Mayor Andy Berke, in his annual State of the City Address on Thursday, said he plans to establishing the city’s first Affordable Housing Fund.
He said the city plans to commit $1 million to the fund "that will be used exclusively to aid the creation of affordable and workforce housing throughout Chattanooga. These funds will be used to supplement federal funding, various tax incentives, and special grants utilized by the city of Chattanooga and its private sector partners to promote affordable, high-quality housing."
He said, "Chattanooga’s metropolitan economy is stronger now than at any point in recent history. Our unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent, we’re creating jobs twice as fast as the national economy, we’ve seen the third highest wage growth for a mid-size city, and sales tax revenues are 10 percent higher than they were at this point last year. Growth is good -- but as our city rises, so does the cost of living for many Chattanoogans.
Mayor Berke also said the Innovation District will be further developed.
He said it will involve the redevelopment of several city-owned properties in the district, including the City Hall Annex. This aligns with the goals of the Innovation District framework plan, which was released in March 2018, he said.
The mayor said, "With the opening of the Edney Innovation Center last year, the formation of our MetroLab partnership with the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and more than $1 billion in new development underway in our downtown core, we have proven that our city can support a thriving technology sector that is built on a vibrant and welcoming urban community. Our challenge now is to keep this momentum going while redoubling our efforts to be as inclusive and equitable as we can. City Government recognizes an opportunity and a responsibility to play a significant role."
He said any potential costs borne by the city of Chattanooga, including any incentives or grants, are unknown at this point and will be determined through a transparent and open RFP process.
Mayor Berke also announced the creation of the Mayor’s Council Against Extremism & Hate (CAEH). He said it is a volunteer committee of citizens and community leaders working together to create an open, tolerant and diverse Chattanooga.
He stated, "Across Tennessee and the rest of the country, incidents of hate-speech and extremismare on the rise. I am committed to creating a Chattanooga that is tolerant and accepting of everyone. This council will address incidents fueled by hatred and extremism and will coordinate closely with local law enforcement, while providing affected communities with the support they need.
Another initiative to adding 1,000 high-quality seats to the Office of Early Learning programs by 2021
It involves continuing the long-term investment in Chattanooga’s youth by improving programs geared toward early learning and investment in teacher training and professional development.
High-quality seats are "places where children get the experiences needed to succeed in their future and families are supported in reaching their goals."
Mayor Berke said, "In 2017, Chattanooga children enrolled in Head Start made 29 percent gains in literacy and math. Whereas we saw 19 percent gains in literacy and 18 percent gains in math two years ago. Families enrolled in our Baby University program have zero percent infant mortality rate. Compared to an 11 percent infant mortality rate for all black babies in Chattanooga, and 10 percent of babies in the targeted zip codes . Additionally, every teen mother enrolled in Baby U is on track to graduate high school. While the drop-out rate for teen mothers nationally is 53 percent. We’re making a lot of progress but we have an obligation and an opportunity to do even more."
He said he intends to ask for financial commitments to training and professional development programs for early childcare providers in the FY 2019 budget, as well as leveraging investments from the private sector, state and federal funding and community collaborations.
He was introduced by principal LaFrederick Thrailkill.
Here is the full speech:
Thank you so much LaFrederick. I wanted a
true creator to introduce me tonight--- and
LaFrederick fits the bill. He has so much on
his plate I don’t know when he sleeps. He’s
there for the kids who need him, yet he’s
also spearheading a project that will use art
to help us remember and make sense of
one of the most horrific acts in our history.
For your leadership and role as a creator,
Next, I want thank the most important
people in my life -- my family. Monique,
Hannah, and Orly are the best support
system I could ask for. I couldn’t do this
Seated by them are my parents, whom I
admire so much, and my little brother,
Cleavon Smith. Cleavon is working
incredibly hard to knock it out of the park at
the end of his sixth grade year, and I know
he’s going to get it done.
