published Thursday, August 18th, 2011

City hopes brighter lighting will alleviate problems at Coolidge Park

by Cliff Hightower
People walk across the Walnut Street Bridge on Sunday. The brighter area behind the walkers is a test of new emergency lights for the downtown Chattanooga pedestrian bridge.
People walk across the Walnut Street Bridge on Sunday. The brighter area behind the walkers is a test of new emergency lights for the downtown Chattanooga pedestrian bridge.
Photo by John Rawlston.

An explosion of lights is brightening Coolidge Park and the Walnut Street Bridge.

Twenty lights have been installed under the bridge and 325 existing lights in Coolidge Park are being retrofitted with higher-wattage bulbs.

"You can increase the lighting to where it's almost daylight," said Larry Zehnder, the city's parks and recreation director.

The city began installing brighter lighting in early June to help alleviate problems at Coolidge Park. In April, a group of 300 teens and young people gathered at the park and shots were fired. A year earlier, almost 225 young people gathered and several people were injured from shots being fired.

The Chattanooga City Council passed an ordinance in March that barred anyone under age 18 in the park between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult over the age of 21.

The next step is the new lighting, which Zehnder said is about 80 percent complete and should be finished by the end of the month.

The bulbs are light-emitting diode, or LED, and could save the city money because they use less power. All the lights are wired into the city's network and radio-controlled and their brightness can be increased by 50 percent at any time, he said.

They should vastly improve security conditions in the area, he said.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said Coolidge Park area is a "high-traffic area" and needs the security.

Police presence has been upped since the last incident in the park, with almost 30 patrol areas in and around the area during the night. They will now be helped by the daylight lighting, he said.

"There already is a lot of security in that area, [the light] is just added security," Beeland said.

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rolando said...

Chattanooga has become a frightened city at the mercy of big project. The criminal element is in total control. We have an omnipresent yet ineffectual police force down there. When are you going to learn?

An easier, cheaper, less intrusive answer would be to lift the prohibition against legally carrying in the park.

Wherever permit holders are allowed to arm themselves in an area, crime goes down. Demonstrated over and over again. As it is, crime-savvy people avoid the place after dark like the plague.

August 18, 2011 at 5:58 a.m.
mymy said...

Sounds like we need a Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter to come to town since there is no leadership in Chattanooga.

August 18, 2011 at 7:38 a.m.
dave said...

Increased lighting will do nothing. Studies have shown that increasing lighting to combat crime is a myth. This only allows the criminals to be able to see their victims better. This is a lame quick fix answer by our tax and spend administration.

August 18, 2011 at 8:02 a.m.
twharr said...

Save the money and slap a curfew year round that begins a 7 pm for kids 18 and under which includes every area downtown. If they break the curfew, take them to juvie and fine the parents. If the parents can't pay the fine take the parents to jail. These simple tweeks will resolve the problem. Maybe I should run for mayor.

August 18, 2011 at 9:06 a.m.
fedup350 said...

Good posts today on this, everyone is right on track. I never go to city parks. I stick with the ones that allow gun permit holders the right to defend themselves if necessary. I know some Chattanooga Police Officers. Thye are all very good people who only want to do thier job but Littlefield has bascially destroyed thier morale. he has taken away half of the Departments take home cars. Leaving half the cars on the street. he has taken away thier overtime pay. Closed thier precincts and generally treated them with spite and vindictivness. Ever since Littlefield got re elected there are continually stories in the paper about how he is at odds with the Polcie Department. I for one wouldnt want to be a police officer in Chattanooga right now. The city leadersship on the crime problem is non exisrtant. There is none from the Mayors office or the city council. The lights will do as much good as the signs in Coolidge park he put up or the "holding center" in St. Elmo or the useless and unenforcable curefew that the City Coucil came up with. It has NEVER been used. Chattanooga wont come out from under this current dark cloud until Littlefield is gone and the City Council is thrown out on thier butts. The only decent city council member we have is Russell Gilbert. The rest need to be voted out! RECALL RON

August 18, 2011 at 9:12 a.m.
bluedagger said...

I wonder how many officers Chattanooga has and how many it needs. Someone told me the last time a staffing study was done was in the 90's. Chattanooga has grown a lot since then. I wonder if a modern study was done what the results would be today. Just how many more officers does Chattanooga need?

