The name of Helen Burns Sharp was on the lawsuit, but it was the taxpayers who won when a judge voided a deal that gave $9 million in public money to the developers of the high-end Black Creek Mountain golf course community.
Sharp spent more than $50,000 of her own money fighting to stop what she saw as an improper use of tax dollars, and she said that winning a lawsuit against the government was the first step toward establishing more transparency and accountability over tax breaks granted to businesses.
She already has her eye on a new target. And next time she may not be alone.
Sharp’s victory helped establish her as one of Chattanooga’s most vocal citizen watchdogs, and she said she already has been contacted by others who see the need for greater scrutiny of government tax breaks and want to form a watchdog group.
A retired city planner, Sharp has been sharply critical of the drumbeat of deals between local government officials and large companies, deals that she says are negotiated behind closed doors and rubber-stamped by elected officials with little accountability for businesses that fail to uphold their end of the bargain.
Deputy City Attorney Phil Noblett did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In the future, there will be more of these citizen watch dog groups and we will all be better off for it....