Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly hits progress, not perfection, on 100-day plan

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Mayor Tim Kelly announced Monday, in front of Orchard Knob Elementary School, that the city will fund seven positions in seven Hamilton County Schools within city limits to provide wraparound services for students. The decision is the first such investment by the city since the schools merged in 1997.

Wednesday marked 100 days since Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly was inaugurated. In that time, Kelly made significant headway on a long list of promises and has released a performance tracker to provide transparency on unfinished goals.

Kelly marketed himself throughout a 10-month campaign as the candidate with the most robust policies on key economic and social issues in the city, driving him to the top of the field of 15 candidates.

Among those promises was a list of nearly 70 steps the new mayor promised to take to improve the city in the first 100 days to move toward his goals of improving COVID-19 recovery, education, roads and parking, neighborhoods, affordable housing, economic development, justice and safety, homelessness and government operations within the city.

(READ MORE: Kelly takes office as Chattanooga's mayor Monday with plan for first 100 days)

The goals were, by Kelly's own admission, ambitious.

"We aimed high with this list of action items, and I'm proud of the considerable headway we've made, but we still have some substantial progress to make in some key areas, and we understand that the work doesn't end just because we checked some boxes on a spreadsheet," Kelly told the Times Free Press on Wednesday. "When it comes to our most difficult problems such as homelessness and affordable housing, these items are just the first steps down a long road that will take much longer to accomplish.

"So while I'm optimistic, our work is far from complete. I can assure you that we'll be continuing to work hard on every single one of these priority areas."

According to a performance tracking platform released by the city on Wednesday, Kelly ticked about 81% of the boxes on his 100-day agenda by mid-day on day 100.

On the website, each action step - some more tangible like completing a survey or hanging a sign, others more subjective like forming a partnership or working toward a goal- is listed as either complete, in progress or not yet started, with a list of what work has been done to constitute its status.

According to that site, where the administration is grading itself, 81.16% of the steps have been completed, 18.84% are in progress and 0% are yet to be started.

The website was initially used as an internal barometer of progress on the plan that allowed the mayor's office to triage "at-risk" goals, according to Director of Special Projects Ellis Smith.

"This started out as an internal tracker that we put together so that we could make sure that we had accountability and transparency within the administration, so that as we moved forward on these projects, there was accountability built into that process," Smith said Tuesday.

"Second, it allowed a person working on a project to be able to flag their action item as at risk, which would then sort of put up a signal flare, if you would, for all the resources of the city to be brought to bear on that issue."

According to Kelly, expanding access to the public was an important step in his promise to be transparent.

"We are committed to transparency and accountability, which is why we've published a public tracker of our 100 Day Plan. The broad frameworks we had during the campaign will now give way to specific action plans, but we're still committed to seeing those through and expanding upon them along the way. Moving forward, I'll make sure those plans remain easily accessible."

Among those completed steps are some big wins, according to Kelly.

"I'm particularly proud of establishing our Department of Community Health, led by Dr. Mary Lambert. She was a great hire, and considering where we find ourselves still today with rising case counts, she is an essential part of our team as we work to move past this pandemic," he said. "I'm also proud of our new Community Forward initiative, which is a huge step forward in bringing resources and support to students and their families in schools through a wide range of wraparound services."

Kelly attributed some of the administration's successes to outside partners.

"It's been great to have partners in our state and federal legislative delegation who are as committed to seeing our community succeed as I am," he said. "In many ways, Washington could learn a lesson or two from Chattanooga as a model of what's possible when we can put politics aside and focus on people and results."

On the other hand, Kelly said the short initial transition brought on by the runoff election hindered some progress, including by prompting a continuation budget that will not even be presented to the city council until Aug. 10, nearly two weeks after the 100-day mark.

"Coming into office with a very short six-day transition period meant we had to work simultaneously on the 100-day plan, the reorganization of government and the budget, all while also running the day-to-day operations of government and working through the issues posed by the pandemic," Kelly said.

"This also delayed the budget beyond the end of the 100-day plan, which means that while some items are functionally complete, details on some of those actions will be released with our budget in a few weeks."

Other action steps were missed simply because the process took longer than Kelly had planned.

"While we did a fair amount of heavy lifting on revitalizing Chattanooga's land bank, there is, unfortunately, a time lag on that project due to how long it takes to reclaim our tax status and charter for that entity, but despite those hurdles we will continue to see that action item through to completion regardless, and I am bound and determined to get those properties back into circulation," he explained, for example.

"The process of fully simplifying our city's code and ordinances will take some time, but we've got a framework in place now to ensure our zoning code is simpler, easier to use, and more effective."

In a release by the city on Wednesday, Chief of Staff Brent Goldberg said the mayor's office will continue to work toward these goals throughout and beyond the fiscal year 2022 budget process.

"As we continue to build tools and add checks and balances to hold ourselves accountable, we're excited to be able to make this tracker available to the public to offer another layer of transparency to our residents," Goldberg said. "The end of the first 100 days is a great jumping-off point to begin talking about the long-term implementation of the Kelly administration's priorities through our budget process, which the mayor is looking forward to sharing in coming weeks."

The tracker can be accessed by the public on the city's ChattaData website.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at 423-757-6416 or at Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.