Sixteen businesswomen are publicly endorsing Tim Kelly as Chattanooga mayor via an open letter in response to opposing candidate, Kim White’s recently released 10-point plan to uplift women throughout Chattanooga. Many of these business owners witnessed first-hand how Kim White handled business dealings in her prior role as president of River City Company when she introduced and ushered in the city’s first Business Improvement District (BID) – now known as the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance. Business tenants had no voice in the process even though annual assessments self-imposed by property owners (totaling $1 million a year through 2029) are passed down to business tenants based on their square footage according to their lease agreements. The assessment is also passed on to the public through price increases when they stay at hotels or dine at restaurants within the district boundary.
In her role at River City Company, she found revenue streams introduced through downtown management and public placemaking associations but she often didn’t dive deeper into how these projects would affect small businesses already thriving in the areas she implemented them, nor how the increase in rents in the district would block access to new small businesses.
As female business owners and individuals who support women-owned small businesses and local businesses in general, we are writing to share our shock over mayoral candidate Kim White’s plan to ‘uplift’ females in business.
When the idea of a BID (Business Improvement District) was pushed by Kim White in her role at River City, we were not contacted about a property owner self-imposed tax that would be placed upon us. Instead, many of us encountered a tax that is passed to us and other professional services tenants through our leases.
We had no voice. We had no vote. Only property owners were invited to planning meetings. They were lured with promises of additional services and amenities that the City was failing or lagging behind in providing. We were told that we would receive great services such as street and sidewalk cleaning, graffiti removal, having panhandlers moved along who are aggressive to our customers, and providing other amenities not offered by the City.
Then, Ms. White’s construction projects in Miller Park and Patten Parkway started. These projects literally caused fencing to go up in front of our businesses so our customers couldn’t get to us. Some of us have moved our businesses out of the area to keep our doors open. Others of us have had to shutter our businesses. The detriment to our local small businesses was in motion before the global pandemic.
Today, our professional panhandling homeless are still on the streets, approaching tourists and customers, but are no longer stationary. The BID implemented a program where the homeless can pick up trash in the district and receive a gift card for up to $20 per day. While offering opportunity and employment is a good thing, how will the homeless receive 1099s as contract employees? In addition, we’ve learned that the BID has now employed a communications firm (led by River City board president Tom Griscom) to help market the district and improve the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance brand via social media services.
We are incensed by Ms. White’s leadership that put female-owned and small businesses at risk. We support women in business and the clients and customers who buy our products and services. We are an integral part of a thriving local economy. Kim White is not our choice for mayor and just because she would be the first woman mayor is no reason to cast a vote for her.
If Kim White can push through self-imposed tax assessments on us through the downtown BID, what’s going to keep her from pushing through similar programs in Brainerd, Hixson, St. Elmo or any other community in the city? If it can happen to us, it can happen to you.
We strongly encourage Chattanoogans to support Tim Kelly for mayor. We need a small businessperson who has made payroll through successful business practices, not fundraising, who understands operating businesses in challenging economies and wants to help business owners – no matter what their sex or race is.
To signify our support for Tim Kelly, we have co-signed this endorsement to encourage our fellow Chattanoogans to look deeper than gender identification and to vote for Tim Kelly as the next mayor of Chattanooga.
Keeli S. Crewe
Michele K. Appel
Mary Lou Reed
Pamela Paty O’Dwyer