Friday, June 8, 2007

Democracy For East Tennessee Pushes Back Special Interests and Elects Progressive to Council

Democracy For East Tennessee this week beat back the special interests trying to spend public dollars on the wealthy and helped elect a new Progressive voice to the City Council.

Ellen Smith is the newest member of the Oak Ridge City Council and she ran for office saying, "Oak Ridge can thrive if we maintain and enhance (our) assets. I believe that many Oak Ridgers share this perspective, and I think we deserve more of a voice in city affairs. I want to help provide that voice on City Council.”

It's a message that resonated with Oak Ridge residents who gave Ellen the second highest vote count out of seven candidates.

Ellen's voice, with grass-roots support from DFET, battled a proposed shopping development that would have been supported with tax dollars.

Said Ellen, "This is the wrong proposal for Oak Ridge. We need more retail and more tax revenue, but I think Oak Ridge can and should do better than this proposal. The finances of this deal are not in the public’s interest (the city would spend $800 per household in the hope of increasing sales tax by an amount equal to the revenue from raising property tax by $20 on a $100,000 home). By relocating the center of retail activity to the Pine Ridge site, Crestpointe would doom our efforts to revitalize the city center while harming existing retail businesses."

The win for Ellen and against special interests took a lot of work and know-how from DFET members.

"We did some serious manipulating of Excel databases to get our calling and canvasing done smartly," said Joan Nelson, a DFET member. "Also, grassroots defeated big money and we defeated the bond issue. There is a behind the scenes power structure in Oak Ridge and I think we may be putting a crack in their fortress."

The DFET team has demonstrated once again the power of people-powered politics. Kudos to them for their hard work!

Jim Grinstead
Chair, Democracy for Tennessee


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