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August 09, 2006

Out With the Old, In With the...Old, Mostly

Meet your new government

It’s a painful realization: many of the scant 28 percent of Hamilton County voters who even bothered to register an opinion last Thursday only got curious the day or so prior to choosing their officials. Procrastination as a virtue notwithstanding, this is not an area well meant for its exercise. Hope abides that this will change; that not only the volume of voters but also their collective understanding of what and whom they’re choosing will increase. Failing to take advantage of one’s franchise is automatically relegating oneself to less than full citizenship. Who does this voluntarily? Apparently, nearly three out of every four people.

Some will argue, though, that it’s better to stay away from the polls, if going would mean casting a ballot as if playing darts blindfolded. There’s really no excuse for being uninformed. Your news media, riddled with human frailty as they are, nevertheless toil away to get the facts in front of you well in advance (more or less, depending on the outlet). Just an ounce of initiative on the citizen’s part usually results in finding the necessary information to make informed choices. Yes, it’s “boring” and no, it’s not as “sexy” as is voting on a glorified talent show. But here’s the deal: Kelly Clarkson doesn’t affect schools, jobs, taxes, sewer lines, nor anything else important to daily life. If more of us paid attention on a regular basis, those elected, and are so inclined, wouldn’t feel as though they could get away with so much monstrous chicanery.

The 2006-2010 County Commission will consist of six Republicans and three Democrats, all males either in or beyond middle age. Their names, in order of district number: Fred Skillern, Richard Casavant, Jim Coppinger (new), Warren Mackey (almost new), Greg Beck, John Brooks (new), Larry Henry, Curtis Adams, and Bill Hullander.

There’s a new Sheriff in town, Billy Long, whose success surprised some but shouldn’t have, as the incumbent didn’t bother rising from his laurels (such as they are). It’s difficult to say whether Dave Alverson’s votes pulled from John Cupp’s totals enough to make the difference, but some have considered the Alverson candidacy a factor. It is more likely that the solid support given to Long by the various law enforcement organizations (among others) garnered him the victory. Let us follow up with Sheriff-elect Long to ensure that his promises to reinstate the domestic violence and child abuse task forces, as well as to institute much-needed reform at the jail, are duly honored.

On the judicial front, a quite cordial race for General Sessions Court, Division I, ended with Christy Mahn Sell getting the most votes. The Division II contest, not so friendly as the first, saw recent appointee David Bales retain his seat. Both of these wins are clearly attributed to better fundraising. In Circuit Court, Jeff Hollingsworth’s funding advantage led to a wide victory over Tom Crutchfield; and voters promoted deputy chief prosecutor Barry Steelman to the Division I Criminal Court seat. Also, Red Bank has a new judge (Johnny Houston).

Kenny Smith and Chester Bankston will join the School Board as new members. Newly installed District Five member Jeffrey Wilson held on to his seat as well. There are many challenges ahead for these men and the new Superintendent to overcome. The assembled Board, with the partially refurbished Commission, had better put the past aside and hurry to make up a lot of lost time. Here’s a slogan to get them started: “The children shouldn’t wait until two-thousand-eight.”

Elsewhere across the county, the government you knew is the one you’ll be responsible for going forward. In a few weeks, the entire group will be sworn in. Please do your part in respecting the importance of their offices by actually keeping up with what they do.


Primary school

It seems that confusion abounds with regard to the primary elections. Maybe the following illustration will be in terms people around here can understand. Primaries are like auto racing, but stricter. Each party has a qualifying round, and only the pole position winner gets to race, against the pole position qualifier for the other party, and all the independents. (In Tennessee, there are two recognized parties; all the rest, whether or not they have a party platform on which to stand, are listed as Independent on general election ballots.) So, for example, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., and former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker won their respective parties’ pole positions, and will go on to try and win in the actual race, which is a field of seven candidates. Question is, which one will Darrell Waltrip back, now that his favorite driver (Ed Bryant) failed to qualify? My money’s on Corker.


Do we even know who won?

Hamilton County’s numbers seem fairly secure, but across the state it’s a different story. As of press time, not enough counties had turned in totals for the Secretary of State’s office to issue unofficial results. The problem, we’re told, is with the new machines that saw their first action this time around. It’s not clear whether the issue is a learning curve or a real technical problem. Let’s hope for the former.


Finally, a note to readers:

The Civic Forum is going on vacation to the south of France. (Too bad its author is not.) Columns will again hit the stands after Labor Day.

[This column appears in the August 9, 2006 Pulse.]

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Hamilton County Elections , Pulsations | By joe lance | 10:36 AM