We’ve heard back from a single (one) candidate for mayor of Chattanooga in response to our survey regarding three areas of government that routine low-brow campaign stump speeches overlook.
Early voting is in process, with election March 2 with the highly, highly regarded Dominion voting machines, which have spiced up American voting life with a bit of the Las Vegas casino.
Trying to take elections seriously, we are reading the answer the candidate supplies, are considering what to say here and on Tulis Report at 92.7 FM at 1 p.m. weekdays.
Here’s what the mayoral hopeful received. The questions, in a way, are more significant than the answers. Here is what Matt Grubbs, project manager, and I want to know.
Survey that matters
According to an article on cities’ comprehensive annual financial reports,
What…sinks city and county finances is that slow, steady accretion of bad — and hidden — fiscal news that either nobody is getting or no one wants to hear. That news invariably takes the form of commitments to future spending, like bond and pension obligations, as well as other liabilities, such as deteriorating or outdated infrastructure versus the jurisdiction’s revenues to cover those commitments and liabilities. [Emphasis supplied.]
What really cripples municipal finances comes on relatively slowly — then avalanches. By the time anyone figures out something’s wrong, it’s often too late for any moderate corrective action; only bankruptcy, state oversight or emergency fiscal managers will do.*
Chuck Marohn, civil engineer and city planner, has been invited by the City and Chattanooga Design Studio on two occasions to speak about what he calls the “growth Ponzi scheme” whereby we build infrastructure without asking who will pay for the repair and maintenance of aging roads, pipes and bridges. As an associate of his puts it, a developer giving a city nice new roads to take care of is like giving someone a Great Dane puppy.
Following the Great Depression and World War II, growth in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s was based on the premise that spending money on infrastructure creates jobs and economic growth. The quick return on investment (jobs and new business activity) hid the Ponzi scheme-like nature of this approach. The property taxes collected by the City from a new home or business do not cover maintenance on the infrastructure. More development makes us poorer, not richer.
5 questions from the people of Chattanooga
➤ We need a new definition of “growth” that identifies how to measure genuine wealth creation. But for starters, we should not lay one more foot of new road or new pipe. QUESTION 1: Will you call for a halt to expansion of our public infrastructure?
➤ A city’s first priority is to not go out of business. But we are not accounting for the true cost of infrastructure. It is not required by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, but it would reveal that Chattanooga is functionally insolvent.** QUESTION 2: Will you begin the process of demanding an accounting of these liabilities in the budget and CAFR?
➤ Comprehensive zoning adopted 60 years ago makes it difficult and expensive to infill where we already have infrastructure and to take the small steps needed to build an economically resilient city. It is easier and cheaper to extend out into greenfields. QUESTION 3: Will you push for changes to the building code to facilitate small, incremental changes in every neighborhood needed so we can trade “growth” for economic stability, and trade stagnation for personal liberty in the use of private property?
➤ Since February 20, 2018, the City has been under Tennessee Transportation Administrative Notice regarding limits of police department power to “enforce” Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles. The City uses police power to abuse minorities and the poor, and it is offloading liability for this extra-legal activity upon city employees. The notice, to which the City has acquiesced by silence, has been widely publicized. QUESTION 4: Should the mayor be concerned about CPD’s compliance with the law and command obedience to its limits?
➤ Since April 15, 2020, the city is under administrative notice regarding the claims of Tenn. Code Ann.§ Title 40-7-103, Arrest by Officer Without Warrant. The constitution forbids warrantless arrest.‡ The law gives a short list of exceptions of misdemeanor arrests allowed without warrant. This law is routinely ignored, and CPD and county magistrates and courts operate under a system of general warrants, according to extensive local reporting. QUESTION 5: Does CPD practice concern you and will you order warrantless arrests outside the law be stopped?
*Caroline Cournoyer, “Are Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports Useless?,” September 2012, https://www.governing.com, Web, January 25, 2021.
**Charles Marohn, “The Real Reason your City has no Money,” Jan 20, 2017, www.resilience.org, Web, January 25, 2021.
‡ TN Bill of Rights, Section 7. That the people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and that general warrants, whereby an officer may be commanded to search suspected places, without evidence of the fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offences are not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and ought not be granted.http://www.resilience.org/