Had a chance encounter with an East Ridge resident early last week and we sat down and had a far-reaching conversation.
We spoke of the upcoming Municipal Election, migrane headaches, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Greek literature, the old UTC library, Braves baseball, and the induction of Terrell Owens into the NFL Hall of Fame, the “Deep State,” Trump and what area restaurant has the best steak Tartar.
Then he asked me if I was aware of something called, “Project 21.” I told him that I was completely ignorant of said “project.”
I was informed that “Project 21” has been a long-time project to undermine the City of East Ridge to such an extent that by 2021 – the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of our lovely city – East Ridge would lose its charter and become the 10th District of Hamilton County.
Say what? I laughed. So did he.
I love a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone. This “Project 21” deal is a doozy. Undermine the city … very amusing, but no way, just no way.
I kept turning this thing over in my head and reflected on what’s happened in East Ridge over the past couple years. Maybe, just maybe there might be some credence (Denny, “credence” means belief in or acceptance of it as being true) to this cockamamie conspiracy.
Here are some recent events to ponder that could lead a reasonable person to believe our city may be down the proverbial toilet come 2021.
The Fire Chief gets caught in the political crosshairs and is accused of mismanaging money for the Needy Child Fund. The accusations are believed to have come from someone serving on the dais every other Thursday night. It’s pay back for the Chief not terminating high-ranking staff members as directed by certain City Council members when the Fire Chief served an extended stint as Interim City Manager. This was a Persecution not Prosecution.
Rumors abound that a former city manager was carrying on with a high-ranking staffer. This rumor starts after the city manager makes the OUTRAGEOUS proposal of instituting the use of time clocks for city employees and putting GPS devices on take-home vehicles. City manager takes a hike for greener pastures.
Border Region Act is the “Renaissance” of the city, says Mayor Brent Lambert. The city will be so flush with cash that we may never, ever have another property tax increase, politicos claim. Developers who are raking in the lion’s share of state increment tax money continue to encourage members of the Industrial Development Board to lobby city council members for the city to borrow as much money as possible, because we are going to get it all back from the state. Right?
City now in debt to the tune of $15 million. Look around, other satellite cities in Hamilton County have little debt. Soddy-Daisy, if I’m not mistaken, is debt free. What better way is there to destroy a city than to drive it into bankruptcy?
I know you will recall this one … East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Oh, boy! Where to begin.
Concept is a good one. Form an authority (all the appointments were by the mayor) that will revitalize the commercial district of East Ridge. OK, so far so good. Now, bungle it and include some residential property. Bungle it more and expand the residential area to include whole subdivisions. Continue to bungle it by sending out a letter as subtle as a sledge hammer informing home owners their property COULD BE subject to seizure under this plan.
The citizens revolt, rightly so. Jody Grant and her band of sisters are so outraged they go out and retain Washington lawyers to push back. A political action committee is formed under the guise of Citizens for East Ridge Property Rights. These folks show up to an “informational meeting” in May with pitchforks and torches. Darwin and Brent have to stand up to the Barbarians at the gate.
Game over. The housing and redevelopment authority goes down in flames.
The police department becomes unionized by IBPO. Eddie Phillips is rolling over in his grave. Oh wait, Eddie ain’t dead. Well, politically he is. Eddie got caught up in the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority thing. He was the Vice-Chairman. Oh, and he was the chairman of the East Ridge Housing Commission. That is until he quit.
Alas, I digress (Denny, that means I got a little off the subject).
The IBPO is outraged over the cops not having something as simple as latex gloves. The surface is scratched a little deeper and the IBPO says it goes much further than latex gloves … the SWAT team ain’t got the right body armor. It’s too old. The sophisticated weapons used by SWAT; too old. Police Chief J.R. Reed is responsible.
City Manager Scott Miller is caught flat-footed. He says he doesn’t know anything about the deficiencies in the equipment area. Reed eats crow and goes before council to ask for money … BIG MONEY. Council, because it’s an election year, jumps at the opportunity to help the cops and coughs up the better part of $200K. Miller explains that much of that money will come out of the city’s “rainy day fund.”
I could be wrong, but I think that East Ridge only has $1 million to play with in the fund because we MUST keep a minimum of $4 million for emergencies, per city ordinance.
IBPO, now a force in city politics, comes out and endorses former used car salesman, former City Councilman, former failed candidate for Mayor and former failed candidate for City Council, Jim Bethune.
City Manger Miller sees the handwriting on the wall and decides he’s seen enough. Miller announces his retirement from the job effective Oct. 26.
Come November, the City of East Ridge very well may have Mayor Jim Bethune along with his compadres Denny Manning and Jacky Cagle leading the charge into the final stretch of “Project 2021.” Remember, these boys (I didn’t say ‘good ol’ boys), will have another Interim City Manager to boss around and do their bidding. I bet running off Chief Reed is at the very top of the list.
God help East Ridge.