Sunday, December 05, 2010

Great things on Signal Mountain

     This past week has been full of great happenings on Signal Mountain. Last weekend the Mountain Arts Community Center Foundation, of which I am a member, sponsored "Home for ThanksGIVING" at the MACC. We had up to 75 people in attendance listening to great music by Joseph Decosimo, The Kathy Tugman Jazz Quarter and Halcyon Jazz. This event was sponsored by Alexian Village, who provided the chili dinner, Barnett & Co. and Pruett's. A great time was had by all and we raised over $1000 for the MACC!

The Kathy Tugman Jazz Quartet

     Continuing with the MACC theme, last night I attended the Christmas Tree Lighting at the MACC. There were performances by the Thrasher choir and the string students ensemble, featuring new Town Councilmember Dick Gee on violin! There were several craft workshops for making Christmas ornaments and cookies. Glenn Showalter, our newest MACC Board member did "thumb print" art for the kids and the night was completed with the lighting of the town Christmas tree and a carol sing. The new tree planted for this purpose is young and small but will grow and is a perfect symbol for the MACC. I feel obligated to report my disappointment that neither our Mayor nor Vice-Mayor found the time to attend either of these outstanding town events.


     Obviously I must mention the very exciting news that the Signal Mountain Eagles Football team are now State Champions! It was a very exciting game broadcast on WTCI television so we could all share in this significant event. This is the fastest any new school has become State Champions in the history of the State of Tennessee. It has been so exciting seeing the our new High School excel not only in athletics (with State Championships in football and also in volleyball and golf for two years in a row!), but in academic and artistic endeavors, also. Recent honors for SMMHS students include:

  * the Signal Corps Marching Band which took first place in their division at the Bradley Classic competition at Bradley Central High School. The color guard, and percussion also took home top honors.

* our team of middle school students which competed 5/10 in the Chattanooga State Middle School math contest. SMMHS had the most winners of all participating schools with Jackson Swiney placing 1st overall in 6th grade, Cameron Youngblood placing 3rd overall in 6th grade and Matthew Lamsey placing 1st overall in 7th grade.

* Ten students from Signal Mountain Middle School who attended the 2010 National TSA Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The students placed in the top ten in the nation in 9 of the competitive events. The chapter received The Chapter of Excellence award. Their advisor, Steve Seymour won the Advisor of the Year award. (By: Hannah Peterson from the website).

*Michael Holloway won First Place and a $500 scholarship in Theatre Stage Design at a recent conference this fall. His design was from this fall's theatre production "Crimes of the Heart".

     This is just a brief summary of a few of the outstanding achievements of our local students (plagiarized freely from the SMMHS website!). What an incredible addition to this community our high school has been. It still amazes me that there was any opposition to this great institution. I was reminded of some of the rancor of just a few years ago while I was cleaning out my "town council" files this past week. I found a letter I received in 2007 (if memory serves). It was sent anonymously which is obviously a comment on the poor character and lack of integrity of the author, but I thought was worth a brief revisit. The gist of the letter (which was sent not only to the town council, but to the Hamilton County School Board, County Commission, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, SCLC, Rainbow/Push and "local media", among others) was to "take a moral, just and economic stand AGAINST the funding of construction for an unneeded and unwanted Middle and High School to be located on Signal Mountain, Tennessee". I'll just quote a few of the more outrageous comments:
"*The school will never have significant enrollment relative to the enormous cost" - which explains why the school will probably be at capacity by its third year.
"*The proposed middle School High School on Signal Mountain will be at least 99.5% white!" - Well, I don't know the exact numbers, but the photo on the front page of the TimesFreePress sports section probably tells the story of school race relations better (this is a similar photo from the TFP website):

Signal Mountain Eagles celebrate winning the State Championship

"*How will business relocation advisors to multinational corporations (Toyota) look at a county immersed in such a divisive decision related to something as important as integration and proper funding of public schools?" - Did you hear that Volkswagen and Amazon??

     I could clearly go on and on (it is a two page, single spaced letter), but I think you get the point. The threatened "desegregation lawsuit" never materialized. The writer states that the school would only benefit "the elite, wealthy and powerful few" and should be called the "Byron De La Beckwith High School". I will state that I don't think the writer cared a bit about the racial issue but was only trying to stir up opposition "off the mountain". This was written after the bond issue was passed and the school was barely started in a last ditch effort to kill the school by raising the red herring of race. I think the true views and associations of the writer are reflected in his or her comments about the "Complete our community" effort which was the slogan of those who supported the high school. The writer stated that this "effort has led to the recall effort effecting (sic) four town councilmembers". The writer clearly associates support for a local high school with the recall effort. Ironically, when I met with the "recall" folks just before my election in 2006, one of the first statements they made to me was that the recall "was not about the high school". Frankly, that had never occurred to me and I hadn't asked anything about it. I guess I have long believed that when someone makes a point of saying that something isn't about "something", then that is exactly what it is about!

     Well, fortunately the high school didn't get stopped, it has not generated any racial divisiveness and, with the exception of a few grumpy and curmudgeonly holdouts, it truly has "completed our community". I am incredibly proud of our local students and of the support our town (and general community) has shown for the school and all of its programs. I am proud that my daughter is a student there and that my wife is co-President of the Theater Arts Boosters, another outstanding program at SMMHS led by Theater teacher and wrestling coach John Lennon.

     We truly live in a great town with many great people. We are moving forward to becoming a real town and not just a "bedroom community" of commuters. While growth is inevitable, I see no risk of the "unbridled growth" that the fearmongers would use to protect their own elitist agenda. I think we can manage our growth, preserve our values and still welcome the broad and diverse range of residents who will be attracted by the very values that we all treasure. I am very excited about our future. Go Eagles!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Signal Mountain Eagles Win Again!!!!!

Signal Mountain Eagles continued their march to the state championship last night with an impressive 46-36 win over top-ranked Trousdale High School. Congratulations to the Eagles for their victory and to Trousdale for an impressive showing consistent with their tradition of excellent football and many (9?) state championships. Go Eagles!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Musical happenings on the Mountain

The Mountain Arts Community Center Foundation's Music on the Mountain Series has some upcoming events on Signal Mountain.

For those of you who can't go to the away game this Friday, come on down to Lynn's Market from 7-10 and listen to The Orchard Band featuring Robert and Alice Thatcher and, yours truly Paul Hendricks. We'll be "folk" rockin' the house. Enjoy some BBQ or burgers and beer or brown bag and meet your friends for a great night of fun and music. Lynn's is on Taft Highway just past the town of Signal Mountain on the right just past Ace Hardware and next to the WRES volunteer fire station.
The Orchard Band at the Lion's Club picnic recently.

Next, over Thanksgiving weekend we will have a great musical benefit for the MACC.

Home for ThanksGIVING will be Saturday, Nov. 27 at the MACC in the old cafeteria (you won't recognize it) for some non-turkey chili with fixin's and some more great music.

We'll start serving dinner at 5pm and the music starts at 6.

6-7pm - Joseph Decosimo will be performing some traditional "old time" music, followed by:

7:15-8:15 - The Kathy Tugman Jazz Quartert will be presenting some classic jazz with Kathy's inimitable vocals.

Then, last but certainly not least:

8:30-9:30 - The Halcyon Jazz Trio a group of local musicians, young in age but ageless in spirit and talent performing more traditional jazz.

Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Kids are $5 with a $30 family maximum. Contact Patrick Emanuel at 322-8445 for advance reservations. Dinner will be $5 and dessert $2.

So get out of the house, support the MACC and enjoy some great music Thanksgiving weekend.

Sponsored by Alexian Village, Barnett & Co., and Pruett's! Thanks for the support from our community!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

cowards and scoundrels

During my time on the Town Council, I would occasionally receive anonymous letters attacking something I did or said. I treated these with the respect they deserved... I ignored them. Last night, I received an anonymous comment on this blog full of lies and unsubstantiated attacks and innuendos. I consider anonymous attacks to be the refuge of cowards and scoundrels and will not publish them. Everything I have written or said has been under my own name and I have nothing but contempt for those who would not do the same.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

As the votes are being cast...

I started this blog four years ago when I ran for office. It was meant as a vehicle to communicate with my constituents. I strongly believe that it is an obligation and responsibility of elected officials to clearly state their positions and reasons for taking those positions and, through this blog I have tried to do so. You may agree or disagree with me, but anyone who feels I have not been forthright in my views and decisions has not been paying attention. If you want to know what I think, just ask me, as anyone who knows me can well attest.

As part of this process, I have occasionally expressed my differences with others on the council. This is part of the process. I have never intended my differences on policy to be personal attacks and, if my passion has occasionally exceeded my discretion I hope you all will realize that it is because of my love for this town. However, Mayor Bill Lusk and Planning Commission Chair Melissa Cantrell, both of whom owe their initial appointments to public office to me, have accused me of being dishonest without offering a shred of evidence or a single example. I resent this deeply and demand an apology from both of them (though I doubt I will ever receive one). Unfortunately, personal honor is far too rare a trait in this modern age.

