville has more county commissioners than any other city in America besides New York City and Chicago. While there have been three attempts to lighten the load of 40, voters have rejected it all three times. 

Davidson County, Rutherford County, and Williamson County (24 commissioners) feel the large numbers assure fairness and make ‘cliques’ almost impossible. But in Hamilton County just five commissioners are a majority and there is a growing belief by some that a number of areas in Hamilton County need better representation. 

Hamilton County was run by the “County Judge” up until 1974 when the first of the nine district commissioners were seated but since then it has gone from a rural setting to an urban one. Hamilton County has changed drastically … there are hardly any farms like there once were – they’ve all been replaced by people. In the north end of the county every school is full. 

Signal Mountain has had huge growth with the new high school but now there is a hard push-back against Signal Mountain starting its own school system. Walden wants a seat at the table and the word is several “neighborhoods” are vetting potential County Commissioners. The Highway 27 corridor is anticipated to be a new growth area – Ooltewah and Collegedale are almost full – and just the opposite is befalling Lookout Valley where there were fewer than 50 in this year’s graduating class at the high school. 

A casual poll revealed most of the Hamilton County commissioners would oppose a larger commission but the idea you would have to expand the nine members of the School Board is not true. The school boards in the counties where large commissions are in place still average between seven and nine. 

One said that Hamilton County actually has 18 when you add the nine City Council members. That is untrue because the two groups are as apart as night and day and decisions are never voted in tandem. 

There have been three attempts at “metro government” or a “home rule” style of county management but all three attempts have fallen flat. One theory is such an arrangement would limit black representation. Everyone agrees it would save the city and county millions but the same “every bodies” don’t vote the same way. 

Personally I would love to see a larger County Commission. I would vote for every seated commissioner right now but what I would give to have twice the brain trust with the courage to constantly get better. 

* * *
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Roy Exum: Stay Strong And Fight!

At 5 o’clock on the morning of January 1 st , 2012, an anonymous writer who identified himself only by the initials C.R.W. wrote his New Year’s Resolution. Six years ago we were not yet numbed by the extraordinary massacres of Americans we have witnessed as Sandy Hook, Orlando, and Las Vegas. Things have changed. Make a promise to yourself to not just stand there. Last year – ... (click for more)

Promoting Unready Students Does Them A Great Disservice - And Response

Mr. Exum  I think you make some very good points. Participation trophies don't make you a college pick. It is a great disservice to students to pass them on to the next poor teacher who now has twice the work to make the central office look good. This only teaches the students that you don't have a responsibility to better your own life.   Whitewashed rat droppings ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Under Winter Weather Advisory With Snow Possible; Most Schools Close

Chattanooga is under a Winter Weather Advisory for Tuesday with snow possible. The front was still west of the city at daybreak. It was uncertain whether Chattanooga might just be out of the band of snow that was coating Nashville and some other Tennessee cities. Hamilton County Schools will be closed Tuesday "due to the significant threat of snow in the area during the school ... (click for more)

Man Who Led Police On Wild Chase On Jan. 12 Is Apprehended At Ooltewah

A man who led police on a wild chase on Jan. 12 has been apprehended in Ooltewah. Kenny Lynn McCulloch, 30, of 8347 Wild Fig Lane, Ooltewah, faces a slew of charges. In the Jan. 12 incident, a deputy saw a blue older-model Dodge pickup truck avoid the intersection of Bonny Oaks Drive and Lee Highway by going through the Mapco parking lot. The deputy got behind the vehicle, ... (click for more)

Quarterback Dormady Will Transfer From Tennessee

Quinten Dormady, who was Tennessee’s starting quarterback until a shoulder injury sidelined him six games into the 2017 season, met with new Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt on Saturday to discuss the signal caller’s options. On Monday, Dormady, a junior quarterback from Boerne, Texas, announced that he would transfer from Tennessee. Dormady’s statement: “I would like to ... (click for more)

Balogun Powers Heights Past Mercer County In Music City Classic

ESPN’s second-ranked Hamilton Heights’ girls defeated No. 12 Mercer County, 51-37, Monday on the final day of the Music City Classic in Nashville, Tennessee. The Lady Hawks (17-2) had two players – Elizabeth Balogun and Treasure Hunt – combine for 35 points, almost outscoring the entire Lady Titans squad. Balogun had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Hunt finished with 15 points. ... (click for more)