published Thursday, June 7th, 2012

David Cook: Let's join the Hamilton County posse

  • photo
    Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) reacts to a foul call against him in the first half of Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
    Photo by The Commercial Appeal /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Taking a week or so off from writing. According to the little people I live with, the buzz at the elementary school lunch-table is a water park near the Smokies. So while trying not losing my debit card in the wave pool, I hope to do a few other things, listed below.

First, (and I can't believe I'm writing this sentence): Join the county posse.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has a posse, issuing membership to 71 county residents, 30 of whom are campaign donors.

These aren't tequila-tough hombres. Nor is there a drought of deputies. Hammond's 21st century, seemingly hand-picked posse only continues the sketch of the sheriff practicing inappropriate favoritism (Friends of Jim Hammond, the Lonnie Hood incident).

Still, I want in.

I mailed in my application yesterday (yes, an application). Promising not to identify myself as a law enforcement officer (I immediately plan on breaking this with my kids), I also had to swear good standing in the community (some readers may disagree), but that was about it.

If I make the team, I'm going to recommend a more egalitarian posse. Diversify! Out of the 71 posse-folks, only one is a woman (Hammond's wife, in a move of understandable favoritism).

Thus, I offer posse nomination for:

• Julie Baumgardner, head of First Things First. Healthy marriages lead to peaceful homes and communities, the goal of every sheriff. Baumgardner's group offers generous help on loving your spouse through thick and thin. Easily works for posses, too.

• Gloria Griffith, who works like a patron saint for poor folks on the Westside by fighting against the gentrifying influence of Purpose Built communities and the drying up of federal housing funds. She represents justice. She deserves a badge. And cuffs.

• Adera Causey, curator of education at the Hunter Museum of American Art. From the recent Dorothea Lange exhibit to the current rock 'n' roll themed "Sound And Vision," Causey makes the Hunter relevant and cool. Hammond's posse could use someone who knows that David Bowie did not invent a big knife.

However, the sheriff may be onto something. What if thousands of us joined the posse?

I'm as serious as a Doc Holliday cough. What if the posse included folks from every neighborhood? Not to chase bad guys, but to cowboy up: This is our community and we're involved!

Like angelic vigilantes, we take matters into our own hands. Instead of just casting a vote, we really cast ourselves into the fixing and building up of our communities?

A posse sends that message. Mail in your application today.

Second: Send a copy of the Bill of Rights to the Hamilton County Commission.

The commission prays before meetings. Of course. But don't pray (First Amendment) and then turn around and boot Occupy Chattanooga off the County Courthouse lawn as they freely assemble (First Amendment) and petition their government (First Amendment).

Don't pray, then work to exclude the public from freely attending replacement interviews for their own elected school board representatives, as some commissioners tried to do recently.

Third: Cheer for Charles Joynes.

In order to receive state funding, Superintendent Rick Smith removed Joynes from Brainerd High School. This fall, Joynes -- a man beloved by inner-city kids -- will head Chattanooga Middle High College, the place for over-achieving kids who want to get into college. Early.

According to a source within the school, students walked out of class near the end of the year and knelt down on campus, praying to keep Joynes at Brainerd. I heard there was a petition being circulated.

On the day I visited Brainerd, students were handing him notes, thanking him for all he's done. Maybe he should run for school board.

Or sheriff.

David Cook can be reached at

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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