Seriously stressful sales-tax

by Lauren Carter

Lauren-Carter@mocs.utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) - Tensions are running high as the expiration date of the 45-year-old sales tax agreement between Hamilton county and the cities of Hamilton county draws near.

In the Chattanooga City Council meeting on April 5, Councilwoman Deborah Scott addressed concerns that had been voiced about the sales tax agreement.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger speaks to the Regional Health Council on April 4 about possible plans to cut the Health Department's budget if a sales tax agreement with the city of Chattanooga expires. Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Scott said in the meeting that, there really is no equality in a document which puts financial burdens on only some cities but not all cities and on some Hamilton County residents and not all Hamilton County residents.

Talks and resolutions are in the process of being discussed, as the May 23 expiration date looms closer. If the current agreement is allowed to expire, the county could lose up to $10 million annually.

The city of Chattanooga has refused to renew the 45-year-old agreement, and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger has stated that many agencies could face extreme budget cuts with the ending of the current sale-tax agreement.

Coppinger stated before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council on April 4, that he hopes a new city-county sale-tax agreement will allow the money shared by the city and county to fund certain agencies.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield wrote in a letter dated April 8, to Mayor Coppinger that he does not see the newly drafted agreement as a resolution.

Littlefield stated in the letter that, “When the city and county splits the cost of anything, city taxpayers are called upon to pay twice: once as a city taxpayer and again as a county taxpayer…. Regardless, the natural net effect is that approximately 80% of the cost is raised by the sweat of Chattanooga taxpayers.”

Littlefield continues that, “An analysis of the source of ‘county property tax dollars,’ based on Chattanooga’s part of Hamilton County’s assessed property tax, reveals that about 58 cents of every tax dollar you receive comes from a Chattanooga taxpayer.”

Councilwoman Scott reiterated these statements in the April 5 city council meeting.  Some agencies were supported by both Hamilton County tax dollars and city of Chattanooga tax dollars, and Chattanooga residents pay 58% of Hamilton County taxes, Scott said.

Current Chattanooga City Council Members

The city of Chattanooga has not threatened to be the demise of any agency, Scott stated, but these agencies feel threatened because they have been receiving similar messages about the loss of funding.  However, these messages have not been coming from the city of Chattanooga, Scott said.

Scott advised that the city of Chattanooga has tried to calmly explain the truth and apparently the truth is still not being widely distributed.

Click to listen to Councilwoman Deborah Scott’s thoughts on the false information being sread about the sales-tax agreement

Councilman Jack Benson agreed that there is a real problem out there and the citizens of Chattanooga do not understand fully the unfairness of this situation.

People do not understand that city residents pay county taxes, Benson said, that he pays more county taxes than city taxes as county taxes are higher than in the city and people do not understand the inequities.

Scott defended the city of Chattanooga tax payers as very wonderful, giving people and they do not mind paying their fair share.  However, she has not met many Chattanoogans that want to pay more than their fair share or even someone else’s fair share, Scott said.

 

 

Peer Mentoring Group Reaches Out to Influence the Community

By:Brittany Tonkin

brittany-tonkin@utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/ The Loop)- The Brainerd High School Peer Mentoring Group addressed the Chattanooga City Council on April 5th with their concerns regarding safety at Coolidge park.

Alexis Moore, student and Vice President of the mentoring group, believes that a stricter curfew needs to be enforced at the park, due to the recent increase of violence after dark. By enforcing a stricter curfew Moore feels that gang violence will decrease and stop affecting those in her community and school.

Moore said, “I have personally lost loved ones due to the curfew not being enforced.” Alexis Moore Speaking

Display of City Ordinance in Coolidge Park

Moore was not alone in her concerns. Fellow mentors and classmates also addressed the Council with their concerns regarding community safety in the park ,such as requiring a search of each person upon the entrance to all events, requiring security at all teen parties hosted in the park, certifying the hired security and limiting “street gatherings.”

The students also addressed the Council with possible programs that could be enacted to reduce the number of teens participating in violence, such as reviving an old program that helps provide summer jobs for at risk teens and potentially incorporating a class in local high schools to educate teens about the risks of guns, violence, and gangs.

Jenelle Thom spoke to the Council to advocate an incorporation of gun, violence, and gang education in high schools throughout the area.Thom believes that changing the way teens think is the key to reducing violence.

Thom said, “It only takes one person or one thing to stop events like this.”

Councilman Russel Gilbert said that the Council will review the curfew and potential code changes in a future meeting.

UTC Takes Over Engel During Transfer

by Ben Campbell

george-b-campbell@utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, TN- Tuesday’s City Council meeting presented a good opportunity for UTC and Dr. Richard Brown, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Operations, to address the takeover of the  historic Engel Stadium during the transfer period.

The University of Tennessee acquired the permission to use stadium from the Chattanooga Parks and Recreation back in 2004. The specific question at this meeting was if UTC would be able to begin renovations and other upkeeps during the waiting period for the transfer to complete.Click here to hear Dr. Brown lay out UTC’s plans.

