Following months of research, students in the UTC Political Science Department’s State and Local Government class presented their State of Affairs Report to City and Hamilton County government officials. Dr. Jean Howard-Hill taught the class.
The Student’s State of Affairs Report allows students to research state and local government, recognize weaknesses and strengths, identify issues and engage in problem solving as they draw conclusions from their research. Students made projections and recommendations relating to the future of the City of Chattanooga, Hamilton County and the State of Tennessee.
At the April 22nd meeting of the Chattanooga City Council, student presenter Peter Guild’s report was squarely in line with City of Chattanooga police officers who were present and requesting an increase in wages and benefits. Guild’s research showed that there are many concerns with some issues of Crime and public safety in the City of Chattanooga.
“The public wants to have more officers on the street and lower crime rates but at the same time they want to pay less money for younger, less qualified, lower rated officers,” states Guild. “The potential for low recruitment numbers and higher numbers of corrupt officers could be directly proportional to the lower salaries and reluctance to fund a pension plan for retired firefighters or officers. The city should consider the wants and needs of the public, but at the same time realize that there is a cost for everything. If you don’t take care of the people on the front lines of crime prevention then you risk the safety of the general public. There are many positives in my findings that indicate that people feel safer than a decade ago. Former Mayor Bob Corker declared in 2004 that crime was down 22% since 2002. Hopefully this trend is continuing and the people of Chattanooga realize what a valuable resource the police and fire departments represent.”
Guild went on to recommend the city propose a salary hike for police officers and firefighters. In addition to an increase in pay, he said they should also receive a comprehensive pension plan that will cover all retired officers without question.
“The DROP program may encourage veterans to retire, but we should offer more incentives to the program to attract more potential retirees like vacations or lifelong health insurance. The city should bolster support for internal affairs and report its annual findings to the public in order to create a sense of accountability and transparence. Since officer recruitment is a problem, we should have signing bonuses for qualified officers. This would raise the level of interest in the police force and boost morale throughout the force. That could lead to a more efficient, productive, and able police department.”
Besides crime and public safety, students researched education, health care, immigration, economic development, access and accommodations for the disabled, the homeless, taxes and public services.
Student reports also included recommendations to keep a seal on present property taxes and to take into consideration the burden it will place on the younger tax base.
“Students have worked hard, and have shown a great deal of enthusiasm as they have learned just how important it is to understand and be actively involved in impacting not only their future, but their present,” says Howard-Hill. “What we have attempted to do in the classroom is to give students the opportunity to be presently involved in government while they are in an academic environment of research, and where that research can be analyzed within the context of what is learned in class and what is actually going on in the real world. This kind of academic experience is invaluable to students,” says Howard-Hill.