Tennessee Human Right Commission Has Hearing At UTC Feb. 24

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Tennessee Human Right Commission, continuing its statewide series of hearings, will stop in Chattanooga on Monday, Feb. 24. Chattanooga Organized for Action has been invited to speak on civil rights issues currently facing Chattanooga. The hearing seeks input and testimony from community leaders, advocacy groups, and researchers concerning the state of human rights in the community. 

COA will address what the organization has identified as a three-part crisis in Chattanooga: a crisis of housing, economy, and democracy. COA’s testimony will focus on Chattanooga’s multiple crises of lack of affordable housing for low-income people, poverty and economic inequity, and lack of truly meaningful civic participation in local government. COA’s testimony will also show how minority groups are disproportionately affected by these multiple crises.

Testimony on the crisis of affordable housing for low-income people will take the lead, as half of Chattanooga’s households are burdened with housing costs. One out of every four renters pays more than half of their income to rent. The affordable housing that does exist is on decline: half of Chattanooga’s public housing stock has been demolished, with the two largest public housing communities targeted for demolition. Thousands sit on waiting lists for public and subsidized housing while the city’s land use policies exacerbate the problem by favoring single family homes and luxury apartments.  

Testimony on economic inequity will follow. In Chattanooga, 45 percent of all households qualify as low-income; 23 percent live below the federal poverty line. Communities of color are disproportionately affected; nearly half of African American males in the urban core are unemployed. Black households make an average of $26,787 per year; whites $51,548. Sixty-percent of African American children live in poverty, compared to 16.5 percent of white children. These inequities are caused, in part, by prioritization of corporate welfare agreements that redistribute wealth from poorer communities to international corporations. Out of $32 million dollars spent in city/county money towards preparing industrial sites for the VW project, less than one-tenth of one percent went to women or minority-owned firms. These problems are exacerbated due to the outsourcing of city economic development and recruitment policies of the Chamber of Commerce, an agency that actively promotes Chattanooga’s workforce as highly exploitable.

In addition to unemployment and economic inequity, gentrification is also a challenge in Chattanooga. In the past decade, Chattanooga has made claim to two of the top 15 most racially gentrified zip codes in the nation. Poor people of color have been displaced in favor of an influx for more affluent white residents through public and philanthropic policies that rewarded targeted developments to increase property values at the expense of equity towards indigenous populations.

In addition to offering testimony on the crises of affordable housing and economy, COA’s testimony will focus on how attempts at community self-governance have been repeatedly thwarted by local government entities, including the current and previous Chattanooga mayoral administrations. Cited examples will include the attempted destruction of the Westside by Mayor Littlefield’s attempted Purpose Built Communities project to the repeated failure of the Berke Administration and the Chattanooga Housing Authority to meaningfully include elected Neighborhood Association in its plans for the former Harriet Tubman site, officials said. COA will draw a link between the thwarted attempts at community self-determination and the current socioeconomic crises faced by these communities. 

COA’s statement will draw from a collection of research into these cited issues, along with an analysis of how city government policy decisions over the course of the past three decades have exacerbated socioeconomic inequities, especially as it relates to Chattanooga’s minority community. The data from COA will include both quantitative and qualitative information. Quantitative data will draw from: US Census and American Community Survey data sets, research detailing housing, economy, and lack of civic participation, and unemployment figures and disparities across race and ethnicity and housing displacement figures as they relate to racial gentrification. Qualitative information will include testimony from Chattanooga’s marginalized communities, which provide invaluable personal witness to lived socioeconomic hardships in housing, economic inequity, and the thwarted attempts by those communities to meaningfully engage in the process of self-governance due to a lack of participation with local governmental institutions.  

The Tennessee Human Rights Commission hearing will take place Monday, Feb. 24, on UTC’s campus in the University Center’s Chattanooga Room. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend and hear testimony on issues facing Chattanooga.

The Commission’s hearing will culminate in the production of a final report, “The State of Human Rights in Tennessee.” The final report will include, along with testimony, statistics, trends, and information from the Commission’s work.  

To learn more or RSVP to the Chattanooga Hearing, visit www.chattanoogahearing.eventbrite.com. COA is looking for more testimony from individuals to include in the organization’s final policy documents.  To share a story with the organization, please email info@chattaction.org

For questions regarding the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, please contact Susannah Berry at 800.251-3589 or at susannah.berry@tn.gov.


Scenic City Lawn Mower Racing Association To Host 5th Annual “Get The Mowdown: Lawnmower Race For Autism”

On Saturday, May 3 at 2 p.m., racers at Savannah Valley Speedway, 10516 Hwy 58, Ooltewah at Goodner’s Equipment, will mount their specially modified mowers and race each other at speeds up to 60 MPH. The SCLMRA hosts several races at the Savannah Valley Speedway throughout the year. Barry Goodner, race coordinator, said “Lawnmower racing is a fun event on so many levels. ... (click for more)

Rep. Kevin Brooks Endorses Eric Watson For Bradley County Sheriff

Rep. Kevin Brooks has endorsed Eric Watson for Bradley County sheriff.  He released the following letter Tuesday. "As a member of The Tennessee General Assembly, I am proud to have served the citizens of Bradley County with my colleague and friend, Chairman Eric Watson, a man whom I proudly endorse in the upcoming sheriff’s election in Bradley County. "Eric Watson has ... (click for more)

Bradley County Schools Sue City Of Cleveland Over Liquor Tax Funds

The Bradley County Schools on Monday sued the city of Cleveland over the issue of liquor tax funds. Johnny McDaniel, director of schools, and Vicki Beaty, board chairwoman, said, "Our attorney, Jim Logan, has filed a complaint to recover for the Bradley County Board of Education the funds which are due and owing to Bradley County Schools by the city of Cleveland.  "We ... (click for more)

One Of "Worst Of The Worst" Gets 10-Month Federal Sentence

One of the men labeled as the "worst of the worst" in a Chattanooga round up was sentenced Tuesday  to 10 months and three years supervised release after he plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Guy Wilkerson told Federal Judge Sandy Mattice, "I'm just a young father and I want the best for my kids." He said he apologized and that he knew ... (click for more)

What's Wrong With The City Recycle Program? - And Response (2)

Being new to recycling, I have lots to learn.  I rely on 311 and the attendants at the neighborhood collection centers to assist in building my knowledge.   Recently, I had an experience that makes me reconsidered my recycling efforts.  I loaded up my car, called 311 to verify what I could take, only to be blocked by the attendant at my neighborhood collection ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: That Billboard & Much More

Now that early voting has started and our strawberries have hopefully survived this last blush of winter, allow me to catch up on some things but, first, here’s a letter from a concerned reader I feel compelled to share: “There is something I have noticed throughout Brainerd, East Brainerd, Dayton, etc. A billboard has been put up, I believe by the Health Department of Hamilton ... (click for more)