Time for a Leadership Change

Both before and after the election, thousands of you shared your thoughts with me about the upcoming vote for our next mayor. And while preferences varied, there was one unifying thought about who should NOT be elected as mayor.

Many of you shared your concern that Tom Beehan’s power far exceeds that which is allowed by charter. Rather than appoint various council members to serve on over a dozen different political and economic associations, he keeps these roles (and his activities with them) primarily to himself. Among others, Mr. Beehan chairs the Energy Communities Alliance (a DOE consortium headquartered in Washington D.C.) as well as the controversial PlanET. He is also on the board of directors of the Transportation Planning Organization for TDOT and the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. Many of these organizations are recipients of Oak Ridge property tax dollars and some are thought to have competing interests with the needs of our citizenry.

Citizens and business owners alike are also disappointed in Mr. Beehan’s handling of what will likely be the most expensive non-DOE project in our history. The EPA water/sewer mandates are only just beginning to take their toll in the form of large rate increases. There is no projected final cost as of yet, but despite his extensive connections in Washington and with DOE, Mr. Beehan has done nothing to advocate for the citizens of Oak Ridge on this problem. Rather, he has voted each time to approve the issuance of multi-million dollar bonds without any consideration for his constituency’s ability to pay for them.

Mr. Beehan’s role in the high school mortgage fiasco is yet another failure that has upset Oak Ridgers. Though he was heavily involved in the origination of this project, Tom Beehan obfuscated the expressed will of the people in his actions with the Board of Education last summer. He publicly encouraged backroom meetings to develop resolutions that he claimed would “uphold the terms of the referendum.” However, when said resolutions were made public, they did no such thing, which council recognized and soundly rejected.

Mr. Beehan’s ability to remain objective would seem to be further compromised in that he works directly with the most outspoken member of the BOE on the matter, Ms. Angi Agle, in their joint employment at Betsy Coleman Realty. She was in fact, one of the people recruited to participate in the aforementioned backroom meetings.

And then there is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back:  Countless individuals have expressed outrage that Mr. Beehan works for the firm that has made up to $1 million from the Kroger project. Even if he did not directly profit from the deal, Mr. Beehan’s role as a realtor has long been perceived as a conflict of interest and there is no way that he did not benefit in some way. At the very least, the deal will enable him a longer term of employment and a possible chance to represent buyers or sellers of the homes to be purchased by those fifty-plus displaced residents.

My campaign put a spotlight on our financial decline over the last decade. The buck stops with council and Tom Beehan has led council for that entire period as either Vice Mayor or Mayor. In those roles and with his vote, he personally approved each and every budget, tax increase, bond issuance and rate hike every single year. The end result is a 33% increase in expenditures (from $135M to $179M) and a 79% increase in total debt (from $104M to $186M).

An overwhelming percentage of Oak Ridgers have lost all confidence in Tom Beehan’s leadership abilities. They elected me to be their voice and with this letter I am keeping the only campaign promise that I specifically made: I will not cast my vote for Tom Beehan as mayor. Furthermore, I am publicly calling on him to withdraw his request of council (to re-appoint him as mayor) and I ask that he give serious consideration to resigning from council all together.

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