Roy Exum has once again brought up his support for metro government in Hamilton County. There are some matters that need consideration before putting it to a vote.
Why do so many homeowners choose to live outside Chattanooga city limits, whether in other cities within Hamilton County, or in the unincorporated areas?
I am sure that part of the reason behind people choosing to reside in Signal Mountain, Walden, Lookout Mountain, Red Bank, Soddy-Daisy, Collegedale, East Ridge or Ridgeside, or in the uncorporated parts of the county has to do with the less restrictive government there, plus the general incompetence of mayors like Andy Berke and the Chattanooga City Council.
Excessive regulations, fees and municipal spending are among the factors to avoid living in the city. One tidbit I ran across a few years ago was Chattanooga’s mandated annual pet licenses for indoor cats and a limit on how many could be housed within a home. Our five felines are 100 percent indoors and the only time they venture out is in a cat carrier for a trip to the vet, so paying a license for such a pet is nothing more than a tax. As to limits on cats in a household, it is none of any local government’s business how many we keep, so long as they are healthy, fed, vaccinated annually and not disturbing the neighbors. I know of more than a few Chattanooga residents who don’t buy the city licenses (though they do get their pets vaccinated) to avoid this ridiculous law.
Suppose metro government were to be discussed. Would it start from scratch or would the city of Chattanooga demand that all of its existing ordinances and laws be incorporated into the new government? I imagine that a close review of each paragraph would uncover many additional ordinances that current residents of other cities and unincorporated areas would find objectionable.
Current residents in other parts of the county might also object to being forced into funding the legacy pensions and debts of Chattanooga. It also seems unlikely that the incorporated cities and towns are in any rush to give up their charters to join metro government.
It is obvious that there could be some advantages from switching to metro government, like having a county wide taxpayer-funded fire department and presumably lower homeowner insurance premiums. But that would also come with a price, including soaring property taxes for residents living outside Chattanooga’s current city limits. Unfortunately, most of the benefits would be for current Chattanooga residents and not for those who voted with their home purchases or leases to live elsewhere in the county.
Of the 38 years my wife and I have lived in Hamilton County, we spent only the first two-plus years living in Chattanooga. All three homes that we have owned since 1990 have been in unincorporated Hamilton County, that’s the way we would prefer to keep it.
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As a board member of what became HCRAA, the county citizens group, Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, I attended that infamous East Brainerd meeting some years ago when hundreds of county residents heard former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield basically telling us in so many words that we were going to be annexed into the city and there was nothing we could do about it. Big mistake! One lone quiet small business owner, Kyle Holden, owner of Chattanooga Bar Stools & More, raised his hand, stood up and began speaking. He said that although he couldn't afford it, he would do all he could to legally fight this obvious "tax grab" that would threaten his livelihood. His words were moving as he described how this transparent attempt to get us on the tax rolls just before the census was nothing more than a way to increase the size of the city to increase their share of federal funds and double our taxes as well. This was at a time when the city and this mayor had been seen by many as having dug themselves into their own financial hole, and were looking for new ways to fill that bottomless pit.
As I said, at the end of that memorable meeting at Westview Elementary School with Littlefield, a handful of us met with Mr. Holden, and after forming our non profit HCRAA, we began what became four years of public meetings, door knocking, speeches, state meetings, fundraising, and yes, hiring the most noted anti-annexation lawyer in the state at the time, Mr. David Buke, to file over 12 lawsuits to fight against Littlefield and his proposed tax grab. These efforts caused him to miss his deadline the next year attempting to suck county residents into his city census count, and later, thanks to the gallant efforts of our two brave local state representatives in the state House and Senate, Mike Carter and Bo Watson, a Republican controlled majority finally mustered the votes after decades of trying, to pass a law to forever ban forced annexations in the state of Tennessee.
I moved from California upon retirement after 30 years of oppressive taxes, where I had seen hundreds of our poor and seniors lose their homes every month due to taxes they couldn't afford. I had even worked as a volunteer gathering the necessary signatures throughout the state to put what was known as Proposition 13 on the ballot to stop this cruel injustice. It was passed by an overwhelming margin, and for a time, protected thousands of state wide vulnerable homeowners. I chose Chattanooga as my retirement home after researching many states and areas where I thought I would be safe from these burdensome state and local taxes that were threatening my "golden years".
Little did I realize that no matter where you live there are always politicians that live to perpetuate their existence by constantly messing with our lives. Remember that tired old saying, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help". Metro government is that "help" that has been tried before, rejected, and like a cancer that sometimes spreads, will show up again and again, because most greedy politicians seem to forget that they are elected to represent the people, not the bureaucracy.