Deconstructing Berke's Signs, I Realize I Am Safe, City Secure - And Response

Thursday, February 7, 2013 - by David Tulis
Berke sign
Berke sign

Driving along a city street this Lord’s Day, my family and I noticed the placards for Chattanooga mayoral candidates Guy Satterfield and Andy Berke along Highway 153 in front of the Hixson Lowe’s store.

The difference between the two billboards is striking. Mr. Satterfield’s sign is in plain lettering and offers only words. “Satterfield mayor[;] accountability in government.” As an idea, “accountability" is not flashy. It suggests stewardship, conservation, tight-waddedness, a sort of civic-minded stinginess. Possibly, Mr. Satterfield cares about reform, a tightening of the purse strings.

Mr. Berke’s sign shows a great deal of thought in a contradictory direction.

The marketing work for Sen.

Berke makes you feel good about Mr. Berke — and yourself. It places confidence in his ability to breathe a sort of spiritual life into the city and its people. and your privilege to share the same oxygen. “Renew Chattanooga,” the wording under his name, promises that very thing. Not reform so much, but renewal.

For those are the words under the word “Berke” on his of his campaign. Renew. Most helpful to conveying the concept of unity, compassion and togetherness are two halfcircles over his name, circles whose bottoms are cut off so that they hang like upside down soup bowls over the name.

The name is under protection, as it were, of umbrellas. Of tents. Emanating from the poster, in a flash that touches the emotion of the passerby, is the sense of togetherness and unity. I'm feeling better already.

Optimism galore

And what is there not to feel optimistic about? A barometer of national economy, the stock market, closed above 14,000 Friday for the first time in five years. A good sign affecting the psychology of investors, analysts are are quoted as saying. But Monday it fell nearly 130 points. And what about Mr. Obama? He instills confidence in many people, and that is his daily goal. And what about confidence in Chattanooga? Hey, that’s you, that’s me. Confidence in ourselves.

Mr. Berke doesn’t need to express confidence merely as a graphic show. Mr. Berke, in the same party as that working man, Mr. Obama, has raised $647,000 from donors since May, and he has spent $143,000 on graphics, printing, telecom, advisory and other services. The state senator and defender of union-controlled public education and other blessings, has the race sewn up, it would seem. Mr. Satterfield is in the poorhouse; he has himself posted signs, but has raised no money.  A third candidate, Chester Heathington, is also in the race. But he, too, is welcome under the Berke umbrellas; there’s plenty of room.

Recently city council candidate Jim Folkner made an interesting statement to contradict a comment I’d made to him about my interest in ideas in politics and other spheres. “I wish ideas controlled,” Mr. Folkner said, “but too much of the time it’s the money and the personalities and the way they want the money spent that control the decisions on our city council.”

His fundraising prowess make clear Mr. Berke’s intelligence, his connection to well-heeled and well-meaning donors and activists who want him to serve as Chattanooga mayor. His logo tells he intends to appeal not just to the head to bring about a continued liberal and globally oriented municipal government, but the heart — using the eye, at least partly.

Mr. Satterfield, whom I plan interview today at 1:30 p.m. on AM 1240 Copperhead radio, seems very much concerned about restraining the political office of Chattanooga mayor, curbing the exercise of its ambition under Mayor Ron Littlefield. How far can a man of plain ideas go in a race against a man whose argument for liberality by government is so well supported financially, and so graphically argued? Perhaps he will tell me.

— David Tulis writes for, which explores local economy and free markets online and on the airwaves.

* * *

I believe Mr. Tulis' misguided article fails to mention the following important points:

1. Voters should be careful not to judge a candidate based on the amount of money he/she raises in a campaign. One may also be curious as to why a candidate for mayor of Chattanooga has donations coming from Nashville and Knoxville.

2. The city is in debt over $400 million. We - the taxpayers - need some "tight-waddedness" at city hall.

3. Mr. Satterfield is in the "poorhouse" by choice. He is running primarily a self-financed campaign. Until recently he did not accept donations and currently donations are limited to a maximum of $200 per donor. To quote Mr. Satterfield: "My campaign is not about taking money from people but rather it's about letting people keep more of their money by not raising city taxes".

4. Finally - money, signs, debates, etc., don't decide elections. Voters decide elections. This is a lesson Mr. Berke (and Mr. Tulis) will learn on March 5th.

Tom McConnell


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