August 18, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
NorthShoreRez said...

I for one am happy to see the new lighting in Coolidge Park and on Walnut Street Bridge. Being a North Shore Resident, I actually live next to Coolidge Park and know that dark unlit areas do not exist anymore. This article is about lights not about take home police cars, and overtime for city employees. Be supportive of taxpayer dollars being spent wisely. If you've read any other article about this area or walked through the area on a daily/nightly basis you would know that there are always officers in the park and on the bridge. I support the police presence in the park during regular 40 hour work weeks not after the officer has worked 40-50+ hours and is exhausted.

August 18, 2011 at 10:32 a.m.
Facts said...

How many times are we going to see this same feel-good story about more lights in Coolidge while tourists are being threatened. Next: Let's all carry flashlights to scare off gangs.

August 18, 2011 at 10:45 a.m.
timbo said...

I've got a good idea. DON'T GO DOWNTOWN, DUH!! Since no one can carry a gun legally on the bridge, lights will just make it easier for gang bangers to see their targets. More stupidity from the Littlefield bunch.

Chattanooga's downtown is only a few years away from the same fate as Buckhead in Atlanta. It had to be leveled to clean it up. Killing, fights, etc. same as our downtown just more.

The same type people will take it over and it will it up the same way. It is Redneck Disneyland now, and soon it will be Gang Banger Disneyland. What a total waste of tax payer money on the $500 million downtown debt.

Maybe the Gangs need to start a non-profit to hire their idiot relatives just like the Lookout Mountain bunch has done. They could open a urban animal zoo or something. Coyotes, opossums, rats, raccoons, etc. Maybe a opossum petting zoo. That would fit right in with the Wrecker Museum.

August 18, 2011 at 10:45 a.m.
tmac72 said...

My family visited Chattanooga in October 2010 and fell in love with the downtown and Northshore areas. My wife and I are also considering relocating to downtown Chattanooga after our kids start college. However, the more I hear about gang issues downtown, the less appealing living downtown is for us. The last thing I want to deal with is the threat of criminal activity against my wife or I if we decide to walk to dinner during the evening. Why aren't the problem individuals being arrested and prosecuted?

Keep an eye on a current fight going on here in Florida between the State Legislature and local governments as the city/county governments are ignoring State Laws that permit citizens to arm themselves legally. Local governments need to think twice about prohibiting their citizens from protecting themselves, especially when State Laws allow them to.

August 18, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.
Veritas said...

We all know who and what the problem is, it could easily be solved but that would be politically incorrect. I have a concealed weapons permit and I carry wherever I go, no absurd city ordinance will keep me from carrying my "companion" in Coolidge Park or any other. If the ordinance was effective these thugs would not be armed. As long as these savages roam the streets we aren't safe, when seconds count the police are minutes away.

August 18, 2011 at 12:20 p.m.
reallytruly said...

The gang problem is being blown out of portion. Go to a big city or a small town in AR. You feel unsafe but I never feel unsafe in downtown Chattanooga. Just like the folks that think Chattanooga has traffic issues. Really. I don't disagree it needs attention from the city but a big problem, I don't see it.

August 18, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.
midnitewatchman said...

Bring back the horse mounted patrol. It works in New Orleans? Tennessee has the Tennessee Walking horse. I think it would add character to downtown.

August 18, 2011 at 1:20 p.m.
Harp3339forprez said...

tmac72, our mayor has his head buried in the sand. He doesn't want to admit we are in the midst of a somewhat new, yet rapidly growing gang problem. I have spoken with a couple of police officers who have guarenteed me off the record that the gang problems are real, with 3 main gangs and a few other smaller groups. We had a gang task force at one time, but Littlefield won't reorganize the now disbanded unit. Go figure. All he does is tax and spend, tax and spend, but don't expect him to do anything about the problems that really matter.

The good news is that his term is almost up, and there is currently an ongoing effort to recall him in the mean time. That effort was initailly struck down by a Chattanooga judge who's in Littlefield's back pocket, but an appeal was just filed in Knoxville. Lots of fingers are crossed in hopes of a Constitutional outcome with the new judge.

August 18, 2011 at 1:29 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

This ought to lead to an immediate reduction in vampirism.

Another ineffective policy from Mayor Littlefield's administration.

