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The Latest

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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Chattanooga Makers Day 2014

Posted by Andy Berke on 19-Jun-2014

Yesterday, I met a little boy named Andrew who was born with no hands or feet. He was, however, born with an incredible and creative dad. Andrew’s dad makes prosthetics for his two year old on a three dimensional printer at Chattanooga’s Public Library. Andrew outgrows prosthetics so quickly that purchasing specialty products for him would be far too expensive. This way, Andrews dad can design and create simple prosthetics to help Andrew color and eat easier. There is a lot of buzz around the country about the “maker movement” but Andrew and Ezra show the power of giving real everyday people access to technology to empower them to change their lives.

Alongside, Andrew I met lots of other kids who were at the Library from our Youth & Family Development (YFD) Centers who were learning from other Chattanooga makers. There was a sandbox showcasing open-source topography that, with the touch of a hand, manipulates the ebb and flow of a virtual river. The sandbox was built in partnerships with area high schools and can now be used to teach about flooding. Kids learning about new technology from the people who made it is invaluable to the long term success of our community.

On June 18, Chattanooga joined The White House and cities across the country in an effort to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and the next generation of manufacturing in the 21st Century economy. Here at home, kids from multiple Youth & Family Development Centers participated in innovative and interactive activities, showcased by “makers” from across the city. And today’s event was just a precursor. Mark your calendar for an all-day Chattanooga Maker Faire on October 11, at time for people to show what they are making and share what they are learning. Thanks to the Library and all our partners for making our Maker Day a tremendous success.

In the words of just one 9 year old at today’s Making celebration – “This is a magical place.” 

Personally, I couldn’t agree more.

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Innovation Districts Are a Clear Path Forward for Cities and Metros

Posted by Fred Dews and Elina Saxena (http://www.brookings.edu/) on 11-Jun-2014

Mayor Berke has positioned his city, a "midsized southern city" as he calls it, as a leader in how innovation spreads beyond major hubs like Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia. "Our future," he said, "is based on being the place that figures out how midsized southern cities tap into the innovation century and the role that we play."

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Mayor Berke Teams Up with First Lady and Mayors Across the Country to End Veteran Homelessness

Posted by Andy Berke on 04-Jun-2014

Mayor Berke Teams Up with First Lady and Mayors Across the Country to End Veteran Homelessness


Chattanooga, Tenn. (June 4, 2014): Today, Mayor Andy Berke joined First Lady Michelle Obama in committing to end veteran homelessness in Chattanooga. With today’s announcement of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, Chattanooga joins a growing number of communities across the country making the pledge.

Mayor Berke publically pledged to end chronic veteran homelessness in Chattanooga on April 21, 2014, during his first State of the City address. The next day, Mayor Berke signed an executive order establishing a community coalition to eradicate chronic veteran homelessness. Mayor Berke is expected to announce the members of this task force in the coming days.

“These men and women have served our country valiantly and it’s time we take care of them” said Mayor Berke. “Veteran homelessness is a problem across the country. But I look at the greatness of our city and know we can do better. We will work together -- businesses, community members, governmental organizations, and those who've served our country -- to ensure no veteran is forced to live on the streets, or in the parking garages, of Chattanooga, Tennessee.”

Chattanooga will work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and the National League of Cities to leverage federal resources and develop a local strategy to make sure every veteran in the community has access to stable housing and the support services they need to stay off the street.

Since 2010, when the Federal government launched Opening Doors, a strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, there has been a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among veterans. This reduction has been achieved through a partnership between the Obama Administration, local governments, non-profits, and the private sector. Through this final push to leverage momentum and strengthen our commitment, the goal of ending veteran homelessness in America is within reach.

To learn more about resources for local veterans experiencing homelessness, visit https://www.onecpd.info/homelessness-assistance/resources-for-homeless-veterans/

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Posted by Andy Berke on 27-May-2014

Mayor Andy Berke’s FY2015 budget, to be presented to City Council this afternoon, reflects a government relentlessly focused on the priorities of its residents; safer streets, stronger neighborhoods, growing economy, smarter students & stronger families and a high performing government. These priorities have been elevated with an eye toward effectiveness.

“Through a new budgeting approach, implemented City-wide for the first time, each dollar must be justified based on how it delivers results to our constituents. Because of this focus on efficiency we are able to deliver increased services without a tax increase,” said Mayor Berke regarding his new budget.

The budget reflects a strong focus on public safety – over 45% of the total general fund budget is spent on making Chattanooga’s streets safer. This includes initiatives to both respond to crimes and work to prevent young people from becoming involved in criminal activity. In addition, funding has been allocated to fix the broken police pay structure – which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits. The Administration is in ongoing discussions with Department leadership and employee groups to reach a solution that provides consistency and ensures pay increases are fairly allocated going forward.

This budget recognizes that the success of our youth is critical to the future of our city. It establishes funds for a baby college that will provide pregnant women the important information they need to be great parents and a child’s first teacher. While continuing the initiative that has resulted in more children reading at grade level, this budget also works on the transition from youth to adulthood, helping teens fill out the financial aid application that will result in more Chattanoogans in college.

While the metro area unemployment rate is at its lowest in six years, this budget provides important new tools to invest in Chattanooga’s economy. The Growing Small Businesses (GSB) Initiative, included in this budget, will support our local small businesses by incenting them to expand here. The budget also includes targeted investments in Chattanooga’s technology sector.

In addition to investing in 21st century economic sectors, this budget also provides a safety net for those who have bravely served in the military by creating an initiative to end chronic veterans’ homelessness.

