Roy Exum: Fall Turns To Spring

Thursday, September 7, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

With the early-morning air dipping into the 50s at daybreak yesterday, once again I marveled how quickly fall follows Labor Day. Yet before noon I felt spring was in the air. Oh, the leaves are now clustering on our streets and September’s afternoon sun seems to cast long shadows but when the Hamilton County Commission approved what promises to be an infusion of $325 million, it was the most positive step towards our future that I can remember in the last decade.

Every spring hope blooms anew. It did for Hamilton County yesterday after quite a long drought. I firmly believe it was the right thing to do from every possible view and while “the experts” cite a prison report as reason for the afterthought, any casual observer could see the meager FY2018 budget approved in June was destined for failure. The 8-1 vote was heartening indeed.

I have been an outspoken critic of our lack of foresight and timid leadership on the County Commission. Some may chortle how proud they are we haven’t had a tax increase in the last 10 years but not one will step forward and accept responsibility for $230 million in deferred maintenance for our school buildings.

School buildings are a county responsibility – not the School Board – and since the year 2005 we have shirked our responsibility.  Coppinger points to the fact in his eight years as Mayor he has provided $325 million for the schools but with deferred maintenance the same amount, that has clearly not been enough.

Just so you’ll know, I cannot find one commissioner who has served in any of the past three terms who will boast how thrilled they are that not one school is being built in the county today, that they are ‘okay’ that our overcrowded jail is quite literally inhumane, and that there are actual moratoriums against building in areas where we have allowed the lack of sewers to dictate the economy. This is crazy.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger says $100 million will immediately be used to replace or repair 79 school buildings that average 43 years of age. Please, brother. In Huntsville they just opened a $70 million high school and in Auburn they have an equally elaborate facility as the new Auburn High. My gracious, Nashville is experiencing phenomenal growth and has $200 million in new schools now under construction. That we have nothing shows a lack of vision and a serious deficit of a mindset: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

In June I wanted to weep -- after nearly two years of education forums, roundtables, symposiums, promises of resolve and all manner of parading, our County Commission gave our public schools a mere 1.9 percent increase in funding. We haven’t had any tax increase in a decade so we throw a 1.7 increase at county government and all any politician would say is, “The people don’t want a tax increase.” Easy answers are not sound government.

Before Wednesday’s vote Coppinger had carefully cultivated enough votes beforehand to assure the millage-rate proposal would pass. Now the trick is to never allow gutless politicians to put the county in such a tragic position again.  Let’s face it. This is what happened. Let’s heed the lesson.

While I enthusiastically applaud yesterday’s Eleventh Hour save, new County Commission Chairman Randy Fairbanks needs to install a committee to have a strategic funding plan for each of the next five years. We should set aside X-dollars for capital funding, corrections, wastewater maintenance, and other predictable future expenses every quarter of every year or else we’ll wind up in the same desperate shape we were in before Wednesday’s meeting.

I am convinced Hamilton County’s unsung heroes are the staff Coppinger has set in place and the financial expertise is amazing. The County Commission should demand and expect strategic planning and then have the backbone to support it.

There will never – ever – be enough money in government to provide a Camelot but there is a way to assure a voyage on the Titanic doesn’t happen to us again.

I believe yesterday’s decision was a Godsend. I also believe God doesn’t want His people to get in this position again. We can be better. We must.

Appointing Justices Is More Important Than A President Of Moral Character - And Response (2)

I'm trying hard to understand why there's been so little criticism on the part of conservatives and evangelicals towards a President that paid $280,000 worth of hush money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, and a Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal during the campaign.  If this had been any other president the outrage would be constant and harsh.  Where is the outrage on the ... (click for more)

Problems With Bike Lanes And The School System

Bike Lanes:  There was a notice in the paper that MLK Boulevard from Georgia Avenue to Central Avenue was being reduced from four lanes to three lanes so that bike lanes could be installed. After looking at a survey on the that showed 98 percent of the people did not want this to happen, I am trying to understand why the people in the city were not given ... (click for more)

City May Make It Easier For Food Trucks To Operate In Chattanooga

The City Council is considering action that would make it easier for food trucks to operate in Chattanooga.  City Attorney Wade Hinton said cities like Austin and Portland have thriving food truck operations and Chattanooga is studying those models. He said, "It's truly an industry there." He said a 2013 food truck ordinance was limited and did not allow food trucks on ... (click for more)

Haslam Proposes $30 Million For School Safety

Governor Bill Haslam Tuesday proposed $30 million to improve school safety across the state in the amendment to the fiscal year 2018-19 budget proposal to be considered by the General Assembly in the coming weeks. The funding includes $25 million in nonrecurring and $5.2 million in recurring school safety grants. Earlier this month, the governor appointed a School Safety Working ... (click for more)

Ooltewah Wins Wildcat Classic Again

Early season prep baseball tournaments are meant for a few things; primarily competition, repetition, and learning a few things about your team over the course of a few games.   The Ooltewah Owl baseball nine apparently has learned it likes collecting championship trophies in them as well.   For the second year in a row, the Owls won the longstanding ... (click for more)

Lady Vols Fall To Oregon State, 66-59, In 2nd Round Of NCAA's

KNOXVILLE-- Senior center Mercedes Russell logged her 46th career double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds to lead Tennessee, but it wasn't enough as the No. 12/13 Lady Vols (25-8) fell to No. 13/12 Oregon State (25-7) in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Freshman Anastasia Hayes also had a double-digit outing for the No. 3 seed Lady Vols, posting ... (click for more)