Mayoral candidate Dave Crockett is 6-foot-5 and until recently wore a Texas 10-gallon hat that makes him even taller in the saddle, more expansive in his travel tales.
Mr. Crockett is a public policy wonk and corporate consultant with a lofty geopolitical perspective that makes him scan the horizons over the heads of his rivals. He is a candidate whose environmental thinking alarms traditional defenders of constitutional government and jealous restraint upon the state.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM
But Mr. Crockett appeals to stock conservatives and modern liberals through a form of GMO-free thinking that is lococentric, pragmatic and disavowing of ideology.
His native son southern drawl — “I’m an all-round good guy in history in terms of actually doing something” — disarms and causes some skeptics to question whether he is genuinely local or a Trojan horse who localizes globalist theory and personalizes environmentalism, the ecological action plan that in the 1970s replaced communism as the bogeyman, justifying Washington emergency controls and wartime “compelling state interest.”
Mr. Crockett, 71, a former IBM executive and owner of a software business, dismisses concerns from patriots and conservatives. But he laughs at Democrats and liberals, too, conjoined with Republicans in an increasingly illiquid and centralized status quo that seems to have made national reform impossible.
“One [party] doesn’t have the answers, and the other doesn’t know what the questions are,” he drawls in an interview. “They take turns. They swap back and forth.”
Mr. Crockett is the fourth great nephew of frontiersman Davy Crockett, the Tennessee congressman and fighter at the Alamo. His family were of the Huguenots, the French reformed Christians who fled Roman Catholic and monarchial persecution. Originally the name was Croqetagne.
4 seek Chattanooga post
City Hall is run by a Democrat lawyer, Andy Berke, who is largely inaccessible to the public and known for political posturing and glossy “leadership” vocabulary. The election March 7 pits four competitors, the other two being Larry Grohn, a council member with a pro-life and Tea Party background; and Chris Long, an engineering consultant and former builder espousing trade schools and a freer market in housing.
On matters about which Mr. Grohn speaks in detail such as tougher ethics rules, Mr. Crockett overlooks as detail. On the trend toward police demilitarization and the rise of a sharing economy in security, Mr. Crockett indicates he is preparing a major announcement favoring respect for the individual and restraints upon police violence. On questions such as the Kirkman school revival idea espoused first by Mr. Long and then Mr. Grohn, Mr. Crockett is largely silent, as if the idea were old-fashioned. As for the mayor, Mr. Crockett sees him posturing for higher office with little accomplishment.
Mr. Crockett is most remarkable for a farsighted projection of the end of the traditional nation-state and the prospect of the city-state, a quasi-politically independent domain with a great American city at its heart. Atlanta is already a city state with a GDP of F$324.8 billion.
It allows him to sidestep traditional political arguments over free market or government solutions to problems and to authorize his strong-man approach to the mayor’s office, where power and cajolery work to unify competing interests, “not finding common ground,” he says, “but higher ground.”
Mr. Crockett’s presuppositions about the decline of top-down centralized systems accept, however, an apparent major inconsistency.
Centralized regulatory systems don’t work, he says, and the national government inherited by Donald Trump is on the door of insolvency and in need of an American perestroika and reorganization.
But Mr. Crockett promises to start laying rail for a high-speed rail line between Chattanooga and Atlanta. This pie-in-the-sky centralized public works project would be paid for by Uncle Sam.
Before a meeting with airline executives on Thursday, Mr. Trump decried the lack of high-speed-rail. “I don’t want to compete with your business,” he said, “but we don’t have one fast train.”
This video and others like it let Chattanooga mayoral candidate Dave Crockett make a personal pitch for votes to unseat an incumbent who may have 10 or 20 times more money spend in the campaign.
A F$12 billion project, for which Mr. Crockett began arguing in the 1980s, would arise as if by miracle from Washington’s final budgets before national government staggers into coming financial liquidation. But for the moment that prospect seems remote.
President Trump is gung-ho on infrastructure projects and deficit spending of another F$1 trillion, as if decades of fiat money, credit-fed malinvestment and leverage have not gotten anyhere near the bursting point.
