published Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

David Cook: Here are five questions for Chattanooga

• Who is the most powerful person in the area?

First, let's define power as the ability to influence the world around you. If the powerless among us have zero influence and are unable to alter or change the circumstances in their lives, then the most powerful are those able to shift and shape the landscape around them in drastic ways.

Money, connection, politics -- all these things contribute to power.

Would it be the person who sits on multiple boards of directors?

Would it be the person with the most wealth?

Would it be the person with political might?

Power runs both ways; it can be used for great good as well as great harm. I've got a few ideas of our area's most powerful -- one particular gentleman in Soddy-Daisy comes to mind -- but I want to hear who's on your list.

• How do you rate the new mayor's first month?

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke passed his first 30 days in office last week. He has dismantled and begun reconstructing several significant departments, then appointed local experts with little or no political experience to lead them.

If we've been looking for a dropkick to the good ol' boy network of past administrations, then this is it. What a loud way to send the message that this is a new form of government by populating it with folks completely innocent to the governmental machine.

The angel on my left shoulder sees it as political bravery -- the catapulting forward of our city politic -- and the first sign of promising change to come. After all, many of these new people in City Hall are devoted, smart, full of huge ideas and love Chattanooga.

But the devil on my right is concerned. Is it possible to run an effective government with people who've never been in government?

• What area church is the most dangerous?

Over the weekend, I visited with some friends at our city's Unitarian Universalist Church, which was first formed here in 1897. I heard stories from the 1960s, when their Dodds Avenue congregation was bombed -- not once but twice -- as backlash for its anti-racist, anti-segregationist stance on civil rights.

They kept the piano from that bombed church. It is scarred, but still plays.

"We leave the piano unrepaired to this day as a memorial to our stand," writes Helen Solomon in her history of liberal religion in the area.

Today, struggles remain. People of faith are called to take action in the world. Congregations are called to be publicly opposed to injustice and evil.

(Christ, for example, did not retire from the ministry to play golf in Florida; he was crucified as an enemy of the state).

So which congregation around us is doing dangerous work?

Who are the people of faith most likely to get bombed today for their stance on moral issues?

• If we don't build it, will they still come?

Atlanta is working on plans to build a new Ferris wheel. (If I wanted the experience of going nowhere while trapped inside a small compartment, I'd just stay in my car on Interstate 75).

But seriously, a Ferris wheel sure would look good down by the Tennessee River. Should we hustle to build one and beat Atlanta to it? Steal their water and tourism?

Really, the larger question is this: Do we need a Big New Attraction downtown to keep tourism going? The Tennessee Aquarium is 20 years old. Beautiful, amazing, the best this side of New England, but still 20 years old.

What about an ice rink for the winter? Folks can skate and play hockey then, in the summer, we could transform it into an outdoor putt-putt course.

Will the new Soak Ya water park at Lake Winnie do the job? Or the rock climbing wall being built over the old Bijou Theater?

• What's the best idea out there?

Let's have an Ideas Contest. What is the best, craziest, most fun idea out there on improving one aspect of Chattanooga? What's the best thing to affect education or transportation, poverty or pollution?

Ideas are always the engine of change, so I promise to write about all the good ones you submit.

Maybe a powerful person will read it.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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AndrewLohr said...

Most bombable church? The IRS has been trying to bomb the Tea Party.

May 21, 2013 at 3:13 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

The Tea Party is wearing its own suicide vest placed there by the religious nutters who have taken over the Tea Party.

The sooner it detonates the sooner some semblance of sanity may return.

May 21, 2013 at 6:31 a.m.
klifnotes said...

Wrong AGAIN andylou, and according to your own local news reports:

From our own local news, wrcbtv/tfp:Did Tea Pary whiners purposely stretch the truth or out and right lied?:

"WASHINGTON — A former top Internal Revenue Service official said Monday that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan stretched the truth when the former vice presidential candidate mentioned a Chattanooga nonprofit to bolster the idea the IRS favors liberal groups over conservative groups.

"The IRS was doing this because they were concerned about political activities by nonprofits. That's the debate that seems to be taking place here," Ryan told former acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller. "Some of these that were approved were Chattanooga Organized for Action ... and the Progressive USA. If you were concerned about political activity, did you have targeting lists that contained words like 'progressive' or 'organizing' in their names?"

At a House hearing last week, Ryan cited Chattanooga Organized for Action as an example of a left-leaning nonprofit that was cleared for tax-exempt status faster than tea party organizations targeted and delayed because of their conservative ideology.

>"Left unsaid by Ryan: Chattanooga Organized for Action experienced a lengthy IRS review itself. Additionally, its leaders sought a completely different tax designation than the Chattanooga Tea Party and other groups caught up in the scandal."

