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More Jobs in 2014

Posted by Andy Berke on 31-Dec-2014

For me, one of the best days of last year was traveling to Germany to meet with Volkswagen executives who were preparing to announce their decision to build another line in my hometown. I knew it would create thousands of direct and supplier jobs, but I have also witnessed the increased opportunity, self-esteem, and quality of life that come from those new positions. And while we all love VW, they weren’t the only economic success story of last year. Coca Cola, Amazon, Convergys -- in 2014, internationally-known companies chose to make Chattanooga their home or to grow here.

We know that not every expansion grabs the front page. There are small companies across our city who are developing innovative ideas, trying to outwork the competition, and building successful new businesses in Chattanooga. We are trying to add fuel to this fire through our Growing Small Businesses initiative, as well as a focus to expand our entrepreneurial sector and startups like BellHops, Wafflez Factory, and many others that are putting more Chattanoogans to work.

Overall, we added 3,429 new jobs this year. Our unemployment rate is down a full point below a year ago at this time. I am incredibly appreciative of our ECD employees, and our community and government partners who are helping to bring more jobs to Chattanooga.

Thousands of Chattanoogans lives changed for the better in 2014, but there is more work to do. At City Hall, I will continue working to create the conditions that bring living wage jobs here and expand our middle class, but I need your help in this effort. We need a strong workforce - so I need you to help our young people be successful. We need more employers who are considering Chattanooga - so I need you, our best spokespeople, to help promote what you love about our great City. If you have a great Chattanooga story from 2014 you want to share, email me, message me on Facebook or twitter, or tweet with the hashtag #CHA2014.

As soon as we turn out the last light on 2014, let’s roll up our sleeves in the new year and get back to work.

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Shootings Down in 2014

Posted by Andy Berke on 30-Dec-2014

It’s always nice to see some good news as the year ends. Today the Chattanooga Police Department announced shootings are down 10% overall for 2014. A large portion of the decrease is driven by reductions in our gang or group-related incidents, which are down 18% compared to 2013.

Importantly, the shootings have decreased as the months have progressed. In the 4th quarter of 2014, shooting incidents decreased 42% below last year’s level, with 50% fewer gang- or group-related shooting than last year.

By no means are we done. In 2015, we will continue our work to curb violence in Chattanooga. Although overall shootings are down, murders went up this year, and domestic violence is still far too prevalent. There will be ups and downs, and certainly an overall reduction can mean little to those who were victims this year. I’m always reminded that these numbers tell the stories of real people -- family members who have lost loved ones, gang members who have turned their lives around, and police officers who have worked countless hours to patrol our streets.

Even with hard work ahead, we should take a moment celebrate the success we have had. Our community’s work to make our streets safer shows the best side of our city, coming together to tackle a problem head-on with a determination to improve Chattanooga for all of our citizens.

Credit for this important announcement goes to our public safety employees and the dedicated citizens who contributed to this reduction through their various prevention efforts. People are engaged, letting me know their ideas and putting action behind their words.

Next year we will continue to work on all the issues that create these numbers -- domestic violence, educational opportunity, poverty and job creation. I am hopeful that with more hard work and by continuing to pull together as one community, we will have even more good news in 2015.

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Family Justice Center and CPD Partnering with Southern Adventist University

Posted by on 18-Dec-2014

This afternoon, the Chattanooga Hamilton County Family Justice Center (FJC) formalized a new partnership with Southern Adventist University (SAU) School of Social Work to provide research and technical assistance to both the FJC and the Chattanooga Police Department. The partnership will focus on projects related to the development of a Victim Assistance Program and a pilot testing for Lethality Assessment protocol beginning in January, 2015


Through this partnership, Southern Adventist University will also provide ongoing research support to test evidence-based interdisciplinary practices with the FJC and community partners. 


"Southern Adventist is a leader in social work research and we are excited to partner with them,” said Mayor Andy Berke. “Our Family Justice Center will ensure one centralized location where a diverse group of partners provide victims with a wide range of services. These strong partnerships and convenient access to services will be crucial to breaking the cycle of domestic violence in our area."


When the FJC opens, a student learning clinic managed by SAU will provide free social services/counseling services to clients, families, and groups. In addition, an extensive interdisciplinary internship program will be developed to prepare future professionals for working in law enforcement, social services, healthcare, and city government. 


“There is no doubt the expertise SAU brings to the table will strengthen the work of our Family Justice Center,” said FJC Executive Director, Dr. Valerie Radu. “By ensuring we use best practices, this partnership will help the FJC and our partners provide the most effective community services and resources.”


In the summer of 2013, the City of Chattanooga received a 3 year grant to research a Family Justice Center to serve the area. An advisory committee conducted research and held several public forums throughout the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. In August of 2014, the City hired Dr. Valerie Radu as Executive Director.



If you or someone you know is suffering from family violence, please call the LOCAL Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault CRISIS HOTLINE at 423-755-2700. Help is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and it’s completely confidential.

