Re-Engineering "The Chattanooga Way"
As an engineer, I bring a deliberative, pragmatic approach to any project. My goal is always to create the best outcome I can with the finite resources at my disposal. So I’ve been paying attention to how development has happened in the 23 years I’ve lived in Chattanooga.
Much of our downtown development has been funded by a mix of public and private money. We’re incredibly fortunate to have so many businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropists willing to invest in municipal projects. But whenever public money is part of the mix, there must be transparency in the process and public control over the product, always with the goal of lifting up the most people.
The 21st-Century Waterfront offers valuable lessons I would apply to future projects:
1. Invest in the infrastructure of community. Turning Ross’s Landing into Chattanooga’s front porch was a smart idea. Where communities gather and celebrate, private investment follows. Let’s scale that concept down and build other “front porches” in neighborhoods that want them.
2. Follow best practices. Almost every major component of the 21st Century Waterfront had to be repaired or rebuilt. Whether it’s a project or a policy, we pay more in the long run when we don’t do it right.
3. People > things. No more First Street elevators. High-quality daycare can lift up a lot more people.
Taking Care of People
Our new city council will be seated at a time when families and small businesses in District 2 and across Chattanooga are barely hanging on. Our first priority should be using every resource to help them get back on solid ground—connecting them with existing city services and nonprofits, expanding our services where we can, and finding creative ways to do more with what we have.
As the economy recovers, the city should build on these programs and look for more proactive ways to lift all boats. In a city, every resident is a valuable natural resource deserving of attention and investment. Providing high-quality support for families with children—through daycare and early-learning centers, and well-equipped youth and family development centers—pays social and economic dividends later. So do social programs and services that use best practices to reduce incarceration rates. We’ve got to have the foresight and courage to make these smart investments, even if the payoff takes a generation.
Taking Care of Neighborhoods
Since 2014, the folks in Lupton City, in District 2, have been looking at a pile of bricks where the old Dixie Yarns mill used to be. It’s a complicated situation—asbestos is serious stuff. But when families look out their window and see decay, the message they receive is “You’re not valued.” There are families like that all over Chattanooga. Every neighborhood deserves the opportunity to shine in its own right, without eyesores or public hazards or crumbling roads.
I support public investment that encourages community and policies that attract private investment. But especially in our older neighborhoods, we must protect the residents and character that make those places special. I do not support development that displaces people or remakes neighborhoods in the image of one person’s American Dream. Great cities are confident enough to celebrate their differences.
Taking Care of Each Other
Community builds vibrant neighborhoods. Vibrant neighborhoods make a vibrant city with a sustainable economy. So I believe in the inherent value of common areas, like parks and walkways, that encourage neighbors to talk and gather. We need to maintain our legacy “infrastructure of community,” and provide that infrastructure in the neighborhoods that could benefit from it.
I also support policies that would allow appropriate commercial infill in established urban neighborhoods, to give more people the opportunity to live in a “walkable” place and more small business owners the opportunity to set up shop affordably. Small stores, restaurants and offices that fit the neighborhood vibe can complement a residential area and be sparkplugs for community.