“First and foremost, we have a duty to help those who have fought for our freedom. This budget helps us take the first step toward our goal to eliminate chronic homelessness for veterans by the end of 2016,” said Mayor Berke.

“I am proud of the dedication City employees’ show each day to perform these tasks and many, many more. Whether it is delivering essential services or innovative policy solutions, city government is more attentive than ever to enhancing quality of life for our citizens. Over the next year, I look forward to seeing city government work with the private sector, non-profits, churches and families to build the best mid-size city in America,” said Mayor Andy Berke.


To make Chattanooga’s streets safer, this budget allocates needed funds to implement smart policing strategies, effective prevention programs for our youth, and high quality response.

Total funded: $101,096,324.00 | Total requested: $113,243,532.00 | Total number of offers funded: 19

  • The budget maintains funding for 486 sworn personnel in the Police Department – an all-time high from the previous budget which allows the Department to implement more community based policing models and backfill investigative positions.
  • The Administration will partner with area agencies to provide more comprehensive services for young men and women who want to turn their lives around through the Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI).
  • The Administration has been in ongoing discussions with the leaders of the Police Department and the employee representatives to fix the broken Police pay scale. The current structure has left the City vulnerable to numerous lawsuits and is in desperate need of repair. This budget allocates $950,000 to fix the broken system so the Department can ensure consistency and fairness in the allocation of raises to sworn officers.
  • The budget also maintains several key public safety initiatives from the previous year, including funding for a family justice center and federal prosecutor focused solely on crimes occurring within City limits.

Growing our Local Economy means investing in small businesses, ensuring Chattanoogans have the skills to compete, and strengthening our infrastructure to support business expansion.

Total funded: $23,504,020.00 | Total requested: $34,730,130.00 | Total number of offers funded: 26

  • The new Economic Development Office will implement the Growing Small Businesses (GSB) initiative. For small businesses with less than 100 employees, who make a substantial increase to their workforce and sustain that growth for a year or more, the City will provide a $500 cash grant per employee.
  •  To grow Chattanooga’s minority, veteran and women owned businesses, the City will partner with the Chamber, the Urban League, and LAUNCH to establish the Chattanooga Alliance for Diverse Business Enterprises. This is an unprecedented collaboration between multiple agencies to strengthen diverse businesses in Chattanooga.
  • To provide people who live in various neighborhoods with access to one of the largest job centers in our region, this budget provides funding for a bus route to Enterprise South – creating an important link between jobs and neighborhoods.

To ensure Chattanooga has a successful future and a high quality of life, the City is investing in building smarter students and stronger families by supporting kids from cradle to career, providing character education, and creating effective programming for seniors and parents.

Total funded: $24,295,904.00 | Total requested: $32,944,516.00 | Total number of offers funded: 21

  • Success for students starts long before they enter school. This budget funds a Chattanooga Baby College that will prepare expectant mothers and fathers to be great parents and a child’s first teacher. The initiative will identify at-risk pregnant women and provide them with the information and skills they need to ensure their child enters school ready to learn so kids in Chattanooga are not starting off behind.
  • This budget funds a partnership with La Paz to create a Hispanic family resource center that will provide family violence prevention, prenatal care, and nutritional resources to Chattanooga’s growing Hispanic community.
  • Due to the growing expense of a college education, it is more critical than ever before that high school seniors understand and apply for financial aid. Research shows a strong correlation between the number of students who apply for financial aid and those who go to college. This budget dedicates resources to partner with local agencies to help more kids fill out their FAFSA form to apply for financial aid.

Building stronger neighborhoods is critical to the long term health of any City. Every Chattanooga citizen should have the opportunity to live in a strong and thriving neighborhood with high quality affordable homes, recreation opportunities nearby, and access to a variety of transportation options.

Total funded: $45,243,639.00 | Total requested: $46,782,640.00 | Total number of offers funded: 15

  • This budget dedicates resources to create a homeless to housed pipeline for homeless veterans in Chattanooga ending chronic veteran homelessness by the end of 2016. This initiative will focus on providing intensive case management and transitional housing to those who have served our country.
  • To ensure our roads are well maintained, this budget allocates $2.3 million for paving and street maintenance.
  • This budget reflects a new contract with Orange Grove Center that will increase our curbside recycling participation and increase the revenue generated to the City based on the sale of the recycled commodity. This will divert additional waste from our landfill, while maintaining the important job training function provided by the Orange Grove Center

The City of Chattanooga strives each day to operate a high performing government by ensuring the long term financial health of the City, using each dollar effectively, and providing excellent customer service.

Total funded: $22,710,113.00 | Total requested: $26,432,043.00 | Total number of offers funded: 26

  • All the initiatives included in this year’s budget will be fully funded without a tax increase.
  • This budget reflects a general fund that is entirely prepared through Budget for Outcomes – ensuring that every dollar achieves results for Chattanoogans.
  • This budget absorbs most of the increase in health costs ($1.4 million) with a minimal increase in employee premiums (average increase of $3 per month).
  • To ensure the most effective use of existing street lighting infrastructure, and avoid duplication of costs while moving towards sustainable alternatives, the City has budgeted $616,00 to replaces our current street lights with LED lights as they go out.
  • This budget continues our compliance with the EPA consent, including the previously scheduled 9.8% raise in stormwater fees.
  • In addition to the performance metrics being tracked from the previous pilot of Budgeting for Outcomes, the Office of Performance Management will establish long term goals, data points, and tools for public engagement. 

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