Mr. Crockett has emphasized his desire to obtain a high-speed rail line between Chattanooga and Atlanta, and implies in interviews and public addresses the project is ready for the first dig.
Mr. Berke’s transportation department has focused on bike lanes on city streets and neglected the rail project that would transform the economy, Mr. Crockett says, one that “adds an entire layer of knowledge-based workers, the industries of the mind to Chattanooga. Those are the jobs that our kids have forever been leaving Chattanooga to go get, in Charlotte, in Austin, in Atlanta, in Nashville, somewhere outside Chattanooga. This turns us into a net importer.
“The administration does not grasp the importance of the issue, does not grasp the very basics and has completely ignored it. The mayor has done nothing for four years on this issue. He has not maintained those relationships that are critical for making this happen, having the political will.”
Mr. Grohn says the Chattanooga-Atlanta federal project doesn’t even have an action calendar, and is not in city hands. Just as Mr. Berke has had little influence in getting going the Chickamauga lock repair, so there is little he or a successor can do about the rail project, Mr. Grohn says.
For several years Mr. Crockett has been part of Citistates Group, an association of writers and speakers promoting the idea of local central planning, regionalism and governance by stakeholders — intergovernmental cooperation that transcends legal distinctions recorded by maps.
“Lines on maps separate things and they are really artificial. I mean, air: It doesn’t know where a boundary is. *** The air does not know where Tennessee is. It does not know when it goes into Georgia. *** Water. Those great lakes don’t understand which one is bounding Canada and which one is bounding the United States.”
The city-state concept is part of Mr. Crockett’s environmental perspective that gives the green flavor to his campaign likely to draw support from Democrat and progressive voters such as activist John Wolfe, an attorney who says Mr. Crockett backs “balanced development.”
It also foresees beyond existing arrangements among the states and their federal master, one that suits hawkish neoconservatives who favor centralization and its fruits for the U.S. elites. That time arrives when the current political and corporate economy order collapses, and the U.S. joins the ranks of other failed states such as Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, though probably without the naked bribery and roadblocks every 15 miles.
The post-U.S. political rearrangements will require regional and local experiments in self-determination, where emboldened bigwigs and capitalists divest nationally and invest locally and the common mantras become local economy, “opportunity thinking” and distributed economy.
In campaign speeches Mr. Crockett plugs the positive. He does not talk about the prospects of national financial disaster or its local benefits; they would make people uneasy and are arguably beyond a mayor’s scope of activity. But the city-state concept puts Mr. Crockett in the position of being a politician with an organic cultural theory rather than an administrative and municipal one typified by his chief rival among the challengers, Mr. Grohn, and by Mr. Berke, whose antiseptic offerings drip with feel-good communitarian rhetoric.
In short, Mr. Crockett’s remarkable self-conscious lococentric city-state argument has the power to appeal to self-government boosters who care about limiting the state and to liberals whose touchy-feely politics and permaculture ideals draw them out of Food City aisles to home garden annd St. Alban’s farmer’s market.
New world to order
While environmentalism provides a coherence to his arguments for a highly activist mayor with “sustainability” as a watchword, it proves an obstacle among traditional conservatives strongly drawn to Mr. Grohn. These would include Mark West, a longtime noted defender of old-fashioned liberty and Christian interests, who says Mr. Crockett evinces all the signs of a big-government politician whose premises for government are not sustainable.
An initial analysis about Mr. Crockett highlights his connection to the Anglo-Saxon new world order.
He calls this essay a “hit piece.” Mr. Crockett uses exaggeration to dismiss claims he is a green globalist and a tool for policy elites in Brussels and New York.
“When I go talk to somebody, I’m really not meeting in back corners with, you know, with some Trilateral Commission or whatever it is, planning a takeover of the world. I’m there to talk about Chattanooga.”
I press Mr. Crockett about his conception of free markets and Adam Smith’s invisible hand. What does he see as being left to the free market if he is so busy as mayor of Chattanooga? Why do the good things he proposes have to happen from the hand of city government that uses coercion — the power of taxation — to bring them about? Why can’t the marketplace be left alone to bring these good things about — why led and planned, and not spontaneous?
