It was a golden opportunity missed.
Investigative articles in the Chattanooga Times Free Press last year found the local, taxpayer-subsidized Multicultural Chamber of Commerce in nothing short of financial disarray, with large amounts of money going toward overhead and, well, not so much going to actual programs.
Chattanooga and Hamilton County naturally suspended additional funding because of the financial haze surrounding the chamber. But later, the Hamilton County Commission approved giving to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce $75,000 for minority business outreach. That money previously had gone to the Multicultural Chamber. The Chattanooga Area Chamber has requested another $75,000 for the program for the fiscal year that begins in July.
With the chamber now getting leadership in place for the minority outreach, the cycle would appear to be complete: Race-based funding provided by taxpayers seems almost certain to continue.
And that's wrong.
It is condescending to suggest that minority-owned businesses cannot compete without initiatives designed specifically to cater to them.
The financial troubles that plagued the Multicultural Chamber of Commerce obviously deserved scrutiny. But an even better reason for halting its funding was that government shouldn't be doling out money to benefit particular racial groups and not others.
Even if the money were spent scrupulously and thorough financial safeguards were in place, it's still not appropriate. And neither is it appropriate to shift the funding to another organization to serve the same purpose.
This was a clear opportunity to stand up for racial neutrality in government.
And government missed it.