To members of the City Council who are
here tonight: it has been a pleasure to
serve with you over the past year. You have
pushed our City to be more transparent,
open, and innovative. Chairman Ken Smith,
Vice Chair Erskine Oglesby, Chip
Henderson, Jerry Mitchell, Darrin Ledford,
Russell Gilbert, Carol Berz, Anthony Byrd,
Demetrus Coonrod -- thank you for serving
your districts and our community with pride.
To Mayor Coppinger -- thank you
recognizing the unique role that the city
plays in moving our region forward. From
your years as a fire chief, to your tenure as
County Mayor -- you have been an
advocate for Chattanooga, and I am proud
to be your partner.
There are many other elected officials here
tonight. I know how much you sacrifice to
do your work. Thank you.
I also want to thank Ken and Byron Defoor
and the entire Westin staff. The building
where we sit tonight had been vacant since
2009, but Ken and Byron saw something
more than an empty gold building
surrounded by vacant storefronts. Their
passion renewed an entire section of our
Through their vision, and in partnership with
the City, we have built a public space that
Chattanooga should be proud of. Thank
you to the Defoors and the amazing team
they have assembled for hosting us tonight
and for investing in building a better
There are also a number of volunteer board
members and councils here tonight. The
Mayor’s Council for Women, established at
State of the City in 2015, has published
numerous white papers, passed state
legislation, and hosted a statewide policy
conference with over 400 attendees. I want
to thank you for your tireless work. To our
other volunteers -- the Mayor’s Youth
Council, the Mayor’s Council on disabilities,
and many others -- thank you for making
our City stronger through your advocacy
To our first responders who are here and to
those who are serving in our fire halls or
patrolling our streets tonight -- thank you.
Our firefighters have earned the highest the
possible rating -- one that is shared by only
one half of one percent of the departments
in the country. It is a testament to the hard
work you have put in this year. To our
police officers, who continually put
themselves between the community and
danger -- thank you for your selfless service
to our City.
Finally, to the other Chattanooga City
employees who are here, I am privileged to
serve alongside you. Every day you show
up ready to break down the barriers that
prevent people from living the life they want
in our City. I hear regularly about you going
out of the way to help a neighbor, to offer
outstanding customer service, to find a way
to do your job better. You inspire me with
your commitment to service.
One of the best parts of being Mayor is the
privilege of delivering the State of the City
address. Every year, it is an opportunity to
share a few minutes -- and yes, in some
years, a lot of minutes -- to discuss where
we’ve been, where we are, and where we
need to go so that we leave tonight united
As I thought about what to say this year --
in a time of rapidly growing economic
prosperity and improving quality of life for
most Chattanoogans -- it was clear that
now was not the time to take a victory lap.
Instead, now is the time for definition, to
state clearly who we are, and who we are
capable of being.
So here it is.
Chattanooga is a city of creators. It is at
the core of who we are and who we want to
Our history is of creating places, products,
and people. Chattanoogans who have
driven progress have been, at their cores,
creators. Take our products. More than a
century ago, people thought sodas could
only be dispensed at a fountain. A
Chattanoogan showed the world you could
take that carbonated drink, put it in a glass
bottle, cap it off, and it would still taste like
summer every time it was opened.
Today there are echoes of that spirit in our
innovation district. There, creators are
searching for the next great ideas and
finding success. Whether it is moving
furniture from apartment to apartment,
helping businesses transport heavy
shipments between continents, or writing
software that enables companies to boost
their sales -- our modern day entrepreneurs
follow in the proud Chattanooga tradition of
And then there are the places. Three
decades ago, as I was graduating high
school, we had a city scarred by job losses
and struggling to recover from the
environmental devastation caused by the
way we treated God’s bounty.
In response, Chattanooga’s leaders looked
at our city through a deep and far-reaching
visioning process, a model admired and
replicated by communities everywhere.
They were creators -- and they helped
others in our community understand that
they were creators too. Together, they
started a renaissance in our city that
This story is familiar to us all. With the
assistance of partners like River City
Company, we started by making
transformative changes at the waterfront,
building a vibrant downtown, one that is
rapidly expanding around us.
