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Hats Off    |    by
Column dedicated to sharing news about community activities, service projects, and other events that are important to the life of the residents of our "mountain."

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published on 07/23/2004

Hats Off to …our Freedom

By staff writer

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” These words by author/lecturer Marianne Williams are words of encouragement that ring true for us all.

These past few months, the residents of Walden’s Ridge have been faced with serious decisions; decisions that impacted everyone on our mountaintop.

It began with the ˝ cent sales tax voted upon by Hamilton County residents this year. The Towns of Walden and Signal Mountain began collecting the half-cent sales tax in 1999 to go towards a high school on the mountain. Last year the rest of Hamilton County, not already collecting the sales tax, voted to do so. The impact on our communities was that only half of the tax collected remained in the fund toward the high school, the rest went to Hamilton County designated for education purposes.

The next critical decision the people on our mountain faced was a referendum to raise property taxes to help pay for a high school on the mountain. Although the referendum passed in May, the final decision was the Hamilton County Commissioners.

During this time, hundreds of residents participated in an education summit led by County Mayor Claude Ramsey. Although many hours and much hard work was put into the summit, residents on the mountain and throughout the county watched, powerless, as five of the county commissioners decided the fate of children in Hamilton County. Voting to not support Mayor Ramsey or Superintendent Jesse Register, a request to raise property taxes in Hamilton County was voted down. Increasing taxes would have implemented action resulting from the summit and state mandated requirements. Voting against the tax increase forced the School Board and Mayor Ramsey to make very drastic cuts throughout the County.

On July 8th, the County Commissioners met to vote on the 2005 Budget and the same five commissioners approved the budget and doing so put a halt on the future of a new high/middle school on Signal Mountain. Supporters hope it is a temporary halt and have pledged to continue working toward the goal of completing our community.

What does this all mean to us as citizens of the mountaintop? On July 3rd, families, friends and neighbors lined up along James Boulevard to celebrate our freedom. A community parade sponsored by the Old Towne Association in Signal Mountain’s Historic District began at the Alexian Village and ended at the new playground behind the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club.

Then on July 5th, the Signal Mountain Lion’s Club hosted their annual barbeque and fireworks. Children played on the new playground equipment, people lined up for the delicious barbeque, and the smell of the sizzling funnel cakes was a temptation few could pass up. At the close of the evening, crowds gathered under the stars to see the fireworks.

As our country celebrates its 228th birthday, what does Independence Day mean to you? Our country is at war with terrorist around the world and our county commissioners are drawing lines in the dirt and backing themselves into corners they can’t get out of. But the people on Walden’s Ridge have spoken. They want a complete community that includes a high school. They won’t give up. And why should they? They have the freedom and right as citizens to work towards their goal. We are called to build bridges and mend the wounds between the parties involved. And though the task may be hard and battles lost, to persevere and strive to win the war (on prejudice and politics), the real winners are our children.

But our freedom, we so proudly celebrate every Fourth of July, is fragile. To take it for granted is a mistake. We have the power within each of us to make a difference. What better way to honor the legacy of our founding fathers? This Independence Day I celebrate my freedom and give thanks for my community of family, friends, and neighbors.