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Mayor Berke Announces Re-Election and Names Early Learning as a Top Priority

Posted by on 06-Sep-2016

Tuesday afternoon, in front of a crowd of over 150 city residents, Andy Berke announced he would seek re-election as Mayor of Chattanooga. Joined on stage by his family and introduced by his wife, Monique, Berke cited several first term accomplishments but focused most of his speech on issues he would prioritize during a second term, including early learning, increased access to middle class jobs, and keeping illegal firearms off the streets.

“A city that has worked so hard to build bridges can take the next step—and ensure that every single one of our citizens can get across them,” said Mayor Berke. “That’s why today, I am announcing my bid for reelection as Mayor of Chattanooga.”

Berke served in the State Senate from 2007 to 2012 and was elected for his first term as Mayor in March of 2013 with over 72% of the electoral vote. Berke’s most recent financial disclosure, filed on July 15, 2016, shows $275,855 cash on hand which can be used for his upcoming campaign for reelection.

Read Mayor Berke’s complete remarks, below:

Almost four years ago, we gathered at the Tivoli Theater to write the next chapter of the Chattanooga story.

All of us know the prologue. 20th century Chattanooga had become a dying city. Jobs left, shuttered-up storefronts came. And then, working together, we had fought hard to rebuild our city.

The next chapter, I said then, was to empower every Chattanoogan to write their own story. All of us -- businesses, non-profits, churches, and city government -- had to come together to make that happen.
Since then, we have made tremendous strides. Today, we have a 21st century city where many more Chattanoogans can write their own stories.
It starts, as it always does, with our economy.

In four years, unemployment has fallen dramatically, from 8.1 percent in May of 2013 to 4 percent in May of 2016.

Families are bringing more money home, thanks to the third highest wage growth in the country for a mid-sized city.

We’ve seen a building boom downtown and in our surrounding communities. But we also have seen the highest rise in home prices in the mid-South, a sign of growing buying power for more Chattanoogans.

These are great results. No other city in Tennessee—and very few in the country—can claim them. But as important as they are, it’s how we got them that matters more.
Four years ago, I talked about the need to build new bridges in our community—bridges of trust, of shared prosperity. All of what I’ve just described is happening because we built those bridges—together.

From our largest businesses to our most struggling communities, city government is working harder than ever to be a good partner. We have teamed with companies like Volkswagen to grow our economy, and we’ve worked with developers to bring quality, affordable housing to our community. Working with churches, we have built an early education reading initiative throughout the city. Alongside our non-profits, we have opened a new Family Justice Center to support victims of domestic violence.

When our citizens have good-paying jobs, when we’re opening the doors of education to all, and when families are safe, together, in their homes, more Chattanoogans can write their own story.
Many cities would say, that’s good enough. But that’s not the city we are.

Public safety remains a priority. Violent crime and property crimes have fallen over the past four years. The challenge before us now is the scourge of gun violence. Too many young people have too many illegal guns on too many of our streets. The violence affects not only those directly involved, but the homes and businesses around them.

Gun violence must stop. It must. When a mother buries a teenage son lost to gangs, when a pregnant mom is shot on the street to settle a score, we know we must do more.
And here, I must pause to praise the hardest-working people I know, the brave men and women who make up our first responders. When shots are fired, when an EMS crew is needed, our police and firefighters are the first on the scene. And they are the last to leave, caring for victims and witnesses alike, restitching the fabric of our community.

The problems we see on our streets start early. Our city’s public process, Chattanooga 2.0, has pointed out the difficult path our kids face—on the streets, in our school system, and in the job market.

So the challenges are there.

But here’s the thing. After three and a half years on the job, I know we can make progress. I have seen it happen. And you have, too.
I have watched the parents learning computer skills at a Tech Goes Home class; heard from mothers who have gotten a job because of Baby University; witnessed citizens who have dropped everything to comfort the family of a fallen hero; and listened to veterans whose lives are changed by moving into an apartment.

Yes, a lot has been done, and yes there is more to do. But we are on the right path, and I have more confident than ever before that we can improve our city together.

A city that has worked so hard to build bridges can take the next step—and ensure that every single one of our citizens can get across them. To prosperity, yes, but also to safety. To opportunity. To the place of their hopes and dreams—right here.

