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Coonrod angry at lack of progress among poor, but votes ‘no’ on their mobility

Under direction of his granma, a young attendee at a Chattanooga M.L. King event sings the lines in a hymnal. (Photo David Tulis)
City council member Demetrus Coonrod speaks with Sylvester Harris, a man appointed to the citizens police oversight committee. (Photo David Tulis)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Feb, 9, 2020 — City council member  Demetrus Coonrod makes an impassioned speech tonight at city council regarding lack of investments in the poor districts of Chattanooga, in which many of her race live.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

“Our communities are dying,” she says. “And I ask every black person who lives in the city of Chattanooga — and every poor white person — to stand together.” 

The 3-minute presentation is refreshing for city council, whose members during the main 6 p.m. Tuesday meetings generally do not enter into arguments or discuss ideas. That someone speaks with passion from the dais reminds us that council is not merely administrative but deliberative and governmental, dealing with issues of right and wrong, good and evil, at least by inference, and is not merely intended to give quiet zoning approvals under the arid advisories of city attorney Phil Noblett.

Mrs. Coonrod a week ago voted against the dockless scooter industry, agreeing with all of her cohorts to extend indefinitely a ban on the free market and on self-propulsion intended to bring blessings of cheap “last-mile transportation” to the poor and the immobile. 

Her vote Feb. 4 against bringing self-propulsion to common and poor people in the city seems contradicted by her speech. Indeed, magical thinking of the cargo cult variety operates in the mix of word and action of this well-intended member of city representative government.

While forbidding technological progress on one hand, she condemns the lack of progress among the poor on the other. 

What she doesn’t see is that the dockless scooter industry is a boon to the poor and to people who are unable to commit to owning a car, with its expenses on fuel, repair, licensure, maintenance and storage. Scooters that are not tied to a dock bring granularity to travel, total personalization to travel, decentralization to that function of human necessity. 

Arguments made by engineer Michael Morrison and this writer make no impression on a unanimous council. Erskine Oglesby and Anthony Byrd cite public safety and concern for public health as the main reason to extend the scooter prohibition. 

Market solutions remote

In her lamentation, Mrs. Coonrod cites a list of causes as to why blacks are behind whites. 

“In 2020, black people are still fighting racial discriminations, disenfranchent, racial segregation of our schools and incommunities due to redlining practices, and its historical systemic legacies that continue to have us in impoverished condition.

“I simply ask for our city council and for our mayor, while they are working for this budget for this cycle, to find funding, a source of revenue stream, so we can create whatever it’s gonna take to start investing into these poor communities.”

The grief of decapitalization among many African-Americans, she suggests, are from racial cause, from animus by whites against blacks. But civil authority is to blame for piling circumstances, cost and disfavor against blacks. Redlining — that was federal government policy, as the Times Free Press explained. Depopulation downtown after World War II — that was federal “urban renewal” clearing the black “slum.” Public education — blacks get no choice but the state factory school to train dependency, police compliance, political groupthink, materialism and other best practices of western culture.

Mrs. Coonrod goes on. Districts are changing. Poor whites, poor latinos, poor black live in these areas “and have lack of investment. I have watched these communities decline.”

Mayor Andy Berke won by a 11,994 vote victory, she says. Blacks supported Mr. Berke. Black precincts voted in higher numbers than other precincts, she says. Precinct 195 had 651 votes (many for Mr Berke), but there has been no investment in the area, she laments. 

“Blacks in the city of Chattanooga should be outraged,” and they must vote. They should meet with the mayor they supported to ask what he plans on doing. “It’s an issue.”

“I am the only progressive city council person here today.” She wants council “to advocate for everybody.” If that doesn’t happen, continuing decline is certain. Where might the money come from? Where can neighborhoods get incentives to create investment? she demands.

“Something needs to be done,” Mrs. Coonrod declares. 

The instruments of capitalization are not private investment and liberation of markets and peoples from taxes, licensing, policing and harassment by the city. They are not — evidently — pushing back police abuse as required under transportation administrative notice, which has been in effect for nearly two years. For this councilwoman, the instruments appear to reside in the halls of power and shows of bloc pressure.

“This is the time, whether if we are going to create a rally, whether we are going to create a march, if we all gotta knock on the door of our mayor to make sure these communities get investment in it. That’s what we need to do.”