“There have been numerous bureaucratic issues to deal with over the last couple of years but just last week we sent the actual deeds to Knoxville to be processed through the State Building Commission and it is my thought it will take 60-90 days to work through that process,” said Dr. Brown.

Since 2000 Engel had been used by local baseball teams and also played role in hosting the TSSAA playoffs up until their relocation to Murfreesboro, TN. “I used to play at Engel Stadium when I went Notre Dame and I found myself wondering if there would ever be a renovation of the stadium. It just had so much history and promise for future baseball in the community,” said Chattanooga Junior Josh McCutcheon.

After UTC received permission to use the stadium  in 2004 there has been numerous developments. The university has put in 2 million dollars into the renovations and construction of the lacrosse and soccer fields in the areas surrounding the stadium.

Dr. Brown and UTC’s intentions are to keep the stadium intact because of its iconic history and importance to Chattanooga as a community. “The stadium will be used for inner-city baseball and other baseball services through the community,” said Brown. Also developments for new track and field facilities will begin in the coming months.

Engel Stadium has been a member of the Chattanooga baseball community since it’s opening in 1930, with legends like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron running its bases. As Dr. Brown stated in the Tuesday’s meeting, the university wants to restore Engel Stadium to its “old glory”.

The city council motioned to adopt this request, and grant UTC full access to Engel Stadium during the transfer period of the property. This topic was not supposed to be addressed till the coming week but Dr. Brown and UTC were ready to get the ball rolling.

Chattanooga Youths Voice Will Be Heard

By Bryson Simpson

Bryson-Simpson@mocs.utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop) – Brainerd High school Peer Mentoring Group is promoting change in the city. The Brainerd High schoolPeer Mentoring Group consists of 100 students, 40 of the students are mentors and the other 60 are mentees. Several members came to the city council meeting April 5 to speak on the problem that teens and kids are facing in Chattanooga. To see the agenda click here

The objective of Brainerd High school Peer Mentoring Group is to keep the teenagers and kids from doing negative activities in the streets of Chattanooga. They planned to do this by asking the City Council to toughen up on the curfew given to the Chattanooga youth.

Brainerd High school Students

Student Vice President, Alexis Moore, asked the council could they start cracking down and enforce the curfew so that children will be safe and stay out of trouble. She even asked the council for the curfew to be changed if violence doesn’t decrease. “We are asking the curfew to be earlier if the violence continues,” Moore said.

The Curfew now is 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, Children can play an hour longer on Friday and Saturday nights but “something needs to be done if the problem consists.” Janelle Tongue, who also represented the Mentoring Group, said, “ Even though we are teens we still have a voice.”

Brainerd High School Peer Mentoring Group also came up with some ideas that they will do to help keep kids off the streets and doing positive things for the community.

Cordell Paruchuii proposed the idea of having a “Summer Job for the Youth program” where they will take kids throughout the Chattanooga area and have them working at boys and girls clubs or summer camps. “Its something productive that the youth can do besides being in the streets.”

Another program that the Peer Mentoring Group proposed during the city council meeting was “Guns Anonymous” where people can donate guns and will not receive any punishment or be asked any questions. Also, Kellie Moore wanted the council to allow authorities to search people, especially minors. Listen to the Mentoring Peer Group  Brainerd High School City Council

In conclusion, the students showed leadership and courage by showing up to the city council meeting so that a positive change will happen in the community. Dominique Green, Brainerd High School Senior, said “We have to come together as a community   so we can have change.”

 

Peer Mentoring Group Converges To Clean Streets

By: Grahm Long

grahm-long@mocs.utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – The Brainerd High School Peer Mentoring Group met with the Chattanooga City Council on April 5 to present resolutions to safety issues at Coolidge Park.

Heightened attention comes shortly after a flash mob scene at the park three weeks ago, where more than 300 minors engaged in fighting and shooting. The incident eerily parallels what happened a year ago, when five people were shot. Although reports indicate no one sustained life threatening injuries, there is still concern among members of the community, particularly with Brainerd High School students, over potential future occurrences.

Alexis Moore, Brainerd High student and Vice President of the mentoring group, says that the recent increase of violence in the evening calls for a stricter curfew to be enforced at the park. Moore feels that by implementing a stricter code, it will help decrease the incidence of residential gang violence.

“I have personally lost loved ones due to the curfew not being enforced,” says Moore.

Among those with Moore at City Council, were fellow students and group members Dominique Green, Cordell Parachuri, Rodney Cameron, and Jennelle Thom.

Most of the ideas are about enforcing existing city code:

Code 25-2a, which imposes an 11 p.m. curfew for minors under the age of 16.  Code 25-2b, which holds parents accountable when minors under 16 break curfew.  And Code 25-1, which prevents congregating and obstructing traffic on city streets.

The new ordinance sign at Coolidge Park.

 

However, the students also have new ideas that promote safety for the park, such as employing individual security searches upon entry to events, security at all minority-hosted parties in the park and certification of hired security.

Other ideas consist of incorporating anti-violence or anti-gang violence education into local school’s curriculum and enacting a summer job program for at-risk teens.

