Leaders in Chattanooga Districts 7-9 meet, seek unified approach to problems

photo James R. Mapp speaks at Jubilee Day 2013 in this file photo.
photo Elenora Woods

Where a child lives should not be a factor in determining his success, but it is, said Dr. Ken Chilton, president of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies.

And it's easy to see, he told neighbors at a unified community meeting Thursday hosted by the Alton Park Development Corp.

Chilton showed a map illustrating that most lower-paying service jobs are held by people living in the inner city, while people with higher-paying management jobs and occupations in the arts and sciences live in North Chattanooga, the city's suburbs or outside town.

Chilton was one of several speakers at the meeting of neighborhood leaders in City Council Districts 7, 8, and 9.

The districts represent high-poverty, high-crime areas such as East Chattanooga, the Westside and East Lake Courts. They are the most in need of better-performing schools and jobs, but they get the least money to help them, said Dr. Elenora Woods, executive director of the development corporation.

"It's important that we get an understanding of just how bad things are so that we will have the strength to stand and do something about it," she said.

The goal is to create a more unified and organized voice to get funding and improvements for their neighborhoods.

"We've got to come together collectively to get some things done," said James Mapp, NAACP president.

George Calhoun, president of the development corporation, said the meeting comes out of a dream "to get different people together to come up with solutions for a better Chattanooga."

"We've got to muster enough strength in the community where we can make a difference," Calhoun said.

Chilton gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting disparities in income, education and employment in different communities of Chattanooga.

The median household income for blacks in Hamilton County is $26,787. It's $51,548 for whites and $28,519 for Hispanics, he said.

About 30 percent of blacks 18 to 24 do not have a high school diploma and the unemployment rate for black males without a diploma is 52 percent.

So when the jobs from Volkswagen come, many people are automatically excluded because they are not academically prepared, Chilton said.

The unemployment rate for blacks went from 6.9 percent in 2000 to 16.2 percent in 2010. For whites it went from 2.7 percent in 2000 to 7 percent in 2010. So that even at their worst, whites were doing about the same as blacks at their best, said Chilton.

Former NAACP Vice President Joe Rowe told the dozen people attending that they've got to vote and get the people in their communities to vote if they want to hold elected officials accountable for decisions affecting the inner city.

"You can't hold an elected official accountable when 40,000 out of 60,000 people are not registered to vote," said Rowe.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6431.