The pendulum is swinging in East Ridge.
You can feel it, taste it, see it, for goodness sake.
I was a kid in the 1960s but one of the most popular catchphrases of the politically and culturally tumultuous period was “power to the people.”
Riding a wave of dissent, the people of East Ridge banned together and drew a line in the sand when it came to the city having the power to seize their property via the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority. The people are turning out in much larger numbers to city meetings, whether it be council meetings, planning commission meetings, housing commission meetings or administrative hearings for codes violations.
One of “the people,” Laura Seneker, even had the temerity to lodge a formal ethics complaint against Mayor Brent Lambert. Imagine that. What’s more, the City has hired an outside attorney to investigate the complaint.
And “the people” are asking questions … lots of them. What’s this East Ridge Industrial Development Board about? Who’s on it. Why do they meet at 5 p.m. when citizens can’t attend? How do I contact the members? What do they do?
“The people” are asking about the Border Region Act and the money that it generates. How much are we getting? Where’s it being spent? Why isn’t there more development on the West end of East Ridge?
At last week’s council meeting, Mayor Lambert explained how “simple” the BRA is. One of “the people” told him that she had a degree in economics and there is “nothing simple” about economics. Mayor Lambert conceded her point.
“The people” are asking questions. Here’s a fundamental question … Do we want more apartments in East Ridge?
Oh, oh. At last week’s city council meeting there was a first vote scheduled concerning the rezoning of property on Fountain Avenue from R1 to R3. That property is where the Sweetbay Apartments are located. Remember, two of the buildings there are condemned and have been laying fallow for years. In the previous meeting the council had a public hearing before a scheduled vote to rezone the property. So many of “the people” wanted to express their point of view about the rezoning that the public hearing was continued.
That continued public hearing almost got by the members of the council. A vote was going to move forward until one of “the people” in attendance at Thursday night’s council meeting reminded the board of that very point. The public meeting was held, ostensibly prior to the first vote on the ordinance to rezone. Well, it seems this issue is just too much for the council to make up its minds on so the ordinance was tabled.
The council has a history of tabling ordinances that are controversial; think the extended stay ordinance, the wrecker ordinance, political sign ordinance….Let it sit on the table long enough and “the people” will go away.
Now the question is how far will the pendulum swing?
Will “the people” turn out to vote in November’s Municipal Election? Who will they vote for? More importantly, what will they base their vote on? A name they recognize? … Manning, Cagle, Bethune. An issue they are passionate about? … Property rights, crime, economic development, potholes, how the city spends $14 million a year?
Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in the Aug. 2 county primary election. The citizens of East Ridge have a stake in that one, oh yeah.
Councilwoman Esther Helton is asking voters in District 30, of which East Ridge is a big part, to choose her to carry the Republican banner in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Jonathan Mason wants to carry the water for the Republicans in the district, too. A young man named Joda Thongnopnua is asking voters to cast their ballots for him, a Democrat, something of a rarity in these parts.
At Thursday’s council meeting, one of “the people” had the guts to put Helton on the spot, asking about serving in Nashville and in East Ridge. Helton, always an original thinker, said that Vince Dean and Marc Gravitt did it … why can’t she do the same?
“The people” must remember the enormous power they can have in this country, in this state, in this county and particularly in East Ridge by marking a box on a ballot during an election.
“We the People,” begins the preamble to the constitution. It’s heavy.
Generally speaking, politicians ignore the people they represent the vast majority of the time they are in office. If there’s no election looming there is no reason to pay attention to “the people.”
It’s during this time – which, regrettably, is most of the time – that individuals who are critical of government are often referred to by politicians as “THOSE PEOPLE.”