Crime high among concerns in Chattanooga's District 8

THE CANDIDATES• Andraé McGary, 33, incumbent and former radio talk show host who lost a November Democratic bid for state Senate• Moses Freeman, 74, retired city administrator and developer

Crime, government spending and jobs are chief concerns for District 8 residents, said City Councilman Andraé McGary. The incumbent faces a challenge from developer and retired city administrator Moses Freeman in next month's city elections.

Freeman said his priorities are helping people feel safe in their homes and alleviating drug sales and violence. He also wants to promote more economic development, he said.

Early voting in the city's mayoral and City Council election continues through Feb. 28. Election Day is March 5.

District 8 includes Bushtown, which is listed with Glenwood as having the second-highest unemployment rate in Chattanooga at 28.3 percent, according to the city's Gang Task Force Assessment. District 7's Alton Park had the city's highest unemployment rate at 47.8 percent.

District 8 also includes East Chattanooga, where unemployment for males topped 33 percent. And District 8's Avondale and Oak Grove communities were among those listed with the highest crime rates in the city, according to the gang assessment.

McGary said many District 8 residents live in or near poverty, so getting more jobs is a concern. He said if companies receive local government funding or tax breaks, they should provide living-wage jobs and job training.

Talk is cheap; action counts, said McGary. He said that's why people have asked him to run for City Council again. He had said while running unsuccessfully for the 10th Senate District seat that he wouldn't seek another council term, but he changed his mind.

"I am unapologetic in making bold decisions," McGary said. "I am unapologetic in standing up against the mayor. I do not apologize for jumping in police cars and walking into the most crime-ridden neighborhoods and talking to young gangbangers about making a change."

Freeman said he wants to be on the council's Safety Committee and start collaborating with other council members, the police department and neighborhood groups to bring down crime. He also said he will try to put more police officers on the streets and consider what technology is available to help fight crime. And he wants to increase penalties for boarded-up homes and increase lighting to make neighborhoods safer.

"A city councilman should be more than just someone who passes laws and ordinances," said Freeman. "It's someone who can wake up every morning putting the people of his district first. I promise to roll up my sleeves and work side by side with people to solve their problems."