But this is only part of the story. Creators
have also built out beautiful and vibrant
neighborhoods throughout Chattanooga.
Certainly, since I have been Mayor, we
have witnessed remarkable growth and
change. Just in the last year, we cut the
ribbon on a new Southside Community
Park, which was the vision of residents like
Tony Hare, Rosemary Porter, and Terry
McCullough, who, I want to proudly add, is
a city Public Works employee. On our most
recent MLK Day of Service, I stood side by
side with Eastdale families as we painted a
beautiful mural that now graces the Wilcox
Tunnel. It joins another mural, in Milliken
Park at 45th and Central, created through
neighborhood input, which we unveiled with
neighbors last December.
We’re also improving the corridors that
connect our community. The rejuvenation of
Martin Luther King Boulevard over the last
few years is one great example, as creators
have changed that district from the inside
out and from the bottom up. Whether it’s
the local stories told on the Southeast’s
largest mural, the new businesses
flourishing, or the apartments popping up
everywhere, we are witnessing a
transformation on this street.
A few weeks ago, after our repaving project
was completed -- on-budget and ahead of
schedule-- I strolled down the boulevard
and was amazed by what I saw: people
walking, visiting shops and restaurants. At
every stop, someone told me about how
great it was to be located on MLK
Boulevard in 2018.
Our institutions are finding new life too.
Befitting the change in our environmental
story, the Chattanooga airport, which has
grown from just over three hundred
thousand tickets a few years ago to four
hundred eighty-five thousand last year, will
soon be the first net zero energy airport in
the country, and one of only four in the
world. And most of you have experienced
the amazing makeover at the Tivoli and
Memorial Theaters. A few years ago, in one
of many great ideas to emerge from the
Chattanooga Forward process, we
transferred those assets from city
government to a newly formed foundation.
Since then, those venues have hosted a
five hundred seventy percent increase in
events and more than doubled the
Behind the numbers, though, are the many
Chattanoogans dancing to a song they
love; watching a musical they’ve been
waiting for years to see; making a special
memory with friends and family.
In every corner of our city, creators are
making and remaking Chattanooga
everyday. While products have aided our
economic development and others cities
hail our places, we should not forget the
real source of these achievements:
Chattanoogans -- young and old -- who
were inspired to dream, to build, to disrupt
the status quo. And I’m not just talking
about artists and tech moguls.
At the Mayor’s Youth Council last week, I
watched Jymon Scott play a video he had
made about child support. This young man
had interviewed mothers, fathers, and
attorneys, so he could teach his peers
about child support obligations and the
ramifications for failing to pay it. Jymon is a
Or Rachel McClellan and Ash Robinson. As
young moms, they decided to start their
own business leading yoga and exercise
classes for the mothers of newborns. In
those first few months after giving birth, a
mom could bring her stroller to a park and
do some stretching and working out, and,
by the way, meet a couple of peers who
might one day give crucial support and
advice. Rachel and Ash are creators.
There’s 9 year old -- that’s right, 9 year old
-- Mikayla Sanders, who founded the Black
Inventors Traveling museum, which
showcases how African American inventors
have affected everyday life. Man, do I feel
like a late bloomer. Her exhibit now tours so
others can experience it. Mikayla is a
There are Kevin Adams, and Doug
Fairbanks, and Ternae Jordan, and Brad
Whitaker, and Susie Tendler, and Carlos
Williams, and many, many others, whose
pews I have sat in, taking in their sermons,
mixing the Bible, homespun wisdom, and
music into an amazing message. These
faith leaders are all creators.
There’s Donna Chambers. Donna’s
grandson suffers from autism, and she read
that weighted blankets could help comfort
him. So she made one for him and -- when
her grandson loved it -- realized others
could benefit from the same thing. Donna
was living in a mobile home in Lookout
Valley, not dreaming of building a business
empire, but she wanted to help others in the
same situation. She put up a website to
take orders for weighted blankets and
forgot about it. Soon, though, the orders
began piling in, she grew from a one person
operation in her home to a seventeen
employee small business called
Donna is a creator.
