Roy Exum: The Same Family Tree

Sunday, May 20, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When it was learned the UnifiEd Foundation was a left-wing crowd of political organizers rather than a group with the sole intent of bettering public education in Hamilton County, several other liberal groups fell under scrutiny and it is uncanny how many of the same few people are intertwined in a county of 360,000 people. Or, as one critic succinctly said, “They are all from the same family tree …. and there ain’t no fork in it!”

My goodness gracious, it is shocking to me at the total lack of political diversity in the civic leadership circles that the ‘elite liberals’ have forced on Chattanooga’s public education effort. Further, if I may be so bold, it is surprising how, in truth, I find there is virtually no equality in what these ‘birds of the same feather’ want us to blindly believe what they so valiantly espouse. This is total hypocrisy and the culprits who have altered the course of public education should be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail.

On Saturday, in a Chattanoogan.com story, UnifiEd’s key political activist, former Obama organizer Jonas Barriere, was quoted as saying, "Over the course of the last several months, UnifiEd Action PAC has been working to ensure that those who represent us are focused on one thing - that every child in Hamilton County has access to an excellent public education.”

That is total bunk, another UnifiEd lie. Do you actually think -- in a state as red as Tennessee is – any group claiming to be focused on “access” in education, would suggest six liberal Democrats in seven contested races on the County Commission? That is absurd, but the bigger wonder is how the ‘liberal elite’ has been allowed to completely take over what should be a fair and even educational process in recent years. It is way past time for common sense to prevail.

You’ve just watched these flamers clamor for new leadership, but when you look for it among Chattanooga’s so-called benevolent groups, you’ll find this crowd all sings from the same (and only) page in the hymn book. That’s because there are virtually no conservatives, no checks and balances, new ideas, or progress to show. Really. Let me give you a look at one of the main reasons public education is stalled in Chattanooga.

Take Edna Varner, who is the board chair of the now-disgraced Unifi-Ed. She is also vice chair of the Chattanooga State Foundation. Yet in the way a bumblebee might disperse pollen, Edna is a senior advisor for “Leading And Learning” at the murky Public Education Foundation. Yet there is more, much more…

Additionally, Varner claims leadership in the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, United Way, Siskin Children’s Institute, Read 20, UnifiEd, Rotary, The Aim Center, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, The Links, Incorporated, Thrive 2055, Chattanooga State Foundation, Girls Inc., Chattanooga Housing Authority, YMCA, The Mayor’s Council for Women, The Women’s Fund, Ballet Tennessee, Habitat gala committee, Chattanooga 2.0 and WTCI. (Man, that’s a lot of pollen – what if you could control it?)

Then there is Paul Brock: He has one of seven seats on the powerful Benwood Foundation, a philanthropic blessing for Chattanooga with the latest reported assets of $102,204,032 (2015). Brock is the president of the UnifiEd Action Committee, as well as a board member of UnifiEd’s Action PAC – which we have learned uses public school students as political pawns. The PAC has contributed dollars in a shameful fashion in local political races – and has forced its heavy hand in the liberal fabric that holds our public education in a well-controlled stranglehold grip. (Worry not about the opponent, vote anti-UnifiEd, I am telling you.)

Next comes Alison Lebovitz, an active UnifiED board member who was accused of ‘steering questions’ in recent school board debates until she was acrimoniously replaced last week. Alison is also the Board Chair and Trustee of the Lyndwood Foundation, a philanthropic blessing for Chattanooga with the latest reported assets of $125,831,644 (2015). She is on the board of United Way, not to be confused with shopping-mall genius Michael Lebovitz, who is her brother-in-law. Her husband, Alan Lebovitz, is a Board Member of the Public Education Foundation in Chattanooga. Alison hosts a TV talk show on WTCI.

Are you getting this picture? You haven’t noticed this, and it is hardly intentional, but up until this point in this story I have listed over 20 groups, the two largest philanthropic organizations we have … and just six or seven people’s names … no wonder why there is no fork in the tree.

Here are some quick out-takes:

WADE HINTON – City Attorney for the city of Chattanooga, also sits on the Benwood Foundation Board and is believed to have aspirations of being the next mayor to follow Andy Berke. Some believe that UnifiEd’s heavy endorsement of Democratic candidates is an effort to both propel and protect Hinton’s quest of City Hall. Hinton, never forget, was the one who with Mayor Berke enabled the city to abandon our Confederate Cemetery.

DANA PERRY – A brilliant lawyer, she is the chair of the WTCI board of directors but has now turned up as the secretary on the highly polarized UnifiEd Action PAC board. What’s that about? She serves on the River City board as well.

WAYNE BROWN – A board member at UnifiEd, he was just chosen by the state of Tennessee to serve as one of seven members on The Tennessee Department of Education’s Partnership Network Advisory Board to help struggling schools in Chattanooga. Oddly, he was a state choice – not one of three local people chosen on the all-black “partnership” group.

The question is, how do we get shed of these liberal elites? I think there is still enough savvy on the School Board to request UnifiEd to “cease and desist” and obviously the County Commission has had its fill of “organizers.” If either party hasn’t the stomach, let’s put it on the ballot.

But, most of all, it is time for “better leadership” among the non-profits who ask the same from us. Trust me …. About 10-to-15 people in Chattanooga have made a great big mess and should be pressured to clean it up. The “liberal elites” would be well-advised to find one task and to do it well, rather than poking their noses into another’s business because experts they ain’t. Just look around.

royexum@aol.com



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