Over the last four years I have related public comments and positions taken by public officials in public meetings. I see nothing inappropriate about this. In the immortal words of one of my heroes, Harry Truman “They tell me to give ‘em hell, I just tell the truth and they think its hell”. On the few rare occasions that errors have been pointed out to me, I have immediately corrected them and taken responsibility. That those occasions have been rare I take as confirmation of my general accuracy.

As my term ends this week, I will be publishing a formal thank you in the Community News, but, since I can’t thank all my friends and supporters enough, I will thank you all here, also. I have tried to listen to everyone and make the best decisions I could in the best interests of the entire town. I have tried not to let my own opinions and prejudices get in the way of doing what I thought the majority of the town wanted. I do not plan to go away. I have joined the Mountain Arts Community Center Foundation and will be working hard to promote the MACC and arts in general on the mountain. I plan to continue playing music and hope you will come to hear The Orchard Band playing around town. I don’t know exactly what the future of this blog will be, but I’m sure I will at least use it to announce events located at or sponsored by the MACC. My wife has insisted that I enter politician rehab, however I expect an occasional relapse, so don’t be surprised if I express an opinion or two from time to time.

I hope to continue to hear from my friends and supporters and even from those who differ with me politically. If anyone ever wishes to be dropped from my notification list, please let me know and I will do so immediately. Take care.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

DRC minutes from Guthrie's sign application

Claire Greisinger commented on my DRC blog and corrected an impression I received from a participant at this meeting about requiring a wooden sign. I accept her clarification and told her, to avoid further confusion I would post the entire minutes of that meeting (she is the secretary, so the minutes are written by her and, since I have received no corrections I assume they are approved by the DRC). Emphasis in bold italics are mine:

Design Review Commission Minutes

May 25, 2010

Present: Karen Rennich                                                                                    
Claire Greisinger                                

Jeremy Rardin
Ed Garbee
Rusty Sewell

Karna Levitt

Staff: Chuck Gearhiser

[Council Liason]: Susan Robertson
Absent: Jay Caughman

The committee approved the minutes of the last meeting.

Several businesses came before the DRC with requests.

Representing Guthries, a restaurant moving into the old CVS building on Taft Highway, were Mr.William Casteel, Mr. Will Garrett, and owner Mr. Grady Williamson.

The first item discussed was the red Guthries sign, shown imposed on the grey overhang on the front of the building in a picture given to the DRC

*Mr. Garrett stated the sign had already been purchased at a good price.

*Sign was 14’ by approx. 42” (the height of the letter G) without blue background paint.

*Overhang is 5’5” in height

*Sign would go on overhang above front entrance doors/windows with blue background.

*Blue background color would extend around top of building (side also)

*Mr. Garrett said he did not have a copy of the sign ordinance.

*Maximum total sign area was discussed by Karen. This sign is 49 sq. ft.

Karen stated the DRC policy is 25 sq. ft., but 50 sq. ft. max. is allowed as this has not been changed in the regs.

*Mr. Garrett asked if the sign could go on the side of the building (drive thru located on this side)

Karen asked if the board had suggestions about moving the sign to the side of the building.

Claire said this would involve 2 signs now – one on the side and one on the front of the restaurant. Claire said the sign was too big. Karen noted people do not support a big sign in the front area. Ed did not like a lit sign. Jeremy also thought the size was too large. No DRC members supported the sign as a light box.

Karna said the sign was OK on the side if it was not lighted.

The committee discussed the 3 additional windows on the front and side of the building. These will be smaller than the existing windows. A drawing was provided with dimensions. There was no objection to the additional windows.

The size of the large sign above the smaller windows was discussed. Claire thought it was too top heavy. Ed discussed the sign/windows and Karna added the sign was not too large to go over the windows on the side.

Karna made a motion to approve an externally lit Guthries sign centered over the side windows with no blue background and no further lettering on the side of the building. Ed seconded the motion. Voting yes: Karna, Ed, Rusty Voting no: Claire, Jeremy

A picture of the menu board was presented. The board asked where this sign would be placed. Mr. Garrett did not bring a sight plan. He noted the restaurant “had to have a drive thru.” The DRC talked about placing the board on the side of the building. Claire stated she did not like the food pictures on the sign (there are 8) and would prefer a smaller wooded board that would fit into the look of the mountain. Jeremy and Susan discussed reducing the size of the sign, removing Guthries from the top and removing some of the food pictures or reducing their size. Karen talked about removing the pedestal at the bottom of the sign and relocating the speaker (in the pedestal). Guthries stated they needed pictures. Ed supported pictures to help customers know what they were ordering. Karna stated we should concede the point about the pictures. Guthries said the sign was already under construction and Mr. Garrett stepped out to call the sign builder to ask the status of the frame. He returned and said the frame was built. Jeremy noted it would not be a problem to cut off the top part of the frame and reduce the size. The DRC agreed the pedestal should be removed and the sign be placed flush on the wall. Jeremy noted again the name Guthries and the 2 pictures on the top should be removed to reduce the size. The DRC discussed white trim around the windows and an awning without lettering and a straight edge. The representatives from Guthries discussed the awning and scalloped edges.

A motion was made by Ed to mount the sign depicted in the picture Mr. Garrett brought to the meeting on the side of the building. It will be to the right of the new set of windows. The sign will have the pedestal removed and the speaker located in an unobtrusive place on the side of the building. The colors will be as presented in the picture (green frame). An awning with straight edges will be over the drive-up window without lettering and white trim will be placed around the windows. The size will be 6’ by 5’ w/o the pedestal and internally lighted.

Karna seconded the motion. Voting yes were Ed, Karna, and Rusty. Voting no were Jeremy and Claire

The Committee discussed the signage, awnings, columns, and lighting on the front of the building. Discussion resulted in a decision to place a black awning(s) with red Guthries in the center above the front door/windows . An awning will also be above the new windows to the right of the entrance without lettering. The edges would be straight. Jeremy brought a picture from the Guthries website that showed the look the DRC thought was most appealing. The awning(s) were attached to the overhang and lighting shown down on the awnings. Guthries wanted the sign on the awning to measure 12’ in length. The columns were not in keeping with the style of the building and the decision was made to eliminate them. Jeremy brought up the screening of the satellite dishes and HVAC unit on the roof. Chuck said he did not know if the screening was up to Guthries or Frank Powell. He thinks it is Frank Powell’s responsibility and will check on this. The decision was made to let the staff approve a sidewalk cut for handicap access. Outdoor seating was mentioned in front of the restaurant.

Karna made a motion to approve 1 (one) black awning the length of the existing door and side windows and 1 (one) black awning over the new windows, as shown on the plan, with straight edges, down lighting above the awnings (as shown on the Guthries example supplied by Jeremy from their website), lighting spaced at even intervals, no blue paint, no columns, and if trim around windows, it will be white. Ed seconded the motion. Voting yes: Ed, Karna, Rusty, Claire Abstaining: Jeremy

Karen noted there was an appeal process if Guthries did not agree with the boards decisions.

As requested by the DRC, the minutes of the Guthries discussion were provided to Chuck and the rest of the DRC as quickly as possible.

Claire Griesinger

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Liberals", regulations and the DRC

Well, I promised I would do a blog on the DRC and here we are a week from the election, so I’d better get to it. Before I begin, I should comment briefly on my whole attitude towards regulation. In a recent letter to the, Joe Dumas attacked me as a liberal. Well, yes I am, Joe, always have been. However, if I depended on Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck (or Joe Dumas) for my definition of a liberal, I wouldn’t like me, either. However, the definition from Wikipedia is much closer to me: “Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis, "of freedom")[1] is the belief in the importance of individual liberty and equal rights.” Basically, I accept Thomas Jefferson’s famous dictum that the government which governs least, governs best. However, he clearly didn’t say the government which governs not at all. I also should comment on the difference between spending and investing. Any business person knows that you sometimes have to spend money to make money and we also know that spending money on stocks and bonds is different thatn spending it on beer and pretzels (the gratification is less immediate, I realize, but I think you get my point). I present myself humbly as an example. When I was 19 years old, my father died and left my family with minimal life insurance and no income. My mother had to return to work using her 20 y/o secretarial skills. My sisters and I went to school using student loans and social security survivor’s benefits. I also worked all through college and part of medical school. So, I was on of those chiselers living off the government that the tea party constantly attacks. I went to medical school on a National Health Service Scholarship and paid my “debt” by taking care of poor people in rural North Carolina. I then proceeded to pay off all my loans and now pay more every year in income taxes than I probably ever borrowed. My sisters have also both finished school, married, worked, raised fine, responsible kids and I’m sure return more than they have received. I would tell my conservative friends that government programs do work. I would tell my “liberal” friends that part of my “pay back” to society also includes raising a family, avoiding drugs and not going to jail.

Now, on to another aspect of being a “liberal”, I do support reasonable regulations. I think the government can be effective in protecting our health and safety and I also support regulations to protect the environment. However, I do not support regulations to impose my values or tastes or opinions on others.

