The Chamber of Commerce is a plague on this city

    
By DANNY L. NEWTON

Special to The Putnam Pit

 

        COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 25, 2005) -- About 4 times a year for the past eight years, the Herald-Citizen has faithfully reported on economic development activities of the Chamber of Commerce. For some reason, the current attempt to lobby Governor Bredeson to send TDOT back to Cookeville to condemn land for a Fifth Interchange has yet to be exposed to the public.

 

         A counter petition, much larger than the 300 signatures already brought to the governor, is being compiled so it can also be presented to the governor next week.  If a bunch of Gypsies were going around Cookeville flim-flaming old folks out of their life saving, the H-C would spring into action like a rooster on a June bug. But, when their favorite bunch of Gypsy flim-flam artists, the Chamber of Commerce, is doing the damage, they abandon their obligation to the public as any good shill would.

 

     The State of Tennessee thought that they could sanitize the workings of the Chamber of Commerce by requiring sunshine or open meetings with court recorders on hand. This attempt to get a Regional Economic Development Corridor started is just their quaint way of keeping the project as low key as possible. After all, it was public knowledge of the particulars that caused it to be overwhelmingly rejected when the same project was called SR 451 or the Northern Loop. If this plan to lobby the governor were done through the regular channels, there would be a public record of the details.

 

     The Chamber of Commerce is a plague on this city. It is a parasite of the natural commerce that is already here. It sucks private and public money out of the people and only creates a few jobs inside the new location for the Chamber of Commerce. The money that they spend on Economic Development could just as well go to higher police, firefighter pay or lower utility prices.   At least most of the money would stay nearby.  This Chamber of Commerce, aided by Mis-manager Shipley sees nothing wrong with paying bounty to large out-of-state banks for a call center. The city never was able to sell the old Chamber of Commerce Building so it ended up turning it into an auxiliary  police station. Most people forgot that the cash from that sale was suppose to offset the cost of the new building. The meeting rooms in the new Chamber of Commerce Building competes directly with motels already in the city thus taking away business from them.

 

     The Fifth Interchange will do the same thing, only on a grander scale. The Chamber of Commerce is no longer acting as a gatekeeper to keep out businesses that could damage the existing stock of commerce.  It has morphed into a mad dog willing to bite on anything at the expense of everything.  Unfortunately, the cops can not be counted on to put this mad dog out of its misery. The city will call TDOT to come in and condemn land for a new Wal-Mart Distribution Center plus the obligatory connecting road. The city has already moved to Gerrymander the city limits and to buy the land from the willing. The innocent and unwilling will get visits from TDOT for the rest of the interchange and a connecting road. The connecting road is a key component of getting some Federal matching funds. People who will lose their property can not even vote against these people.  Economic Development, Cookeville style, means providing property at below market rates to large corporations by using city, county and state powers of taxation, expansion and condemnation.  There is plenty of land for a Distribution Center at some of the other exits. The city just makes sure they don't pay the market rate.

 

     The recent Kelo Decision by the Supreme Court has emboldened may communities to take marginal land and turn it over to businesses that can function at a higher level and produce more tax money.  There seems to be a rush on to get this done as quickly and as quietly as possible.  It would really be interesting to see who signed the pro-road petition.  It might reveal that it contains all of the signatures of the folks Joint Economic Development Board. This is the state sanctioned organization that is suppose to have open and public meetings. I am no lawyer, but, to me, that would be evidence of conspiracy to subvert the Sunshine Laws.

 

Danny L. Newton

Cookeville, Tennessee