Activist Marie Mott and incumbent Marvene Noel are outlining their respective priorities to voters as they prepare for a runoff election Sept. 15 that will decide the representative for District 8 on the Chattanooga City Council.
"We must have cleaner neighborhoods, safer streets, accessible housing and better opportunities for every resident regardless of ZIP code," Mott said during a campaign event Tuesday, flanked by faith leaders and local residents outside the Community Haven at 815 N. Hickory St. "These are the issues I see, and I don't believe we could possibly be satisfied as District 8 residents with the stagnant growth we've seen in our economy."
On Aug. 4, three candidates were on the ballot for council's District 8 seat, which was previously held by former Councilman Anthony Byrd before he stepped down to become Chattanooga's City Court clerk. Council members appointed Noel to fill the seat in March.
Mott was the highest vote getter Aug. 4, capturing 46.3% of the of the 1,202 total votes cast, but she fell short of a majority of more than 50%, which prompted the runoff.
Noel was second with 28.4% of the vote, and Malarie B. Marsh was third with 24.5%. Marsh won't proceed to the runoff election this September, but she joined Mott at her news conference Tuesday and urged her supporters to back Mott.
District 8 includes Alton Park, Avondale, Bushtown, East Chattanooga, East Lake, Eastside and Ridgedale.
A regular fixture during public comment at weekly City Council meetings, Mott said the election Sept. 15 will be a choice between change or complacency. She said she hopes to see tangible progress on issues like gun violence and a lack of affordable housing.
"I don't believe that when we think about violence in the community we can arrest our way out of a problem," Mott told the Times Free Press. "I think how do we start doing things like scaling up the mental and behavioral health aspects of our 911 response. Also, how can we collaborate with the city and even grassroots individuals who are doing restorative justice, who are doing harm reduction for people struggling with addiction?"
She also wants to see officials update existing zoning rules and explore creating a community land trust or encourage new forms of social housing.
Marie Mott District 8 campaign event on Tuesday, Aug. 16
"What this is about when I talk about complacency is doing the same things over and over again and expecting the results to be different," Mott said. "We have to have a new view of how we are going to rebuild Chattanooga in a way that's going to create access for every person."
Noel, meanwhile, held a campaign launch last Thursday where she received an endorsement from Mayor Tim Kelly. Councilwoman Raquetta Dotley, Councilwoman Jenny Hill and state Rep. Yusuf Hakeem also appeared at the event, which Noel held at the Carver Community Center.
Noel is past president of the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association and serves on Parkridge Health System's board of trustees.
"Our communities need someone who's going to do more than take her three minutes at City Council," Kelly said, referring to the comment period during council meetings. "We need a leader who will take three hours or three days or three weeks or however long it takes to get a street fixed, address a zoning problem or get funding for our neighborhoods.
"We need someone who is going to bring people along with her, not divide them against one another. We need a leader who will roll up her sleeves, not just someone who criticizes from the sidelines," he said. "Fortunately for District 8, they have a leader who has demonstrated she is already ready for this job."
Noel said District 8 has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons: Neighbors are dying in senseless shootings, residents are being priced out of their homes and economic growth has been stifled.
"Now is the time we create safer streets and stronger communities so we can walk our neighborhoods without fear of stray bullets, so we can make sure our city services work for all communities," Noel said. "Now is the time for economic growth and development as we support our local small businesses and ensure equitable distribution of resources that reflect our needs. Now is the time we continue to fight for affordable housing so people can afford to live where they work."
In her five months on City Council, Noel said she's secured a $608,000 grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority to expand internet access, partnered with Habitat for Humanity to refurbish almost a dozen homes and approved alongside fellow council members uses for $30 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
"If we can do that in five months, just imagine what we can in three years," she said.
Mott led local demonstrations in response to the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and still has charges pending from that time, which include disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway. She is scheduled to appear Aug. 24 before Criminal Court Judge Don W. Poole. She had no comment Tuesday about the charges or Kelly's endorsement of her opponent.
Contact David Floyd at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @flavid_doyd.