It's much like the pedestrian crossing signs on the North Shore. "Pedestrians must push button." The buttons don't work. The pedestrian crossing lights cycle with the traffic lights, regardless of any button pushing. Those signs are a simple manipulation of people by suggestion.

Much like the curfew policy.

We have thousands of young people in our county who do the right thing every day. They go to school; they work in part-time jobs; they study; they play sports; they're young people growing up.

Look at some of the things we're writing and saying about young people in our area. An overwhelming majority of our fears are not observably true. Maybe one way we could show young people the leadership they need, the example they need to see set, is to not panic and overcompensate when one serious incident occurs.

We do not need to label our young people as "gang bangers." We don't need to empower the situation by trying to dredge up some secret slang word that implies we know or fear something we don't. We should empower our fellow men by thinking before we speak; and, by showing everybody that we can act right.

These young people are teenagers. They are someone's children. Those families have names, faces, and real problems they confront and solve every day.

We don't need another sign or brighter lighting. We need some people to act like men and have enough balls not to panic at the first sign of trouble.

When was the last time one of our elected officials visited the families of teenagers who got caught getting involved in crime?

What problems at Coolidge Park? You want to see problems in our area, look at employment. How are young people going to develop hope for the future and a good work ethic if it's obvious there is no reasonable chance for a man to get a job around here?

Children, old ladies, and ordinary people take a nap in Coolidge Park every day, without incident. It's not a trouble spot. It's a playground, and a nice one at that.

Please develop some self-confidence. Face the day without panicking over some fake crisis. We have plenty of real problems caused by or not addressed by our city and county administrations. Coolidge Park is not one of them. Payoffs, cronyism, aggressive and unjustified attacks on public employees: activities for direct financial profit and political gain have been much more destructive than any one incident in Coolidge Park. Our police are more than capable of handling the few incidents which occur every day in this area. We have every reason to believe that we live and work in a safe and stable community.

We have had significant problems with extreme personal greed and unjustified failures to face basic civic responsibilities in local government.

We have had no trouble with lightbulbs in Coolidge Park.

August 18, 2011 at 1:32 p.m.
Humphrey said...

Veritas said... We all know who and what the problem is, it could easily be solved but that would be politically incorrect. I have a concealed weapons permit and I carry wherever I go, no absurd city ordinance will keep me from carrying my "companion" in Coolidge Park or any other. If the ordinance was effective these thugs would not be armed. As long as these savages roam the streets we aren't safe, when seconds count the police are minutes away.

Wait a second. I thought that all concealed weapons permit holders were only law abiding citizens who would never break any rules concerning where they are allowed to carry. I thought only criminals had weapons where they were not allowed.

August 18, 2011 at 1:49 p.m.
harrystatel said...

The natural law of self-defense trumps any law of government that prohibits self-defense.

August 18, 2011 at 2:19 p.m.
Harp3339forprez said...

328Kwebsite, I agree with a good portion of your post, but we do indeed have a growing gang problem in Chattanooga. You're correct that most of our youth are good kids trying to grow up in a good way. However, there have been an ever increasing number of gang related crimes in the area over the past several months. I hope you personally know some cops in town. If you do, please ask them about it. Unless they are covering up for the city gov't, i.e. Littlefield, they will tell you it's true. A growing gang problem can spiral out of control much more quickly than most people know if you pretend everything is fine and refuse to face the problem head-on.

There is a TV series on History channel called Gangland. I have watched several episodes of that show over the years and in almost every single city they do a feature on, the gang problem grew so quickly that the gov't officials had a difficult time reigning in the problem once they realized what was happening. When you don't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. If we aren't proactive about the problem, it will end up being much worse in the end.

I'm not suggesting we panic and avoid the city. By no means is that reasonable, but I do believe it is important to take the problem seriously.

August 18, 2011 at 2:20 p.m.
cnjamcat said...

328Kwebsite, kudos on your excellent post. To those who want to discriminate against the young citizens of our city - how does that make anyone safer? The law-abiding youth are being punished for crimes they did not commit. When the teens are banished that leaves more room for the real criminals. Most violent crimes are committed by men between the ages of 18 and 25. Curfews don't stop crime - they simply allow politicians to pretend they are doing something by targeting those not allowed to vote yet.

Why should young people who are scapegoated by the government and media feel any sense of loyalty to the city? What happens to the future of Chattanooga when these young people grow up thinking of downtown as a place to be avoided? Right now, all young adults are being treated as lesser citizens on public property.

