When Joe Smith, a member of the Hamilton County School Board, met with officials of the UnifiEd political action committee on Tuesday, his instructions to his somber listeners were very specific. He told the leaders of the now-tainted education non-profit group. “Do not endorse me. I extended the courtesy of answering your questions … I am eager to do the right thing. But I am saying I don’t want your endorsement and the truth is that you have no business endorsing anybody …”
David Testerman, another school board member, wasn’t quite as polite. “I will not meet with them,” the career educator said before Thursday afternoon’s monthly board meeting. “It’s a lose-lose situation. If they endorse you, everybody in Hamilton County knows you took their money. If they don’t endorse you, that’s that; but then you are better off in the eyes of the people because you have had nothing to do with them.”
UnifiEd was thought to be a not-for-profit organization that would help better Chattanooga’s battered public education model four years ago, but the cover was blown on the group of “liberal elites” when they sent dozens of high school-aged kids into a predominately black district last month to promote their badly-twisted agenda. The “liberal elites” have now self-destructed. Are you kidding me? I cannot name one person in Chattanooga who has an inkling of respect left for them.
Further, UnifiEd lined up a record number of 50 ‘poll watchers’ in the primaries – something that has never been done in Hamilton County. Amid alleged behavior discrepancies by some of the eager poll watchers, a much-admired and longtime County Commissioner, Greg Beck, was upset by a woman who couldn’t even vote for herself because she does not live in the district.
It was quickly learned that UnifiEd was something far different than what was presented to the public eye. Three current school board members – Joe Wingate, Tiffanie Robinson and Kathy Lennon – each accepted over $10,000 in tainted money to unseat incumbents after UnifiEd endorsed each in the 2016 election. A fourth candidate, Patti Scales, also accepted a campaign donation in a bid to defeat Rhonda Thurman, which failed.
Some of UnifiEd’s current organizers were identified as having worked in Barack Obama’s campaigns, including the executive director of UnifiEd’s Action PAC, Jonas Barriere, who now heads the controversial UnifiEd Action PAC. A third group, UnifiEd Action, is at the direction of Loookout Mountain native Paul Brock.
Joe Smith said Brock was among those he met with Tuesday. “I told him what he was doing was wrong,” said the school board leader. “No outside group should try to contain the school board. C’mon, this is not just about some kids … it is our future,” said Smith, who with his heroic wife have raised 19 foster kids into adulthood. “You want to see socio-diversity, integration up close and real? Come to our house any night at dinner time.”
As UnifiEd fell under a harsh glare after the May 1 primary, it was learned Elizabeth Crews, described by most as a “far-left Democrat” and a field director of Mayor Andy Berke at the time, founded UnifiEd in May of 2013 and served as its executive director for over three years. Barriere took her place when Crews left to form Mockingbird Strategies, a Chattanooga-based consulting company that, among other things, “assists and advises foundations, non-profits, political parties, and candidates in best practices to engage diverse communities in organizing and advocacy campaigns.”
Two weeks ago school board members Thurman and Smith publically balked at a UnifiEd report entitled ‘The APEX Project’ and soon after County Commissioner Tim Boyd called the resulting document from the UnifiEd camp as the “most liberal thing I’ve ever read in my life.”
Very little was mentioned about UnifiEd at Thursday school board meeting, but don’t think the strain since the exposure wasn’t present. If UnifiEd were to speak to the Hamilton County School Board about anything, three of the nine members would be beholden to listen while the other six would only be thinking, “Am I next?” Pay attention: this is how life works. The con man, now discovered, pulls a cigarette from his pack and – and, what? -- nobody, absolutely no one within 100 yards, seems to have a match.
Every person on the County Commission looked at Beck’s empty chair 10 days ago and in the true vein of mankind, had any UnifiEd spokesman been low on gas Mr. Naïve couldn’t have borrowed a dollar, much less a can to tote the gallon. The Bible’s Book of Numbers, chapter 32, verse 23 – “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.”
County Mayor Jim Coppinger about went into a tizzy when he was shocked to find out UnifiEd had endorsed him in the primary. “No, I haven’t accept a dime from those people. They say that gave me $30 or $40 dollars but they claim it’s just an in-kind gift … when the kids knocks on the door he’ll say, “… hey, and vote for Jim Coppinger as Mayor,’ but after all that’s come out, I’m hoping some teenager will forget my name.”
Beautiful, just beautiful. But as one wise acre told Coppinger: “Send them $1,000 and get those kids to instead plead that the voters elect your opponent… talk about a landslide!”