It is ironic that Joe attacks me when I have been the most active council member at trying to diminish the regulations of this town. I was the first one to urge allowing citizens to raise their own chickens! I tried (but failed) to eliminate our prohibition on rock climbing. I killed the “speed camera” proposal which several other council members were enthusiastic about. I took a very minimalist (and inexpensive) approach to the traffic situation at CVS which I believe has worked quite well. On a more significant level, I have pushed hard for more flexible subdivision and zoning regulations (while still advocating control of density). I have also tried to make the DRC a more business-friendly organization. When I was elected, I was very interested in having the DRC re-write our design guidelines and our sign ordinance. I had heard from many businesses that these were a hindrance to local business. Bill Lusk was appointed liaison to the DRC to work with them to make these changes. When Lusk was elected mayor, I agreed to take his place as DRC liaison. When I went to my first meeting, they were happy to see me, weren’t really aware that they had a liaison and told me that Lusk had never attended a single meeting. So, we basically started from scratch in January, 2009. After working on this for several months, the volunteer members of the DRC felt overwhelmed by this responsibility of re-writing two major ordinance and asked for some help. This led to our hiring the KRCW group to advise on design guidelines. Their initial proposal cost $50,000, which I opposed, but it was decreased to $25,000

Right in the middle of this effort to bring in a consultant for help in re-writing these guidelines, the council threw DRC chair Greg Goodgame off the commission. The charge was that he hadn’t done enough (at the same time that the Planning Commission was in the middle of taking more than three years to rewrite subdivision regulations, a process that they still haven’t finished). However, clearly the fact the Greg Goodgame had run for council, but had not supported the recall and was not liked by the council and their friends was the real underlying reason. At this point, I resigned in protest as liason to the DRC and my position was taken by Susan Robertson. I don’t know the status of the rewrite at this time as we have received no reports on this.

Now that the history lesson is over, a few more comments on my “liberal” attitude towards these regulations. I realize that the citizens of Signal Mountain want an attractive appearance of their town commercial areas. Obviously, this has been inconsistently applied. I have a hard time enforcing my own (or anyone else’s) tastes onto others, especially businesses. I like green. Someone else might like purple. I like traditional architecture. Others like contemporary. Also, styles and tastes changes. What was attractive 30-40 years ago might seem a bit dated now and our design standards tend to inhibit attempts to update and make changes. Also, many of these requirements are expensive or impractical. The DRC asked Guthries to put up a wooden sign. The obvious question arises: what do they do when they change their menu or prices? This indicates a lack of understanding of what it takes to start and run a business. I realize that some reasonable restrictions are bound to be broadly acceptable, eg avoiding excess neon signs, too large of signs, etc. However, some have talked about wanting us to look like Hilton Head or Aspen. Folks, the average price of a house in Aspen is over $1,000,000. Both of these places are destination resorts where most of the people spending money there don’t live there. That is not our town. Our businesses depend on the local residents for business. I strongly believe we need to reach out to our business community for their input and what I’ve heard has been a lot of frustration.

So, I urge the DRC to bring in the local businesses, listen to them and realize that, if they want wooden signs or green shutters, they need to go out, buy a business and install them. But, if they want our town businesses to be successful, perhaps they need to ask the businesses what they can do to help them rather than getting in their way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Signal Mountain is a great place to live!

I have some observations about exciting things going on here in (and on) Signal Mountain. Before I go there, I found an interesting and useful presentation that I want to share. As faithful readers of my blog (and others following town goings on) are aware, land use planning has been an important issue on Signal Mountain for the last few years. During the development of the Land Use Plan, national known conservation development consultant Randall Arendt advised the town. For reasons still unclear to me, the majority of the council has since rejected Mr. Arendt as a consultant. The Council and Planning Commission then sought a new consultant and brought in Mr. Larry Collins, who presented views very similar to Mr. Arendt's. I recently was reviewing some things on the town's website and was reminded what a clear presentation of the principles of conservation planning Mr. Collin's "power point" was and thought I would share it. Here's the link: . Again, the Council and the Planning Commission chairperson rejected Mr. Collins input and has not sought any more advice from him. I talked with Mr. Collins after his visit and he told me that he didn't have the impression that there was much interest in what he had to say. It's a shame, because it is not only quite good, it is precisely what the Land Use Plan calls for. I urge all my readers (and especially potential future town councilmembers) to spend a few minutes going through his presentation.

Now, on to more fun matters. For the last several months, the Mountain Arts Community Center Foundation has been sponsoring a series of "Music on the Mountain" events, mostly organized by yours truly. Among these events have been live music performances at Lynn's Market on Friday nights. I should tell you that tonight, Friday Oct 22 Eddie Gwaltney and Kathy Tugman presented a superb performance of very eclectic music and if you weren't there, you missed a great night. The thing that really made me realize how exciting things were getting on Signal, though was last Friday, Oct 15. My band, The Orchard Band, was scheduled to play at Lynn's. Unfortunately for us (but great for the town), the competition was fierce! There was a home football game as SMMHS, the theatre department at SMMHS was presenting "Crimes of the Heart" and the MACC was having a movie night and showing the classic "The Mummy" with Boris Karloff. Anyone who thinks it is boring here and that there is nothing to do is obviously not paying attention and I didn't even mention the Mountain Opry which is also every Friday night. Certainly the addition of the high school on Signal Mountain has added a great focal point for community activity and involvement. The MACC and the MACC Foundation are working hard to offer more and more various cultural experiences on the mountain. For a small town, Signal Mountain has a tremendous amount to offer, so I urge everyone to check the Community News on Wednesday and plan to try and get out and experience some of this every weekend.

Next weekend on Oct 29, Lynn's Market will feature Woodnote at 7pm, consisting of Signal Mountain residents Joe Anzalone and Alex Hawkins and, about 8:30 Bryce Cronan, a very talented young man will finish out the night. On Saturday, Oct 30 the MACC Foundation will sponsor "Music under the Starz" as part of its "Music on the Mountain" series at Signal Plaza in the courtyard outside The Pizza Place. Featured will be Signal Mountain resident and MACC Board member Nathan Bell, followed by David Crawford and Tom Brown, two Dalton musicians who have found some "youtube" fame with their humerous take on southern life and bluegrass. Y'all come on out next Friday and Saturday and enjoy some great local music!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Town Council Candidate Forum report

OK. Sit back, prop up your feet, get a beer or a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and get comfortable! Last night, Sunday, October 10, 2010 a Town Council candidate forum was held at the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club. It was sponsored jointly by the Country Club and the Mountain Business Association (MBA). There were over 100 people in attendance. The six candidates for town council were all present and answered questions in order determined by lot. They each started with a 2 minute introduction, then proceeded to answer questions previously submitted by the public. The event was moderated by Jeff Wishmyer. I took notes during the event. This is obviously not a verbatim recounting of the discussion, but I hope I have captured the gist of the answers. I also didn’t copy the questions exactly, but have done my best to reproduce them, sometimes without the preambles. Any errors are obviously mine, but if any candidates see themselves as misrepresented, please either comment or contact me privately and I will print your response or retraction. Also, if any candidates care to expand their answers I encourage each of them to respond. That is why I provide this vehicle for community discussion. I have tried to make a few clearly noted “editorial notes” to clarify or occasional “fact-check” some answers. I hope this is helpful. At the end of the forum, a “straw vote” was held. I will reveal the results at the end of this blog entry.

1. Will you work with the WWTA to get the sewer moratorium raised as soon as possible?

Wallace: yes, town can’t move forward until moratorium is lifted

Robertson: We have been working with the WWTA, she stated we have averaged “fourteen building permits during the moratorium”. (Ed note: I don’t know the source of this data or if she meant 14 total over the almost 3 ½ years that we have been under the moratorium, or 14 per year average. I briefly reviewed some monthly reports which reveal that we may have totaled around 14 new residential permits in the last 3 years. However, total permits can be deceptive since many “building permits” are for renovations and remodeling. In two random months in 2008, there were 26 and 38 permits issued with only 3 “new construction” in each month. Also, some “new” permits are renewals of permits which expire in 6 months if construction has not begun.)

Rardin: “I support lifting the moratorium to progress”, but mentioned that he needed to “investigate it further”.

Preston: mentioned that the town was ready to move forward. He stated that the moratorium was there for the right reason (to protect water quality), but it needed to be lifted ASAP once the problem was resolved

Bowling: stated “absolutely” the moratorium is a priority and that the town needed to work with the WWTA. He also stated he needed data to make decisions and that we need the data necessary to decide what is needed to wrap up the moratorium

Gee: stated that water quality is important. He stated we need to do the right thing and supported a tenacious effort to clean the water, then lift the moratorium.

2. With expenses growing and revenues being flat, where do we get the revenue to meet expenses?

Robertson: stated we’re “looking pretty good”. Stated we came in below budget (ed note: This is true. the town manager used very conservative revenue projections which came in $157,000 over budget. Also, there were budget savings and projected expenses came in 2% under projections. However, the MACC roof repair overlapped the budget year, so some of that expense carried over into this current FY). She stated the annexation will pay for a new fire station (ed note: I would dispute this. A new fire station is projected for the future but details are still not known. The plan of services for annexation require a study to determine need for future fire protection, but construction and equipping and providing personnel for a new fire station is not in the budget for the annexation. The reason for this is that a new fire station is expected to eventually be needed if and when more development occurs in the Shackleford Ridge area, so since this need isn’t dependent on annexation, its not included in those expenses.) She stated that we have been “fortunate with grants” and that we are discussing a new public works building. She stated “there are ways to get things done without raising taxes”, but wasn’t more specific.

