Chattanooga's great (but ...)

Chattanooga's great (but ...)

December 21st, 2009 in Opinion Free Press

Most of us believe Chattanooga is the greatest place in the world to live. There are many wonderful people in a delightfully temperate natural setting, and we are working to making our community even better.

Although our country is in economic recession, there are great prospects for economic improvement in Chattanooga, as Volkswagen and a number of other fine companies are planning to locate or expand here, offering our people greater job opportunities.

There's lots of "good news."

For example, in a recent speech to the Chattanooga Rotary Club, David Eichenthal, president and CEO of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, gave this happy report: "Since 1980, 20 U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents have lost -- or are on track to lose -- more than 10 percent of their population in a single decade. By and large, these are cities -- like Buffalo, Flint or Gary, Indiana -- that have seen consistent and constant population declines for decades. In places like Detroit, people are now talking about a version of planned depopulation and turning back former residential neighborhoods to prairies. ...

"In 1990, Chattanooga made the list -- having lost just over 10 percent of its population in the prior decade.

"But in the 1990s, because of the efforts of many in this room (Rotary Club meeting) today, Chattanooga began its turnaround.

"By 2000, Chattanooga had gained population -- making it the one U.S. city with more than 100,000 residents to have lost more than 10 percent of its population in the 1980s and then gain population in the 1990s."

Mr. Eichenthal said our Chattanooga growth rate is now greater than Hamilton County's overall rate of growth. "And more people live in Chattanooga today than ever before."

Obviously, many people see desirable things in our city.

But all is not "perfect," unfortunately. We do have problems.

For example:

* In 2008, 35,000 Chattanoogans were living in poverty -- with income less than $10,830 for an individual or $22,050 for a family of four.

* Parts of the city have half of our robberies and 40 percent of aggravated assaults.

* In these areas, a third of public school students fail to attend classes regularly. We are 48th among our 50 states in education!

There were more such facts and figures, but you get the idea.

In our wonderful, delightful, progress-minded city, there are many good things -- but some serious challenges we need to overcome.

That's our big job, and opportunity.

Mr. Eichenthal is helping alert us: "Today, the question is, can all of us continue to work together to build a city -- a community -- where we can take on the tough challenges that I have described today and succeed?

"If we do, Chattanooga will continue to prosper, to grow and to be the great success story of urban America in the 21st century."

We have lots of advantages -- and some tough challenges. Facing them should help us to -- as the old popular song says, "Accentuate the positive -- eliminate the negative -- and don't mess with Mr. In-Between."