Election 2012: The Endorsement Post

For several years, the editors of This is LaVergne have written endorsement posts for candidates seeking local office. This year’s endorsements are written based on several factors, including: 1) The record of their service to the public while in office, if applicable, 2) The quality of their responses to our survey questionnaires, 3) Their professionalism in articles published in the mainstream media , and 4) The answers and statements they made during the candidate forum.  Honestly, we have also been following some of the online sources for information to see both what people in the community are saying and how those seeking office interact with the public in these social networking settings.

We have had several posts about the candidates on our own Facebook page found here. It appears that the majority of comments made question whether candidates actually answered questions in the televised debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

On the Concerned Citizens Facebook page, readers and moderators remain hyperfocused on discrediting decisions the city makes.  On the flip side is another site that seems to be the *anathema to the concerned citizens.  The fairly new Facebook page called LaVergne USA is, at first glance, very impudent and  mean-spirited. However as you read deeper and if you can overlook the wildly inappropriate swear words, much of the information shared is backed up with documentation. From photos to meeting minutes, it presents information and backs it up, particularly regarding these elections.

Finally one new Facebook page called LaVergne TN Solutions was created several months ago to “spur constructive thoughts on the problems we face here in LaVergne. Bashing of anyone, negativity, and vulgar language will be taken down immediately. We need solutions, not contusions.”  It does touch on local politics, but also offers other discussion items. It looks like people supporting different candidates drift over, throw acid, and then it quiets down. Fortunately the Solutions site does not tolerate bad behavior.

With all of these sites influencing this official endorsement, here are our thoughts on each candidate, in alphabetical order.

Alderman Tom Broeker
When he ran for office two years ago, Tom Broeker was endorsed for alderman along with two other candidates. In this election, he brings two years of a remarkable track record to the table.  He has made himself available to every call, every question, every meeting request from citizens. If someone does not like him and tells him so, he still takes the time to discuss the issues, explain the reasons for his vote, or try to figure out a solution to whatever problem they may be having.  He has proven time and again that he will research every issue put before him and make his decision based not on what is good just for certain constituents, but for the community as a whole and the future of this city. In fact, he cast a very unpopular “YES” vote to increase taxes and water/sewer rates. Folks, he did not have to do this to because the measure would have passed in a 3-2 vote.  He did because he is NOT a politician only seeking votes. He did it because he extensively researched the issue and was willing to make the hard decision. Here are his words (again) why he supported the tax increase,

The city’s first year obligation alone on this enormous contact was 2.1 million dollars and each year of this ten year contract the financial obligation escalates and by 2019 the annual obligation is 6.4 million dollars. The problem was as of December 14, 2010 the city’s general fund cash balance was only $48,421 dollars and with no new source of revenue in sight. How where we going to meet these current obligations placed upon me and this new board before I spent my first day in office, let alone, solve any of the city’s vast problems?

As each penny of the 50 cent increase equated to approximately $68,000 dollars of new revenue for the city, the 2.1 million obligation required 30.88 cents of it. ($2,100,000 divided $68,000 = 30.88 cents) Some feel we could have stopped right there but we would have had no ability to repair and replace our infrastructure which we have done and are doing. There would have no way to bring in much needed police personnel and lower crime throughout the city which we have done over each of the last two years. Had we stopped at the fire contract alone our debt could have not been paid down but I’m proud to say we paid off over $4,000,000 of the city’s debt in my first two years.

For his conviction, for his professionalism, for his integrity, This is LaVergne SOLIDLY ENDORSES Tom Broeker for this election.

Melisa Brown
First time candidate for alderman Melisa Brown entered the race running on the two platforms of reducing the tax rate and water/sewer fees and cutting back spending. This is understandable since she has made comments about being a single parent struggling to make ends meet.  However, her answers both to our survey questions and to the questions posed in forum held on October 11, 2012, confirm that she possibly does not understand the scope of the problems the city faces.  For example, she says about the Waldron Road project,

While this is a state-funded project, the city officials can do everything in its power to keep the progress moving forward by making sure our responsibilities are handled in a timely fashion.