There’s the Baby University mom -- let’s
call her Janel. Janel suffers from
depression, but our Baby U specialist
started her with a therapist, where she’s
working to express her thoughts and
feelings. She’s been reluctant to seek a job
because she doesn’t have work appropriate
clothes. Baby U stepped in and made sure
she had 3 interview-ready dresses. Having
gained some confidence, Janel applied for
a job, nailed the interview, and now proudly
goes to work each day. For herself and for
her baby, Janel is most certainly a creator.
I could go on and on. Here’s the point. In
every nook and cranny of our city, far and
wide, there are creators. Jymon, Rachel,
Ash, Kevin, Mikayla, Janel, and Donna --
they are educating their peers, building new
businesses, linking people with their faith,
transforming families and fortunes, creating
life-changing opportunities. They’re
resourceful, they’re efficient, they’re
decisive, and they’re moving our city
After all, creativity isn’t an entitlement, and
it isn’t handed to you when you’ve got all
the resources in the world. To the contrary
-- and as people in this city know all too well
-- creativity is revealed in the wisdom and in
the work ethic of people who feel a
responsibility to do big things -- no matter
But even those amazing people often don’t
recognize that power that lies within. Today,
if we asked Jymon and Rachel and Doug
whether they think of themselves as
creators, I don’t know what they would say.
As a city, let’s make sure that tomorrow
they know they are.
Because when we think of ourselves as
creators, we understand we possess the
power to change our lives and our city.
Creating is not someone else’s
responsibility; it belongs to each of us. But
our creativity is not static. With purpose and
intention, we can empower every
How do we do that? We put our money --
and our efforts -- where our mouths are.
Take affordable housing. Right now our
economy is thriving. Last year we created
new jobs at double the national average.
Our unemployment rate is lower than the
country’s as a whole, and our wage growth
is one of the highest in the nation for a
mid-sized city. That means even those at
the bottom of the economic ladder are
doing better, which is why we are at our
lowest level of poverty in more than a
I’m proud of Chattanooga’s success and I’m
eager to see things get even better. But I
know all this positive news also means
costs continue to rise. If you have been left
out of our growing prosperity, you are falling
even further behind.
So we are taking action on a number of
fronts. A few years ago, at State of the City,
I announced a goal to end veterans
homelessness in Chattanooga, and last
year we became one of the few cities to
achieve it. So earlier this year we formed a
new Interagency Council on Homelessness
to use what we’ve learned to tackle the
One lesson is clear: our community needs
more affordable housing, particularly near
our job centers. Federal and state
governments continue to reduce funding
that cities use to make affordable housing
possible, leaving us with fewer avenues to
build more units. The problems haven’t
gone away, but the money has, leaving
places like Chattanooga in a lurch.
It is time for our city to do more.
A city of creators understands we need
housing that connects our residents to
opportunity. To make sure more units are
constructed, city government will launch a
new affordable housing trust and seed it
with one million dollars. This investment will
significantly expand our existing resources
aimed at affordable housing. As more
people feel the security that comes from
having an affordable place to call home,
where they can make it to work and back in
a reasonable time, we can grow incomes
and career paths in our city.
As part of that push to prosperity, we will
need the jobs of tomorrow. That’s a central
reason why I announced we would form a
new Innovation District at State of the City
Over the last several years, the Innovation
District has become one of the great
modern Chattanooga success
stories.Entrepreneurs, artists, non-profits,
students -- even the occasional government
employee -- all of them are collaborating in
the blocks around the Edney. A fully
reimagined and restored Miller Park is set
to open soon, bringing even more vitality to
the heart of our city.
