• 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.
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 ...