Rardin: stated that before taxes are raised, government needs to first find ways to cut expenses. He suggested that, before taxes are raised there should be a public forum to get ideas.

Preston: stated that the current council and town manager have done a great job. Suggested looking at outsourcing and grants.

Bowling: stated that costs will continue to increase and that the annexation budget projects losses in the short term (ed note: this is essentially true since expenses start right away and taxes from the areas aren’t collected until the next FY. However, the accounting methods used may amplify this problem. Part of it depends on timing of services). He stated that the current council’s zero growth policy inhibits revenue. He stated that we can maintain our small town character while growing in diverse ways.

Gee: stated that taxes are a quality of life issue which should be decided by citizens, ie we have to pay for the services and amenities that we want. He stated that costs will rise and he expects that taxes will go up at some point.

Wallace: stated we have to increase revenue or cut costs. He advocated expense control and that we should make it easier to do business up here and to support the businesses that we have. He stated we should be careful of grants because some of them incur continuing operating expenses after the grant is spent.

3. Some officials consider grants to be “free money”. What do you think of grants and the possibility of ongoing costs from grants?

Rardin: if you don’t get it someone else will. We should get all we can. He stated that it is very difficult to project future maintenance costs 20 years out. We need a “savings acct” and need money to maintain it (ed note: my notes are unclear, I think this meant to maintain the things paid for by the grants).

Preston: depends on the grant. Mentioned that many grants require matching funds from town.

Gee: reminded everyone that grants ultimately come from taxes; he separated operational type grants from capital project grants. He supports capital project grants, but opposed operational grants.

Bowling: also reminded us that grants are not “free money” and they often come with an obligation including the costs to apply for the grants in staff time, etc. He thinks they are appropriate when grants are consistent with the town’s strategy. He disagreed with Rardin about projecting costs and stated that this is the kind of work he does in his job and that the town needs to plan for maintenance and ongoing costs from grants.

Wallace: had elaborated on grants in previous answer. Stated we need to think through grants and use them for appropriate needs.

Robertson: stated that grants are a “terrific way to get returns from tax dollars”, reminded that the pool and town hall were built with grants, mentioned the grant we just received for pool maintenance (Ed note: this was a 50/50 grant requiring the town to match the $82,500 provided by the grant for swimming pool maintenance projects) and the grant for heating projects for the MACC ($100,000 grant for heating efficiency projects with no match required). She stated “grant money is good”.

4. Local businesses are frustrated with the town council and the Design Review Committee and a perception that they aren’t easy to work with. What should the town council do to improve the business climate?

Preston: said “Yes”, implying that the council could do more to improve the business climate. He stated he had talked with many businesses and the theme was concern about support from the town, frustration with starting new businesses. Stated town needs to sit down with new business owners and help them through the process.

Bowling: Town needs to work as a community. Needs to remove the risk from town ordinances, needs to clarify and make them easier to understand, improve the ordinances and regulations and remove the personal bias and objectivity from town business application process.

Gee: believes in partnerships and need to work together. Wants to reach out to business for the great good.

Wallace: talked with local business folk. Says town emphasizes “what you can’t do” rather than “how can we help you?”. Need to reach out and help business. He mentioned the recent application for the Guthrie’s restaurant as an “eye opener” in talking with small business.

Robertson: stated we need to remember our committee are volunteers and only meet once a month. Stated that the town council has asked for a rewrite of our design ordinances and sign ordinance. Mentioned hiring the KCRW firm for advice on design guidelines (ed note: I intend to expand on this situation in a future blog).

Rardin: mentioned working “extremely hard” to rewrite ordinances. States he started a new business packet with illustrations and a time line. Stated they were making good use of the KCRW report.

5. Have you read the Land Use Plan (LUP), KCRW report (ed note: recently done report on design guidelines which included a plan for a central business district/town center), and town consultant Randall Arendt’s reports?

Bowling: has glanced at, but not completely read the LUP. Agreed that town council members need to read all these documents. He supports managed growth and preserving our small town character. States we can still promote growth and hold it all together.

Gee: has read report. States “I do support development, but have to do planning and discuss it first”, states we have to look at transportation and traffic, security, schools, etc. Need to develop in orderly fashion.

Wallace: “Yes, I do support residential and commercial development”. He read the town’s vision statement (which supports managed growth) and stated his support for this statement. He stated that once the sewer moratorium is lifted, the “fun starts” and we need to preserve our small town character.

Robertson: “I not only read the plan, I helped write the plan”. Stated it was based on input from Randall Arendt and another planner whose name I didn’t catch (ed note: I don’t recall any other consultant advising on the LUP. The Planning Commission has recently invited at least one other planner to advise them after essentially dismissing Randall Arendt, however his recommendations were very similar and, so far as I know there has been no more contact with him, either). She stated it promoted green neighborhoods. On commercial development, she said that “good business will always do well” and mentioned the Signal Mountain Athletic Club. She stated that we need infrastructure and stated “the community needs to decide how much it wants to grow”.

Rardin: stated he has read the LUP and KCRW report. Stated that Randall Arendt in his advice to the town “did not take into account if the land is flat or mountainous” (ed note: It wasn’t clear just what he meant by this as he didn’t elaborate. In Arendt’s advice, there is reference to steep slopes and how to define them and avoid building on them. There are also references to ravines and river (riparian) zones). Stated that growth has to “consider the (SMMHS) school” and not do a disservice to the kids.

Preston: stated that he has reviewed the plans. Stated that we live in a unique residential community. We need to maintain our character. He stated that after the sewer moratorium we will have residential development.

6. SMGCC’s lease is based on the tax value of the land. Mayor Bill Lusk has several times suggested finding a way to increase the amount that SMGCC pays on this land. Also, the current lease expires soon (there were some differences about exactly when and I haven’t had time to double check on that). Do you support or oppose the Mayor’s desire to increase the lease on the SMGCC and would you support a longer lease term to allow the SMGCC to do better long range planning?

Gee: Stated he doesn’t know all the terms of the lease, but had no reason to believe a change needed to be made. Would like to study it more.

Wallace: stated the lease amount was “$57,244” per year and the yearly amount paid for water was roughly similar. Stated that he supported a longer lease to allow more investment which allows the club to be a better amenity for the town.

Robertson: stated the lease expires in 2016. Stated the country club is an asset to the town and “I support it wholeheartedly”. Stated she didn’t know what needs would be or what would happen in 2016.

Rardin: Would like to see the numbers. “I don’t have an answer”. Stated that the Club is an asset and that he would like to get the town and club together to discuss it.

Preston: “can’t answer well”, stated we need to work together to make the community better and that the Club is a “wonderful asset to the community”.

Bowling: stated Club is town’s 2nd largest employer and an good steward of the land it leases. He is in favor of a longer-term lease.

7. Current projections are that the town has lost citizens over the last 10 years. What do you think of this and what can be done to spur growth?

(ed note: these projections are from the US Census Bureau based on annual estimates since the last official census in 2000 -  the spreadsheet did not transfer well, but the figures essentially are annual estimates from July, 2000 on the far right to July 2009 on the left):

July 2009 July 2008 July 2007 July 2006 July 2005 July 2004 July 2003 July 2002 July 2001

July 2000

TN 6,296,254 /6,240,456 /6,172,862 /6,089,453 /5,995,748 /5,916,762 /5,856,522 /5,803,306 /5,755,443 /5,703,243

Signal Mtn 7,253 /7,179 /7,180 /7,255/ 7,264 /7,282 /7,338 /7,390 /7,408 /7,440
(so Signal Mountain has basically lost 187 citizens since 2000, but this may have reversed in the last year)

Walden 2,125 /2,093 /2,074 /2,061 /2,028 /2,003 /1,989 /1,979 /1,973 /1,962
(during the same time, Walden has gained 163 citizens)
Red Bank 11,765 /11,646 /11,650 /11,791 /11,833 /11,902 /12,024 /12,147 /12,265 /12,339

East Ridge 19,985 /19,797 /19,839 /20,061 /20,031 /20,102/ 20,008 /20,221 /20,418 /20,533

Collegedale 8,195/ 8,039 /7,564 /7,482/ 7,371 /7,285 /7,223/ 7,275 /7,088 /6,707

Chat. 171,350 /170,819 /169,847 /168,293 /165,927 /164,077 /162,367 /160,786 /158,701 /156,770

Soddy-Daisy 12,859 /12,675 /12,439 /12,278 /12,170 /12,062 /12,033 /11,914 /11,810 /11,542

Wallace: Stated he has seen several different projections and that the numbers were “squirrely”. Stated that we need more diversity in residential development and need to provide for citizens who want housing options similar to Westfield.

Robertson: asked “is growth good? How much can we sustain?” Stated it is up to the citizens to decide. Stated she didn’t believe numbers because “I don’t see a lot of empty houses. I think we have a growing community”. She stated we need another Westfield, “maybe two or three” (ed note: I can’t help but express my curiosity about where she would propose building these high-density developments). Stated “I want some growth, but not by numbers, by quality (ed note: she didn't explain what she meant by "quality")”. States this will be answered by the community.

