published Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Westside leader wants forum on Purpose Built


by Cliff Hightower
Council member Deborah S. Scott listens as Rev. Leroy Griffith, a west side resident, reads a statement before the council on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. The reverend spoke about the housing matters on the west side. The Chattanooga City Council convened at the City Council building in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday evening.
Council member Deborah S. Scott listens as Rev. Leroy Griffith, a west side resident, reads a statement before the council on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. The reverend spoke about the housing matters on the west side. The Chattanooga City Council convened at the City Council building in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday evening.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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WHAT'S NEXT

The Westside Community Association plans a march at 5 p.m. Tuesday to "Support the Right to Housing." The event will begin at Renaissance Presbyterian Church, 1211 Boynton Drive, and proceed to the City Council building. The group then plans on handing the City Council petitions asking the body to pass legislation guaranteeing that for every public housing unit torn down in Chattanooga one must be rebuilt.

A community leader from the Westside neighborhood called Tuesday night for the council or a member of the council to meet with residents to hear their concerns about a proposed Purpose Built Community.

The Rev. Leroy Griffith of Renaissance Presbyterian Church stood before council members during a public comment session and asked them to hear the voices of the Westside neighborhood.

"Children of God feel like they are silenced by you, as well as the mayor," Griffith said.

But council members said a promise was never given to the community for a public meeting and that the issue of whether a Purpose Built Community would be built at Westside was out of their hands.

"It's something we don't control," said Sally Robinson, chairwoman of the City Council's Housing Committee. "We're interested in our citizens, but we're not the landlord."

Westside residents have been up in arms for more than a month after it was discovered their community is one of three proposed areas that could be considered for a Purpose Built Community. The communities are built by the Atlanta nonprofit Purpose Built Communities. They are mixed-use developments that can include housing, schools and community services.

But opponents say the communities kick out the poor in favor of those with more money and those who are evicted may never have a chance to come back.

Councilman Andraé McGary told Griffith he knows there has been a lot of discussion about why residents have not been able to speak to the council during two informational meetings and also whether a meeting held by the mayor a month ago was fully public.

But he said for him there has never been any gesture from the council there would be dialogue.

"There wasn't a promise that I know," he said.

New local channel?

The local public broadcast station is asking the city for funding to help launch a new channel called Voyager with 24-hour, seven-days-a-week programming.

Paul Grove, president and CEO of WTCI-TV Channel 45, addressed Chattanooga City Council members Tuesday morning and spoke about the proposed project.

The station asked for $250,000 from the city in the 2012-13 fiscal year budget.

"We believe this is what public television is supposed to do," he said, "create a dialogue."

He said the new channel would focus only on local issues such as the Gig City project, gangs and politics.

The station asked for the same amount last year but did not receive it.

The mayor plans to present his budget in May, which will disclose whether the city decided to fund the project. The council then will have a chance to discuss the matter before approving the budget, which could come in June.

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