The deeper we delve into the increasingly bewildering UnifiEd, which is looking like anything but a tool to “unify” our “education,” the biggest question of the day is who is going to hold these flaming liberals accountable? Not since the Civil War have more Chattanoogans been ducking bullets, disavowing any connection with these “carpetbaggers,” or been as ashamed at the wool the “elite liberals” have pulled over our unknowing eyes as this sham is being revealed in our community.
Until 10 days ago almost everyone in town believed UnifiEd was a non-profit educational foundation intent on helping to correct a public education effort that has gone to seed in Hamilton County. Now it has been found these “organizers” are using school children for a far different motive - advancing a liberal agenda that is markedly unwelcome in this conservative Southern city.
For example, no sooner had dawn arrived yesterday than a cursory glance at the Benwood Foundation records showed a $300,000 grant to UnifiEd in 2016 to help with “campaign expenses.” In 2016 UnifiEd financed four challengers in the school board election, three beating incumbents. At the time, Paul Brock was quoted in the newspaper, saying, "I'm sure the current board is well-intentioned, but the results are not there." Brock, one of seven on the Benwood board, added, "Leadership matters and that's why I'm working really hard to help get some change on the school board."
The Benwood Foundation has done so much good for Chattanooga that I will gladly overlook stupid. Still, I emailed President Sarah Morgan, asking for help to understand, and she replied:
* * *
“Benwood has supported UnifiEd because we believe in their mission of engaging the community around improving public education. UnifiEd is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and does not endorse or support political candidates. The UnifiEd Action PAC, a separate organization, is not a 501(c)3 and can by law endorse and support political candidates. None of Benwood’s grant funding has been used to support this organization or to endorse any candidates running for office.
“I believe the “campaign expenses” noted in your column today were not referencing political campaign expenses incurred by UnifiEd but instead expenses associated with a promotional effort to rally the community. UnifiEd should be able to confirm that for you.”
* * *
I promptly thanked Sarah for her clarification but wait! It wasn’t until November 20, 2017, that the Chattanoogan published a story that read, “A new non-profit organization, UnifiEd Action, and a political action committee, UnifiEd Action PAC, have been created to inform and lobby local officials on community-driven public education initiatives. (In other words, there was no PAC in 2016 when Benwood handed UnifiEd $300K. Can you see how easily I am confused?)
“The PAC will support pro-public schools candidates in local elections in 2018,” the Chattanoogan story read. “The PAC filed its registration with the Hamilton County Election Commission on Monday. “Ensuring every child in this county has an equal chance at future success is going to take meaningful policy change,” said Paul Brock, who is also President of UnifiEd Action.
“The community has made its priorities clear through the Pact for Public Education, and continues to define its priorities through the Action Plan for Educational Excellence (APEX) Project.”
In mid-March of 2018 it was announced that UnifiED’s Executive Director, Jonas Barriere, was leaving to become the head of the UnifiED Action political action committee.
That’s when Paul Brock …. yeah, the same guy who is president of UnifiEdAction and is a board member on the Benwood Foundation, said, "There's nothing more vital to our community than providing a great education for our kids ... and leadership matters, leadership in those positions matter.”
Two weeks later the UnifiED Action PAC endorsed the following in this year’s elections:
* -- Jim Coppinger- County Mayor
* -- Randy Fairbanks- County Commission District 1
* -- Chip Baker- County Commission District 2
* -- Elizabeth Baker- County Commission District 2
* -- Rosabelle Gorman- - County Commission District 3
* -- Warren Mackey- County Commission District 4
* -- Katherlyn Geter- County Commission District 5
* -- David Sharpe- County Commission District 6
* -- Sabrena Smedley- County Commission District 7
* -- Brent Lambert- County Commission District 8
* -- Note: The PAC has decided to endorse both candidates in District 2 (Why? You reckon? Hummm.)
* * *
But wait … wait … hold your pose! There is a huge truth you need to know. Virtually every local politician in this year’s races groveled at the Unified deciders’ feet, not as much for the money but because they didn’t want their opponent to cash the check. To be fair, not a one realized what UnifiEd was hiding, what these beady-eyed people were all about. But, trust, every dadgum one of them took the bait. Really, call any one of them and see!
For example, take Aloyse Brown, who is running against Jim Coppinger and has about as much a chance as dawn sneaking past a rooster. She attacked Coppinger yesterday for accepting UnifiEd’s endorsement and favors when, in fact, she tried to sell UnifiED on the fact she was more liberal and should get the money instead. Forget charades. I’m telling you what I know.
Sadly, some good candidates have been unfairly aligned with UnifiEd. Karitsa Mosely Jones, an active School Board member, was wrongly accused of being a UnifiEd activist when she has said nothing could be further from the truth. She and her husband pride in setting a sterling example for their children – and the constituents -- and Karitsa has announced she is in no way affiliated or beholdened to UnifiEd in any way.
Tim Boyd, who rightfully called the brazen APEX Project report a total disaster and “the most liberal document I have ever read,” went ballistic when UnifiEd went with Brent Lambert. So Tim used his Commission seat as a foundation for pay-back, pure and simple, and no matter what happens from here, I can guarantee you the “elite liberals” have assured us that UnifiEd will have no future in this community ever again.
Any non-profit can ill-afford any enemies and those politicians UnifiEd has graced are equally embarrassed as those the bogus group has slandered. Those they have shunned cannot be won back. I don’t believe there is an elected official in Chattanooga willing to be in any group photo with the “liberal elites” for a long spell. The damage on this one will be a while going away.
Whistle up the dogs and dash the fire with a pail of water. I’m telling you, this thing is done.