No matter whether Tim Kelly or Kim White wins the April 13th runoff to become the next Mayor of Chattanooga, the victory comes with a guarantee: neither one has ever seen such a mess. Of the top 150 largest cities in the United States, Chattanooga ranks 147 on the list of the Best- and Worse-Run Cities in America. Further, the Scenic City is currently No. 25 on the Most Dangerous Cities in the United States and the “total budget per capita” ranks at 145 (out of 150) according to the experts at 24/7WallStreet.com.
The overwhelming consensus is that Mayor Andy Berke has accomplished in eight years what Congressman Chuck Fleischmann has in the last 10 in Washington – absolutely zero -- and even NBA personality Charles Barkley could sum up the embarrassing Berke years in three words: “Terribull. Terribull. Terribull.” The good news is that Kelly or White will be such a vivid improvement and, as they say in the farming business every spring, “On the field of opportunity it’s plowing time again.”
I have believed for the longest time the city and the county should consolidate into one governing entity. We would save millions of taxpayer dollars. The city sloughed the schools off on the county some years ago and the only thing the city does to help our regional level-one trauma center Erlanger is to supply several gunshot victims each week. Under Berke the divide between the city and the county has widened, something Tim and Kim have both assured me that either will take immediate steps to patch up and, after our nation’s public health efforts were virtually abandoned about 12 years ago, the COVID pandemic begs for the city to take some accountability.
That Chattanooga is so poorly managed is a factor that I think will immediately improve but the crime will only increase. The pandemic has infused a new height of frustration into every socio-economic level and the reverse is that those who “job” the system can make more an hour out of work than they would in an entry level job! Others on unemployment double-dip: they work other jobs for “cash only” to beat the system and right now anywhere you go in Chattanooga you’ll see “help wanted’ signs on prominent display. The new mayor needs to get more people back to work and our social relief programs have only enhanced the problem.
The unseen scourge in illicit drug use is skyrocketing. In Chattanooga, if you go into almost any convenience store after dark and a shadowy type will ask, “You okay man?” which is street talk for “You need anything? I’m selling.” The result, an inordinate number of guys at job fairs don’t come back after lunch because they can’t pass the drug test. There was this one guy who devised a way to smuggle a cache of urine underneath his clothes. The company called him the next day with good news-bad news: “Your drug test is clean … but did you know you’re pregnant?”
And that brings us back to crime. Shootings are up 50 percent in almost all the big cities and earlier this week the Chattanooga Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department took a huge hit when several state legislators exempted Hamilton County from a residence bill that would allow police officers and firefighters who live in Georgia to work in Tennessee. This is terribly short-sighted when both our police and fire departments could greatly benefit if Georgians weren’t excluded from the hiring pool.
“In other words,” one officer told me, “if you live in Memphis you can hire on but if you live in Rossville or Ringgold, a well-qualified First Responder cannot. A lot of us think this may be ‘payback’ for the police and fire unions supporting Chief Glen Scruggs in the election. This will hurt police and fire in the effort to hire good employees and over half of police and firefighters aren’t in the union…” (Both the police and firefighters are under-manned.)
So, what’s the story about Chattanooga being the smallest city on the “Most Dangerous 25?” To begin with, the Mayor of Chattanooga is the sole person who hires the city’s Chief of Police. I became a “persona non grata” with the Chattanooga Police Department when I exposed the police department’s highly questionable dealings with Bobby Stone after Bobby said Berke had a tryst with his wife. In Nashville they fired the mayor when it was learned she had been playing Romper Room with a member of her security detail, but in Chattanooga nobody cared.
The FBI has not yet released its 2020 crime report so understand the following is based on official 2019 numbers. We know many of the numbers have increased since 2019 but, in fairness, the FBI finding are withheld for two years to confirm precision accuracy. Here is what the website 247wallst.com informs us about Chattanooga:
* * *
THE INEXCUSABLE CRIME RATES IN CHATTANOOGA
(NOTE: This information is from 247wallst.com and is based on the latest FBI data (2019). These are “per capita” figures, based on 100,000 people)
There were 12,052 crimes reported in Chattanooga in 2019. Adjusted for population (est. 285,000), the city’s crime rate is 6,628 for every 100,000 people. The national crime rate average is 2,489 and Chattanooga is 104% higher than the state average of 3,248 (again, every figure you read is per 100,000.)
* -- The property crime rate is 5,557 compared to a national average of 2,110.
* -- The larceny rate is 4,231 compared to a national average of 1,550. (Larceny is stealing or theft)
* -- The burglary rate is 604 compared to a national average of 341. (break-ins)
* -- The motor vehicle theft rate is 723 compared to a national average of 220.
* -- The violent crime rate is 1,070 compared to a national average of 379.
* -- The aggravated assault rate is 856 compared to a national average of 250.
* -- The robbery rate is 108 compared to a national average of 82.
* -- The rape rate is 89 compared to a national average of 43.
* -- The murder rate is 18.1 compared to a national average of 5.
- - -
Chattanooga’s total crime rate of 6,628 compares to:
MEMPHIS – 8,030
CLEVELAND – 6,308
NASHVILLE – 5,114
KNOXVILLE – 5,017
JACKSON – 4,647
EAST RIDGE – 3,828
MURFREESBORO – 3,316
STATE OF TENNESSEE – 3,248
DAYTON – 2,929
SODDY-DAISY – 2,692
RED BANK -- 2,640
COLLEGEDALE – 1,945
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN – 586
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN – 244
* * *
“Winning the election is a good news, bad news kind of thing. Okay, now you're the mayor. The bad news is, now you're the mayor.” – Clint Eastwood. (The noted actor was twice elected to serve as Mayor to Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, in 1986 and in 2001, as a nonpartisan. For each term, he was paid $200 for performing his civic duty.