Jet-setting former city official David Crockett has picked up qualifying papers for a mayoral bid that promises he would be a busy, activist chief executive focusing on municipal solutions to national woes.
The former three-term city council member is known for his efforts to organize and rally the people of Chattanooga through what was commonly called the “community visioning” process.
By David Tulis / Chattanoogan.com
According to a statement, “that led to his activist role in support of other early community planning initiatives across the city starting with Glenwood and including the Chattanooga Creek neighborhoods in South Chattanooga.”
Mr. Crockett, the former head of the city’s office of sustainability, tells about his role in “the rebirth of Chattanooga.” He says that he speaks in and works with cities, universities and economic development groups in nearly every state and in several countries, his efforts pointing in the same general direction.
Globally traveling homeboy
Mr. Crockett is a towering craggy-faced 6-foot-5 Alabamian who exudes a drawling down-home air under the shadow of a Texas 10-gallon cowboy hat.
Political rivals in the hot, smoky sunshine beyond its wide brim are incumbent Andy Berke, a Democrat attorney accused (by a husband) of having an affair with a young staff member, and a tea party-oriented conservative city council member, Larry Grohn. Free market-minded architectural consultant and former builder Chris Long also is running for the office.
While having a convincing provincial air, Mr. Crockett also exudes a cosmopolitanism and internationalism that might make him hard for traditional conservatives to trust. Their question is whether Mr. Crockett believes in the free market vs. economic management, constitutional government vs. the administrative welfare state and whether he believes in local economy vs. globalist debt capitalism and social engineering.
Does he believe it is better for Chattanooga to land a German auto parts manufacturer that hires 100 local people, or to have in private living rooms and garages 100 one-person startups? The former makes a strong impression in the media; the German outfit exports profits to remote owners. The latter is locally owned, less dashing in its report — but keeps profits local.
Crockett’s hot issues
➤ Local food, local agriculture. Mr. Crockett says he would “break the city up in micro watersheds.” Within each, he would propose creating a food and garden program like that of Milwaukee gardener Will Allen, a former basketball player who founded Growing Power. “I grew up growing stuff, on a tractor, on the end of a hoe handle. It’s good for your body and your soul to grow things. To grow your own food. As Thomas Jefferson said, if you can’t feed yourself, you are not free. That’s the first condition of freedom. Can you feed yourself?”
He would start an agricultural program with community gardens and “centralized gardens that can feed 10,000, 20,000 people. We are going to grow more of our own food locally. If we grew 10 percent of our food within a close proximity it would be a billion dollar business. A billion. We could put more people to work doing that kind of thing.”
➤ Improving waste flow. He would put a sink trash compactor in every kitchen. He would start a program that would help businesses to install these devices. Food is kept out of waste stream, cutting 30 percent of cost of picking up garbage, and also reduce methane fumes from dumps and vermin from urban areas. A benefit: added organic material in the sewage stream.
“The waste stream suddenly has a lot of organic material,” he says. The city would put in digesters at Moccasin Bend that would create gas to fuel electricity generation that would be powerful enough to run the plant with charge left over.
➤ Local solutions. Mr. Crockett cites the work of the mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, a state capital of 1.8 million people that in 2010 won the Global Sustainable City award. Mr. Crockett visited Curitiba in 1993, a time in which Jamie Lerner created a free enterprise-oriented city government in a socialist country. His efforts helped lift up local people by, among other projects, a triage program for presorted garbage in exchange for bus tokens and free space for a community garden and one city-funded employee, a nurse Mr. Crockett said.
The mayor used local “needs for needs” means rather than the “brute force mega-million dollar approach” of the kind Americans like. Chattanooga rejected low-cost solutions to infrastructure problems during his tenure on the council, Mr. Crockett says. In one flub, “we wasted F$100 million” while the council argued in detail about a F$20,000 blue rhino art grant.
➤ Rivals. Of Larry Grohn, “He’s a nice fellow, *** I can’t find anything he’s done. *** [A]nd I looked at Andy’s resume,and he’s born on third base, thought he hit a triple, nominated himself to the all-star game and ran the wrong way.”
“I’m more free market than anyone in this race,” Mr. Crockett says in an exchange of conversation and email. “That doesn’t fit the narrative that you and others might have.”
➤ Favors massive government rail program. Mr. Crockett jokes VW “just fell out of the sky,” but was really the council’s work of 20 years. Mr. Crockett is a backer of a billion-dollar “high-speed rail” line between Chattanooga and Atlanta. He promised the 30-minute link will happen in four years, and “will transform Chattanooga’s economy, education system, and it also helps Atlanta.”
The rail line will beat the Internet in bringing advances and prosperity to Chattanooga, he says.
➤ Suspicious of gang programs. No pizzas for anyone in a gang. “That’s a bad choice, that’s a loser club, and you’re going to lose,” says the married father of four grown children. “We will treat criminals like criminals. If you’ve got a 9 mm gun, you’re a criminal. You’re a threat. You’re a domestic terrorist.”
➤ No more “damn ideology.” He says he wouldn’t come into the mayor’s office “with a bunch of damn ideology” represented by the two major parties. Mr. Crockett says he cut taxes on the city council three times, 50 cents each time. Conservatives on the county commission raised taxes four times, he says. Who knows what those political labels mean anymore, Mr. Crockett huffs. In some ways he’s a liberal, but he’s “prolife and walked the talk” about the rights of preborn boys and girls. Though he served in the military, the NRA member was against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Does that make me a conservative? I don’t know.”
Mr. Crockett objects to my connecting him to globalist administration. “Start at square 1,” he advises this reporter. ”Don’t start off with someone saying ICLEI or ‘international.’ *** ” I tell him my story is “my framing of what I know about you,” to which he chides me, “You don’t know much.”
Mr. Crockett has favorable connections to such organizations as ICLEI, which is a transmission mechanism for management policy and systems through the United Nations and its Agenda 21 program. ICLEI is a club of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions “committed to building a sustainable future,” the group says on its website. “By helping the ICLEI network to become sustainable, low-carbon, resilient, ecomobile, biodiverse, resource-efficient and productive, healthy and happy, with a green economy and smart infrastructure, we impact over 25 percent of the global urban population.”
Agenda 21 is analyzed in a fresh publication by Tom DeWeese at American Policy Center who has just published an illustrated bulletin, Agenda 21 and How to Stop It.
“Without ICLEI,” Mr. Crockett growls, “hell, the tea party would go out of business.” The organization is not a U.N. agency, but emerged from an association of mayors from different countries.
Self-government or social engineering
If Chattanooga is to ever become an independent city-state or a free trade zone in a future American or Southern confederation —
— David Tulis hosts a talk show 9 to 11 a.m. weekdays at Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.