No more zingers; let us work together

Posted 8/11/19

Now that everyone has had the last word over an approved property tax increase, it is time for the Bradley County Commission and Mayor D. Gary Davis to put aside their differences and get back to …

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No more zingers; let us work together

Posted

Now that everyone has had the last word over an approved property tax increase, it is time for the Bradley County Commission and Mayor D. Gary Davis to put aside their differences and get back to conducting the work of the people. 

Besides, these elected leaders still have at least three years — and as many budgets — of sitting behind the same Courthouse dais and looking out for the good of their constituents and our community.

With the possible exception of Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber who has hinted his candidacy for the assessor of property position in 2020 against incumbent Stanley Thompson, all other commissioners and Davis will remain aboard the same government boat until 2022.

As such, they’ll have two choices: Work together or don’t work together. If they choose the former, Bradley County should stay afloat. If they prefer the latter, we sink.

It’s really that simple.

It is not a matter of who’s right. It is not a matter of who’s wrong. It is a matter of individual perspectives on what is best for Bradley County’s future.

Everybody wants the same destination. The difference of opinion is how to get there.

Davis, who has steered Bradley County without a tax increase for two decades, believes it can be done again this year without raising property or fire taxes. The majority of county commissioners feel otherwise: They fear the county is trending in a wrong direction, that infrastructure needs, education and government employees are falling by the wayside because of the mayor’s doggedness to not raise taxes.

Unfortunately, the disagreement turned personal over the past few weeks.

Here’s a synopsis of the actions and counter-actions: Mayor Davis proposed a budget with no tax increase. The commission rejected the proposal, made a counter-proposal that included the hikes and then passed it. Mayor Davis vetoed the commission’s budget. The commission overturned the mayor’s veto.

Like a boxing match, the budget debate became a series of punches and counter-punches. And some of the sparring turned ugly.

In his reasoning to veto the commission’s budget, Davis cited: “As your mayor, I refuse to ask the taxpayers of this county to shoulder a tax increase, unless I can look them in the eye and assure them that a tax increase is the only way to fund the necessary services of this county. I, respectfully, do not believe that I can give them this assurance since I have proposed a budget that does not include a tax increase.”

Stung, although not surprised by the veto, commission chair Johnny Mull had this to say on the day of the over-ride: “Although I am disappointed [about the mayor’s veto], I actually pondered or questioned, ‘Is the mayor’s budget about the current and future needs of Bradley County or his own legacy?’”

In another excerpt, Mull stated, “The mayor has shown an inability to make difficult choices when it comes to the financial health of Bradley County’s future. So today, we have taken the reins and made those decisions for him.”

Miffed by Mull’s choice of words, Davis countered last Monday with an accusation that two of the commissioners — apparently the chairman and vice chairman — were catering to a political audience. While Yarber reportedly is eyeing the assessor of property race, some speculate Mull could become a county mayoral candidate in 2022.

In his brief statement last week, Davis tasked the commission with this: “Everyone knew your override was inevitable. So why on the [July] 26th, could you not just meet, vote to override, go home and feel wonderful? But instead, two of you saw fit to chop my head off in retaliation, slander my character and integrity, in total disregard for the pastor’s prayer? Why?”

The longtime mayor called Mull’s statement “pure hogwash,” and spread his critique to the rest of the commission: “… The majority of the other commissioners condoned it with your silence, your clapping, your ‘likes’ on Facebook. And again, I ask, why?”

With hope, everyone has been heard. With luck, the last word has been said.

Bradley County’s greatest need now — among its elected leaders — is a willingness to work together toward the good of all. Davis, Mull and the rest of the commission are quite capable of doing just that.

To quote from Davis’ own weekly column in last Tuesday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, “This is what adults do!”

To quote from Mull, at the close of his “override” speech, “… I hope that we will be able to look deeper at the many needs we are facing, and work TOGETHER to come up with solutions for how to address them.”

Saying it is not doing it. Actions alone will make it so.

And every act must begin with an open mind and a listening ear.

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