By Briana Brady, Opinion Editor–
16 candidates have qualified to run for Mayor of Chattanooga. Over twenty people are running for City Council; five people alone are running for the District 5 seat for which Councilman Gilbert will not be seeking re-election. Other City Council seats have two or three contenders, but some districts have unopposed incumbents. I follow local politics pretty closely, and I certainly cannot name all of the candidates for even mayor alone. How do we expect voters to show up to the polls in March informed when they have been presented with such an overwhelming number of options?
When I spoke at the (virtual) City Council meeting last summer about restructuring city funding away from law enforcement and towards increased community services and programming, I was disheartened to see the seeming lack of interest from Council members. Yes, they were met with multiple weeks of hours-long sessions filled with their constituents voicing their strong opinions about the Council’s insufficient budgetary response to the summer’s protests, but they were elected to hear out every voice that wished to speak, and their seemingly begrudging response to attending to such a task was despairing. This reaction motivated me to stay informed about the City Council elections upcoming this March, and I remained hopeful that more responsive candidates would present themselves in the races.
That being said, in looking at the candidate choices for both mayor and council members, I am hopeful in some cases and concerned in others. I think that the sheer number of candidates for mayor is overwhelming, and I foresee votes splitting in unproductive and unrepresentative ways. I imagine that for members of the public whose everyday lives do not involve local politics, many of these candidates and their key policies appear too similar to necessitate all of their names being on the ballot.
Some of the candidates are removed from the realities of everyday Chattanoogans such that I question their commitments to make Chattanooga a better place for -all- citizens. Overall, I feel that Chattanooga needs to restructure the process in which it qualifies candidates so that the field can be narrowed earlier on and more informed voters can show up to the polls.
Similarly, while I would never want to restrict someone from having the opportunity to run for any office seat in the first place, the situation in the House of Representatives right now concerning Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is an important one; it asks the question, what should a lawmaking body do in the case that an elected member poses a threat to other elected individuals as well as the longevity of the body as a whole? Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reckoning with this question right now. In fact, she put it this way: the “enemy is within the House of Representatives.”
While thankfully this situation is not one we are (knowingly) facing in Chattanooga, the concern about rectifying the qualification process as well as the reprimanding protocol is one that we must think about now; we must streamline politics through better rules and regulations to make it more accessible to the public as well as legitimate in its intentions and duties.