The problem is it is not just a “state-funded” project. It is a state project period. Further, elected officials have been in touch with state officials and the engineering staff meet with project managers regularly pushing them to complete the job they are being paid to do. We are certain the city would be willing to hand out shovels and get busy with the company hired by the state, but there could be liability issues and city workers are now finally focusing on the jobs they have, being held accountable to professional standards and expected to perform their jobs ethically, morally, and legally.

In another sentence, Ms. Brown claims to represent all the people but she says she is not interested in the concerns of a small percentage of the community.  That small percentage of the community is still part of the community.

I acknowledge this question asked me to number the list in order of importance, but in representing our voters, I haven’t found this list to be congruent with the needs expressed by our community. If I am elected, my job is to represent all of the people, not the agenda of a small percentage of our community.

In one of her comments on her facebook page made against another person seeking office she shared something that was said regarding the possibility of getting a playground in Lake Forest subdivision (which she is against because she claims there is not a need for one and although the vast majority of funding would come from donations and fundraising),

He didn’t say his name, probably because he doesn’t know you or Tyler, he just said that there is a woman in Lake Forest with a special needs son that wants a swing for him at the park. Tee hee, you don’t even live in Lake Forest. Anyway, I knew he was referring to you.

The “tee hee” may be cute, but there was concern that the comment following this one was an attack on the biggest subdivision in the city and in the state.  Ms. Brown did not dispute the comment or defend the approximately 6,000+ homeowners who live there.  First, she did not feel that parks were important to the community so the city should not spend money on them and should instead lower the water bill.  The money for parks and money for water are not commingled, in accordance with state and federal laws mandating they must be kept separate. Secondly, the commenter on her site talked about how dangerous the subdivision is, but Ms. Brown said in our survey that we do not need more police and in the forum that the police have everything they need. For these reasons, we are unable to endorse Melisa Brown for alderman.

Kathy Hines
This former Detroit police officer and vice squad detective knows what happens to a city when blight rolls in.  Kathy Hines has been in the forefront helping to lead the battle to save LaVergne and middle Tennessee against synthetic drugs, human trafficking, gang violence, and foreclosure prevention for nearly two years.  Because of her work and her testimony before the Legislature, the sale of synthetic drugs has become a felony offense. Because of her work with the LaVergne Rutherford County Foreclosure Prevention Task Force, dozens of families have been able to keep their homes. She has surrounded herself with people who know how to either help people or show them where they can find help.

We were admittedly a bit disappointed in the answers Ms. Hines gave for our own survey.  However, her forum answers made up for it.  For example, she understands that even when people do not have money, they still look for things to do. By offering activities, events, a place to play, or a place to meet, the city will hopefully provide that venue to keep kids out of trouble.  She said under her favorite event that LaVergne hosts is Movies in the Park,

Our children have almost no outlets for fun and with family on tight budgets. This made for an awesome family event. The turnout was awesome.

Ms. Hines does not have the funding to buy signs or fancy ice scrapers. She has legs, though, and she has been talking to people around her neighborhood. She has been attending events at the city including Movies in the Park, National Night Out Against Crime, and Old Timers Festival. She has attended numerous Economic Development Advisory Committee meetings.

Without the name recognition offered by campaign signs, it is fair to say that Ms. Hines came into the debate/forum as the underdog. By the time the cameras stopped, this remarkable woman was truly one of the debate winners.  Her no-nonsense approach to fighting blight and her passion for public safety, including personal experiences where she has been under fire as a police officer fearing the Teflon bullet that could penetrate her bullet-proof vest, were refreshing. The author of the LaVergne, TN Solutions page said,

I have learned after a long time not to listen to Pie In The Sky. If you tell me you are going to do something then you had better tell me how you are going to do it. Only two of the candidates made any sense to me at all. The best response I heard was from someone I didn’t expect it from. She said something like if the foreclosed house next door needs the grass cut get out your lawn mower. This pretty well summed it up for me. If we want this city to prosper we have to be willing to pay the price and do the work. It is our job as citizens to elect the people with enough common sense and intestinal fortitude to make things happen.