I believe we are seeing only the first stage
in what the Innovation District can do for
Chattanoogans; we still have tremendous
potential for growth. Some terrific regional
institutions are stepping up to the
challenge: EPB -- one of the best, most
progressive utility companies in the world
under David Wade at the helm. UTC --
which under Chancellor Angle’s leadership
is rising to new heights and investing in key
areas like smart cities. Oak Ridge National
Lab, which chose the Innovation District to
open the first office outside a national lab
campus in the country.
We know we can do more.
That’s why we put together a plan to take
the Innovation District to the next level.
After dozens of meetings with hundreds of
stakeholders and public input, a clear vision
for the future emerged. Anyone can see the
plan we developed on the Enterprise
A key component of our strategy is equity.
Innovation runs on talent, which develops in
our city when given the chance. While we
certainly welcome the many people moving
here, we also want homegrown
Chattanoogans filling the high paying jobs
that are opening up here. That means
everyone should feel at home in our
Innovation District -- not just coders and
developers -- a point brought home
forcefully in the plan.
A city of creators makes bold plans -- and
then we execute on them. That’s why we
will begin working immediately on the
proposal to use the buildings and lots
owned by city government in service of a
growing, inclusive Innovation District. For
example, one lot was identified as a
potential site for low income housing,
another as additional space for new
companies. While we will put many of the
plan’s recommendations into action, this
first step shows city government will
certainly do its part to make sure
Chattanoogans can participate in the
economy of the future.
The people who build houses and
companies are often thought of creators --
but those patrolling our streets right now
are also creating a better Chattanooga by
ensuring more neighborhoods feel safe.
Over the last few years, we have made
great strides in reducing violence. Much of
our success comes from important
investments in our police department. At a
record high of 500 sworn personnel, we
now have more capacity to build up our
gun-reduction and intelligence units.
We have also upgraded our technology,
and our Real Time Intelligence Center --
announced at State of the City in 2016 -- is
being put to good use, helping us identify
perpetrators of violence.
While much of the public safety
responsibility falls on our officers, we don’t
leave it to them alone. Our Citizen Safety
Coalition meets regularly to take good
intentions and turn them into action.
Whether it is getting churches involved or a
sponsoring a neighborhood basketball
game, an approach that involves everyone
creates a safer city in the long run. That
same idea has led us to a more victim
centered approach to law enforcement. Our
police officers spend more time than ever
caring about what happens to victims after
a crime is committed. Through the Family
Justice Center and our Community and
Police Response to Victims of Violence, we
turn victims into survivors.
More sworn officers and technology. A
department set up for success. Community
involvement. Support for victims. These
enhancements make the Violence
Reduction Initiative as effective as possible.
VRI started with the idea that there are no
bad streets or bad neighborhoods. Instead,
there are a small number of people causing
much of the gun violence in our city, and we
should focus on them.
It’s paying off.
Last year our gang shootings were down
thirty percent; in the first quarter of this
year, they are down more than thirty
percent again. We saw zero murders in the
month of March; last year we went more
than sixty consecutive days without a
homicide. Recently, while pursuing an
investigation into one gang, our police
department was able to clear six unsolved
homicides in one week. These are
However, there remains too much conflict in
our city and our country, damaging far too
A few years ago, we witnessed a mass
shooting that claimed the lives of five
American heroes. Unfortunately, our
community is not alone in experiencing the
tragic impact of hate. Last summer in
Charlottesville, the year before in Orlando --
the list goes on and on.
The FBI recently released a report showing
hate crimes are up nationally. I wish I could
say our state is the exception, but the
numbers in Tennessee reflect the necessity
of tackling this problem. Our state ranks
ninth in total number of hate crimes in the
This hits us all at home, too. I have two
teenage daughters, and, like all parents,
Monique and I worry about the hate that
lights up across smartphones on a minute
by minute basis.
A city of creators will find new ways to
combat hatred, especially when it leads to
violence and tears apart the social fabric of
our community. The solutions will come
from purposeful discussion and pragmatic
To prompt solutions over conflict, I am
announcing a new council against hate.
