published Thursday, April 18th, 2013

New day at City Hall lends hope to future

Chattanoogans looking for elucidation on how the new city government will work got few details from the installation of a new mayor and city council this week. Inaugural events, however, did provide a platform for Mayor Andy Berke to elaborate on a few of his goals, and for the new City Council's election Tuesday of Yusuf Hakeem as its first chairman. Given the mayor's goals, there's a welcome symmetry in the council's action.

Mayor Berke's address didn't go much beyond his campaign outlines on economic development and entrepreneurship, but he gave important insight in two critical areas of his public safety/anti-crime agenda. He specifically emphasized youth development and intervention programs as a critical prong of his anti-gang, anti-crime platform.

Berke noted, for example, that in a city with 35,000 children, four out of 10 are living in poverty when they enter kindergarten. And as they grow up, they spend more time away from school and than they do in classrooms.

Though he offered no details, he emphasized the need to provide significant intervention in youth development from kindergarten ages through high school. As for crime, and the city's more visible and violent gang crime and related shootings, he broadly outlined crucial points of focus involving more police on the streets, stricter prosecution and effective punishment. By adding focus on another "p" -- prevention -- he correctly committed his administration to help find ways to provide youth a path out of gangland through strengthened out-of-school initiatives, community engagement and job-development programs.

Hakeem is an African-American with deep roots in urban neighborhoods here and a former city councilman who has returned to city politics since he finished a long stint on the state's parole board. He is now positioned to play a strong role on the council in support of Berke's youth development initiative. By naming Hakeem as chairman, the other six new council members and the two veteran incumbents indicated that they also are ready to coalesce around that initiative.

It is urgent that they do so. As it is, the city's most impoverished, and mostly black, urban neighborhoods suffer badly from gang crime and shootings, and an environment that frightens and intimidates helpless, innocent residents. Many residents are afraid to sit on their porch, or to raise their voices against the corner drug-dealers and the kids they influence. Their neighborhoods will not prosper until that dynamic changes, and residents find enough support from the city to engage in neighborhood programs that will uplift their circumstances.

It remains to be seen what sort of programs Mayor Berke and the City Council will introduce, but it's clear Berke is looking around the country for successful programs as models. He cited the High Point (North Carolina) initiative that involved neighborhoods, police and courts working together, and a Maryland program that successfully targeted domestic violence.

Beyond agreement on the need to help improve public safety, it's not clear how or whether new council members will collaborate well. New members reportedly met after the election to get acquainted and exchange some views. At least three -- Chip Henderson (District 1), Ken Smith (Dist. 3) and Larry Grohn (Dist. 4) identify themselves as conservatives; Grohn is a local tea party officer. Hakeem (Dist. 9), Moses Freeman (Dist. 8), Chris Anderson (Dist. 7), Carol Berz (Dist. 6), Russell Gilbert (Dist. 5), and Jerry Mitchell (Dist. 2) are widely seen as more moderate or progressive.

They all seem ready, as does Berke, to provide more transparency and accountability in city government, and to invite more civic engagement. To advance that goal, they would do well to put all their resolutions, bid announcements, contracts and taped committee meetings online, and to provide streaming video of all council meetings, including the all-important committee meetings in which decisions are informally reached.

Council members and Mayor Berke should consider, as well, ending the traditional division of governance that has the council conducting its meetings without the mayor in the room. If the mayor and council members want full collaboration and transparency, they will take these steps.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
aae1049 said...

Amen to that Mr. Austin, "To advance that goal, they would do well to put all their resolutions, bid announcements,contracts"

Chattanooga has pervasive bid corruption and this was a driving factor for citizens to document procurement through Little Chicago Watch. On million in contracts with Excalibur, and there was no competition or advertised bid for lab tops. For another contractor renting a house to General Services, Paul Page, to meet residency requirements for employment, that contractor netted millions in no competitive RFP's where millions was change ordered or added onto exiting contract without bid.

The legal department would dole out over $400,000 a year in outsourced legal contracts for friends and never advertized for RFQ or RFP to allow all legal firms in Chattanooga to compete. It is corrupt as H because the contract opportunity is not made known, or specs are written to ensure their vendor is selected.

Yeap, the city of Chattanooga procurement process is corrupt, Fix it.

The city attorney's office outsources about $400,000 per year in legal services to Miller and Martin and CBS. At the same time, the city has 12 full time attorneys, 12 support staff, an operating budget of $1.2 million, and does not advertise for RFP's in their contracts for the other law firms to compete. Contrary to purchasing policy, they just pick a friend.

From your friends at Little Chicago Watch

April 18, 2013 at 6:43 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Not a thing about parental roles in raising children and "uplifting their circumstances." Just throw more money at it.

April 18, 2013 at 9:18 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Updated list of city's outsourced legal. It is definitely who ya know in the legal contacts. See any names of council member's family. :-)

April 18, 2013 at 9:31 a.m.
timbo said...

Berke is a new day? I am laughing so hard I almost threw up.

April 20, 2013 at 8:44 p.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.