Business consultant Monty Bruell wants to be Chattanooga's next mayor in order to lessen the economic disparity between the "two Chattanoogas."
Bruell, 58, wants to improve quality of life for all Chattanoogans, but will focus on closing the gap between the city's most and least affluent groups to do so.
"I think we're at a turning point in Chattanooga," he explained. "People talk about there being two Chattanoogas: the city of the haves and the have nots, and that's true."
Bruell describes the city as a "shiny new pick-up truck," explaining that there are some citizens sitting comfortably in the cab with the air conditioning and music, staring at the view out the windshield, unaware of the struggles of those sitting in the bed.
"The problem with that is, if we don't do something right now, and we allow this income and wealth disparity to continue in our city, at some point all of the weight in the back is going to exceed the capacity of the truck," he said. "Then we'll all be broken down by the side of the road."
With a degree in economics from Harvard and a family history of civil engagement, including a mother who participated in civil rights sit-ins in Chattanooga, Bruell says he feels compelled to intervene before that happens to the city he loves.
"It's time to quit just talking about how great this city can be and to stand up and put my hat in the ring and put my vision for the city forward and see if the people will agree with me," Bruell said.
To even the playing field, Bruell says he'll focus on increasing wages and providing opportunity for low income and disenfranchised groups like single mothers and people of color.
"Chattanoogans need to make more money, and that needs to be the priority of the next mayor," Bruell said. "And that's my top goal."
Specifically, Bruell plans to:
— Increase the minimum wage of city employees to $15 to "set the tone" for other companies.
— Provide job skills training for technical positions, prioritizing those in low income areas.
— Recruit female- and minority-owned businesses to the areas of the city that need the jobs to promote diverse hiring.
— Require new companies to give Chattanoogans and Hamilton County residents priority when hiring to keep jobs local.
— Appoint a "poverty czar" to coordinate resources to help low-income people, families and neighborhoods.
"I dot the I's and cross the T's," Bruell said, after detailing his plans for the above steps. "I'm not going to say something vague like 'Oh well, I'll provide better jobs.' You ask me how, and I'll tell you how I'm going to improve the city."
Bruell is the fifth candidate to enter the race to assume outgoing Mayor Andy Berke's seat in March 2021, along with Councilman Russell Gilbert, activist Chirstopher Dahl and local businessmen Tim Kelly and Andrew McLaren.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.
Between a rock and a window pane: families and senior living facilities weigh visitation risks during pandemic