Roy Exum: Don't Listen To A Lie

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A headline in Monday’s edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press claimed, “Commission Budget Vote A Let-Down for The Students” and that, brothers and sisters, is a lie. In an op-ed article written by Hamilton County School Board member Kathy Lennon, she professed to be disappointed that the Hamilton County Commission had removed a proposed 34-cent tax increase in its budget for the public schools.

In a story where Kathy put her foot in her mouth so deeply she could have gnawed her toenails to the quick, it is her UnifiEd view that the County Commission “made a statement” when they balked at a most unwise tax increase which was on the same sheet of paper where it proves the same County Commission was set to unanimously approve – read this very slowly -- the largest school board budget in the history of public education in Southeast Tennessee.

There’s more. Kathy says the County Commission “made a choice not to support public education, not to support our children, our teachers, our staff, our superintendent and Mayor Jim Coppinger” when such a falsehood borders on idiocy. Without the 34-cent tax increase, the $409 million allocated for – let’s admit it – a broken public school district, is still a record-setting high.

Her next lie – also totally and completely false – was “Our community spoke loudly in support of a tax increase and now is the time to invest in public education.” Excuse me … do you have any idea that the school system was hoping for a 13.6 percent budget increase over last year …. Oh, that’s about $60 million and to hold back on a $34 million tax increase, the public schools will still get a $26 million windfall that is more more than the increase the prior year.

In the first place, the tax increase was very unpopular. No way was it ever going to fly. If County Commissioner Chip Baker had not been certain five of the other nine Commissioners would vote it down, he would have voted against the tax increase, but because it was decided long before the roll was called, Chip joined up with the losers hoping for “a trade in courage” to be repaid in the future.

A couple of weeks ago the Times Free Press printed an outlandish front-page story that found nearly 65 percent of Hamilton County voters would support a property tax rate increase for schools. That is totally preposterous. The newspaper story said the mysterious poll “also found significant support for the Hamilton County school district as well as many of the items included in Superintendent Bryan Johnson's proposed 2020 budget.”

But then the story veered from every principle in journalism … “The Times Free Press obtained the poll but has not verified who commissioned it. The poll was not paid for by the county or the school district, but by local business leaders, sources said.”

Oh my mercy! It is not a stretch at all to believe the cancer-like UnifiEd political action group penned the poll's every word. Further, Kathy Lennon’s story in the Times Free Press is so flagrant and misleading there is little question the lies and inaccuracies are a result on the UnifiEd propaganda machine.

Kathy Lennon was an obvious plant on the School Board three years ago when she shockingly replaced chairman Jonathan Welch. In the last cycle, UnifiEd’s political organizers added Jenny Hill to their School Board stable but far bigger was that “the seedy side” rolled Greg Beck and Joe Graham off the County Commission and inserted two liberals who are deeply political minorities in their districts – Katherlyn Geter and David Sharpe.

A telling report by citizen activist April Eidson exposing Chattanooga’s largest charitable foundations came out this weekend and proved the fact the foundations are not just fueling UnifiEd but heavily supporting Chattanooga’s liberal elite. By cross-matching the various members of different boards, you can almost predict the coming scenarios.

For example, Tim Kelly is the chairman of the Community Foundation. He is also on the board of the Benwood Foundation and – allow me to interject – both positions are honorable and toast worthy. However, Tim is said by friends to have a feather-in-his-cap moment as he might replace Andy Berke as mayor. There is a lot of time, with countless reasons both pro and con, but as you look over this report, think about where we are all going from here - whether this is a worthy sale.

The collective review of the Benwood Foundation, the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Community Foundation and the Footprint Foundation shows a tangled web with multiple lines leading back to UnifiEd. It is estimated that the top charitable foundations in Chattanooga have given the questionable UnifiEd non-profit, which has been proven to be a political organizing operation, over $3 million from 2014 through 2018.

A spokesperson for the Hamilton County Board of Education is adamant UnifiEd has nothing whatsoever to do with the planning, the operation, or the day-to-day function of the public schools in Hamilton County. According to the HCDE spokesperson, “We have nothing to do with these people … we don’t even know who they are!” But the tell-tale information on UnifiEd's growing reach and backing is easily obtained from public sources:

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