Ms. Hines clearly understands that it takes neighbors and citizens who truly love their community to make a difference in the community. Her pledge to continue working for the betterment of our city and residents (as she is already doing) whether she is elected or not is one of the many reasons we endorse Kathy Hines as alderman.

John Kleber
A little more than a year ago when there was a huge effort underway to dissolve the city’s charter and revert to an older charter that was – in the end – unacceptable to all the people who did NOT sign the petition, John Kleber was offended.  He was so appalled that when this election rolled around, he decided to run – in his own words – to defeat the alderman who seemed to back this effort.  While we see that Mr. Kleber is truly passionate about this town and our children, much of his campaign literature focuses on national issues rather than local issues.

We do believe that Mr. Kleber has great courage to walk into a den of lions, courage that is exemplified through his military service to our country, but he needs to learn that the most valuable asset you have is your time. Do not waste it on those who will hate you no matter what, those who will never believe you, and those looking for a fight.

Mr. Kleber’s answers to the question about home values rings true,

We cannot determine the prices on our houses that are set by the housing market. Making sure every citizen upkeeps their home and by keeping our community beautiful will, in my opinion, greatly enhance how we are looked at. Taking care of any crime that we have and making our city safe will help fill our empty homes, thus making our homes more valuable.

However, seeing his nervousness during the debate and his struggle to communicate his ideas was difficult to watch. Mr. Kleber needs to stay involved with local issues by attending more meetings and events, so that he can comfortably answer questions that matter to LaVergne.  Although he gets a B for making the effort to contact the county assessor, he was unable to articulate his message. He needs to have a keen familiarity with all the issues so questions can be answered without looking down at notes. Therefore, we are unable to endorse John Kleber for alderman.

Dennis Waldron
Dennis Waldron did not answer our questionnaire. He may not use a computer so we were not expecting emailed answers. But the surveys were also sent by U.S. Postal Service mail. Everyone was given a physical address to return their answers to. But he did not take the time to answer. So our comments are based solely on his performance as an alderman, by his campaign, and from the debate.

His family has been in LaVergne for hundreds of years. This has virtually been his campaign slogan for every election in which he has run.  While family members – whether distant or close – have served with dignity, his own service as alderman has been questionable.  While we do NOT approve of the use of profanity and inappropriate posts on the LaVergne USA facebook site, claims made about Mr. Waldron are backed up with actual documentation showing that much of his campaign literature is filled with half-truths or outright misinformation.

The placement of his campaign signs around town is alarming.  They are prominently displayed on property owned by some of the developers and some of the builders who have not finished their subdivisions, so the city is saddled with that extra expense of paving. Signs are put on properties of some of the developers whose water lines are breaking so frequently that the city coffers being emptied to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for water lines that were not installed properly. Whose fault is this? The old administration that did not hold employees accountable for performing their jobs?  The developers who took the shortcuts so they could put more money in their pockets?  Pointing fingers is so last week at this point time, but the reality is that this is something that must be addressed.  If Mr. Waldron is promising to keep taxes low on his signs, who will pay for repaving streets?  If water rates are lowered, how will water lines be repaired and replaced?  How will they be repaired at all if there are massive cuts and not enough personnel remaining to make the repairs?  It is going to cost money to fix the infrastructure of the city – repairs that are now being made despite Mr. Waldron’s consistent NO VOTES otherwise. Rome was not built in a day, but you can bet that if a water line is not repaired in a day, all hell will break loose.

By his votes against balancing the budget, by his votes against simple things like applying for a grant for bullet proof vests, by his votes against continuing the contract with the water treatment plant that raised our water score from the 30’s to nearly 100 score, it is clear he is not a candidate whose top issues are public safety, safe drinking water, and fiscal responsibility as he claims. For these reasons, we are unable to endorse Mr. Waldron as alderman.


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