The Peasants Want Our City Back - And Response (6)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Re: Roy Exum: We Want Our City Back 

When local government makes decisions that defy common logic, it frustrates we the peasants that do not have a meaningful voice in how our money is spent. 

Roy Exum articulated to the very core of how we the peasants are marginalized by local government, completely ignored.  I am amazed at how regular people are treated when they oppose actions of government that involve their tax dollars.   Emails are returned deleted, phone calls ignored, and your three minutes at the podium is reduced to nothing by design. 

One example, out of hundreds is the work of Helen Burns Sharp regarding mass corporate welfare through PILOT and TIF.  Helen is very educated and collected data of the financial impact to taxpayers that our government had not bothered to collect at that time, they ignored and marginalized her. Welcome to city government, where the peasants view do not count. 

Our local government does not serve we the peasants, rather they serve network of select people that have access through affluence or political relationships, and the door is slammed on the peasants.   Yet, it is the peasants that pay the majority of property and sales taxes. 

Roy's article was spot on, the city government is so disconnected from the we the peasants that pay the bills, and have absolutely no say. 

We the peasants can have our three minutes at the voting booth, and that is it. 

April Eidson 

* * * 

Mr. Exum, 

You asked who gave the Chattanooga Parking Authority the right to do what they do? You can thank the following past/present City Council members for voting to give parking regulation authority and city parking revenues to CARTA (aka the Chattanooga Parking Authority).

Those voting "yes" to approve were: council members Pam Ladd, Manny Rico, Andrae McGary, Carol Berz, Sally Robinson, Russel Gilbert and Jack Benson.  Councilman Peter Murphy was absent that night.  There was only one "no" vote. 

Deborah Scott
Chattanooga 

* * * 

Roy, 

As usual, thank you for your reasoned and thoughtful article.  However, I don’t think you go far enough.  In truth, we “lost this city” many, many years ago.  We lost this city in the 80s when the Tennessee Aquarium was conceived.  “Jack Lupton’s Fish Tank” I often heard it called, I do so long for the glory days of a quiet serene downtown with no annoying people, or cars, and no need of any pocket money as there was no place to spend it.  I remember when we were famous on the Nightly News with Walter Cronkite, as the “country’s most something-or-other-city”, I forget what the specific superlative was now, but I remember the gleam in Uncle Walter’s Eye as he said it. 

Following the Aquarium debacle, a group of crazies decided it would be a good idea to re-furbish the decaying Walnut Street Bridge, which should have just been torn down, or allowed to rust in place, or at lease sunk as an artificial reef.  Instead we now have an eyesore so terrible to the eye that people flock to it morning, noon and night to stare at it as if it were a car crash. 

And then the do-gooders decided to build a Riverwalk, exposing the innocents to insane ideas of “enjoying nature” and “physical well being” and a “sense of place.”  Shameful. 

Oh, and how about a stadium!  What in the good lord’s name could we possibly do with a stadium?  Couldn't we have just left well-enough alone and let our miserable football teams compete in the mud of the marvel that was Heywood Stadium like all great schools?  Since then we’ve had to suffer through an influx of “Grizzlies and the like during championship football games, and international soccer stars trashing the town like it was Ryan Adam’s hotel room. 

In the 90s things went nuts.  One mayor thought it a grand idea to “take over the water company”  and it’s a good thing that effort failed, because the company was bought instead by a wonderful international conglomerate and rates have gone up exponentially every since, like the good lord intended. 

The next mayor, short of stature but “big on ideas” really threw things for a loop.  A waterfront re-development that focused the energy on our river. when it really should have been focused on our closed and decaying foundries.  And finally this very same mayor thought it wise to make McCallie Avenue two-ways instead of one-way. So now you can easily get anywhere in the middle city.  Just wrong. 

So where has all this left us?  Plagued with tourists that leave their money in piles all around our city, like droppings of starlings.  Annoying bicyclists and “Iron-Men” who clog the roads, trails and even our river.  Again leaving even more cash strewn throughout our city.  What are we to do with an extra $1 billion?  And worse, our young people can no longer go to work in our fine foundries, steel mills and yarneries, forced instead to toil as tech-wazards, app developers and entrepreneurs.  We now even have our own “innovation district,” a place to corral all this errant young energy. 

So you see Roy, we lost this city a long time ago.  And it’s time to take our city back and make it back the way it was.  Quiet, empty, sooty.  If we don’t, before long, someone will call us “The Best City Ever.” 

Bobby Stone

* * * 

Imagine the poignancy as it might now apply to the Pretender’s 80s classic. My city is gone indeed. Replaced by an ever-emerging and thriving downtown bounded by a vibrant North Shore and a Southside scene that might one day rival them both, all rimmed by a beautiful mountain range that can viewed now in all its splendor.

I, for one, don’t want my city back.  