What is it the tea party fear? Their donors being exposed? Under that tax exempt code they filed they didn't have to reveal their donors. It appears the organizations that didn't have a lenghty wait to be cleared may have had nothing to do with being liberal and everything to do with the type of tax exempt code they sought. Apparently, they had nothing to hide. On the other hand....someone(S) felt they had everything to hide and then some? MAYBE? jesssss MAYBE????? HMMMMMMMMMhmmmmmmmmmmmmm! This is beginning to get really really* juicy. Remember the old chinese proverb about when digging holes? Make sure you dig two? One for yourself? Seems like that's what the tea party is doing. Digging holes for others they will eventually fall in themselves.

May 21, 2013 at 8:08 a.m.
cooljb said...

Surprising how many still want to have Obama's child, I mean it is amazing. Some people's infatuation blind's them forever it appears.

May 21, 2013 at 9:31 a.m.
sig4ever2 said...

So just because the Tennessee Aquarium is now 20 years old it is no longer relevant? The river walk is a few years old now, is it no longer an attraction? What is this perceived need for a new shtick?

May 21, 2013 at 9:38 a.m.
choptalker said...


Nice column. I read through the comments hoping to read some cool ideas, but ...

May 21, 2013 at 9:54 a.m.
MyGen said...

As a city resident and voter, I'm very concerned that our property values are not a priority. The enforcement of existing codes allows vacant properties and abandoned vehicles become eyesores.

I also see a lot of resources devoted to the "tourism" areas. We get it. Visitors will spend more money in nice places. But living just outside of the North Chattanooga glamour area, we're overlooked but pay our taxes.

Mayor Berke seems like a smart man with all the right friends. I just hope his time in office serves the taxpayer and not his friends.

On the question about the most powerful person, I'm getting jaded as a twenty-something-year-old. I have always wanted to see the ones who work the hardest to do good things as most powerful. I'm seeing the same group involved in many of the big money projects making big money. I sure hope our local government isn't their inside bank account. Especially since so many taxpayers like me don't see value added to my neighborhood.

May 22, 2013 at 7:37 a.m.
chet123 said...


May 22, 2013 at 12:44 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Your report on Southern Baptists reminds me of a joke.

Question: Why don't Southern Baptists fornicate while standing up? Answer: Someone might see them and think that they're dancing.

May 22, 2013 at 1:16 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Okay, since it was brought to my attention that there was a glitch on the website that deleted my rather lengthly but thought-out answers to your five questions, I decided to do a simple edited-down version. If you got to read the original comments, hope you enjoyed them.

1) I believe the most powerful people in Chattanooga are the ones that do the most behind the scenes. These are the people that make Southside a hip section of town, that make whiskey distilling legal again, that give Chattanoogans that opportunity to watch independent films without having to fight Atlanta or Nashville to see them, and so on. The late Gene Roberts helped lay the foundation to transform Chattanooga and the next generation is building on top of what took decades to do.

2) It is still too early to give the mayor a fair review when all he has done is clean house internally (compared to what "Blackburn" did during his 30 days, this is a rather drop in the bucket). He appears to going on the right direction, but I figured give him at least a year.

3) Chet technically beat me to the punch on this because the glitch deleted my post. But on this subject, the Wiccas and the Buddhists in this town tend to get the most sour looks of "needs to be run out of town" by the 600 lb silverback known as the Southern Baptists in town. My comments stem from previous articles where Buddhists that have been interviewed have been told how co-workers pray for them in order to see the light and other harassing issues. And there was the time the Buddist Monk meditating in downtown Chattanooga got "quacked" by a bunch of ignorant first graders. Hince, this is why I believe the known Buddhist Temple on Bonny Oaks is as well-hidden as the Smurf Village.

4) Tennessee Aquarium is fine as is. Yes, it is 20 years old but has stayed current with new exhibits, expansions, building upgrades, etc. The fact Atlanta is talking about a Ferris wheel shows how extremely out of touch they are with their "real" issues. If I want to ride a Ferris wheel, they have Six Flags over Georgia or One Flag over Ft. Oglethrope.

5) Best idea for Chattanooga: NFL expansion team. Upgrade Finley to 70,000, all private donations so Drew won't have anything to whine, cry, kick, and scream about, have the city retain ownership and promote it as a source of community pride (like in Wisconsin). Everything else is pretty much done except it needs to be bigger with the progress of time. Anime Blast Chattanooga becomes the next Anime Weekend Atlanta, Connooga becomes the next DragonCon and Samantha Teter, marketing director of the CSO, will up her game after the soon-to-be successful Video Games Live concert by finally bringing the Legand of Zelda and Final Fantasy shows to the Memorial.

May 22, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.
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