Chattanooga City Council tries to squash violence in Coolidge Park

By Sarah Wagner

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.

A dog isn’t always a man’s best friend

By Sarah Wagner

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/The Loop)– When it comes to our furry friends, good fortune and fair treatment hasn’t always been an unwavering guarantee.

There is no doubt about it, animal cruelty is against the law. But from puppy mills to dog fighting to exotic pet trade, animal cruelty still occurs all over the world. The term “all over the world,” however, takes on a new sting when intentional harm is done to animals close to home.

For some, it’s difficult to imagine an innocent animal being neglected or abused. Abuse can come in many forms. Animal hoarding, blood sports, chaining and tethering, and animals in entertainment are all various types of animal cruelty with varying degrees of vitality. When it comes to 20-year-old Meghan O’Connor, a Chattanooga native and adamant animal lover, there was no holding back.

“I think someone who could abuse an animal has a sick and twisted notion of morality,” she said. She even went on to say that people who are okay with harming or having aggressive behavior towards an animal are at a higher risk of causing harm to another human being.

Dog suffering from malnutrition

Chattanooga has seen its fair share of animal cruelty over the years. Most recently, a man from Hixson faced cruelty charges for having 19 Chihuahuas cooped up in trailer with temperature at 101 degrees. None of the dogs were vaccinated or registered with the city. All dogs were brought to the McKamey Animal Shelter.

Ashley Quarles, a Chattanooga owner of four dogs, said that animal abuse is “heartless” behavior and the worst kind of abuse. “They are innocents,” she said, “yet they still have the ability to suffer.”

However, in a society where opinions are extremely diverse, many people disagree on how serious of a crime animal cruelty should be. Quarles thinks the punishment for animal cruelty should be nothing but severe.

“Not only are those people committing horrible crimes, but it is also scary to think what else they are capable of and might do without punishment and remediation,” she said.

Although charges and punishments for animal cruelty are circumstantial and given on a case-to-case basis, it’s safe to say that the abuse of animals is taken more seriously today than ever before.

Many try to stop animal cruelty. Organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are not only trying to raise awareness of it, but are also trying to prevent it. Through their website, you can learn how to recognize animal cruelty when you see it and even report it. Many other organizations are going to the same cause.

“At the end of the day, my pets are like family,” O’Connor said, “I love them very much and could never in a million years imagine hurting one of them.”

‘American Idol’ sends another finalist home

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “American Idol” viewers are saying adios to Karen Rodriguez.

The bubbly, bilingual 21-year-old wannabe diva from New York, who crooned Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back” in English and Spanish on the Fox talent competition Wednesday, was revealed Thursday to have received the fewest viewer votes. The judges decided against saving her following a last-chance performance of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.”

“It just felt great to at least have that one chance,” Rodriguez said after her swan song.

Haley Reinhart, the 20-year-old college student from Wheeling, Ill., who belted out Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight” while smudging her lipstick, and Naima Adedapo, the 26-year-old dance instructor from Milwaukee who delivered a pitchy rendition of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” joined Rodriguez as the bottom three vote-getters.

Before the elimination, the top 12 finalists plowed through a mash-up of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

The Black Eyed Peas later dedicated a performance of “Just Can’t Get Enough” to their “friends in Japan,” and last year’s “Idol” winner Lee DeWyze offered advice to this season’s brood after singing “Beautiful Like You.”

“Just remember why you tried out in the first place,” DeWyze told the contestants. “At the end of the of the day, no matter when you leave, you still love music, and you’re gonna keep doing it. You guys are fine no matter what happens.”

The other remaining finalists are Casey Abrams, 20, of Idyllwild, Calif.; Lauren Alaina, 16, of Rossville, Ga.; James Durbin, 22, of Santa Cruz, Calif.; Stefano Langone, 21, of Kent, Wash.; Jacob Lusk, 23, of Compton, Calif.; Scotty McCreery, 17, of Garner, N.C.; Paul McDonald, 26, of Nashville, Tenn.; Thia Megia, 16, of Mountain House, Calif.; and Pia Toscano, 22, of Howard Beach, N.Y.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

The Band Perry Helps Nashville Ballet Honor Tharp

By Sarah Wagner

Chattanooga, Tenn (UTC/TheLoop)- The Nashville Ballet is going country as it celebrates its 25th anniversary and honors dance icon Twyla Tharp during its annual fundraising gala this weekend.

Twenty dancers will perform original pieces choreographed by ballet artistic director and CEO Paul Vasterling. Songs will be played live by The Band Perry and Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter Pat Alger on Saturday.

The Band Perry, recent winner of The Academy of Country Music’s top new duo or group award, will play its breakthrough hit “If I Die Young,” and Alger will play his “Lone Star State of Mind.”

