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Mayors Berke and Coppinger Join to Establish Mayor’s Art Award

Posted by on 20-May-2016

Today, Mayors Andy Berke and Jim Coppinger announced the creation of a new Mayor’s Art Award. A partnership with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s Art Award will recognize businesses that support our area’s artist community.

“Art expresses the unique identity of our city,” said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “Our collection of Public Art tells the story of area’s rebirth -- once on the decline, we are now an outdoor destination, a booming manufacturing hub, and a center for innovative start-up companies. Importantly, art not only showcases our assets, but reminds us of our struggles and problems that remain to be tackled through collaborative efforts.”

“This reminder of our successes and shortcomings would not be possible without the support of our business community, who time and time again has supported creative endeavors,” Berke continued.

The Mayor’s Art Award, which was recommended through Mayor Berke’s Chattanooga Forward process, will be awarded during the Annual Chamber Meeting in August of 2016. The Award will specifically celebrate businesses that have a demonstrated and tangible connection to the local arts community through financial, in-kind support, or general promotion of the arts.

“Art has played an important role in our community. It expresses the unique identity of our region and helps to build a vibrant community,” said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. “Through the ‘Mayor’s Art Award’, we will celebrate those businesses that go above and beyond in their support for our local artists.”

Starting today until June 30, 2016, individuals can nominate a for-profit business as a potential recipient of the Mayor’s Art Award. While a business of any size can be awarded, they must be located in Hamilton County. The public is encouraged to nominate businesses that may support any type of creative expression including but not limited to arts programming, performing arts or visual arts.

The Mayor’s Arts Award will be made without discrimination of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

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Citizen Safety Coalition Launches Operation SAFETY, Releases Community Questionnaire

Posted by on 19-May-2016

On April 22, Mayor Andy Berke established a Citizen Safety Coalition to find ways to engage individuals within neighborhoods to foster strong, stable relationships as well as recommend tactics for keeping young men and women out of trouble, especially during the summer months. Since that time, over 125 people have signed up to be a part of the Coalition, which is co-chaired by Bishop Kevin Adams of Olivet Baptist Church and Dr. Charles Mitchell, Vice Principal of Brainerd High School.

Today, the Citizen Safety Coalition announced their partnership with the City’s YFD Department on Operation SAFETY, the first of several tactics to help address youth violence through safe summer activities, as well as an online Community Questionnaire to learn more about the challenges faced in Chattanooga.

“As we have more young people out of school, with less to do, we must ensure we are providing safe activities to keep them engaged and out of trouble, ” said Mayor Andy Berke. “After conversations with coalition members and community leaders, I’m pleased to see the Citizen Safety Coalition partnering with YFD to move this initiative forward and finding ways to engage even more citizens.”

Through Operation SAFETY, free summer activities will be organized to provide positive opportunities for students. In addition, Operation SAFETY is providing a collaborative online calendar as one central place to access information on summer activities across the city.

Along with Operation SAFETY, the Citizen Safety Coalition asks Chattanoogans to share their thoughts on how to make Chattanooga safe for all residents and encourages more Chattanoogans to get involved in building a stronger community.

“If everyone did a little bit, we all together can get a whole lot done,” said Bishop Kevin Adams, co-chair of the Citizens Safety Coalition.

Co-Chair Dr. Charles Mitchell echoed these sentiments, advocating for more community members to get work together on finding solutions.

“Growing up as a young person in poverty in East Chattanooga, I have always believed ‘where there is no vision, the people perish’. The hour has come for all that live in this city to be bold, to fight for a cause that is bigger than ourselves,” said Dr. Mitchell. “Any person in Chattanooga has the opportunity to be a part of a cause that is bigger than themselves by joining the safety coalition, mentoring a young person, supporting summer programs and much more. By coming together, we will help turn the tide in this battle and provide vision and hope to our youths and the next generation to come.”

Parents, guardians, and young people are encouraged to visit Chattanooga.gov/summer to view the calendar and sign up for updates. Included on the calendar are positive and fun programs for all ages, provided by organizations that are dedicated to the safety and well-being of Chattanooga’s youth. Interested individuals can also text FUN SUMMER to 97779 to receive text updates.

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Mayor Berke's Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 Released to Public

Posted by on 17-May-2016

This afternoon, during a City Council Budget and Finance Committee session, Mayor Berke's Administration presented the first glimpse of the Fiscal Year 2017 City of Chattanooga budget. The estimated general fund revenue for fiscal year 2017 for the City of Chattanooga is $230,275,000 and the allocations within the budget, including over $3.5 million for paving, will be fully funded without a tax increase.

Over half of the City of Chattanooga FY 2017 budget will go towards public safety measures, including the creation of a Real Time Intelligence Center to provide field officers and detectives instant information to help identify patterns, stop emerging crime, and capture offenders. The proposed budget also invests $1 million in the apparatus replacement plan to help ensure the safety of Chattanooga firefighters.

"This year’s budget continues to prioritize the outcomes that improve quality of life in the ways that matter most. In public safety, we will work to curb violent crime," stated Mayor Andy Berke in his budget message. "While the last two months have seen an escalation in gun violence, this year’s budget invests in technology such as cameras which can keep people safer. In addition, we will continue our improved efforts to curtail domestic violence through the reorganization of the Special Victims’ Unit and the growth of services at the Family Justice Center."

The City of Chattanooga budget for fiscal year 2017 was presented to Chattanooga City Council today by the City's Chief Operating Officer (COO), Maura Sullivan, and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Daisy Madison. The proposed budget includes several initiatives to strengthen the local economy and provide more opportunities for young people in Chattanooga. These initiatives include a new, targeted incentives to encourage business development in distressed communities as well as support of the Step Up initiative, a partnership with Chattanooga 2.0, to help provide summer employment to high school kids in Hamilton County.