Rardin: wanted to know source of data. Stated he didn’t have an answer. Wondered why people are moving off the mountain.

Preston: stated it is normal to have some movement. Stated that the population was probably essentially stable due to the sewer moratorium.

Bowling: stated he had found the same data in several places. Stated that he believed the cost of doing business will go up and that we need to complete the subdivision regulation revision and work with the WWTA and develop a growth plan.

Gee: can’t explain numbers. Stated that his church, Signal Crest UMC is adding capacity due to demographic projections and that other churches are expanding, so he expected growth.

8. In the current economy, tax values are declining. The Town of Walden doesn’t have a Public Works Dept, but outsources its pavement works, etc. How do you believe town can provide services without raising taxes?

Robertson: stated we contributed to the fund balance in the past Fiscal Year. Stated we could have a tax increase when the high school (bond) is paid off (ed note: last I checked, that was about 17 years off. She misquoted the exact amount of the current tax rate and I didn’t write that down, but the current rate is $1.5134 per hundred dollars of assessed value and includes the “school tax”, or amount dedicated to the bond debt which is 19% or about $0.29).

Rardin: First place to cut is government, need to cut costs. He doesn’t want to raise taxes and recommend we apply for grants.

Preston: understood that the question was about contracting services. He stated that the town already outsources paving and some tree work. Stated that the public works dept is efficient.

Bowling: stated the answer was good management and fiscal responsibility. Stated we have to constantly evaluate options.

Gee: states services would change with financial situation. He recommended we look at the finances and revenue and pick and choose which is best way to go.

Wallace: stated outsourcing is an alternative to explore and that we need to cut costs. Stated that when the school bond is paid off, the tax should go away “when its over, its over” and not be used to raise taxes.


At the end of the forum, there was a straw poll. There were actually two because the SMGCC did a separate poll including only their own members. I don’t have those results. However, the other straw poll was open to all participants.

The results were:

1. Wallace

2. Bowling

3. Preston

4. Gee

5. Robertson

6. Rardin

I hope this is helpful. I hope that everyone in the town will get out and vote, either during early voting (Oct 13-Oct 28) or on Nov. 2. You can also register your opinion on my very unscientific poll on the right of this blog. Again, if any candidates or other participants see anything I have gotten wrong, please contact me or use the blog to respond.

Monday, October 04, 2010

today's Town Council agenda meeting

After this weekend it wouldn't be surprising if my readers think the Signal Mountain Town Council is totally dysfunctional. However, while our passions may occasionally get the better of our discretion (at least speaking for myself), today's very productive meeting should reassure everyone that the business of the town is very much on track.

During our meeting today, we accomplished several tasks and discussed several more. We reviewed our relationship with Town Manager Honna Rogers, whom we had recently evaluated individually. I haven't yet seen all the evaluations, but it was clear from the discussion, and certainly is my opinion, that she gets high marks. Ms. Rogers is very happy with her employment with the town, but we are quite aware of her skills and that other towns could clearly use her expertise (don't even think about it, East Ridge). After extensive discussion, which involved quite a bit of compromising and negotiating, we approved a 2% raise for her, within the range of the 1-2% raises given to the rest of the town's employees based on merit. We also approved some extra time off for her as compensation for the extensive amount of 24/7 availability she has provided for us, a fact to which I can personally attest. We then set some goals for her next 6 months, several of which involve doing research on issues which the next council can address as to whether to move forward or not. These include such areas as automated water meters, completing the current water and sewer studies, developing a 5-year capital plan for vehicles and other capital purchases, working on increasing our recycling efforts, doing occupational safety training for employees and developing options for locating a badly needed new Public Works Building.

Other issues being addressed include accepting the staff's recommendation not to put a new stop sign in Hidden Brook, but encouraging the staff to work with residents on other ways to improve safety at the intersection of concern at Windy Way and Hathaway. We discussed the recently awarded pool maintenance grant and the grant for a heating project at the MACC, discussed and agreed to oppose the recently proposed water rate increase by Tennessee-American, reviewed our attorney's contractual agreement to be sure it was consistent with his position with the City of Chattanooga and approved a much appreciated offer by Mr. Tom Poteet to offer space for a police training center. We met with a resident of Palisades Rd. about fire hydrants which the City of Chattanooga is going to place there (we provide the water, but it is in Chattanooga city limits and they will pay for the hydrants) and discussed how to proceed with placing some of our natural areas into a conservation easement. Finally, we reviewed and approved the agenda for next week's regular Monday night Town council meeting.

Whew! Pretty good, huh!? So, please don't dispair. While politics are alive and well in Signal Mountain, so is competent governance.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

One last time...

Over the last 4 years I have tried to use this blog to inform my constituents about the inside workings of the Signal Mountain Town Council. That I have disagreed with the majority on the Council on certain issues is well know. This is part of the political process. I have tried hard to make my positions clear and public. If my style has occasionally reflected my frustration, well I freely confess to being human. I have never tried to make personal attacks and if my admitted intensity has at times made it seem that way, again I regret it but don't think I am in any way unique in the political process. I have not made personal or "ad hominem" attacks, I have disagreed with policy positions and decisions and occasionally disagreed with philosophical or stylistic approaches. If that has been misinterpreted it has not been my intent. If my approach has not always been perfect, I'll have to accept that criticism. If some people are upset that I disagree with them, they'll have to get over it. I have been very successful at getting along with people I disagree with. After all, some of my best friends are Republicans. So, I really don't think that is the issue.

As I finish my term, I have tried to highlight some issues that I feel strongly about. I thought this would be helpful as part of the process. What started as a communication to the citizens of Signal Mountain about issues that I care about has now been ramped up into a major personal dispute by the I supposed I should expect that since, as the old saying goes "that's what sells newspapers"... or web ads, as the case may be. Here is the article:

So, let me try to address the attacks on me by Mayor Bill Lusk in a way that hopefully will explain my positions and hopefully not further inflame this already ridiculous exchange. I have already addressed the "sour grapes" issue in my previous blog. He knows that I had already planned to step down from the council. I have never denied being disappointed about being voted out as mayor, but that is part of the political process. I am not the first politician to lose a race. It should be clear that the policy differences between myself and the majority on the council led to that event and that it was a symptom of that disagreement rather than the cause. I would have appreciated a more candid and forthright process, but that is old news.

The accused me of "surreptitiously" trying to raise taxes. Mr. Lusk's own words contradict this when he says "“(O)n a number of occasions that are well supported by the public record...". It is kind of hard to be surreptitious on the public record. I freely admit that I was concerned our town manager might propose a tax increase. We collect quite a bit more in taxes from the "school tax" than we need to pay our yearly installment and I suggested that, if a tax increase were needed we could offset it with the school tax. I made this case to the council in a public meeting. It was a contingency we have not needed, but when we do need to raise taxes I would still propose we offset it by lowering the school tax if possible. I proposed this only as a way to soften the blow on taxpayers if a tax increase were needed. In the recent Town Council Forum, Mrs. Robertson stated that once the school bond is payed off  "we could have a moderate tax increase and still be less than 19 percent" referring to the school tax. This is the same proposal as mine with the possible exception of timing. I doubt we will be able to get away with another 17 years (when the bond is paid off) or so without a tax increase. If that is not clear, I'm happy to elaborate, but it is certainly nothing I have tried to hide.

As to the zoning issues, I have elaborated ad nauseum on this. I disagree with the Council's approach. I do hope that eventually there will be a positive outcome. However, I am not encouraged by the actions of the council. We'll just have to disagree on this issue. I hope I'm wrong, frankly. However, I am also concerned about timing. We have already had significant turnover on the Planning Commission since our intial public hearings and Randall Arendt's presentation on his principles. I have concerns about comments from some members about the commitment to Mr. Arendt's (and our Land Use Plan's) proposals. Part of the intent of my blog was to encourage the candidates running to support this proposal. If the Council and the Planning Commission plans to remain true to that vision, that will be a good thing and Mr. Lusk should support my efforts. I confess to being dubious, but will try to give them the benefit of the doubt. As to attending Planning Commission meetings, well I'm not a member of that committee! When I was on the Planning Commission, I was very diligent. I don't know how many meetings Mr. Lusk attended before he was Mayor, or how many other committees he attends of which he is not a member or liaison. However, it has been made pretty clear to me that my input is not welcome, so I have worked to put my energies into areas where I might be more productive. I have tried to follow the discussion from a distance, but the minutes and output of the commission have been very difficult to figure out. As to "making few attempts to work with his fellow council members", I do take umbrage at this and think that anyone who knows me knows that this is not true. Clearly we have agreed far more than we have disagreed and I have frequently deferred to the other members on issues of particular concern to them.