Former “Dancing with the Stars” champion Julianne Hough will serve as master of ceremonies and will present Tharp with the ballet’s Vasterling Award for Artistic Vision and Excellence in Dance.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

If you’re feeling swamped, read about Wamp

By Sarah Wagner

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) –If your list of life’s accomplishments consists of being a star athlete in your high school, raising a nice family in the area you grew up, and becoming a well-known and influential Congressman in the United States of America, your name might be Zach Wamp.

Zachary Paul Wamp, better known as Zach Wamp, was born on October 28, 1957, in Fort Benning, Georgia.  He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Tennessee’s third congressional district, which is based in Chattanooga and includes large parts of East Tennessee. He got into office January 3, 1995, and left exactly 16 years later. Wamp is a member of the Republican Party.

Zachary Paul Wamp

Although born in Georgia, he grew up in East Ridge, Tennessee. He went to McCallie School along with his two brothers, and graduated in 1976. He was very athletic throughout school and was the MVP of the varsity basketball team his senior year. In college, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. However, he didn’t graduate from either due to drug and alcohol problems.

After dropping out, Wamp joined a substance abuse program and got a job as a sales representative for Olan Mills photography company. Then, he later became a real estate broker and worked for his family’s architectural and development company. In 1989, he became the vice president of Charter Real Estate Corporation. He joined a different company, Fletcher Bright Co., three years later.
Also after leaving college, Wamp married his wife, Kimberly. Although raised, baptized, and confirmed in the Lutheran Church, he switched denominations after marriage. He is now an active member of one of Chattanooga’s Baptist churches. Zach and Kimberly have now been married for 24 years, and have two children together, a son named Weston and a daughter named Coty.

In politics, Wamp started out as precinct vice chairman of Gene Roberts 1983 Chattanooga mayoral campaign. He was later elected chairman of the Hamilton County, Tennessee Republican Party. After that, he became regional director for the state GOP. What Wamp is most known for, though, is his time as a U.S. Congressman.

In 1992, Wamp ran for the House of Representatives as a Republican but barely lost to nine-term Democrat Marilyn Loyd. Loyd did not run for reelection in 1994 however, and Wamp ran again. During the election, Wamp signed a Contract with America saying he would serve no more than six terms if elected and would not put a special emphasis on PAC money. After using a few other strategies to give him a possible edge, Wamp won the general election 52 percent of the vote. The sequential elections were not so close. He got re-elected for seven more terms after that (breaking his initial promise of serving no more than six terms). Also, he broke his other promise by taking interest in PAC contributions. He almost sought out a seat in the United States Senate (to take the place of Bill Frist) but decided not to in 2004.

During his time in the House, he served on the House Appropriations Committee on the Energy and Water Subcommittee. He was also a ranking member Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. He used his Republican principles to take the reigns on national issues like global security, preventive health care, and alternative energy. He was co-chairman of the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus and also the co-chairman and founder of the Congressional Fitness Caucus. Wamp was also a huge part of the formation of the Tennessee Valley Technology Corridor.

In 2005, Wamp campaigned to be majority whip for the Republicans in the House. He did not get the position because Roy Blunt, the current majority whip, stayed in the position. In January 2009, Wamp made the announcement that he would run for Governor of Tennessee. After some remarks about health care reformation and the states possible need to separate from government, Wamp had the attention of the country. Even though he said his remarks were misinterpreted, he lost to Bill Haslam in the open primary on August 5, 2010.

He still resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his family.


‘No Strings Attached’ ties up top box-office spot

By Sarah Wagner

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Audiences weren’t afraid of committing to “No Strings Attached,” making it the No. 1 movie at the box office in its opening weekend.

The romantic comedy from Paramount Pictures earned an estimated $20.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star as friends who try to maintain a purely sexual relationship with each other, even as they find they’re falling in love.

Last week’s No. 1 movie, Columbia Pictures’ action comedy “The Green Hornet,” dropped to second place with $18.1 million.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Keith Urban to perform on Super Bowl pregame show

By Sarah Wagner

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music star Keith Urban is set to perform live from Cowboys Stadium as part of the Super Bowl pre-game festivities next month.

The Fox Super Bowl Sunday pre-game show begins at 2 p.m. EST and will be broadcast worldwide.

The three-time Grammy winner plans to include songs from his newly released album, “Get Closer.”

Urban has sold nearly 20 million CDs and earned numerous awards. He has charted 11 No. 1 hits, including “Only You Can Love Me This Way,” ”Sweet Thing,” ”Better Life” and “Days Go By.”

The Super Bowl will be held on Sunday of Feb. 6 and will air on Fox. More than 153 million viewers in the United States viewed last year’s Super Bowl, the most-watched television program in history.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.