Opinion: 20 years of studies on social and economic equity in Chattanooga, but some members of City Council want yet another one. Do we really need it?

Staff File Photo By David Floyd / Members of Chattanooga City Council listen to public comment during a recent regular meeting.
Staff File Photo By David Floyd / Members of Chattanooga City Council listen to public comment during a recent regular meeting.

A social and economic equity study? Why not, we haven't had one in two or three weeks.

Some members of the City Council are contemplating such a study that would assess disparities within the city.

"We continue to talk about these same disparities ... and nothing ever gets resolved or introduced," Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod said during a strategic planning meeting earlier this month. "Our communities are suffering. It is not just the Black community."

The four- to six-month study suggested would be completed by staff at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and cost a little over $9,000.

Study? You want a study? Here are a few — by all means not all — that have been conducted about the same subject in Chattanooga, and about Chattanooga, since 2000.

› 2023: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee hold Diversify Summit.

› 2023: Inaugural Community Cultural Index for Chattanooga released by former Chattanooga mayoral candidate, lawyer and consultant Wade Hinton, detailing how Chattanooga businesses stack up against the overall community for diversity efforts and highlighting ways to boost the diversity of hiring, staff development and supplier networks to better reflect the demographics of workers and customers.

› 2022: Urban League of Greater Chattanooga releases "State of Black Chattanooga," noting that the median family income of Black families is less than half that of white families and that Blacks also are behind their white counterparts in health, education and wealth assessments; in response, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly says the city is working to diversify employment, contracting and civic leadership at City Hall, and working on programs to help address inequities in Chattanooga.

› 2021: Chattanooga 2.0 releases new report, renewing its "commitment to educational equity and, specifically, to ending the long history of racial inequity for children and students in local education systems," and also releases the city's first equity scoreboard.

› 2021: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce suggests members make an equity pledge, with the goal of expanding racial equity and inclusion across industries, citing a report, "The Business Case for Racial Equity," from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

› 2021: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee hold virtual summit on diversity, equity and inclusion.

› 2020: Study presented earlier in the year to Chattanooga City Council shows that 10.78% of city contract spending in construction, architecture and engineering, professional services, other services and goods awarded over four years went to minority- and women's owned companies; having digested the study, the city offers various solutions for the short term, mid-term and long term.

› 2019: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's Chattanooga Climbs, a five-year economic and talent development strategic plan, identifies economic equity and diversity as targeted goals for the organization for the first time; plan is developed from chamber's Velocity 2040 community visioning.

› 2018: Hamilton County Schools creates equity task force to acknowledge inequities in district and makes plans to bring in consultants to develop an equity plan; releases equity plan.

› 2013: State of the Chattanooga Region reports on area health and education, and the equity therein, are released.

› 2012: Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that tracks U.S. social and economic issues, ranks city 24th in the country in study for black/white equity and 16th for white-Latino equity; ranking is best among four largest cities in the state, though the city had lower marks in home ownership and residential segregation. Local NAACP vice president refutes findings.

› 2007: Segal Group releases study done in 2006 that shows compensation for some city positions is above average but for most it is not; study shows midpoint of city salaries is 11% lower than the average of peer markets.

› 2003: Study of local mortgage lending by Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, a Washington, D.C.-based group that tries to promote minority home ownership, finds Black home buyers in metro Chattanooga are turned down for mortgages 1.69 times more than whites and Latinos 1.41 times more than whites; however, the racial disparity in loan rejection rates is less in Chattanooga than in any other major city in Tennessee or Georgia.

Since the City Council is Chattanooga's legislative body, we wonder why its members haven't crafted plans based on any or all of the above, and what it hopes a new study will find.

However, we can tell them before one penny is spent, no magic elixir will be found; no solution will automatically make every disparity vanish overnight; no amount of money will cure all ills. There is no secret sauce.

But, if information and advice are what's needed, a number of trees have been slaughtered to deliver all of the above studies. City Council members should use them and develop legislation, if they believe that's what's necessary, instead of wasting taxpayer money on one more study that will tell us — again — what we already know.