Roy Exum: Let The VRI R.I.P.

Monday, January 29, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When Chattanooga’s City Council unanimously agreed not to vote on the Father-to-the-Fatherless program in the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Initiative last week, it was hardly what it appeared. The City Council knows better than the rest of us that the mentoring program for children is wonderful. But the City Council must first and foremost be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.

The fact the two-year $600,000 contract has been expired since November speaks volumes about the F2F (lack of) leadership but the real reason the City Council balked was because allegedly a fat 80 percent of the budget was for salaries. That works out to about $260,000 per year and, trust me, there is nobody from here to Cincinnati who can rationalize such foolishness.

Council member Jerry Mitchell was right when he decried a lack of communication between the F2F and the City Council but he was further on point when he hinted the entire Initiative should get a full-body scan. Mayor Berke should be applauded for leading the charge but the VRI has not performed as well as it should and a lot of money has been dumped into it with poor yield.

It’s much like the elegant lady told the bartender at a local hotel after she took a delicate but forceful pull off her tall drink last Saturday night: “Excuse me, sugah, but I can’t seem to taste the gin.”

Jerry feels exactly as I do. The VRI needs to involve the community, not some “consultant” from very far away. From where I sit the city should form a strong coalition that would include the police department, the Sheriff’s office (remember, they run the jail), the public, the clergy and – for heaven’s sake – our Department of Education. Add any other group with “skin in the game” but what you will find is there are no better experts than we’ve already got.

When the VRI began some guy from up north came down here with charts and graphs and all the other tricks in a carpetbagger’s satchel. But I’ll bet you any amount you want me to hold there is no way he knows more about us than we do. Let’s use common sense for a change.

The first step is for Mayor Berke to sit down with the county’s Mayor, Jim Coppinger, and for those two to get in tandem. The dumbest thing about the City of Chattanooga and the County of Hamilton is that they treat each other like separate planets. We, The taxpayers, could save untold millions with some type of metro government. We could finance an entirely new school building easily each year with what we’d save in government costs.

Don’t get me started on that. Chattanooga has the best fire department in a couple of states but if there is a fire outside the city limits, those boys are told they can’t “roll” in an alarm. I’m talking that’s brazen nuts! For the city to stiff Erlanger after that hospital alone treated 147 people who were shot inside its city limits in 2017 in unpardonable. If you’ve got a pencil, let’s figure an average shooting bills out about $25,000 and none of the victims have insurance.

Because the schools are under the umbrella of the county, our school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies. But under the city’s VRI, the guys with the most hands-on knowledge aren’t included in the conversation. Virtually every gang member goes to the city’s public schools. Hello?

Under a coalition format, you could seat every player in the game at the table. If our Juvenile Court Clerk, Gary Behler, could sit in a room with like-minded people who are tired of violence, do you even suspect that would be better that the hodge-podge we have now?

Face it, every Southern city has violence problems. None of them are the same. There is no one-size-fits-all. Memphis, Birmingham, Nashville and Atlanta are huge metropolitan areas but as the smaller cities try to cope with gangs and drugs and a stunning proportion of black-on-black shootings, every horizon is different.

There is a profound need for children – both boys and girls – to be mentored. But the far greater challenge is a fluid and constant improving method to contain the violence that the city of Chattanooga is known for on this very day.

The Father-to-the-Fatherless debacle should “rest-in-peace” and dig the grave double-wide so we can toss in a very tired VRI that ran hard but never won a race. Yes, people can boast our shooting incidents were down in 2017 when compared to 2016 … hip! hip! hooray! – but the better honesty is when you go from 159 in ’16 to only 11 less in ’17, you ain’t saved as much as a roll of gauze in rising medical costs.

A coalition, with teeth, is where we ought to be going and the only way it will work is to involve the city and the county agencies working to get … yes, one terrific community. Ours.

* * *

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

* * *

“A single leaf working alone provides no shade.” -- Chuck Page

* * *

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -- African Proverb

* * *

“Individually we are one drop, but together we are an ocean.” – Unknown

* * *

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

Remembering Veterans Everyday

The United States Army was established June 14, 1775. Former Senator Max Cleland was born Aug. 24, 1942 and he served in The United States Army from 1965-1968.  Serving in Vietnam he earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star/V device (Valor) and a Purple Heart (loosing limbs). The United States Navy was established Oct. 13, 1775. Senator John Mccain was born Aug. 29, 1936. He ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Don’t Invent, Discover!’

When Randy Boyd stood in front of more than 75 black ministers in Memphis on Tuesday, the ever-dynamic “doer of deeds” told the pastors an exciting story. He talked about “First Things First” of Chattanooga because the Tennessee gubernatorial candidate is totally sold on what Julie Baumgardner and her team have proven keeps families together. Boyd then met with some representatives ... (click for more)

Donaldson Tells Jury He Shot Son-In-Law After Knife Was Pulled On Him; Medical Examiner Says Fatal Shot Was From 3 Inches Away

Glen Donaldson took the witness stand Thursday in the attempt to explain how two good friends ended up with one dead and the other facing a first-degree murder charge.   On the night of Dec. 29, 2016, he texted his son-in-law, Adam Levi, and arranged to pick up bed rails for his daughter, who had left items when she moved out of their house. After loading the rails, ... (click for more)

Motorcyclist Killed After Colliding With Car On Highway 60

A motorcyclist was killed on Highway 60 on Thursday afternoon after colliding with a car.   At approximately  4:30 p.m. , Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the 5100 block of Highway 60 for the report of a  motor vehicle accident involving a motorcycle vs. car.  According to preliminary reports, the motorcycle ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins D-II State Baseball

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor School baseball team has been on a tear these past couple of weeks as they’ve been averaging double figures in runs scored and base hits. It's become quite a winning combination. That trend continued here at MTSU’s Reese Smith Jr. Field on Thursday afternoon in Baylor’s biggest and most important game of the season. Facing the Memphis University ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins Fourth Straight State Softball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor Lady Red Raiders and the GPS Bruisers have had some classic battles on the softball field in recent years, many times in the championship game of the Division II-Class AA portion of the state tournament. They met again on Thursday night on Starplex Field No. 3. Baylor won for the third time this year, but there’s really no way to adequately ... (click for more)