The council will define the scope of the
problem and push new ideas to stop
violence. After July 16, 2015, our city was
held up as a model of how to respond to
terrorism. We can also be a model of how
to stop the hate that inspires it in the first
Building this kind of city never stops. For us
to continue to have the future generations
necessary to drive our civic, cultural, and
economic life, we must invest in families
and the young creators they nurture.
For the past few years, Chattanooga has
been at the forefront of creating an entirely
new kind of early learning system. Not a
scattered program here and there --
instead, a comprehensive way to help
children get off to a great start.
Our office of early learning has overseen a
number of critical investments. One
standout has been Baby University, which I
also announced at a past State of the City.
This keystone initiative helps families find
solutions because when moms and dads
have more time, resources, and knowledge
about how to help their children, their sons
and daughters are better off.
Just a couple quick facts show you what a
difference it makes. Of the 154 families who
have enrolled, not one has suffered infant
mortality. 29 percent of families were
self-sufficient in employment when they
started; now 63 percent are. And we have
had 29 teen moms sign up after they got
pregnant. While the national dropout rate
for teen moms is 47 percent, every single
Baby U teen mom -- has graduated or is on
We know a lot of Chattanooga families are
caught in the middle-- making too much
money to qualify for state aid but not
enough to pay for early learning
themselves. For them, we created early
learning scholarships so that their children
would not have to miss out. When our
standout partners like Chambliss Children’s
Center have looked to expand, we have
We have focused intently on improving the
quality of our Head Start programs, and
we’re seeing great results there too.As we
invest in teacher education and a top notch
curriculum, these kids have experienced
greater gains in literacy and math, giving
them a much stronger likelihood of success.
A city of creators invests in the next
generation and the families that support
their growth. When all families are stronger
and children in every zip code have a fair
shot, we will all enjoy a more resilient and
more prosperous future.
That’s why tonight, I am setting a new goal.
Between now and the time I leave office,
we will create 1000 additional high quality
early learning slots in our city.
To achieve this outcome, we all need to
work together. We have terrific partners in
Chattanooga 2.0, and we will need their
help. This year’s budget will include some
specific plans for creating new slots for kids
in our community as well as turning some
existing ones into high quality options for
I know we can do it. It’s the success story of
Chattanooga has accomplished so much
since I was kid. We are celebrated for our
products and places, and we should be
recognized for our people as well.
But a city of creators is not passive, and we
don’t rely on others to do the work for us.
Creation is power. When we realize that we
all possess that power -- and we are
intentional about what we can do with it, in
our homes, in our churches and schools, in
our workplaces and neighborhoods -- we
can accomplish anything. This is what
Chattanooga does. This is who
I have seen it in action, and so have you.
And not only in a few people who are
justifiably recognized for their investment,
encouragement and hard work in making
great things happen in our city.
But the spirit, drive and determination of
Chattanoogans exists everywhere, in every
neighborhood, of every race, gender,
income, and sexual orientation; in the
firefighters, teachers, activists and
neighborhood leaders who fill this room; in
the young children you may see at home
when you leave tonight, and in the people
taking care of them while you’re gone.
After all, creation is at our core. Tonight, I
am reminded of the first sentence of the
Bible: In the beginning, God created the
heaven and the earth.
God is the creator. And we are all created
in his image. So when we proclaim
ourselves as a city of creators, we claim a
higher purpose. Not solely to create a great
city, but to unleash the creative will and
capacity of his entire creation.
So over the next year, ask yourself how you
can build and invest in a city of creators.
You’ve heard a few ideas tonight from me,
but there is much more we can do to inspire
our fellow Chattanoogans. Leading up to
this speech, I have listened to many ideas
from the community about how to expand a
city of creators. Over the next few months,
we will share this message in every
neighborhood and among every family and
All of us are creators, made in God’s image.
The state of our city is strong because of
you. We will be at our best when each and
every one of you feels the power and
potential of your awesome abilities.