Her solution, in other words, is politicking, jockeying for city funds, lobbying for grants, donations, gifts, subsidies, subventions and inurements. With electioneering, marches and the like, pressure brings cashflow from the rock, as Moses’ rod brought water from it.

Mrs. Coonrod will run again for city council, and she says she wants progressives to win election and join her among the nine seats to “get the things we need done in these communities.”

Screwball thinking

Mrs. Coonrod, as it were, wants her people to advance, and we see her on her knees, at their feet, lifting — with one hand under the heel, the other hand supporting an ankle, and she is helping lift the foot of her people, as it were, to make a step forward. But at the same time she takes a .22-caliber revolver and shoots a bullet into the top of that person’s shoe.

That’s the scooter vote.

It is an economic truism that free markets bring their biggest blessings to the poor, and that controlled political economies favor the connected and the well-to-do to the disfavor and impoverishment of the lowly.

The electric-motor scooters range 40 miles and are ignited by the use of a credit card and smartphone. This technological combination lets anyone with an account with a provider such as  Lime or Bird rent a two-wheeler for just a number of minutes needed to get from point A to point B. 

An objection in early use of dockles scooters is that sometimes people fall off the scooters and that in some cities they are left lying about in a kind of locust-like mass on public rights of way along sidewalks, near buildings, in front of wheelchair ramps or staircases and the like. Critics are sore at the idea that a business can leave its property along a sidewalk and not have it taken up as litter. 

Despite growth problems in the industry among its customers, the dockless scooter phenomenon is a hugely decentralizing and powerful benefit for the poor who are freed to range farther and more liberally and freely then they might be able to do walking by foot or taking the bus. The technology is a way for poor people to liberate themselves from the confines of geography and against the limits of space and time.

But city council is against them. 

Remarkably, Chattanooga touts itself as the Gig City, with high-speed Internet. The scooters rely on GPS and the Internet to function. That technological innovation is a second time shot down by the city’s public servants and representatives.

The thinking Mrs. Coonrod supports in her scooter vote is that in which “safety” trumps individual liberty and the freedom of people to buy, sell and serve each other in an advanced consumer economy. The interventions she cites that have impoverished blacks and kept them on the plantation are ones, when scooters fly into view, she supports. 

Chip Henderson speaks with fellow council member Jerry Mitchell. Conservatives and liberals alike on city council vote unanimously to deny mobility — a form of capital — to the city’s poor, students and many others. (Photo David Tulis)

Safety over prosperity

She may be a progressive, but conservatives on city council join her in shielding the people from themselves and keeping them in a mobility lockdown. These voices raise the specter of vicarious liability if the council stands aside and lets the free market allocate resources and benefits but also injury and cost.

David Tulis Your vote for the ban on dockless scooters — what’s your thinking behind it.

Chip Henderson Public safety is priority. The horror stories that you read in cities that allowed this. People obviously losing their life on these dockless scooters. Public getting run over. Injury. Those things concern me. I don’t want to be responsible for someone getting hurt because of them.

David What happened in the six months during the first prohibition. What review was done, what study was done, what conclusions were made by you or other members of the council of this industry that is waiting to serve Chattanooga?

Chip Henderson I don’t really feel like it is up to us to research how to make this industry safe. I believe that’s up to them, the burden is on them to bring it to us to show us how they can make it work.

David Do you object to the fact that scooters are left in public rights of way?

Chip Henderson They certainly should not be a menace to our streets and sidewalks.

David What about the use of scooters among poor people? ***

Chip Henderson Certainly, the distance that we’re talking about these scooters, is — is walkable distance. *** I don’t see it as a hindrance to poor people. I walked to school everyday. I didn’t feel I was somehow being discriminated against because I had to walk to school. Didn’t seem to bother me.

David Well, poor people almost all have smart phones, they are ubiquitous. And most people have credit cards. With those two devices, one can rent a scooter without having to make any commitment to maintaining or keeping it. Do you really think this development is something the city cannot take advantage of?

Chip Henderson Like I said, the overall priority in my mind is the safety of citizens. That trumps everything.

David Tulis And there’s no level of injury that you’re willing to accept. You know, “I’m willing to accept 10 broken legs, one broken neck and six broken femurs in a year.’”

Mr. Henderson Absolutely not. Not even one

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