Free Press Archives
AOL is making it so difficult for me to send my columns out that
henceforth I will post them on my website: www.daltonroberts.com. my
Sunday Journal will be posted on Sundays and my Times Free Press column
will post on Tuesdays. The advantage is you can read them at your
YOU CAN BE PART OF THE “CREAM”
I never quit playing with ideas and when a
column idea wakes me at 3:00 in the morning, I figure it may be
something that needs to be said.
Ideas are important and perishable things. Just as an individual’s
progress depends on how well he or she acts upon ideas, a city’s
progress depends on how open it is to ideas, the quality of its ideas,
and how efficiently it coaxes them into reality.
Somewhere I heard or read that the wealthy and the sons and daughters of
the wealthy are the “cream” that rises into leadership roles in cities
experiencing the kind of renewal we have experienced here in Chattanooga
since the 1980s. While there is truth in that statement the more
complete truth is that anyone can be a part of the rising cream and the
cream will not rise at all unless there is community-wide respect for
The hardest place to get the cream to rise is in the political
leadership of a city. Politicians tend to lay low. The thought that
dominates them is re-election. They fear controversy and change always
I have a tape of a Morning Show program during the time period when the
Aquarium was under discussion. Almost all the calls to me that morning
belittled the project, referring it as “Jack’s fish tank.” If the
project had failed, it is entirely possible that my political goose
would have been cooked.
Mayor Roberts and I could not have been a part of making the project
happen without our legislative bodies (county commission and city
council). The cream had to rise almost simultaneously in the economic
and political power structures of the community.
Ideas are like dominoes. A good idea can result in another idea --
sometimes a more powerful idea. Mayor Rose and I wanted to see something
good happen on the hundreds of acres of property the city and county
owned at Moccasin Bend.
We appointed a Moccasin Bend Task Force to explore those possibilities.
Soon Chairman Rick Montague asked if they could look at the whole
waterfront and it was their exemplary groundwork that resulted in the
Tennessee Riverpark and later in adding Moccasin Bend to the national
park system. Other groups were involved, of course, as the dominoes kept
Illustrating the point that anyone can become part of the cream, Sally
Robinson served on the MBTF, got the community development bug, and
later ran for the city council. Her husband, Sam, had been an excellent
idea man on that first dynamic county commission. I have often said if I
could have kept that first commission, I would have never retired.
Donnie Jenkins, Time Free Press technical columnist, recently told me
that he daily goes to as many as 55 websites just to keep up with
developments in his field. We need a similar attitude toward city
Josh McManus invited me to meet with his CreateHere group on Main
Street. He has a sparkling group of bright, mostly young people who play
with great ideas for our area’s growth and enrichment. Josh himself was
awarded a Marshall Fellowship and was able to visit and study Europe’s
Our future progress will depend on how well we use the cream that rises
out of groups like this.