If the citizens of East Ridge didn’t know where some of its politicians stand on transparency they certainly know now after Tuesday afternoon’s Industrial Development Board meeting.
I’ve attended most every IDB meeting since its reincarnation. Most if not all of them have been held on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Many of the IDB meetings through the years were simply updates or rehashes of what was in the works, devolving into an effort of some IDB members to get the City Manager to give specifics of what businesses may be coming to East Ridge. Frankly, the meetings were a waste of time.
At the end of August, when I saw that the IDB was scheduled to meet on September 4, I thought it was another “update” meeting. I contacted City Hall and the city manger told me then that he had no development agreements on his desk. He did not know what the meeting was about. In coming days, the meeting got moved to September 11. According to information on the city’s Website, the change was due to the Labor Day holiday. Then, the meeting dropped off the City of East Ridge’s Website entirely.
I contacted Ruth Braly, the Chairperson of the IDB via email and asked her about the meeting disappearing from the city’s Website. After the third time I sent her an email, Braly got back to me saying there definitely would be a meeting on September 11. I followed up by asking what was on the agenda? Her response on September 6 was that the agenda had yet to be set. I asked her if she would send me a copy of the agenda once it was set. Never heard back.
On September 10, Laura Mathis posted the IDB agenda on social media. Low and behold there was a real deal on the table with Jack’s Family Restaurant. There were two items concerning Jordan Crossing development. One of those items concerned a “modification to the development and allocation agreement.” The second item was some banking issue that assured if Exit 1 went under the banks would get the Border Region tax money to pay them back.
The last item on the agenda was under the heading “Other.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, in which a grand total of three private citizens were in attendance, Chairperson Braly said that one or two citizens had asked about having the time of the IDB meeting changed. She said she saw no need for that as the IDB doesn’t meet on a monthly basis and none of the board members had requested any kind of change in time. She came out with the classic attitude, “this is the way we’ve always done it.” No need to change it.
God love him … board member Mac Pendley said he had been asked by a woman to change the meeting to 5:30 p.m. He saw no problem with moving the meeting. However, the rest of the board backed Braly.
Braly apparently doesn’t like to be told what to do. Though in this instance_ keeping the meeting time at 5 p.m. in a cramped back room of City Hall on the same day that Municipal Court is held _ she may have taken her orders from Mayor Brent Lambert.
The following is an email Mayor Lambert sent to all IDB members on June 9, 2018:
“First, I would like to thank each of you for your service to the City of East Ridge and specifically to the Industrial Development Board. You’ve done a wonderful job and should be commended for it.
“I feel quite certain that you all have heard from various individuals expressing a concern that was shared with the city council at our last meeting. This involves the start time of the IDB meetings. Although I think it is very important for all of us to listen and weigh the opinions expressed by the citizenry, I would encourage you not to be hasty in making a decision. The initial request shared by Leslie Bostain was for you to move your meetings from 5:00 to 5:30. Since then, Laura Seneker via email has demanded that no city business or board meeting be conducted prior to 6:00 p.m. I can’t help but wonder when others will come forward to say the meetings should start even later, maybe 7:00 or 7:30.
“I would be interested to see how the county would respond to such demands in regard to its Wednesday morning commission meetings, the WWTA’s mid-afternoon meetings, and other public activities that take place during the day. For that matter, I suppose the state legislature should conduct all of its business after 6:00 p.m., too. I’m sure that would be a popular suggestion among those who serve in Nashville. Perhaps your experience has been different from mine, but I never once heard a citizen complain about the IDB meeting times until the last month. And you’ve been meeting and conducting business for how long? You are not alone as the Beer Board, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Zoning Appeals all meet at either 5:00 or 5:30.
“In any event, I promised to reach out to this board in regard to its meeting times, and I have now done that. I only want to encourage you to do what you believe is right and at the time you believe is right. I trust that is exactly what you will do — free of outside pressure and any attempt to intimidate you.
“Let me know If I can ever be of assistance, and please keep up the good work.”
I guess Braly got Brent’s message loud and clear: Don’t let the rabble push you around.
That didn’t work out too well for you Mayor, as I refer the reader to the dissolution of the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
If I were you, Chairperson Braly, I would hold your infrequent meetings whenever and wherever the citizens of this city so desire. That is unless the IDB has something to hide. And having been to the vast majority of the IDB meetings I can attest this board has nothing to hide, save the chairperson’s callousness to transparency and the taxpayer.