published Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Chattanooga mayoral candidates agree to agree

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    Andy Berke is running for Chattanooga mayor.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Crime is too prevalent in Chattanooga, and the next mayor needs to help clean up the streets, Democratic candidate Andy Berke believes.

Chester Heathington Jr. agrees with that. Guy Satterfield does, too.

And the city's next mayor, whoever it is, needs to build a strong relationship with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, all three candidates say. And they think taxes aren't necessarily bad, so long as the money is spent on good stuff. And they've seen entrepreneurs around town in recent years, and they like that.

In preparation for a race experts project to be a runaway victory by Berke, the three of Chattanooga's candidates met for a mayoral forum at the UTC University Center Auditorium. They fielded questions from WRCB-TV anchor Cindy Sexton, rarely differentiating themselves and often avoiding specific policies they would implement if elected mayor on March 5.

Heathington made perhaps the boldest proclamation.

"Thirty years ago we were an All-American city," he said. "We fell off. What happened? I don't know. But within the first 50 days of my administration, we can cut crime down by 50 percent."

Heathington did not say specifically how such a dramatic drop will occur, but he said people need to feel safe in Chattanooga. He also said the government needs to be more transparent and more efficient with its money.

Satterfield, a former city employee, agreed. He is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility.

"Waste has got to be cut," he said. "The first thing we got to do is get a thorough audit."

While not pushing for a small government, Berke agreed that the city needs to be smart about how it spends its money.

"We need to focus on spending on things that are successful," said Berke, a former state senator, "and cutting things that aren't."

Wednesday's forum followed a meet and greet with City Council candidates at the University Center. The event was sponsored by the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute, a group dedicated to increasing female participation in local politics.

But in addition to the three male mayoral candidates, only three of the 24 people running for city council are women. Council member Pam Ladd, who is part of the Women's Leadership Institute, hopes events like Wednesday's will make a difference.

"When you look at this turnout, you can seen there are a lot of women who are actually involved in politics," she said.

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