Last week we heard of a bit of a kerfuffle brewing in Bradley County. It seems that the Republican state legislators in the area – state Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville, District 9), state Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga, District 10), state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown, District 22) and state Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland, District 24) – were questioned about the Hall tax. They didn’t react well to being challenged and published a response.

I had some questions about what they are actually trying to accomplish and wrote a response, which was published on the front page of the Cleveland Banner.
Here is my letter in its entirety. Read the news story about the kerfuffle online here.

An open letter to Sen. Mike Bell, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, Rep. Dan Howell, and Rep. Kevin Brooks, and all Tennessee Republicans,

After reading your letter to the editor concerning the Hall income tax I have to ask, while you have been depleting much needed revenue that can keep rural hospitals open and our bridges safe to drive on, what have you done to ensure that all Tennesseans have the opportunity for a better life for themselves and their families?

Let me ask it another way, what do you see happening in Bradley County and in every other county in this great state we call home?

I’ll tell you what we see. We see distress. We see empty manufacturing sites that were once thriving with industry and opportunity for good paying jobs. We see that once proud homeowners are now two paychecks away from eviction. We see nine rural hospitals that are now closed. We see bridges too weak for a kindergarten school bus to drive on.

You’ve been in charge for almost a decade and Tennesseans have been ravaged by your policies. Good paying jobs – gone. Rural health services – gone. Infrastructure – crumbling. All across the state, Tennesseans say to me: “We just want to know who is fighting for us.”

Well, it’s not you – the ones in charge of it all right now. It’s not the two Republican U.S. Senators from Tennessee. It’s not the 7 (out of 9) Republican Congressmen that go to Washington every week. It’s not the Republican Governor, your 74 out of 99 Republican state house colleagues, or your 28 out of 33 Republican state senate colleagues.

We’ve been trying to work with you. And we will keep trying because Democrats believe that all Tennesseans – no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they live – should have the opportunity for a good paying job, access to healthcare, all types of educational opportunities for their children, clean air to breathe and water to drink, safe communities to live in, good roads and bridges to drive on, and a security and dignified retirement.

Democrats will keep trying to work with you to reverse your decision to keep secret every economic development deal. Democrats will work with you to reward companies that are doing good things, like creating good paying jobs in local communities. And we will hold them accountable for doing so. As Stanton Mayor Allan Sterbinsky said recently, “What kind of jobs do they have?…Are they the $25-per-hour jobs or are they $7.95-per-hour jobs? There’s really a difference.”? We will make sure that employers and workers are both valued as partners because one cannot thrive without the other.

Democrats will keep trying to work with you to expand Medicaid, because we’ve been trying to expand it all along. We hear the people when they say, “How long would I have to wait for an ambulance if my child breaks an arm or something worse?”

Democrats will keep trying to work with you to fix the Shoal Creek Falls Bridge on Signal Mountain and make sure that all of Tennessee’s infrastructure is safe enough for a school bus  full of precious 5-year-olds.

Democrats will keep trying to work with you to hold accountable the company that dirtied Camden’s crisp clean air, soil, and water with toxic waste and harmful ammonia that sickened children and family pets. We cannot let you let them slip into the night and leave a toxic mess.

Democrats will keep trying to work with you to fight tooth and nail against looming and often threatened cuts to Medicare and Social Security because everyone should have the opportunity to retire with security and dignity.

Democrats will will keep trying to work with you to bring broadband internet to every community because so many Tennesseans in rural areas are without the broadband internet necessary to complete school work, or compete in today’s workforce.

It’s been almost a decade since the Republicans have taken control of the great state of Tennessee and have been sent in great numbers to Washington and to Nashville to do the people’s business. Why is everything worse?

Mary Mancini
Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party