Finally, he has tried to spin my support for education funding into something somehow sinister. I was very clear from the time I ran for council that I supported Signal Mountain Middle/High School where my daughter is now a 6th grader. When I became aware that this money was committed to the school, I fought hard to put it where I thought it would do the most good. I was strongly supported by a large segment of the community. Even Ms. Allen supported spending a part of the money for the school, which I appreciated. As we were considering this, I became aware of the dire problems with heating at the MACC. I considered and proposed possibly using some of this money for this purpose. I never received any dissent from the council on this proposal, however when this idea was opposed by some in the community, I immediately backed off and decided we would need to seek a different avenue of funding for the MACC heating. I don't consider this new heating system to be "spiff" and am thrilled that we have recently received a grant to accomplish this goal. I was very out front on this issue and still regret we did not use that money to improve SMMHS. I do confess to a mistake, though in that I have made assumptions I should not have made. When I got to know Bill Lusk, part of my interest in him and reasons for supporting him for State Legislature and ultimately voting to put him on the council was that he was, like me, a liberal Democrat. He was also a member of the Founder's Fund which was raising funds for the school. Because of this I assumed he would, like I, support this funding for the public school. Unfortunately, I was wrong. He resigned his position with the Founder's Fund soon after being appointed to the council and ultimately decided to oppose the funding. While we disagreed on this, that was his decision. However, I do not regret my own decision on this and will continue to do all I can to support public schools in general and SMMHS in particular.

Finally, I must take extreme exception to Mr. Lusk's comment "When it comes to honesty and integrity, these writings are seriously lacking". This is the definition of an "ad hominem" attack. While he attacks me on the issues I addressed above, he provides not one example where I am not honest. I deeply resent this. While personal honor seems to be an old-fashioned virtue in this modern age, it is one that is critically important to me, as a professional, as a husband and parent and as a public official. I do not lie. If I am wrong, point it out and I'll retract it. But do not accuse me of dishonesty without any substantiation.

I regret that this attempt to discuss the issues got so ugly. For whatever degree any clumsiness on my party has lowered the tenor of this discussion, I am sorry. I had thought I could publicly air differences and discuss issues without such nastiness occurring, but in this day of Tea Parties and Glenn Beck, I guess I was naive.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

wow, someone noticed!

My latest issues blog was prominently featured in a recent article on . Judy Frank, the author of this piece then followed up by contacting the members of the council to comment:

From: Judy Frank

To: Susan Robertson
Cc: Bill Lusk ; Missy Cantrell ; ; Paul M. Hendricks
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2010 9:49 AM
Subject: question from Judy Frank

As you may know, an article about former mayor Paul Hendricks' criticism of other council members and town officials was featured on today's Susan Robertson, a candidate for reelection, was singled out repeatedly and in particular.
I am hoping to write a followup article giving Vice Mayor Robertson and other individuals mentioned by name in Councilman Hendricks' blog a chance to respond to any and all of the charges he leveled.
I will not be home today but will be checking my email regularly. Please let me know if you have a response you would like to make.
Thanks! Judy Frank

Bill Lusk replied with obvious enthusiasm:
From: Bill

To: 'Judy Frank' ; 'Susan Robertson'
Cc: 'Missy Cantrell' ; ; 'Paul M. Hendricks'
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2010 4:09 PM
Subject: RE: question from Judy Frank

I can’t wait.

Best regards,
Bill Lusk

So, I thought I would share my own response with my readers. I honestly don't know if will print my response, so here it is:

I should thank the for highlighting my blog ( in its recent article. Since you essentially printed it twice, I should ask what you pay per word and if I get any part of that! Considering reporter Judy Frank’s friendship with Vice-Mayor Susan Robertson it is not surprising that she immediately emailed the rest of the council to encourage them to respond. However, before that happens there are several errors that need correcting. If Ms. Frank had contacted me or indeed any of the council before publishing she might not have made these mistakes. Ms. Frank seems very intent on implying that my decision to not run for re-election was because I was not re-elected mayor. This is not true. The fact that she refers to me as “former mayor” rather than as a current councilmember emphasizes her attempt to “spin” my personal decisions. The facts are that I had decided not to run for re-election before the last mayoral election and told this to the council. My decision was based on several reasons, most importantly the fact that my family had asked that I not run again. I have loved being on the Signal Mountain Town Council and I truly loved being mayor, but it was very time consuming and I decided two more years would have to be enough time to spend on what is after all a non-paid, voluntary public service position. I am a husband, father of a son going to college and a daughter entering middle-school and a full-time physician with a busy and erratic schedule. I also had to give up performing music, a vocation I truly enjoy and missed terribly. For these reasons I had already decided that I would not run for re-election and, when I announced to the Council my interest in remaining mayor I also indicated that I did not plan to run again. I was originally elected before Bill Lusk and Susan Robertson were appointed to the council, so I went to the council and told them I would be interested in remaining mayor for the rest of my term. I received no negative responses and, as a matter of fact both Mrs. Robertson and Mr. Lusk told me they saw no reason to make a change. Mr. Lusk had frequently complimented my performance as mayor and told me he didn’t know how I did it and that he didn’t think he could. Therefore I was surprised and disappointed when he announced after his own election that he was going to run for mayor and the rest of the council lined up behind him. I told him that, a main reason I wanted to remain mayor was due to my passion to revise our town’s zoning regulations and promote conservation development. I have known about and been an advocate of conservation development for over 20 years and was excited that I was finally in a position to do something about it. I told him that, since as mayor I sat on the Planning Commission, I wanted to finish the job. Mr. Lusk told me that he didn’t realize he would have to serve on the Planning Commission as mayor. He stated that he was too busy and didn’t have time to be on the Planning Commission and that if he were elected I could remain on the Planning Commission. While I have often wondered if I should have taken him up on his offer, I didn’t think that was an appropriate deal to accept.

One other issue I should correct is Ms. Frank’s continual referral to Signal Mountain’s development consultant Randall Arendt as “my” consultant. This is clearly absurd. There was a strong desire from the town to bring in a professional planning consultant. Both Annette Allen and I had independently sought advice from Karen Rennich, a planner with the Regional Planning Agency and Mr. Arendt’s name was clearly at the top of the list she recommended. We never discussed bringing in anyone else, the entire council enthusiastically supported him and our entire Land Use Plan is based on his advice and counsel. While I am still a huge fan of Mr. Arendt and deeply regret that his advice has now been rejected, to call him “my” consultant is to change history and is wrong. He was the town’s consultant. Finally, Ms Frank states that I “talked to potential voters about the need to counsel members who will do what he, and his consultant, wants” (emphasis mine). Actually, if Ms. Frank had checked out the link in my blog, she would know that I asked town council candidates to read the town’s Land Use Plan which was adopted by the town after extensive public input and was, at least initially, enthusiastically supported by this council. So, yes, being the radical subversive that I am I think it might be a good idea for town council candidates to read our Land Use Plan and, since I support that plan, yes, that is what I want.

During my time on this council, Ms. Frank has very rarely contacted me on issues she has reported on and usually I have had to contact her. If the is interested in being an accurate source of news, I think it would behoove its correspondents to actually contact and interview the subjects of its news stories. Thank you for the service you provide.


Paul M. Hendricks, MD

Current member of Signal Mountain Town Council

Friday, October 01, 2010

Hodge Podge 2010

I know this is last minute, but come on down to Hodge Podge at the Signal Mountain Town Hall this Friday and Saturday, Oct 1-2. We have the traditional artists and craftspeople showing and selling their wares. In addition, this year for the first time we will have live music, a "KidPodge" children's area on Saturday and a Health and Wellness section sponsored by Alexian Village.
I was asked to organize the music and we have an almost all Signal Mountain line up.

Friday will feature :
11am-12noon - a vocal group from Alexian
12-1 - John Harper
1-2:30 - Jim Palmour
2:30- 4 - Gypsy Truckers with Mario Piccolo
4-5:30 - Dee Bass
5:30 -7 - The Orchard Band featuring yours truly with Robert and Alice Thatcher

10-12 - Mountain Cove Bluegrass
12-1 - OCD featuring the Sawyer Brothers and friends
1-2 - Woodnote with Joe Anzalone and Alex Hawkins
2-3 - Bryce Cronan
4-5 - Brian and Garrett Massman

KidPodge will have cookie decorating, face-painting, a bouncy castle and a talent show, among other activities.