Chris Frank 

* * *

Mr. Stone (or Mrs. Stone) makes wonderful and valid points, regardless. All you need to do is take a trip to the library and check out some old photos to see what a dump Chattanooga had become with tons of pollution in a geographical area ill suited for it. There will always be folks that long for the bad old days, as if a simple, filthier, dirtier time was somehow better. I want this city, not that city. 

One thing is nice: at least Roy Exum took a break from writing his weekly anti-union column.  

Herb Montgomery
Chattanooga 

* * * 

Mr. Exum, 

I wanted to provide you with additional insight on the Broad Street Protected Bike Lane project. This project was conceived in the fall of 2013 during the City Center planning process. Since then, the concept of protected bike lanes has gained steam across the country as a way to encourage those new to the idea of using a bike as transportation to give it a try in a safe and unintimidating way (as you can imagine, new cyclists are often hesitant of cycling on-street along with motor vehicles). With protected bike lanes, more inexperienced cyclists have an option to use bikes as transportation. Protected bike lanes are also shown to increase access and provide more transportation options to more people. It’s important to note studies show residents want multimodal transportation investments. In fact, more than one third of Americans do not drive due to age, disability or poverty. Those citizens need transportation alternatives. In addition, there is a mountain of research online that details the increased economic benefit and vitality of cities due to more bicycle and foot traffic.  

It’s also important to note that safe and efficient car travel is a core priority for Chattanooga.  In fact, Broad Street was chosen to be the first location for a protected bike lane because it was far wider than it needed to be for the traffic that it handles.  Formerly six car lanes, Broad Street carries about 8,000 cars a day.  Consider in comparison the four-lane Market Street Bridge which carries three times that amount and the two lane section of Riverfront Parkway, at the Olgiati Bridge, which carries 12,000 cars a day, respectively.  Broad Street is two to three times as big as it needs to be for the existing car traffic.  

We knew we could make the street work better for more people without compromising its ability to serve drivers.  And we knew that providing for another choice for getting around would make our streets safer and more vibrant, contributing to the economy and ongoing outdoor-centered vitality. Bottom line, there’s room for everyone on Broad Street; new cyclists, pedestrians, mass transit users, and drivers. 

Most importantly, I’m sorry to hear that you were not aware of the scheduled improvements to Broad Street prior to Saturday. We work hard to communicate any major work to citizens in a variety of ways, including public meetings, media releases, media interviews, emails, social media, and on our website. Regarding this specific project, there have been multiple open meetings, input sessions, and multiple news stories since 2013. In fact, we’ve averaged no less than one article about every two months that have appeared in our three local print/online news outlets– and this doesn’t count recent articles since construction began.  

On top of that, City Council took three formal actions on the project from 2014 to just a few months ago. Additionally, our team has held several meetings beginning in 2014 to request feedback from the public.  This is not to suggest that media stories, public meetings, and press-covered council actions are enough; we can always do a better job to communicate our work and invite the public into process.  We will strive to continue to do better. 

With projects like the Wilcox Tunnel renovations and Broad Street, we also go door to door to speak with folks directly. I recently walked Broad Street to talk to as many people as I could – particularly small business owners - about the improvements we are making to the street.  A few weeks prior to that, two members of our staff did the same thing. Through these insightful conversations, we answered questions as well as heard concerns from some and enthusiasm from others.  

We rely on good public input, so I am thankful for all of the feedback we receive including your recent opinion piece.  I would encourage you or any of your readers to please call us at 643-5950 to discuss this project or any of the initiatives that Chattanooga’s Department of Transportation is working on. We’d love to hear from you. 

Blythe Bailey
Administrator // Chattanooga’s Department of Transportation 

* * *

No one wants a dirty, polluted city and it is very mean spirited to imply because someone fondly remembers the good things of their city they should be ridiculed. 

I used to love to walk down Market Street during the fall when Woolworth's decorated their windows for Halloween. And at Christmas many stores were decorated and people strolled under the lighted garland stretched across Market and Broad Streets. 

But today I walk downtown often in peril of some cyclist running a red light, turning a corner at light speed or flying down the street between lanes. 

I think accommodations for cyclists are necessary, but informing the rest of us before taking Draconian measures should have happened. Whether or not some committee decided this two years ago is only relevant for the record. 

What Mr. Exum and others' remarks say to me is changes in the name of progress or regulations without adequate citizen involvement will never be met with gleeful praise from all. Had Ms. Bailey or others explained these changes in public forums to prepare people like she did in her post, there would have been opportunity to assess public support. 

But once again we feel "Grubered." In other words we ordinary folks are not smart enough to understand change and progress because we're just not enlightened enough. So it has to be done in a committee and then we wake up and it's done. And if someone dares oppose it they are blasted with sarcasm and snarky lampooning. 

That is not a way to unite a city in moving forward. 

Ralph Miller


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