When I drove down the newly-widened Camp Jordan Parkway on my way to the Optimist Club’s Fishing Rodeo in Camp Jordan, yesterday, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I crossed Chickamauga Creek.
The RV camping spot on the left was packed with campers and big barbecue rigs of the folks competing in the “Fire in the Valley” cookoff. The parking lot at the Arena was overflowing with the cars of people attending some sort of book sale. I managed to find a spot and was walking over toward Dickert Pond when a young woman sitting on the curb next to her toddler in a stroller spoke: “Do you know what’s going on down here?” she asked.
I told her what I knew, to the best of my knowledge. “I just wanted to come down here to walk,” she chuckled.
As I neared the pond, I was greeted by Optimist club member John Tilley.
“John, I don’t think New York’s Central Park has more people running around inside it as we do right now at Camp Jordan,” I said. John grinned and gave me some information about the Optimist event as a catfish flopped on the measuring table a few feet away.
Our new City Manager, Scott Miller, was taking it all in. He mingled around the fringes of the parking lot adjacent to the pond and watched as kids shrieked and their parents dutifully assisted in landing fish.
Stump Martin, the city’s Director of Parks and Recreation, provided commentary of the event over a mic. I overheard someone say something about Stump live-streaming the event on Facebook. He told me about the fish that the city and TWRA stocked in the pond, and mentioned that he intended to enlist the help of the folks at Bass Pro Shops in the near future to provide some expertise on improving the aqua environment at the pond.
Harry Mackey, the Optimist Club President, is one of the nicest men you will ever meet. He looked around at the kids and parents having a great time and was pleased with what his organization has accomplished in our city.
East Ridge has had some effective civic organizations in the past. They’ve kind of slowly faded away. Not the Optimists.
Over the last couple years, the Optimists have put on the fishing rodeo, sponsored some car shows that were a raging successes and have fed and watered the city’s first responders at an “appreciation luncheon” at the Community Center.
They meet monthly and bring in interesting speakers. In short, the club is thriving and helping the city more than people realize.
Mackey said it best in an offhand comment at the fishing rodeo. “We are here to help the youth of this city,” he said. “I think we’re getting that done.”
Tip of the hat to Harry and all the Optimists for the good work they do in East Ridge.
_ At last week’s City Council meeting, Councilman Jacky Cagle brought up the fact that some of his colleagues had received a letter in their mailboxes at City Hall. He was told by another councilman that he had a letter in his mailbox, too. When Cagle checked the box, there was no letter inside.
He wanted to know what happened to his letter and complained about how insecure the council’s mailboxes were inside City Hall. I imagine he was implying that someone took his letter. There’s even talk of an investigation of the incident.
This letter, I’m told, is a rant about an elected official. It is unsigned. It is a distraction.
At a time when the Council should be focused on formulating the city’s budget for next year, it is distracted by an anonymous letter making scandalous accusations.
This kind of distraction happens with some regularity during the time when a budget is being considered. Last year the council wrestled with an eleventh-hour decision about the city’s health insurance broker. We had to have a special called meeting to reject the broker selected by then City Manager Andrew Hyatt, and keep the guy we’ve had for years.
In previous years the distractions during budget time have ranged from selling the pool property for development to finding a new city manager.
To top it all, several councilmen decide each year to take vacation during budget time. The Mayor wants workshops to discuss formulating the budget, arguably the most important duty the council tackles each year. Even doing that is cumbersome because he has to work around vacation schedules.
A pessimist might offer that it doesn’t really matter about passing a budget because the city consistently doesn’t stay within its confines. Consider the endless budget amendments the council passes each and every month to make the expenditures match the revenues.
Of course, an optimist might counter with the idea that at least we’re doing things by the book now. In past years the council would simply pass a huge budget amendment at the end of the year to make the numbers add up. The state put the nix on that a couple years ago when it sent a stern letter (the Comptroller signed this one) explaining the city can’t spend money that the council hasn’t properly appropriated and then correct the ledger after it’s all said and done.
_ And speaking of the council … Brian Williams has qualified to run for East Ridge City Council. According to the Hamilton County Election Commission website, Williams turned in his qualifying papers on June 2.
There will be two open council seats in the November election. Vice Mayor Marc Gravitt has chosen not to seek re-election to focus on his duties as District 30 State Representative. Denny Manning has served three terms and is prohibited by City Charter from seeking a fourth.
According to the election commission, Jim Bethune, Matthew DeGlopper, Esther Helton, Doris Rogers and Robert Stahl have all picked up papers to qualify for a seat on the council but have yet to return the requisite 25 signatures required.
The deadline for qualifying is Aug. 18.