Some y'all come and enjoy a great fall weekend on Signal Mountain. We made sure we called ahead so the weather promises to be great!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Issues in the upcoming elections

     I had mentioned in an earlier post a "Chapter Two". I would like to take some time over the next month or so before the elections (and sooner with early voting!) to discuss some of the issues confronting the next council as I see them. I would love some feedback from readers as to what you see as the important issues in this campaign and what you think of my own take on the "issues".
     When I was elected 4 years ago, growth and development was the leading issue. The recall confused and misled the public on many of the facts surrounding this issue. I entered with a commitment to revise our zoning laws to encourage conservation development as a way to manage density and growth in a way that would preserve open space and allow more flexible development, more diversity of housing and neighborhood styles, decrease sprawl and generally preserve our small town atmosphere while still protecting the rights of the property owners. Sadly this has not occurred. We started strong with advise from Randall Arendt, a national expert on conservation development and then created a land-use plan based on his input and the involvement of a broad representation of our citizens. The next step was to revise our subdivision regulations and then our zoning laws. At this point, the Planning Commission has spent 3 years working on revising the subdivision regulations and still aren't done. I think this is unacceptable and would recommend a change in leadership on that commission.
     I have seen this council now reject the advise and offers of support and examples from Mr. Arendt and other consultants with similar approaches. My desire for a broadly inclusive process has been thwarted. While I have never thought that a Planning Commission should be dominated by development interests, this council, and specifically Annette Allen has proposed that noone with any experience in the development business should be represented on the Planning Commission. Having experienced the value of such former members as Don Moon and Wells Blake and current members such as architect Wayne Williams, I think this is a mistake. I encouraged the council to be inclusive and to seek the support of the development community to build "buy in" for conservation development which is still a new concept for many of them. I was told by Susan Robertson that this was unnecessary because "we have the power, we can make them do whatever we want". I was stunned by this statement. This is antithetical to everything I believe about governance. I strongly oppose this arrogant approach.
     When I ran, I proposed a process of review and revision to the SROZ ordinances. The Land Use Plan proposed a different approach to development in the undeveloped areas of town, primarily in the SROZ, from the already developed areas. It proposed using conservation development proposals allowing for controlling density directly but allowing flexible lot sizes to discourage sprawl and preserve open space. This council rejected the recommendations of its own land use plan, rejecting the whole idea of conservation development and returning to large lot zoning which encourages sprawl, discourages open space preservation and drives up the cost of housing. Bill Lusk clearly did not understand or possibly didn't even read the Land Use Plan when he complained that a one-acre lot owner on Palisades should be allowed the same development options as a 100+ -acre land owner with streams and forests and fields to preserve. This is directly in opposition from the proposals in the Land Use Plan. Why didn't he complain when we were developing the plan? Why didn't he oppose it then? Why didn't anyone else on the council who all supported him on this? I frankly don't understand.
     There are some facts which must be presented in addressing the issue of growth on Signal Mountain. As Daniel Moynihan said, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. First, is the town growing? Well, not if you believe the US Census. Our population in 2000 was 7429 and, while the 2010 figures aren't out yet, our projected population in 2009 was 7253. And during that time we annexed the Shackleford Ridge Road area! In the last 10 years we have averaged less than 11 building permits per year (and even including the 10 years before the sewer moratorium it comes to about 14 per year). Not exactly the "unbridled growth" which was predicted and feared. I have made the analogy before between a town and a person. When a child is young, you want them to grow up big and strong. However, we all reach a point where any future growth becomes obesity or cancer! This is what we want to avoid. However, there is a third condition. It is called anorexia. This is where a person has such an irrational fear of growth that they can literally starve themselves to death. We all have to maintain our health through good nutrition to renew our bodies. If our town doesn't continue this process of renewal and responsible growth, then our expenses, which will continue to grow, will require greater revenue from a declining base which of course leads to increased taxes. In the recent town council debate at Alexian, Susan Robertson is reported as saying that she "hopes" taxes won't increase over the next four years. However, she is advocating for renovating the town hall and building a brand new public works building. We will probably need to build a new fire hall on Shackleford Ridge Road soon, especially if the annexations of Fox Run and Windtree go through. This will require increased revenues. The commercial base for this town is very limited and this council has already denied one proposal for a major commercial expansion of the current shopping center. I don't see much potential for any future such possibilities. We can't have our cake and eat it too, as they say.
     I would propose that the next council revisit the composition of the Planning Commission. Two councilmembers, the mayor and another member (currently Annette Allen) are also members of the Planning Commission. The Commission needs to finish its work on the Subdivision Regulations which has lasted now for nearly 3 years. Members came to me to ask for help on this daunting job. This is when we went back to Randall Arendt for possible input, however this offer from him was rejected by this council over my strong objections and the desires of several current Planning Commission members (unfortunately the current chairperson, Melissa Cantrell also rejected Mr. Arendt's offer). The regulations currently being worked on still need to be completed, then reviewed by the staff at the Regional Planning Agency then finally approved by the Planning Commission again. I anticipate several more months in the process at this point. Then, the Planning Commission will need to review the Zoning Ordinance, which was the original goal four years ago!! This was expected to be the really heavy lifting. If it took four years to do the preliminary work, how long might that take? Zoning is an ordinance, so will require public hearings (I don't believe there has even been an official public hearing on the subdivision regulations yet which, while not required has been promised by the Planning Commission). Once the Planning Commission completes its work, any changes in the Zoning Ordinance will then have to be passed by the Town Council (which does not have any official say in the subdivision regulations... a situation that I have always found rather odd). How much longer will that take? Will the new council, which may very well include a brand new majority, be up to speed on this?
     I have tried to encourage the candidates who have asked me for input to review Randall Arendt's original recommendations, which are still on the town's website on Page 89 in the appendix to the Land Use Plan: . I hope they will be asked about this and that Ms. Robertson will be asked why the council has apparently rejected not only Mr. Arendt's advice, but the whole direction of the Land Use Plan itself.
    I think the next thing to be discussed is the Design Review Commission and I will address this in my next "issues" blog (Chapter Three??).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Music on the Mountain series this weekend!

Lots of music this weekend! MACC Foundation's Music on the Mountain series makes staying "on the mountain" the thing to do this weekend!

Friday night at Lynn's Market: Dee Bass makes a return performance from 7-10. Come on out for burgers and bbq and beer and brown bagging and listen to Dee's eclectic performance.

MACC Coffeehouse Saturday night at Sweet Gipsy ( Come out up at 6 for Chili with all the fixin's or anything else from their menu. Stay for music from 7-10 with Mountain Cove Bluegrass ( I will be opening for them at 7 then the boys come on at 8.

Next Candidate Forum October 10

The Mountain Business Association will sponsor the next Candidate Forum on October 10 at the Signal Mountain Country Club. It will start at 5:30pm. Here is the announcement in the Community News:

I hated to miss the forum last night at Alexian, but my daughter's birthday had to take precedence. I should make this one. I heard last night was well attended and went well. I urge any town residences who missed that one to come to the one on the 10th.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Candidate Forum Sept. 22

I'm not sure how many people are aware that there is a candidate forum planned for this Wednesday, Sept 22 at Alexian Village. As a matter of fact, I had to tell one candidate about it as he hadn't heard. It starts at 7pm and here's a link to an article with more info: .

Since September 22 is my daughter's birthday, I will be unable to attend. If anyone happens to videorecord this event, I would love to watch it and would apprecaite knowing about that. I urge all citizens to attend and learn about these candidates. We'll have at least 2 new town councilmembers in November, so get out there and get to know them. There will be another forum, sponsored by the MBA on October 14 which I believe will be held at the Country Club.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Picnic

Had a great day at the annual Lion's Club Labor Day picnic. Lots of great food. They've added bratwurst to the menu and it was good! I congratulated the Lion's Club on having the foresight to call ahead for good weather! Also, the number of vendors continues to grow and there was some great stuff for sale. If you didn't go you missed a great time and great food. Bill Wallace and Dick Gee were working the crowd announcing their candidacies for Town Council. I waxed nostalgic as I remember kicking off my own campaign at this same event four years ago. Frankly, I was surprised not to see any other candidates out on the traditional start of the campaign season (that is, no other council candidates, I did talk with Bo Watson who is breathing a sigh of relief that he has no formal opponent on the November ballot and congratulated Jim Fields on his recent election win). Unfortunately, The Orchard Band was unable to play music this year as my partners in musical crime are spending the weekend with family at the beach, but we'll be back! Happy Labor Day to everyone.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

most recent council actions and political courage

Our most recent Council work session included some good movement on some issues I would like to resolve before my term ends. However, it also included a bit of disappointment which I'd like to discuss first. When I was Mayor, I started a policy of inviting a variety of religous leaders to conduct our opening prayer. While I am a Christian and consider myself a religous person, I am also very supportive of the concept of separation of church and state. However, I have no problem with the idea of an opening prayer for a legislative body. I did, however try to represent the varied and diverse religous traditions represented on the mountain. We had leaders from all the local churches and several off the mountain, including a rabbi. Since I am friends with at least one Moslem family up here (and I'm sure there are more), I had always wanted to invite a Moslem cleric to lead a prayer, but just never got to it. When Bill Lusk took over as mayor, he asked our fire chaplain, Stacy Seals to conduct our prayers. That was a fine idea that I supported and Mr. Seals has done a wonderful job. However, I have recently been very concerned about the anti-Islamic mood in the country and particularly some of the protests against the building of mosques, including the recent vandalism and arson in Murphreesboro. Perhaps I am particularly sensitized by my recent visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, but I have always been deeply concerned about any persecution of minorities based on religion, color, national origin, etc. I thought that having a Moslem cleric do our opening prayer on one occasion would send a positive message of tolerance from the Signal Mountain community. I offered to make all the arrangements and I was very pleased when the council agreed. I talked with Chaplain Seals and he was supportive. Therefore, I was quite disheartened when I got home a few hours later and received an email from Bill Lusk stating he had reconsidered and didn't think we should do this. Almost immediately I received emails from Allen and Robertson agreeing with him. I know that frequently when Mayor Lusk and Vice-Mayor Robertson take their cigarette breaks during meetings, the other Council members stand outside and talk and I saw them talking after our meeting. I have to assume that they got together afterwards and had second thoughts on my proposal. Either this or they just didn't want to disagree in an open, public meeting. Frankly, I think this is a failure of political courage on their part. As English philosopher Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." They suggested I write an "OpEd" since I feel strongly on this, but obviously a public display of tolerance by the entire Council would have much more meaning than the personal expression of an individual. I certainly regret this change of heart, but nonetheless I do want to express my own personal plea for religous tolerance. This was one of the founding principles of this country and one I feel very strongly about.