Thom says that like her peers, she too has experienced losing friends and family to gun violence and believes that “it only takes one person or one thing to stop events like this.” Click here to listen to Jennelle Thom’s solution for gun control.

The City Council ordinance, which passed by a 7 to 2 vote margin in last Tuesday’s meeting, calls for the adult supervision of minors in Coolidge Park between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Possible Money Missing in Outdoor Chattanooga Program

By Alan Denton

james-denton@mocs.utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop)—The Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department may be missing money.

An internal auditor found in 2009-2010 many violations in the Outdoor Chattanooga recreation program. The audit shows cash collections were not properly handled, documented, and submitted within three days, the lack of maintenance of support documents to facilitate an audit of cash collections, and fees collected were not always in accordance with City Code.

The auditor found Phillip Grymes, Executive Director of Outdoor Chattanooga, also served on the board of the program Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga (FOC). In July 2009, FOC opened a business checking account even though it does not own or lease any facilities or have any paid employees.

 

Executive Director of Outdoor Chattanooga and Former Board Member of the FOC

The audit found “substantial amounts of money” being deposited in the FOC’s bank account over the past 18 months from fundraising and public events. But the events were promoted by the City of Chattanooga using the Outdoor Chattanooga name.  The auditor found instances where checks made payable to Outdoor Chattanooga were diverted to FOC’s bank account.

In response to the internal audit, Grymes stepped down from his board position in the FOC.

City Councilwoman Deborah Scott, who began the talks during April 5th’s City Council Meeting, says, “It’s my understanding that we have money that’s missing. We definitely need to follow up on that.”

City Attorney Mike McMahan says the internal auditor is still looking into another item that hasn’t been completed yet but the decision to put it into a report form or not hasn’t been decided.

“If there is confirmed evidence of money missing, we will get a recommendation to take legal action on it once we review and see there is substantial evidence to support an action,” says McMahan.  “It may be that I’ve just dropped the ball on this, but I really am personally not aware of that. And it would have come to me, and I don’t know why I would have seen it or addressed it. But I will do so immediately.”

City Attorney Mike McMahan on the Audit

According to a Chattanooga Times Free Press article, Outdoor Chattanooga was created in 2003 by former Mayor Bob Corker to promote outdoor activities throughout the city and region.

Chattanooga City Council tries to squash violence in Coolidge Park

By Sarah Wagner
sarah-wagner@utc.mocs.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/TheLoop) —Chattanooga’s scenic Coolidge Park was once considered a beautiful and safe place to exercise, spend time with family, or just enjoy oneself. In light of somewhat recent events, though, it has become a place known for flash mobs, gunfire, and violence. The Chattanooga City Council, however, has made a recent change they hope will regain the park’s positive image.

According to Brittnee Reece, a UTC junior from Murfreesboro, a family place such as Coolidge Park should have never gotten so bad. “A park like Coolidge should be a safe environment,” she said. “Not a shooting range for gangs or other criminals.”

The violence in Coolidge Park began a year ago on March 27. In that incident, guns were fired and five people were injured—three adults and two juveniles. They were all shot in the legs with none of their injuries considered life threatening. That event, however, wasn’t the last one like it.

Coolidge Park

More recently, on March 19, 2011, a similar incident happened. Hundreds of teenagers were in the park that Saturday when fights broke out and gunshots were fired. Although once again, no deaths resulted, several arrests were made.

All this violence in such a popular area has some of the Chattanooga locals worried. Ashley Quarles, a 22-year-old resident born and raised in Chattanooga, said that Coolidge Park was once her favorite area in the city, and now it is ruined by violence. “If it’s not during the day, I feel like I can’t even go there,” she said. “I just do not feel safe there at night anymore.”

The Chattanooga City Council and the Chattanooga Police department have taken measures to reduce violence in the park. On Tuesday, March 29, the council approved 7-2 an ordinance that will ban minors from Coolidge Park without adult supervision between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Further, they stipulated that “adult supervision” was to be a parent, legal guardian, or an adult aged 21 or over.Click here to listen to the Chattanooga City Council approve the measure.

Although this ordinance was put in motion in order to help the violent situation, some Chattanooga residents are highly skeptical of how much it will help. “There has been a lot of violence going on recently in Chattanooga, and it hasn’t just been minors involved,” Quarles said. Some local residents are also unhappy with the ordinance because they feel that it sends a false message. There is violence going on all over the city, not just Coolidge Park, they said. Some have asked for a blanket ordinance for the whole city like the one put in place for the park, but nothing has happened with that yet.

As for the minors who disobey the ordinance and are found inside the park without adult supervision during the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., a detention facility is in the works. Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 that violate the curfew will be picked up by an officer and taken to the former police precinct attached to the South Chattanooga Recreation Center on 40th Street in St. Elmo. Parents will be contacted and the teenagers will be held until an adult picks them up. Teenagers won’t face formal charges for ordinance violations, but they will be referred to Juvenile Court, where their parents could be fined $50. Children 12 and under will be referred to child services if they’re picked up, and their parents could be charged with child neglect.