Roy Exum: Listen To An Expert

Friday, December 28, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In the late 1970s we were trying hard to keep our family newspaper, the Chattanooga News-Free Press, alive so, to be honest, if there was a topic that didn’t include sports or getting a kid’s name in the newspaper, I didn’t have much use for it. About the same time Ron Littlefield was beginning his ascent towards becoming Chattanooga’s 72nd Mayor and again, to be honest, I could have cared less. “Who? Well, God bless him.”

In the early ‘80s, Ron headed Chattanooga Venture, which sadly included a lot of the “liberal elites” and “flamers” of the last generation, who were then as they are now, a bunch of lulus and losers in my view. Not only did I avoid the crazies, I dared not even make eye contact, and the ploy has served me quite well during my lifetime – never make eye contact with anyone you even suspect is a few inches left of plumb.

Littlefield is the exception. When he was the Mayor from 2005 to 2013, the Tea Party tried to force a recall, which was very unfair, but it has been only in recent years have I gotten to know him better and he’s a delight in any conversation. He’s a dear friend and why we don’t do more to tap into his gold mine of wisdom is beyond me.

What some do not know is Ron’s chosen avocation is that of a city planner. I think he’s still one of three or four of the most acclaimed of his kind in the state, a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners if you please, which brings me to my belief he knows more about what’s true and real … give me a drum roll … than the “urbanists” who are about to cost our city millions of dollars in future losses.

Our Regional Planning Commission and its ‘Variance Board’ have gotten tangled up with Mayor Andy Berke and his ilk on the city’s laughable Design Center in a determined quest to beat down a new Publix supermarket on South Broad Street. There is documented proof, evidenced by 11 different designs and these idiots’ reaction to each, that has now caused the highly-regarded Florida corporation to withdraw a variance plea that was to be heard next week.

I now have dozens of emails ranging from “How can we fight this” to “Names! Give us the names of those responsible …” to “(expletive) Berke has done more to harm Chattanooga than any person dead or alive.” The truth is none of that matters … no, we need to focus on getting Publix back to South Market … and to do that we need the ones who care on the Variance Board to step higher than those who clearly do not.

Let me tell you the real reason Publix pulled the zoning request last week. They feared they didn’t have the urbanists’ votes after apparently wasting thousands upon thousands in dollars, hours, and effort in the last 18 months. As far as Publix is concerned, their existing stores are thriving in Chatttanooga and are greatly adding to not just the economy but also enhancing the quality of life in our city. That’s not even debatable.

But what is inexcusable, and absolutely unprecedented, is in the thankless and markedly ungrateful manner that our collection of urbanist/idiots have treated one of our best corporate neighbors in this withering snub. It is horrible. A totally-unexplainable shame, yes, but to become such a repugnant bully is just flat-out wrong.

In July the website Wallet Hub published a list of the best-run and worst-run cities in America. Of 150 cities where each was held up to 35 different metrics Chattanooga was in the ‘Top Ten’ of the worst in America – under Berke’s watch Chattanooga is now 144 on the list. The only thing any sadder is that the list was published in July and not one person on the City Council or the County Commission or the state legislature could give a rat’s tale about it. To those keeping score, anytime nobody cares you’ll wind up 144 on some list.

It wasn’t that way under Littlefield, even if he did have to endure a recall in those early days when the city first adopted a new method of governance, going to a Mayor and City Council form of government. You’ll delight in knowing he still cares, too. After we revealed the way Publix has been so horribly wronged by the morons among us earlier in the week, “The Mayor” wrote me a great note.

I include it in the hope Publix will realize the vast majority of the people in this town – and almost every single soul in nearby neighborhoods -- are pleading they’ll not abandon us, and that when they stretch that wide piece of trade-mark green satin in front of the South Broad Street store, we’ll get Ron Littlefield to stand in for the dummy:

* * *


My sister lives in Lakeland (Florida) and years ago while visiting her I drove out to Publix headquarters and begged them to come to Chattanooga.  I promised to make them profitable just by buying their key lime pies. It took about 10 years, but they finally showed up. Then, for additional years, I pushed for a downtown store. 

During my second term as mayor, they finally proposed the Market Street location.  I was ecstatic (and so was everyone else) until the “new urbanists” got involved and started pushing for a multistore building with underground parking and several floors of condominiums overhead.  I pointed out that the proposed new store was replacing a “Yellow Cab junk yard” (that’s actually what was there) but they were unimpressed. 

(The Editor) of the Chattanooga Times at the time railed against the proposed new store and branded it as “suburban” and unsuitable for our downtown.  I responded that I see such stores all up and down Peachtree Street in midtown Atlanta (hardly suburban) and I really don’t see the problem.  Anyway, a long battle followed and I personally went before the various boards to push for approval.

Finally, we prevailed and the new Publix on North Market Street store has been fantastically successful.  Although it’s a bit out of my neighborhood, I often go there to buy a few things ... and just to see ‘the former opponents’ in the Publix project inside of the store shopping.

Some people simply think that they can dictate to businesses as to how they shall construct new buildings and conduct their operations.  I have warned such idealists that businesses like Publix certainly know what works, and what doesn’t, and they always have the option of simply going elsewhere.  Cities all over the South are clamoring for Publix.

Unfortunately, it appears that some other community might stand to gain from our citizens' unreasonable behavior.

-- Ron Littlefield

* * *

* -- “When things go wrong, don't go with them.” – Elvis Presley

* -- The only one who can make you give up is yourself. -- Sidney Sheldon

* -- “Circumstances don't defeat you -- you defeat yourself when you give up.” -- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

* -- “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” -- Winston Churchill

* -- “All right Mister, let me tell you what winning means -- you're willing to go longer, work harder, give more than anyone else.” -- Vincent Lombardi

* -- “The only thing you should ever quit is giving up!” -- Steve Pfiester

* -- “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” -- Thomas Alva Edison

* -- “Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.” -- H. Ross Perot

* -- “Never give up on something you really want. It's difficult to wait, but more difficult to regret.” – Unknown

* -- “Never give up. And never, under any circumstances, face the facts.” -- Ruth Gordon

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