June 21, 2024 9:00am

Just boot it, Power Poll members say

Economy/inflation ranks as top 2024 election issue, survey shows

Photo of Chris Vass
Chattanooga, TN Correspondent

Parking ticket scofflaws might want to settle up their late fines sooner rather than later. That's because CARTA officials want to start booting vehicles that have multiple violations, a strategy that a majority of respondents to this month's Power Poll support.

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents indicated that they support the booting strategy to support CARTA's effort to recoup outstanding fines, which total about $200,000.

CARTA's new CEO, Charles Frazier, pitched the idea recently. He is eager to find ways to stabilize the transit organization's finances and work toward building out — and improving — the services CARTA can provide.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they support the move, while 39% said they did not.

Don't expect to see boots on vehicles real soon; Frazier told Times Free Press reporters and editors that he will be talking with Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, the City Council and Hamilton County commissioners and will give owners a "reasonable amount of time" to pay what they owe.

From public transit to public schools: Next week, county commissioners are expected to vote on a roughly $250 million bond issue — the largest in the history of Hamilton County Schools — that will be used to pay for a number of critical schools projects, including new schools and deferred maintenance at others.

At last week's commission meeting, Commissioner David Sharpe challenged the move to take on debt. He suggested county leaders consider alternatives, such as a boost in the local option sales tax, that would generate more money for education and help the county pay off debt faster. That decision, he noted, would not be left to the commission; voters would have to approve it.

Power Poll survey respondents, however, appear comfortable with a bond issue.

In answer to the question, "How would you propose paying for school facility construction or renovations?", 72% said issues bonds is appropriate.

Another 21% said county leaders should consider a tax increase (like a boost in the local option sales tax), while 7% said "other."

Moving from public education to the presidential election: The economy, together with inflation, appear to be the top issue that Power Poll members say will have the greatest influence on the presidential race. That tracks with other national polls and polls in the key swing states most observers say will determine the winner.

In answer to the question: "What will be the top issue that will determine the 2024 presidential election outcome?", 39% said the economy, which combined with inflation (at 9%), was the top issue by far.

Hamilton County Board of Education member Larry Grohn wrote that the country is struggling. Current policies on "energy, open borders, the military and foreign policy" are intertwined.

"Recovery from the pandemic and the questionable social and economic responses by all levels of government have put tremendous stresses on the nation," he wrote. "It may take 20 years to recover from the trillions of dollars spent to alleviate the results of the disastrous policy decisions during the last five years."

The "state of democracy" ranked second, identified by 20% of Power Poll respondents, followed by immigration/Southern border (15%); abortion (8%); Supreme Court make-up (2%) and "other" (7%).

Chattanooga City Court Clerk Anthony Byrd wrote he believes the world economy is fragile.

"Civil liberties are at risk," he wrote. "To get back on track, we should return to the core values upon which America was built."

Power Poll respondents were almost evenly split on whether former President Donald Trump's recent conviction on charges of falsifying business records will affect the election.

Forty-three percent said "yes," the guilty verdicts on 34 counts would have an effect, but 40% said "no." Seventeen percent said they were unsure.

It's a murky picture, for sure.

Perhaps next week's debate between President Joe Biden and his predecessor will clarify it.

Contact Chris Vass at cvass@powerpoll.com or cvass@timesfreepress.com.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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