“Laissez faire and hope a highway gets built by the private sector,” he retorts. “You want to do that? You wanna let laissez faire like the private marketplace decide whether putting mercury in the water is a good idea or not? It certainly is less expensive to not to have to worry about such trifling things as that. How much would you want in the drinking water for your kids? I start with zero is my — that’s mine. I used to put a glass of water down in front of a panel, and I would say this glass has so and so in it. The other one of them is absolutely pure. One of them meets the government limit. Have a drink. I can’t get anybody to drink it.”
Phony democratic displays?
Chattanooga’s role in history has been that of trade, commerce and industry. In the war to prevent Southern independence, Chattanooga was a key point in the defense of the South and its fight to maintain trade as Yankees sought to strangle the southern confederation. It is today a regional powerhouse for trade and manufacturing, its Gig City franchise giving it more marketing mystique than real power.
In the 1980s and ’90s Mr. Crockett was chief in a program to get city residents to envision a master plan for life in the city. The program rankled naysayers and critics of all sorts, many of whom saw invisible hands of elites “guiding” the process toward a determined ultimate goal, though citizen input was given credit for the outcome. Free markets don’t need outside help. Private-public partnerships and pretended democratic consensus under the Delphi method about “the future of our city” are the program of elite, social engineering and human management — like public school.
Let government get out of their way for private interest and service to the customer, and the free market will bring prosperity as it best allocates skills and resources based on free will and the mechanism of freely arrived-at price.
To such arguments Mr. Crockett says he transcends the familiar left-right, conservative-liberal categories because his goals are local, his area of influence intimately connected with geography and the people within it. Distinctions that seem stark when arguing in a large or national scale fade when sought in a local context.
Proximity defuses ideology, as it were, a point often made here in the defense of local economy and free markets.
Mr. Crockett’s cosmopolitanism is evidenced in his attendance at the first Rio environmental summit in 1992 among global governments. The event drew every major company in the world to a vast trade show in Sao Paulo. The two cities at the assembly of nation-states were Chattanooga and Curitiba. Mr. Crockett, paying his own way, hobnobbed and networked in thronged auditoriums to promote Chattanooga and come back with holistic ideas that would help residents.
For free marketers and friends of liberty, Rio raises the question: Is his identification with Chattanooga key, with humankind first? Or is there a hidden lens in his eye, like an implant, that sees first the natural creation, waterways, land and ecosystems and gives priority to nature, but sees only fuzzily those beings described by C.S. Lewis as souls with bodies?
Mr. Crockett has given lectures in corporate boardrooms, to governmental associations and city councils around the U.S. He’s advised foreign officials and bigwigs at Chautauqua as part of a three-day lyceum on environment, commerce and culture. He says his interest has always been lococentric and acquisitive.
When Mr. Crockett flies in for a lecture, “the requirements are simple: A check, a ticket and a fishing trip. There’s no negotiating — you can negotiate with a price but you can’t negotiate with a fishing trip. It is a show stopper. You do it, or I don’t come.”
Mr. Crockett dislikes “terms such as globe-trotting and globalist” because “My message is simple when I go. I talk about basic strategy and decision-making philosophies. I talk about the city of Chattanooga. Every time I go somewhere, I use examples from other cities; there are four or five news articles that come out of my being there about Chattanooga.
“Frankly, I hate to say it, but I may be the most recognized person outside Chattanooga across the country because I speak so much. Every state except Alaska, most of the Canadian provinces, a lot overseas, not a lot, but some. You know, I’ve been to the Middle East, met the rulers of UAE and spoken in conferences.”
Improving on decentralization
Mr. Crockett’s expansive view of the City of Chattanooga ignores limits on its legal authority as a creature of the general assembly constrained by charter. Borders define authority. Lines on maps defend, but also constrain. Within the “political construct” that is the municipal corporation lies the sum of its residents, that poetical whole that makes up the city and in which coalesces the identification of the people, man by man, woman by woman, who make Chattanooga their place and home.
In favoring the city-state idea and the self-government implied in it, Mr. Crockett sees himself as accruing great influence and authority, much like one of his heroes, Jaime Lerner, three-time mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, in the 1970s and 1980s, and twice governor of his state, Parana. Mr. Lerner cleaned slums by trading garbage for transit tickets and got fishermen to pick up trash by buying it. Mr. Crockett holds that in a human ecosystem no person needs be wasted, no personal genius or gift be left untapped, no skill (however menial) be left without being made serviceable to others.
“We became the most polluted city in America,” Mr. Crockett recounts. “We had Chattanooga Creek. We had superfund sites. Now what we’re celebrating in Chattanooga is reclaiming, redoing, redesigning, rehabbing — if I tell anybody is eliminate the prefix ‘re,’ whether it’s with people or whatever. It’s one thing to go back and reclaim, rehab and redo …
“So the ‘re’ things are the problem, you’re saying?” a reporter asks.
“No, it’s heroic to recover from a bad experience, from doing it the wrong way. Don’t mess it up to start with. The essence of total quality management is do it right the first time, and that everything you do wrong, that error is exponential. It affects so much else when you try to unwind it. It’s all tied together. You messed up a neighborhood. You messed up a creek. You messed up the air. Individuals are living in a place where they were affected by all of that. Or you didn’t address things early enough and you let them waste human potential. So, try to do it right the first time. Try to think how they all relate.”
A decentralized economic order in some respects doesn’t go far enough for Mr. Crockett. He talks about an economy created by the Internet that reshapes everything from the lodging industry to that of taxi and newspaper. “I want to make Chattanooga a place of imagination and connections. I want to connect every person in Chattanooga to every other person. Every neighborhood to every neighborhood. Every strategy to every strategy. Linkage. Leverage. Focus and speed. See, I follow the distributed model.”
Chattanooga is held back by centralized, coercive economic systems, laments candidate Dave Crockett. He favors decentralized and distributed liberty-oriented systems, but also is counting on highly centralized rail system to bring prosperity.
The distributed model gives much greater strength to local economy, local manufacturing, local production and self-direction, Mr. Crockett indicates.
Digital printing will allow every homeowner to run a factory in his garage. The Internet lets every person of influence publish to the world, bypassing the Times Free Presses and CNN gatekeepers for news. Digital networks such as Uber and Airbnb allow for self-determination among auto owners and homeowners to earn private gain outside the regulatory apparatus.
Homeschooling has made tremendous gains, and wealthy elites are hiring top-line empty-nest homeschool moms such as Cindy Rollins, mother of eight sons. State licensure of hair braiding and accounting is under increasing fire. State abuses of constitutionally protected activities such as travel are in danger after 140 years of unconstitutional control from Nashville.
To Mr. Crockett, solar panels and smart phones are a picture of a distributed economy in contrast to a centralized economy with coal-burning electricity mills, Sequoyah nuclear plants and mainframes.
“The future of all decisions is going this way” and the risk of centralized models is “they can be knocked down.” Shipping in food from California vs. growing it here, he proposes. A nuclear power plant vs. solar, wind, solar shingles “where you are creating energy at the point of consumption. What’s going to be required in the 21st century is resilience. And this [centralized model] is not resilient. It’s highly vulnerable. Our food systems. Our energy systems. Transportation, that is so vulnerable and fragile. You can’t knock the internet down. Create your food within 75 miles of you rather than 3,000. You’re more self-sufficient. You’re more resilient. It also creates the jobs at the local level.”
These trends are not ones upon which he can put his very large hands as mayor. But Mr. Crockett pictures himself and the city as active in the major trend of devolution. The bypassing of legacy systems and occasional noisy economic ruptures (such as that of 2008) make Mr. Crockett uneasy. They may undermine the existing debt-based centralized regulatory economy and shake away its hangers-on, all of whom enjoy size, legal privilege and corporate proximity to the U.S. or the Fed.
“In public office, you will never hear the words progressive or conservative or libertarian or Republican or Democrat come out of my — or tea party — come out of my mouth,” Mr. Crockett says. “Period. It’s like in that article you read from Syracuse when they asked me are you a conservative or a liberal and I said ‘yes.’”
City council boasts
The candidate says his record proves him an advanced thinker who, if he were shooting ducks, would show that he aimed and fired into their path by using peripheral vision. Mr. Crockett has the power of persuasion to get city council on his side, he says. “If you can’t get get five votes, you need to stay home and write letters to the editor. The art of government is getting five votes to pass something.”
He backed high-speed rail 20 years ago. He supported merging city and county school systems. He got a sales tax hike and three property tax reductions, he says, each one of 50 cents. “Nobody had done it before; nobody has done it since,” he brags.
He lampoons city council members whom he said argued about mulch by the bag or by the pallet (“thunder and lighting and no rain”) but disregarded huge potential savings from environmentally friendly concepts.
“They were arguing about pennies, and wasting not just dollars, but tens of dollars, hundreds of dollars. They argued for two months about a blue rhinoceros that’s down in Coolidge Park, and a F$20,000 symbolic contribution to public art, and the idea was just to get the city to prime the pump, to get the city behind the arts. But they argued about that philosophically. *** [M]eanwhile, they built a F$2 million pit in the ground to handle combined sewage overflow. *** It took five minutes conversation to pass it.” The alternative he tried to pass in the 1990s (“and didn’t”) is called “green infrastructure.”
It costs half the pit system of sewage overflow, he says. People laughed at it. The green infrastructure arguments he made in the 1980s drew smirks but are now de rigeur around the country, he says.
Argument over tax rate
Mr. Crockett overstates his influence, Mr. Grohn says in an interview. Tax rates have changed only three times in 27 years (apart from changes imposed by quadrennial reassessment). Taxes were cut in 1993 by 7 cents from $2.69 to $2.62 per $100 of assessed valuation. In 1996, taxes were cut 28 cents, and in 2010 Mayor Ron Littlefield got a tax hike of 37 cents. That’s three changes in the tax rate, Mr. Grohn says.
“Maybe you ought to tell the truth to people instead of campaign slogans,” he says. Mr. Crockett claims in forums to have cut taxes three times 50 cents each time, Mr. Grohn says. On a website video he says he cut them twice 50 cents each time, Mr. Grohn says. “If he’s talking about property taxes it’s just not true. *** What are you talking about? Show me. I have no idea what David Crockett is talking about,” Mr. Grohn says, citing a tax assessor spreadsheet.
Solve problems ‘by everybody working local’
Mr. Crockett reflects the growing disdain worldwide for centralized solutions by power elites. His commitment to environmentalism is tempered by a Southern suspicion of capitals and the internationalism and despotism implied in the global green agenda, some of whose proponents demand massive depopulations and top-down controls on liberty and movement.
Mayoral candidate Dave Crockett says his history of strategic thinking puts him in the red oval of innovators and early adopters. Regulators, he says, work among the laggards at right of the bell curve.
Hence the candidate’s conception of borrowing from the political left, borrowing from the political right, and seeking local solutions. He subtly ridicules centralized administration by U.S. or foreign agencies. Rather than “think globally, act locally,” as they propose, he agrees with the local economy nostrum, “think locally, act locally.” No one, on waking in the morning, wonders how things are going in Indonesia, he says. They wonder about Hixson or Southside.
I tell Mr. Crockett about my term Noogacentrism, a non-trademarked coinage, and that “I am the leading Noogacentrist.” He chuckles, roars, “You’re taking the second place to me. You are No. 2 in Noogacentric.”
People who tout global thinking are pushing a sense of crisis and getting people to respond to the seeming need for emergency large-scale interventions by national governments and their hangers-on.
Mr. Crockett’s localism might seem in conflict with his years of traveling. Because he claims to be Noogacentric, he sees answers to local problems as being arrived at apart from consideration from jurisdictional boundaries among cities, counties or states.
It’s not clear where he stands vis a vis Thrive 2055, which appears to be another level of mid-level management of the kind Mr. Crockett says he disdains, a level of “soft government” the purpose of which is to better beg for money from Washington.
Local ‘opportunity thinking’
Mr. Crockett’s work through Citistates Group, a lobby for the idea of regional government, was on issues “that couldn’t be constrained by little tiny borders,” these lines being “political constructs” that often don’t account for organic culture or social change.
Of conservative cities expert Jane Jacobs, whose celebrated 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Mr. Crockett appreciates her defense of local and personal economy even in a great city such as New York. She fought against large projects that “separate, obliterate whole neighborhoods, and then they put these artificial barriers that destroy the residential quality of a city and destroy the commerce and separate the city, and they make it hard, dirty and scary. And expensive. *** you want to go safe, clean, green and affordable. That’s the goal. That’s what I want to do as mayor.”
“I make decisions based on opportunity thinking, and always local,” he says. “‘Lobal’ is the way I define my decision process.” In a slide presentation, he defines “lobal” as “local/regional opportunity thinking to meet global challenges.”
Borrowing the methods of Mr. Lerner in Brazil, Mr. Crockett says he would devise public-private programs that would create jobs. For example, if every house had an InSinkErator in the kitchen, a waste grinder, food waste wouldn’t go into dumps, but into the wastewater treatment plant where it could be converted into energy to run the plant. Small entrepreneurs would install the devices, he says. Perhaps he could avoid the top-down nature of this idea by promoting home composting.
Mr. Crockett also cites an urban farm in Milwaukee that puts people to work and creates a local food supply. It serves a human, economic and environmental interest.
“Think local opportunity, and heavy right and left brain thinking. *** You solve [challenges] by everybody working local. Only in a locale can you understand how decisions affect one another. Action — reaction. A move on transportation policy affects education. Only locally can one measure results.”
“I think we can mine the city of Chattanooga for employment opportunities and entrepreneurial opportunities,” Mr. Crockett says, “that frankly we could create 5,000 jobs and save F$500 million rather than spend F$500 million and create 5,000 jobs.” City government in his first term will have a goal of 2,000 jobs, he says.
Mr. Crockett’s environmentalist background lets him argue the environmental benefit and human interest in the same breath. These lungs are already breathing a bracing progressive draft.
“Everything is food for something else,” he says. Waste is not a word in nature. “It’s a human invention that you’ve got waste. *** Design is how waste is eliminated.” He cites DuPont, a company for whom he has done consulting work. “Zero lost-time accident. Zero inventory. Zero product defects. Zero emissions. Zero greenfield development are the corporate goals. “Because [non-zero] in any form is a waste of human potential, natural capital and financial resources, so we aren’t going to waste any money. We aren’t going to waste any of our natural capital, and we’re not going to waste human beings. And we’ve got a lot of throwaways that we waste. Then we go into the ‘re’ mentality. Rehab. Reclaim. Redo. Let’s don’t waste ‘em to start with.”
Crockett’s Christian interest
Mr. Crockett is a descendant of the devout and highly productive Huguenot people who discovered the gospel and the doctrines of sovereign grace and were hounded out of the France by king and papacy.
Martyrdom and military resistance against tyranny mark their great chapter in the history of Christendom. An important Huguenot work that set the American founders against arbitrary human government is Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants, 1579, by either Hubert Languet or Philippe de Mornay.
Despite a vigorous Christian heritage, Mr. Crockett, a Christian in the Baptist church, does not exude any particular flavor of Christian conviction. He does not cite biblical characters or precepts to make or illustrate a point, as the devout often do in the South. He separates sacred and secular, a common practice even among churchgoers.
Rather than exercise a rhetoric from biblical principles of equity, justice, mercy and truth under the sovereign government of God, he draws many of his ideas from the literatures of environmentalism, psychology and management.
Jen Jeffrey, “Chattanoogan: David Crockett – Connecting The Dots,” Chattanoogan.com, Nov. 23, 2013. http://www.chattanoogan.com/2013/11/23/264203/Chattanoogan-David-Crockett-.aspx
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