Chris Anderson talks fast and covers a lot of ground

Chris Anderson talks fast and covers a lot of ground

February 15th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Chris Anderson, District 7 candidate for Chattanooga City Commission, answers questions during a meeting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

He is full of thoughtful energy - something needed on the Chattanooga City Council, and particularly in the District 7 communities of St. Elmo, Southside, East Lake, Alton Park and portions of Downtown.

Problems in that district have often been bypassed in the city's rush to work on sexier fixes in other communities. Instead, the district -- now represented by incumbent Manny Rico -- has become increasingly known for crime.

Anderson, the director of food and beverage services in the Bluff View arts district and executive committeeman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, is concerned about crime. He is especially worried about what appears to be a rising gang problem.

"We spent $210,000 on a gang study two years ago to find out what we knew 20 years ago," he said. "We need more police ... We're showing up after crimes occur because we're not staffed properly."

He's done his homework, and he says there is no one solution. Although the city has annexed new areas and the number of city officers already is down, the police department faces more retirements this year than there are cadets in the current police academy.

But just boots on the ground won't make enough difference.

"There's no solution to crime without a jobs component," he said. "We also need to keep kids occupied. ... The city can't do a whole lot about schools, but in the afternoons we can offer positive activities [sports, art, music and mentorship programs] in the recreation centers we already have."

The way to finance fixes, he told Times Free Press editorial writers recently, is to prioritize and cut money wasted on "crony capitalism." He recommends a merger of the Education, Arts and Culture Department with the Parks and Recreation Department.

Another money saver is the Memorial Auditorium. Sell it or lease it, making sure there are stipulations for some low-cost public programing, Anderson said. At the very least, he said, manage it correctly so that event-goers can use a credit card. Currently only cash is accepted, and the auditorium's ATM has recently been broken for months, he said.

"When I hear that we lost $680,000 in revenue last year at the Memorial Auditorium, and the concession stand only takes cash and there's no ATM? I think that's a really quick fix," he said.

Incumbent Rico has been on the city council eight years.

It's time for a change, and Anderson is the man.