On a more mundane note, we are finalizing a revision of our "vicious dog" ordinance. Our previous ordinance defined "vicious" by specific breeds which I feel is inappropriate and we are working on a definition based on behavior. We also are revising our noise ordinance to define inappropriate noise based on objective decibel levels rather than the current vague definition of "annoying". As our chief said, "some people are more easily annoyed than others"! As I wrap up my term on the Council, I am trying to be sure we finalize as much as possible. I know from previous experience how hard it is to walk into the middle of something so I hope to minimize this for the next Council.

One other issue I'm trying to resolve has to do with benefits for Councilmembers. Early in our terms, one of the other councilmembers brought up the idea of allowing councilmembers to sign up on the town health insurance policy. Since the plan was for the councilmember to pay their own premium, this seemed like an ok idea, so I supported it. However, it later occurred to me that this could also affect our rates if a councilmember was high risk (realistically, councilmembers are likely to be older than most town employees). This was confirmed by Honna Rogers who told me that Blue Cross had serious concerns about this and would probably not continue to allow it. I suggested we repeal this option for future councilmembers. This is probably a moot point since Blue Cross is apparently not going to let us do this in the future anyway, but I thought it was better we get this off the books and it will be repealed.

I mentioned previously a "Chaper two"... I hope in the next few weeks to review the last four years and, more importantly to discuss the issues I see confronting the next Council. As you know, there will be Town Council elections on Nov. 2. Three seats are up for election and two incumbents, Hershel Dick and myself are not running for re-election. There are currently 6 candidates for those three seats. There will be at least two public forums for the candidates and possibly a third. So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Music on the Mountain Series this weekend

This weekend come on down to Lynn's Market Friday night from 7pm - 10pm for "The Local Group" and "Bred", two young musical groups.

Then Saturday night come to Sweet Gipsy from 6:30-10pm for Jim Palmour and The Gypsy Truckers, led by Mario Piccolo for some good solid Americana music. Sweet Gipsy is serving dinner featuring "fix-your-own" quesadillas. After Jim and the Truckers, stick around for open mike.

Both events are benefits for the MACC and are sponsored by the MACC Foundation. Hope to see everyone.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Education discussion this Saturday

This Saturday, August 28 The League of Signal Mountain Voters will sponsor a discussion on education led by Dan Challener, CEO of the Public Education Foundation. It will be 10-11am at Sweet Gipsy Coffee Shop. Should be an excellent discussion on a very important issue. Hope everyone can come.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friday Nite Live at Lynn's featuring The Orchard Band

Just a reminder that this Friday, August 13 The Orchard Band (Alice and Robert Thatcher, Paul Hendricks) will be performing from 7-10pm at Lynn's Market on Signal Mountain (Taft Highway just past Ace Hardware on the right if you are coming from Chattanooga). Come on down and have some BBQ or Burgers with beer or brown-bagging allowed. Family friendly atmosphere.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

In Memoriam: Robert Bruce Warren Scott

I lost a dear friend recently. Robert Scott was a good man with a big heart. I first met him when he began teaching my son to play the bagpipes. I found that he was a man of many talents and interests and a father who loved his son deeply. I witnessed his pride at his son's military service and his anxiety when his son was serving in Iraq. I saw his kindness to my son as he taught him not only how to play the bagpipes, but how to take care of them and about the Scottish culture that he loved so much. He was an early supporter of my political career and helped me immensely by creating my campaign website and introducing me to the blog that you are reading right now. He contributed his deep, strong voice to my son's Eagle Project as narrator of his video on the Medal of Honor Museum. I didn't learn of his passing until I returned from our vacation and unfortunately missed his memorial service. He was a fine man and I will miss his friendship. I offer my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. Here is a link to his obituary in the Chattanoogan with info on ways to honor Bob's memory. Rest in peace my friend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

County Commission District 2 Candidate Forum at Alexian Village

For those of you who missed the "debate" tonight at Alexian Village, I thought I would provide a brief summary. I should start by saying that I am neutral in this race and plan to remain so. Frankly, I don't know yet how I will vote. I did think the event was well-presented and efficiently run. I would have preferred a format which allowed questions from the audience, but the people at Alexian decided to come up with their own questions and not allow audience input. That was their decision and I respect that. Some of the questions were more oriented to hot-button national issues than local county commission issues, but there were several good local questions, too. Each candidate gave an opening statement primarily involving their biography and background. I refer readers to their websites for more info on that (links to their websites are on the side of the page). So, here are the questions and a summary of responses:

1. The first question was about the IB program at SMMHS and whether the candidates supported or opposed it. This question also mentioned the issue of how to fund it.

Cantrell stated that he supported the IB program and mentioned that he would encourage Volkswagen to help support it financially.

Fields stated he had only recently learned about IB and what it was really about and had decided that it was a "great program" and that he supported IB and its funding.

2. The second question asked how to maintain county revenues when the county offered tax breaks to businesses to come to Hamilton County.

Fields pointed out that only the county general taxes were affected and that the school portion of the taxes were still collected as a "payment in kind" from Volkswagen and other businesses. He suggested increasing tourism as a way of increasing county revenues.

Cantrell felt we should concentrate on a more diverse economy, especially emphasizing small businesses. He thought we should try for more federal money to incentivize "green" businesses and high tech business. He emphasized that, as a pilot he felt he understood the technical aspects of high-tech businesses such as turbines, etc and that this would be a plus for him as commissioner.

3. The candidates were asked how they felt about city/county consolidation.

Cantrell stated that his approach would be "show me the money", ie he would support consolidation where it was cost effective on a case-by-case basis.

Fields stated that he would support consolidation if the logistics could be worked out, mentioning differing procedures between county and city courts as an example. He also stated that he would look at cost savings.

4. The next few questions were, directed toward national "hot button" issues. The candidates were asked if they were for or against the national "Tea Party" movement.

Fields stated that he was very much in support of the movement.

Cantrell stated he was "neutral". He stated that he agreed that the Federal government was too big and expensive, but stated that services have to be paid for and that too often people only want to cut the services that they don't use. He stated that we have to walk the walk, not just "talk the talk".

5. The candidates were asked about illegal immigration and how Hamilton County should approach it.

Cantrell stated that immigration was a Federal obligation and that the Federal government should enforce the law.

Fields discussed getting education for the Sheriff's Department and to work with the Federal government. He stated he supported immigration laws.

Cantrell rebutted by stating that he thought the Sheriff's Dept. was already well-educated on the issue.

6. The next question was to ask which side of the 2nd amendment each candidate was on.

Fields stated he supported gun ownership and registration. He stated he doesn't own any guns himself.

Cantrell stated he did have a carry permit and that he opposed the "guns in bars" bill.

7. They were then asked where they stood on the separation of church and state and the teaching of religion in schools.

Cantrell stated he supported the separation of church and state. He stated he supported the teaching of comparative religion in school, but that support for religion in schools would depend on which side of the majority you were on.

Fields stated he supported the 1st amendment. He supported teaching Bible in schools as literature and history. He stated that teachers and students should be allowed to express their own opinions, but not impose them on others.

8. Another education question was asked. The question was essentially that 60-65% of the Hamilton County budget goes to education and since "many people in Signal Mountain opposed the new SMMHS", how did the candidates feel about that (I realize that is vague, but I didn't write the question down verbatim).

Fields stated that the County Commission passes the budget and the Board of Education decides how to spend education money. He suggested several ways to potentially enhance revenues for the schools:
a. work with state representatives to improve the state funding formula for education.
b. increase businesses in Hamilton County to increase revenue
c. modernize school facilities as a way to save money

Cantrell stated that since the high school was already built, opposition to it was "water under the bridge" and that we should make our schools as good as we can make them.

The candidates then were given the opportunity to ask each other a question. Cantrell stated that since he worked in Atlanta, he had no connections with local businesses. He asked Fields how he would handle any businesses that he had professional dealings with who came before the county. Fields responded that he dealt with this issue all the time as an attorney and that if it were a business that he represented, he would recuse himself.

Fields then asked Cantrell if he had received any contributions from any unions. Cantrell stated that, as an independent he "didn't have any help from anyone" (good laugh line for audience) and that specifically he had no contributions from PAC's or unions.

That was pretty much it. I sincerely hope that I have accurately reflected the intent of the questions and the responses and positions of the candidates. I urge anyone who was at the forum to comment and offer their impressions, especially if they differed from mine. I especially urge the candidates to respond if I have in any way misrepresented their positions or if they wish to expand or clarify any statements.

Finally, here is a video from TimesFreePress of Mr. Fields discussing term limits: