Bob Corker: Chattanooga's Best Assets Are Free; River Needs More Sprucing Up

  • Thursday, May 25, 2023
  • Hannah Campbell

Chattanooga’s best assets are free, Bob Corker told the Rotary Club Thursday. The mountains, the creeks and the river can be opened to their full potential with little expense and a little more vision, he said.

But the former Chattanooga mayor and former U.S. senator took aim at the riverfront.

“Honestly it looks pretty tired to me. You got to keep improving,” he said.

“We are at second base,” Mr. Corker said. He said Administrator of Chattanooga Parks and Outdoors Scott Martin has that vision and support to bring Chattanooga home. He predicted that Chattanooga’s Ironman race is on track to surpass the popular Cambridge, Md., triathlon in the next two years and become the biggest in the country.

“We have more blue sky today than I ever, ever remember,” he said. Mr. Corker served as mayor from 2001 to 2005. He served two terms as a senator, from 2007 to 2019.

“We’ve got a lot more that we can do here,” he said.

Mr. Corker said the big growth in Hamilton County is recognized in his international circles.

“We’re now on the map,” he said, but will Chattanooga engage on its new playing field? he asked.

Mr. Corker said the big growth has caused local problems in workforce development and affordable housing.

He urged calm and even disinterest as June 1 approaches and national debt ceiling talks reach a fever pitch.

“I think it’d be better if we all just yawned and went on to something else,” he said.

Mr. Corker said that federal default if the debt ceiling is not raised is “so unlikely.”

“It just will not happen … in my humble opinion,” he said. He predicted a “slow grind down” of government operations, with closure of national parks among the first casualties.

But because Americans and their government representatives do not yet have the will, he said, a fiscal overhaul is “liable to take a crisis,” he said.

Entitlements must be dealt with first, he said, with Social Security and Medicare at the top of the list.

“Sixty-five percent of what we spend is on autopilot,” he said.

The graduate of City High School said that serving in the Senate was the greatest privilege of his life, but those were not the best years of his life.

“Today I’m in the community in a way that I get to relish,” he said. “I try to enhance the lives of people around me,” said the former senator, who said he’s returned to Washington, D.C., only once in four years and four months.

Mr. Corker serves on the board of Rise Partners commercial real estate developers and One-to-One Health, clinics for self-insured employers. He is a special advisor to Jefferies Group investment bank.

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