"The last few years have seen economic development growing in Chattanooga," continued Mayor Berke. "We cannot let up on this progress. From spreading opportunity throughout the city to building the workforce to take advantage of our rising prosperity, we will build more paths to the middle class."

The City budget, which is available online at www.chattanooga.gov, also includes investments in the Safe Routes to School Program, an increase the curbside recycling program, needed repairs to the Walnut Street Bridge, an allocation to the capital campaign of the Chambliss Center for Children, and a new YFD Center in Avondale neighborhood, to name a few initiatives.

"All this occurs without a tax increase. We will operate a high performing government, putting the constituent first. Despite rising fixed costs, we will manage our budget, just as we have done over the last several years," stated Mayor Berke.

Chattanooga City Council will hold Budget Workshops over the next few weeks before first reading of the budget in mid June.

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Mayor Berke Keynotes Global Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

Posted by on 11-May-2016

On May 11, 2016, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke addressed a global delegation of leaders from cities and countries across the world regarding the July 16, 2015, terror attack and provided feedback on ways cities can establish their own strategies to counter violent extremism.

The first annual Strong Cities Network Global Summit is currently being held in Antalya, Turkey. At the Summit, Mayor Berke also announced that Chattanooga would join the Strong Cities Network. Other American cities currently members of the Strong Cities Network include New York, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis, and Montgomery County (Maryland).

During his keynote speech this morning, Mayor Berke first briefed the audience on the city of Chattanooga, in particular demographics and social challenges. He went on to outline the circumstances of the July 16, 2015, terror attack and the impact on citizens. Mayor Berke praised the response of the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) and detailed how the community responded to the attack.

“To be a great city, we have to be an inclusive and resilient city,” Berke told Summit attendees. “How cities respond to these types of events says much about who we are.”

“For Chattanooga, hate was not the answer to this terrible incident,” said Mayor Berke of the July 16, 2015 terror attack.

Mayor Berke led the U.S. delegation of two dozen leaders to the summit and, of the five keynote speakers, Mayor Berke was the only keynote speaker representing the United States. The keynote speakers included Hassan Ali Joho, Governor of Mombasa, Nairobi; Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Denmark; Dr. Ranjit Patil, Minister of Maharashtra (Mumbai), India; Hans Bonte, Mayor of Vilvoorde, Belgium; and Andy Berke, Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States of America.
The Strong Cities Network was launched last September and features 50 cities from around the world, including small and medium-sized cities along with metropolises such as London, New York, and Paris.


ABOUT STRONG CITIES NETWORK

Launched at the United Nations in September 2015, the Strong Cities Network (SCN) is the first ever global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers and practitioners united in building social cohesion and community resilience to counter violent extremism in all its forms.

Led by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the SCN strengthens strategic planning and practices among municipal-level policy makers and builds the capacity of local practitioners to prevent the spread of violent extremism in all its forms. The network catalyses, inspires and multiplies community-centric approaches and action to counter violent extremism while respecting the fundamental rights of citizens.

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This City is Giving Super-Fast Internet to Poor Students

Posted by on 10-May-2016

Homework is hard. Homework when you don't have an internet connection can be impossible.

Around 5 million homes with school-age children don't have high speed internet, according to the Pew Research Center. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, 22.5% of residents live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and nearly 25,000 kids are on the public school system's free and reduced lunch program.

Chattanooga is trying to close its "homework gap" with a pair of programs that help low-income families get online.

"We can't have digital gated communities. The power of the web should be an equalizer, not something that creates greater inequity," said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

Last August, the city launched a program to offer discounted high-speed internet, called NetBridge, to households that have a student receiving free or discounted lunches (a common way to measure poverty). It also created a class called Tech Goes Home that teaches families basic internet skills, such as how to create an email address, pay bills online, or set privacy rules for kids. It also offers families a $50 Chromebook to use at home.

So far, 1,700 families have signed up for NetBridge and more than 700 have graduated from Tech Goes Home. That's a small sliver of the homes that need it.
Chattanooga is able to offer the discounted connections directly to lower-income residents thanks to a unique high-speed set up in the city.

Most broadband internet in the U.S. is provided by private providers, but high-speed networks are costly to build and maintain. Instead of waiting for the internet to come to town, Chattanooga took a different approach. It built its own world-class fiber optic network.

Now it has a super fast service run by the Electric Power Board, a city-owned agency.

The network was launched in 2009, but until recently may have been out of many families' budgets. Internet access starts at $58 for 100 MBPS and goes up to $299 for a 10 GBPS connection.

NetBridge, on the other hand, is $26.99 a month for the slowest option. That cost is high compared to similar discounted plans, but it's as low as the city can legally go. (A state law prohibits it from offering internet below cost.)

Major broadband providers have also attempted to bring internet to low-income families, but the programs vary wildly in speed and availability. AT&T (T, Tech30) recently announced a $5 plan for any U.S. family receiving food stamps, but those connections are incredibly slow. Google Fiber offers free access to some families in public housing, but is only available in a very limited number of cities.

Chattanooga is planning a big push for the program when the school year begins in August.

Berke, who sometimes visits Tech Goes Home classes, is excited about the impact the program is already having. He met one grandmother who used to take her grandchildren to fast food restaurants at night so they could do homework using the free WiFi. Now they log on at home.

"This has been a huge advantage for many of these families," said Berke. "Even for kids who may have a device, they run out of data quickly. Having internet at home gives them the chance to go on the web, explore, be creative and work on things that are critical to their future."

CNNMoney (San Francisco)
First published May 10, 2016: 11:21 AM ET

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