Such partnership is needed now more than ever.
Some will argue the legal debate never seriously threatened lines of communication nor did it dampen the willingness by either party to work together toward the resolution of shared troubles like education, infrastructure and economic development. This group will contend the course of legal actions by the county, then the city, then the county and back again were little more than “business.” Answers were needed and our court system was the only way.
Those clinging to these beliefs surely have the right to do so.
But we disagree.
We believe the continuing return to courts to present subjective arguments before overburdened judges not only was costing too many tax dollars, it was dividing elected government leaders whose opinions were being influenced by frustrated, and admittedly, angered constituents.
Cleveland and Bradley County residents do not ask their paid administrators to be best friends, but they do expect a fair level of cooperation that best shortens any distance — real or perceived — between the Courthouse and City Hall.
Battles in courts of law — especially those involving money — sometimes happen. Our hometown is no exception. But when verdicts are handed down, it becomes the responsibility of accountable government entities to accept the decision, to reconvene as one voice and to govern in a manner that serves the best interests of all Cleveland and Bradley County residents.
Please take note of our reference to “all.”
We refer to residents of Cleveland.
We refer to residents of Charleston.
We refer to residents of McDonald.
We refer to residents of all points in between.
We refer to residents in the entirety of Bradley County.
While legal verdicts in matters of government dispute bring a greater comfort to some, an unending flow of appeals brings little public good to any; at least, for those who view Cleveland and Bradley County as it should be: One people. One cause. One community.
This is not to say separate and distinct governments within the framework of one county should not exist. That is a debate for another day. But what should exist is a day-to-day willingness by municipal government to recognize the needs of the county, and by county government to understand the views of its cities.
The lengthy quarrel between city and county over sales tax dollars created an uneasiness between governments. This was apparent during the most recent joint session between the City Council and County Commission. No voices were raised, but some voices went unheard. Some leaders did not attend. Others who did had little to say.
This is not the purpose of a joint session.
Frankly, whichever government — city or county — was declared the winner in the Oct. 30 decision by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern District, is not our primary interest. Our concern is that Cleveland and Bradley County leaders now work with the legal hand they have been dealt, and to do it together.
We urge all to remember these two vows: On Nov. 5, the Bradley County Commission declared no more appeals; on Nov. 13, the Cleveland City Council did the same.
Government is like a marriage — a little give here and even less take there will lead to a lot more bliss everywhere.
And while we do not demand perfection, we do expect cooperation.
That’s not a judge’s opinion.
It’s just ours.