Audio: Chattanooga City Council meets with Times Free Press editorial board
Chattanooga City Council members say they actively are planning for growth in the next four years from Volkswagen, but they have yet to be given a road map on how to get there.
“We need more executive leadership,” said City Councilwoman Deborah Scott.
During an editorial board meeting Tuesday with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, council members spoke about the mayor’s newly announced agenda, which includes annexation, consolidation of city-county services, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library and a regional water and sewer authority.
From their side, council members say they’re interested in issues such as implementing impact fees on new developments to help pay for growth, being the only city in Tennessee without a quasi-government relationship with its water utility and annexing property to help pay for the future.
Council Chairman Jack Benson said when he first came on the council in 2000, he was against annexing “one more inch” of property outside the city. But since then he has realized that, without annexation, places such as Hamilton Place mall could not have been developed.
With VW coming in, more annexation will be needed, he said.
“We make this initial investment, we’ll make a return,” he said.
But Councilman Russell Gilbert argued that past annexations such as Hixson and the Highway 58 area still have needs such as improved streets, sidewalks, more development and more police officers on the streets.
“We still haven’t gotten up to level from the ’70s,” he said.
Council members said they’ve yet to hear from the mayor’s office when or if there would be any more details about his agenda. The mayor has said he wants to start a discussion in the community with young professionals leading the charge.
Councilman Manny Rico said he knows the mayor is a planner and probably is working out the details right now. Before becoming mayor, Mr. Littlefield was a city planner.
“When he needs us, he’ll call us,” Mr. Rico said.
Councilman Peter Murphy said the mayor’s idea of using young professionals is sound because it deals with the future of the city.
“Folks of my generation, concretely, are the ones who will live with the results,” said Mr. Murphy, a 36-year-old attorney.
Councilwoman Carol Berz said she was not sure that concentrating on one demographic would produce the best results. Many older people have wisdom and a wealth of experience that could be lost, she said.
“I’d hate for the mayor to say, ‘We’ll just set this aside and leave it to the new young turks,’” she said. “I think that would be folly.”