This election reminds me of a famous poem by Robert Frost called “The road not taken.”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
This election we have a clear cut choice, two distinct paths. We can elect names we know, Jim Bethune for Mayor and Denny Manning for council, or go with Bryan Williams for Mayor and possibly a candidate for council. Do we return to the old guard, or continue on a new path. What is best for our future.
Personally to me the answer is simple … progress must keep being made. East Ridge is on the edge of some rough waters, but with the right guidance through this we can see down the bend a much brighter and prosperous future for our city. Huge inroads have been laid with the help of the state through the Border Region Act. However, as we were warned by City Manager Scott Miller recently we must be careful to not over-borrow and over-extend our city coffers. We must be aggressive and capture as much growth as possible without over extending ourselves at the risk of taxpayers.
Seems simple right? It’s going to take skill, common sense, and responsibility.
Brian Williams has shown that. He’s added to the city council meetings in thoughtful and insightful ways. He’s quiet, and reserved, but open and mindful. He listens and takes time to thoughtfully consider what’s before him.
Most importantly of all he’s a true leader. He makes mistakes, he’s fallible, he’s human. When he does make mistakes he recognizes them and takes ownership of them and works to correct them. Just look at the housing and redevelopment authority (HRA) boondoggle we have all witnessed recently.
I know some people are still mad at him for that and can never forgive him, but what more could you ask in a politician? He voted for something with the intention of it being something that it wasn’t. He intended for them to come back to the council with a map and plan that included businesses and vacant rundown homes only. When it came out that they didn’t do that, he put together a list of ways to fix this and roll it back as intended. However upon hearing from the people and realizing they were against this in any form, he accepted that and took steps to dissolve and dismantle the housing and redevelopment authority.
Let me ask what more can you possibly want? He has people telling him all the time to do something about pawn shops, run down motels, and when he finally gets a chance to do that, well, it turns out to be something other than he intended and he immediately shuts it down.
What do we fault the guy for? Doing what we asked and finally creating a way to get rid of long-standing eyesores and hotbeds of crime? Or for dissolving and dismantling the HRA as soon as it’s clear that is the will of the citizens? He’s in a no-win situation.
At least he steps up like a responsible adult, a true leader and admits fault and goes about correcting the mistake. He could just ignore it or spin it in his favor as others have done. Nope he shows true leadership and is despised by some for it. I didn’t receive a letter from the HRA so I don’t know what that’s like, but I can say this… If I had received a letter I’d be grateful to someone like Brian on the council who listens. We have all seen in East Ridge where no matter how angry the crowd the council thumbed its nose and did what it wanted anyway.
Which brings me to Denny Manning and Jim Bethune. Mr. Manning and Mr. Bethune are waving an enormous wave of name recognition into office. Let me ask, is this what we want? Mr. Manning was on the council for 12 consecutive years up until 2016. Was East Ridge so spectacular 10 years ago that we should return to it?
The East Ridge I moved into a short 11 years ago was sliding backwards pretty hard. Home prices were cheap, businesses were vacant, crime was up. Now, personally I saw past all that because of how conveniently located the city was. I also felt like it had a unique small town charm. Plus, the home I found was in what I consider to be one of East Ridge’s few sweetspots filled with nice homes kept up by their owners.
The council that Mr. Manning and Mr. Bethune served on and took part in was one of classic southern “good ol’ boy” tradition. Rewards for those in the fold, hassle for those out of the fold. Problems were solved by running off city employees, which created new problems which were solved by running off new city employees. The town charter was largely ignored and justice was served through the twisting, forcing and threatening of whatever spineless puppet sat in the city manager’s seat.
When Mr. Bethune passed free health care for life, and it quickly became apparent that the idea would potentially bankrupt East Ridge … well, the rest of the council fixed it. However if you ask Mr. Bethune about this matter, he will tell you it was a smart decision. He will rattle off a few statistics mixed with spin and a colloquialism or two that makes you feel like he did the right thing. Of course, he says all of this in disregard to multiple people and a state advisory board who said that it was a giant mistake.
Two roads diverged in East Ridge….
A Road to Ruin, and path Forward to the Future…
On November 6th, we will know which one we shall travel.