Roy Exum: The Loving Hands

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

For a great part of my life that I spent with my family at the former Chattanooga News-Free Press, we were in a lockjaw fight with the family who owned the Chattanooga Times. Up until the 1970s the two newspapers existed under the same roof, splitting expenses, but that got sour when the Times had a lot more “expenses” than we were duty-bound to share.

So then my grandfather got a deal on the old Davenport Hosiery Building on 11th Street and, despite my threat to turn my family in for violating the Child Labor laws, I was told at the age of 12 that my brother and I were going to work for $1 an hour. It was the most fun any kid could imagine and I was hardly coddled; whether I was putting a thread on a half-inch or busting up a concrete walk with a jackhammer, our work crew gave me the best education imaginable.

The fight between the Free Press and the Times makes some tribal wars look like a school recess. The Times had darn-near unlimited resources while we had darn-near none. I can remember – vividly – when about a dozen employees went down to the ever-wonderful Pioneer Bank and mortgaged their homes so we could make payroll. I can remember several Chattanooga businesses who wouldn’t do business with us and then came crawling back when they heard ‘the last laugh.’

The reason I bring up this epic time in my life was because when I would ask how we were going to afford to dig a 20-foot pit for our huge printing press, lay miles of electrical conduit or, accomplish a million-dollar project, those glasses would slip own on The Old Man’s nose, he’d grin and use his favorite expression: “The loving hands at home,” which translated meant ‘guess what you’re gonna’ be doing tomorrow?’

I mean it … my grandfather hated to pay for anything done by an outside company when he could hire his own employees to do it instead. “Boss, that new guy … I don’t know if he’s gonna’ turn out,” I’d say and he would counter, “That fellow has two kids at home under the age of five. Those two kids will teach him to be the best you ever saw at what he’s doing,” and I’ll be a chickadee if he wasn’t right time and time again. People like that stayed with us for life, too.

Now that I hope I’ve set the stage, let’s just suppose just before “we” installed that printing press from scratch, I had walking into my grandfather’s office and told him I’d gotten word of a consultant in Phoenixville, Pa. who for “only $200,000” would come in and give us his suggestions. Are you kidding me? I’d best be ready to duck because something would be thrown at my head and I’ll guarantee wouldn’t miss by much.

When I just learned the Hamilton County School Board had approved almost a half-million in taxpayer money to have our school buildings “evaluated,” I wondered if any had ever served in the Navy because the majority is acting like senseless drunks on shore leave. I need to be real emphatic on one crucial point – we ain’t got any money!

The county went for many years without a tax increase, then, Lord have mercy, to be so blatant with no regard for the county coffers (the taxpayers money). It is – to me – grounds for impeachment. Yes, The Miracle Worker (Al Kiser) and his under sung sidekick, Lee Brouner, should have streets named in their honor for the past many years of pencil-point management but check with County Mayor Jim Coppinger – he’ll admit the streets will have potholes.

Remember when we had some traffic school shooting last year and the school system spent about $120,000 for some wacky ID system. Oh, the thing may work but, pilgrim, ain’t no shooter yet paused to sign in and have a photo taken. Common sense is still on a holiday.

You remember laughing about the diversity ploy? The HCDE got the school board to approve – what? --$300,000 for some “consultant” with absolutely no details at all. Since then the diversity and equality gimmick has been clearly defined as a cash grab yet we have a diversity officer who is making $150,000 in the county system right now. There is no accountability, right, and your school board, despite the warnings of the two solid thinkers – Rhonda Thurman and Joe Smith – just voted in favor of some idiotic half-million study that will not replace one rotten board or mend one leaky pipe.

Go on the Hamilton site and pick where we are going to cut a half-million from some project to fund this latest school board boondoggle. If I were a sitting County Commissioner I’d tell the powerless school board ‘no!’ and I am talking about no later than tomorrow morning. We clearly don’t have the money. And if I am a county commissioner, I want to know what genius invited this particular crowd of building inspectors to mingle among us?

Mayor Coppinger wears his shiny politician’s shoes when he piously insists he doesn’t meddle in school board affairs when, in fact, that is precisely his job. Faith and begorrah – the school board proper does not have the authority to write a $3 check. So where does the entitlement to hire some buildings expert come from? I have yet to hear one good answer but think the taxpayers deserve one – they elected these people.

One step further: If there were no school board, I can safely assume the County Commission would not honor a knee-jerk $115,000 security system without board approval, would not get sucked in by a ‘haves-have-nots scheme,’ and most assuredly would not fall for half-million bucks for buildings inspections. All totaled, that’s almost one million in services that could be far better met by “the loving hands of home.”

I’ve seen it done. And it works, especially if you are broke and every department needs a nudge.

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