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Mayor’s Initiative to End Chronic Veteran Homelessness Selected for National Campaign

Posted by on 11-Nov-2014

Chattanooga’s local initiative to end chronic veteran’s homelessness has been selected to participate in a national campaign called Zero: 2016. Campaign organizer, Community Solutions, said it would work closely with the Chattanooga community to end chronic veteran homelessness by the end of 2016. Mayor Andy Berke announced the collaboration this morning during a Veteran’s Day Program at Washington Alternative School. 

"We must take care of the men and women who have fought so courageously for our freedom,” said Mayor Berke.  “Through strong collaboration between our task force and various community partners, such as the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition, Chattanooga Housing Authority, and our local Veterans Affairs Medical Center, we will utilize Community Solutions as a resource to ensure there will no longer be veterans living on the streets of Chattanooga.”

After a competitive application process, Chattanooga was selected for Zero: 2016 along with 68 other U.S. communities. Zero: 2016 is a follow up to Community Solutions’ 100,000 Homes Campaign, which resulted in the housing of 105,000 chronically homeless Americans in less than four years. 

The 69 communities selected for Zero: 2016 represent 31 different states and the District of Columbia. Among them are 50 communities who also participated in the 100,000 Homes Campaign and 19 new communities. Combined, the group represents the joint, public commitment of 234 housing authorities, local government entities, non-profit organizations, and community agencies. 

Mayor Berke publicly pledged to end chronic veteran homelessness in Chattanooga on April 21, during his first State of the City address. The next day, the mayor signed an executive order establishing a community task force to eradicate chronic veteran homelessness. The task force is co-chaired by City Council Chairman Chip Henderson and Donna Maddox, executive director of Johnson Mental Health.  

From Oct. 13-15, the city of Chattanooga partnered with local agencies and community members to register and survey Chattanooga’s homeless veterans in an event called Registry Week. The canvassing effort surveyed 91 individuals living on the streets of Chattanooga; 15 of those individuals were identified as veterans. 

Building upon the findings of October’s Registry Week, Zero: 2016 will launch in Chattanooga in January of 2015 by participating in Chattanooga’s annual “Point-In-Time Count,” an event that aims to register and survey local homeless individuals in one night.

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Baby University - From Cradle to Career

Posted by Andy Berke on 20-Jun-2014

What should I eat to make sure my baby is born healthy? If my baby has a fever, what medicine can they have? Why should I read to my infant? How do I take care of a daughter with asthma?

These are questions new parents ask themselves. It’s difficult to find answers or even know where to look. They are just trying to keep up with school or pick up extra shifts at work while getting ready to take on one of life’s biggest challenges: being a parent.

Parenting is difficult for everyone. I know how much my wife and I work each day to make the best choices for our daughters. We are lucky to have people in our life for advice but many young families don’t have anyone to turn to when things go wrong.

And when things go wrong, they can go really wrong. Our Infant Mortality Rate in Hamilton County is devastating. According to 2010 statistics, we are over 60% higher than the national average. At 9.7 per 1000 births, we actually have a higher Infant Mortality Rate than many countries, including Russia, Lebanon, Serbia, Ukraine...and the list goes on.

On top of that, approximately 1,000 out of the 4,000 babies born in Hamilton County every year are at risk to not be ready for school. Single parents, low educational attainment by a parent, teen pregnancy -- these factors often result in a struggling family. Chattanooga has sub-regions where over 75% of births are to a single mother, over half are born into poverty, and almost 20% are not born at a healthy weight.

We must do better than this.

While Chattanooga boasts a number of agencies teaching parenting and developmental skills, the need is still great. That’s why the City is partnering with area nonprofits and the medical community to institute a Baby University. Through this initiative, we will provide parents the knowledge they need to keep their newborn healthy and happy, prepare expectant mothers and fathers to be a child’s first teacher, and ensure our young people grow into productive adults.

Earlier this week, I met with new moms and elementary school teachers to hear their everyday challenges. New mom Sarah talked about how hard it is for her to discipline her child because she suffered from abuse when she was young. Another mom admitted her concern when I asked what she doing to prepare her son for kindergarten, saying “you want to help them. You have a beautiful baby and you know they are depending on you, but you just don’t always know what to do.”

I listened as teachers explained the effects this lack of knowledge has once the child gets to school. One teacher from Hardy said a lot of parents think Kindergarten is playtime, but the standards have changed and kids need to come to pre-k with basic language and learning skills.

The stories from these educators and moms bears out what we know from research.  Success for students starts long before they enter school, with over 80% of brain development occurring between birth and three years of age. We also know an investment in early childhood learning pays for itself down the road through lower incarceration rates, better skilled workforce, and less strain on our healthcare system.

These discussions only reinforced my commitment to support Chattanooga’s children from the cradle to career. Over the coming days, city leaders including Coach Lurone Jennings of Youth & Family Development will work with an Advisory Committee to determine next steps for Baby University. Drawing from successful programs in other cities, we will utilize volunteers and leverage private investment to ensure a critical focus on medical well-being and child development.

By providing the skills and resources to be an educator in the home, the City will invest in our parents and newborns. Not only will this investment improve lives today, it will provide dividends to Chattanooga for decades to come.

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