A Lot Of Growing Up To Do On Signal - And Response (2)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Glancing at some news headlines I came across what appeared to be a bunch of middle schoolers using social media to berate and threaten one another.  Sadly, it was a group of adults. 

Grow up and lead by example, please. 

On a side note, at least we know where children are learning their social behaviors that we are so quick to point out and criticize.  

Chris Morgan

* * *

It was 1986 or 1987. Late in the evening. I was seated in first class next to the captain’s wife on an Eastern Airlines flight – Newark to San Juan.  We were seated in first because there were empty seats there and we paid our $14 apiece for the industry perk.  We boarded first.  The flight was almost full.  Boarding was taking a while because of a few glitches – these were the waning days of Eastern.  It wasn’t horrible, just fairly time consuming.  But hey, I didn’t care.  I had a glass of wine and didn’t have to go to work the next day, so all was good. 

Not so with the captain’s wife.  She moaned.  She whined.  She chugged her free wine.  Finally, she turned to me and proclaimed, “I know how to board an airplane.”  And then she misspoke, “Because I’ve got crass.”  I struggled to maintain composure and kept my mouth shut because it was going to be a long flight.  She had crass alright. 

So yesterday I read an email from our mayor, Chris Howley, to the chair of our Planning Commission, Cheryl Graham.  Mayor Howley was miffed because she took exception to him insinuating that MACC volunteers were striking it rich off the taxpayers.  I had been at the meeting in question, and because of cross talk hadn’t been sure of what had been said.  But he conveniently repeated his accusation in email form so I guess I don’t have to go back to the Signal Mountain Community Forum Facebook page to view the video.  

As toxic as it all was, the statement that just tears it, is as follows:   “We can let tha public sort that out and drag your name threw the mud.  So just step off, remove your Facebook post and be transparent.”  “I very much call into question your ability to be on our planning commission.”

I served on the planning commission for some years.  I still attend meetings.  Cheryl and I didn’t see eye to eye on every single issue.  But Cheryl is the very definition of integrity and fairness.  She also knows the subject matter. She runs a professional meeting.  Is it possible her sense of integrity and resistance to influence would be an added benefit to having her off the commission, given some of the votes that are coming up?  I would hate to think so.  Because for the life of me, I can’t figure out how this resulted in questioning her ability to serve on an unrelated commission.  How does one make that leap of illogic? Why shouldn’t we consider ourselves lucky to have her as chair?

Cheryl, stay right where you are.  The town is behind you.  You have class.  As opposed to crass.

Melissa Cantrell

* * *

 I want to comment on a recent article in the Chattanoogan in which I was implicated. It was in reference to efforts in Signal Mountain to develop a “public-private” partnership to manage the Mountain Arts Community Center (MACC) which is housed in the historic Signal Mountain Grammar school and provides arts programs and other services and public spaces for our town. The article is certainly accurate and does correctly quote some comments I made in a Facebook group that I administer which is for discussion about topics affecting the Signal Mountain and broader Walden’s Ridge community. However, the headline that I “admonished” our current mayor implies a feud or personal dispute which is not the case.


                Mayor Howley is a good man who gives generously of his time, talent and treasure to our community. He is a fine father and husband, a volunteer coach at our school and an accomplished businessman. Like all public servants in our town, he serves without pay and deserves our appreciation. I enthusiastically supported him when he ran for office. He and I have agreed on some issues and disagreed on others. That is as it should be in a democratic society. I am his constituent. When I have disagreed, I have always tried to keep my comments focused on the issue at hand. If any comments I have made have been perceived as personal “attacks”, that is not my intent and I would regret that. I would urge my fellow citizens to always take the same approach.


                Like all towns, budget issues are a constant struggle and Signal Mountain is no different. Many communities which have facilities such as the MACC have taken the approach of a public-private partnership where a volunteer non-profit entity runs the programs and maintains the facilities using funds raised from donors, often supplemented to one degree or another by the town or other government. We need look no further than the Town of Walden and the Bachman Community Center and McCoy Farms for a similar structure. A group of citizens in Signal Mountain are working to form such a group. I am not associated with the group in any way, although I know many of them and they are all people of the highest caliber. They are currently working with the town on such an arrangement. Mayor Howley is correct that any such agreement should be transparent. I know the town manager and town attorney of Signal Mountain and have no doubt that any such agreement will be drawn carefully, be fully transparent with respect to any conflicts of interest, require full accountability for all public funds committed and will carefully delineate the expectations of the town as to how the building and the programs will be managed. The town council will then have to approve any such agreement in public meetings. Our current council is nicely balanced by individuals with experience in both the arts and business communities, so I would expect a very successful negotiation.


                President Reagan used to say “trust, but verify”. The concern I was trying to communicate was that Mayor Howley was putting the cart before the horse and not communicating his trust in the people undertaking this effort. Obviously, trust must come first and I think the town can certainly trust the people undertaking this effort. They, like Mayor Howley, are giving generously of their time, talent and treasure to this facility. They are already working to clean, paint, patch and fix-up the building. It is true that one of the leaders of this effort is the wife of one of the other councilmembers, Dan Landrum, but he has recused himself from votes on this issue as is appropriate and, since no one involved in the non-profit will personally benefit or be paid (as a matter of fact, much the opposite), there really is no conflict of interest.


                So, yes we may disagree at times on approach but there appears to be a strong majority of support for preserving the MACC and programs run there. The question is just how best to organize and fund such a project. I personally think privatization is the way to go. I urge the town council to “trust, but verify” and allow our citizens to do what they do best and that is to work hard to keep Signal Mountain the great community that it is.



Paul M. Hendricks, MD

Former mayor of Signal Mountain

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