That’s why today, I am announcing my bid for reelection as Mayor of Chattanooga.

I am convinced we can do more to help kids get off to a good start in life. We can’t be surprised when they have problems at 16 and 17 when they entered kindergarten behind their classmates.

A city that builds bridges needs to make sure our kids can cross to the jobs of tomorrow. Will you join a campaign that says every child in Chattanooga should enter kindergarten ready to learn?

Jobs are here, in our city. Yet too many go unfilled simply because we don’t have the workers with the skills required. We need to build more paths to the middle class so people in every neighborhood have access to opportunity.

A city that builds bridges needs to make sure that those with willing hearts and hands—and heads—can cross to the economy of tomorrow. Will you join a campaign that’s fighting to grow our middle class?

There are simply too many guns on our streets in the hands of those willing to do harm. Our gang violence, with the easy access to dangerous firearms, hurts families and businesses in neighborhoods where people are trying to build a better life.

A city that builds bridges needs to make sure those who carry illegal guns with the intent to harm others can’t cross the street, much less anywhere else. Will you join a campaign that keeps illegal guns off our streets and punishes those who use them?

With a new park being built in Alton Park, a new center planned for Avondale, and a reimagined Miller Park, we know neighborhoods need investment in every part of town. By putting in more sidewalks, working to combat blight, and improving our infrastructure, we can strengthen every corner of our community.

A city that builds bridges needs to make sure they cross every stream in every part of our community. Will you join a campaign that says every street in Chattanooga should have a high quality of life?

Today’s politics is too divisive and too negative. On a national level we watch as talking heads hurl insults and campaigns sling mud. Yet, here, we know we have made progress by choosing community action over petty words.

A city that builds bridges has citizens who want to see their neighbors who live across the way, who want the street across town to get better and aren’t afraid to seek someone else’s suggestions on improving their own.

Will you join a campaign that says we are at our best when we are united no matter who we are and where we live?

Chattanooga has the fastest, cheapest, most pervasive internet in the world and the first Innovation District in a mid-sized city. Yet there are still kids who don’t have access to today’s technology while building tomorrow’s skills. We have all the pieces to be an example for how technology can improve lives for families; it’s time to fit them together to make the puzzle a beautiful picture.

A city that builds bridges cannot tolerate a digital divide. Will you join a campaign that says Chattanooga should be the nation’s example for how technology can build a fairer city?

Join with me. Join this campaign. Keep building bridges. And keep working to get all of our citizens across to the other side.

The next chapter of the Chattanooga story is waiting to be written.

All of us here have the power to write it together.

Thank you.

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NYT: Chattanooga’s Innovation District Beckons to Young Entrepreneurs

Posted by on 16-Aug-2016

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — From Boston to Seattle, cities across the country are vying to create technology hubs, spurring real estate developments to attract start-ups and young entrepreneurs.

To the south, this smaller but thriving city is seeing returns on its effort to do the same. Chattanooga has leveraged its lightning-fast broadband connections to develop a tech scene in its recently designed innovation district, a 140-acre section of its compact central business district.

At the district’s core, the Edney Innovation Center draws young entrepreneurs who pace across the polished concrete floors and talk business from couches and beanbag chairs that give the 90,000-square-foot office building the feel of a college study hall.

The Edney Center is a crucible for advancing their ideas. Purchased and renovated for $4.4 million by Talon Partners, a group of local developers, the 10-story building opened in October at Market and 11th Streets. It is seen by Chattanooga’s civic leaders as the gateway to the city’s commanding new business enterprise — using the six-year-old ultra-high-speed broadband network to attract and assist high-tech start-ups in becoming mature, homegrown companies.

Tenants in the Edney Center include a nonprofit start-up incubator, a business developer for the technology sector and over a dozen entrepreneurial internet, information technology, design and app development companies that are owned and managed by young entrepreneurs.

“What we’re generating here is an ecosystem for business development,” said Andy Berke, the city’s first-term Democratic mayor. “We are promoting access to state-of-the-art broadband and recruiting entrepreneurs with the skills to use it.”

Chattanooga’s development strategy, focused in the innovation district and its internet, which is as fast as 10 gigabits per second, is creating results. More than $700 million in new retail, office and residential space is under construction or about to start in the district, according to the River City Company, an economic development nonprofit organization.

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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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