Wouldn't it be better to encourage young people to take an active interest in their city? If families are pushed out of the parks and other downtown areas by government regulation then crime probably will go up. It's been made clear by city leaders that teens and their families are not welcome in Chattanooga.

Our family likes the downtown area and Coolidge Park. We feel safe there. Perhaps the new lights will make it better. It's certainly a better approach then broadly discriminating against segments of the population.

I would like the government to focus on stopping the actual criminals instead of looking for more ways to restrict the citizens. The "solutions" to gang activity have been centered on taking away rights from the law-abiding in the name of safety. So far, they've outlawed guns for self defense and any person too young to vote in the next election. At least putting up lights is doing something positive.

August 18, 2011 at 4:41 p.m.
fedup350 said...

Anyone who thinks Coolidge Park is safe has their head in the sand or are fools. It is not the fault of one certain group of people. It is the fault of the leadership of Chattanooga. The mayor and the city council have their priorities all screwed up. They spend the money on silly signs and even sillier ordinances. It’s not just the black teens. It is also the white young adults at the bars downtown and the panhandlers and vagrants that are drawn here. Littlefield and the city council spend money on websites, studies for this and that, making up city jobs at 6 figures for their cronies.

NorthShoreRez you are a victim in waiting. It appears from your post that you walk through the world with blinders on. You are saying that Coolidge Park is safe? Incredible. You keep saying that right up until the time you get your head busted and your wallet taken, or ran over by a drunk leaving the downtown bars.

Harry Stattel is right. The right of self-defense does outweigh an ordinance concocted by nitwits.

August 18, 2011 at 5:17 p.m.
NorthShoreRez said...


August 18, 2011 at 9:53 p.m.
hambone said...

Lets see now, if the city allows carry permit in the park then all those with these permits will rush down to the park to protect us all?

August 18, 2011 at 11:35 p.m.
Echo said...

I'm with Veritas. Enough is enough. If some 14 year old delost cause prevent me from going home. Not in a park, not on a street, not

August 18, 2011 at 11:43 p.m.
Echo said...

Oh yeah the poor, disadvantaged, youth. How wrong for me to not consider they have no prospects, no role models, no future. Pity the little bastards. Sooner or later one shall select the wrong victim and our televisions will by filled with the image of some wideload with fake nails, ridiculous hair glued on her head, and a government issued debit card with your money on it blubbering into your living room about how he was such a good child not hours before roaming the streets with his pack looking for the next victim. Hopefully the person defending themselves will have predetermined that the prosecutors, politicians, and the courts find them completely expendable and will have slipped home to catch the footage on the 10pm news.

August 19, 2011 at 12:42 a.m.
harrystatel said...

You can also thank DA Cox for the problems too! His total lack of testicles, blindness towards corruption, and smarmy political patronage is to blame as well.

When the DA refuses to investigate corruption, why should anyone believe there's repercussions for crime?

In Hamilton County such corruption doesn't lead to jail, but public office.

August 19, 2011 at 11:45 a.m.
amnestiUSAF84 said...

Chattanooga's downtown is only a few years away from the same fate as Buckhead in Atlanta

You mean like those drunken yuppie broads with no underwear, passed out on the streets in Buckhead, with their legs up in the air for all the world to see their jewels? Oops! I hear there's already been a few in downtown Chattanooga.

August 19, 2011 at 4:08 p.m.
Legend said...

Chattanooga should be like some other cities. In that they should go outside the city and get someone to investigate and find out what's really going on in your city. Sounds like some downtown business may have teamed up with a few of their not so straight and narrow law enforcment friends to create havoc so they'll have an excuse to shut down certain businesses or run certain segments of the Chattanooga population away from downtown and your North Shore. It isn't as if Chattanooga isn't the south, and these type things have always been known to take place.

Someone(s) looking to make downtown Chattanooga and the North Shore an exclusive part of town again? Remember SUNDOWNING existed in your hometown of Chattanooga too. As late as the nineteen sixties?

August 19, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
Dog_Fri3nd1 said...

Somehow I feel that it would have been more romantic and artistic if they strung fairy lights across the whole bridge instead of doing what they did, which somehow detracts from the aesthetic feel of the whole bridge.

John -

February 9, 2012 at 2:28 a.m.
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