2013 was an eventful year for Chattanooga, the events of which have been examined and analyzed by virtually every local media outlet. I don't have much to add about the past year, but I would like to offer a few thoughts about the future.
Here, in no particular order, are a few things that Chattanooga needs in 2014.
Chattanooga needs to stop trying to be "the next" anything.
Bob Corker wanted us to be known as "The Boulder of the East." We love to refer to ourselves as the "Gig City." And just a couple of weeks ago, Slate.com identified Chattanooga as one of 31 cities that could become one of the world's next Silicon Valleys. This, of course, thrilled some in the community who are always looking to tout our greatness. I have to wonder, though … When are we going to be satisfied with just being Chattanooga? In case you haven't noticed, we're a pretty unique and appealing place. With that said …
Chattanooga needs to dial back the boosterism.
I get it. We're a pretty unique and appealing place. Can we dial it back a little?
Chattanooga needs to stop bragging about its charity.
Not only is Chattanooga a pretty unique and appealing place, but it is also very charitable. You can pick up a copy of Chatter any month out of the year and see page after page of pictures of people at fundraisers and other charity events. I always wonder, however, how much more we could accomplish if we spent less time posing for pictures, patting backs, putting out press releases. How can we attend fewer events and tend to more needs?
Chattanooga needs to rethink Riverbend.
I am by no means a Riverbend hater, but the Friends of the Festival could do a few things—make the festival shorter, book bigger acts, rework the main stage/barge, move the festival, make it bigger—to both quiet critics and involve more of the city.
Chattanooga needs more retail downtown.
I'm not the most outdoorsy person on the planet, and I could probably count the number of times I've bought something from Rock/Creek Outfitters on one hand. But Rock/Creek's new retail location on Broad Street serves as a stark—and attractive—reminder of how nice it would be to actually be able to shop downtown. Sure, River City's Project: PopUp may have fizzled, but who's to say the next initiative or business will, as well?
Chattanooga needs to vote.
National politics may dominate the headlines and our social media feeds, but local politics have more of an effect on our daily lives. We might not know as much about—or be as excited about—local elections, but we owe it to ourselves to participate in them. Local turnout is perennially low. Let's change that. The next Hamilton County primary is in May. Be there.
Chattanooga needs to resolve the police and fire pension situation.
Police and firefighters risk their lives for us every day. Their jobs are extremely stressful, and proposed cuts to their pension fund will undoubtedly add more stress. We need our firefighters and police officers to fight fires and crime. We don't need them worrying about fighting for the benefits they already agreed to. We need to give them reasons to stay on the job, not reasons to leave early.
Chattanooga needs to hear more from its mayor.
By virtually all accounts, Mayor Andy Berke is a nice and approachable guy. He can also be needlessly tightlipped. 2014 will be a big year for his term as mayor. Is he truly committed to this city, or is this just a steppingstone in a grand plan for bigger things? I'd like to hear (and see) more.
Chattanooga needs less rain.
I like rain. We need rain. But not too much rain. Chattanooga was twice as rainy as Seattle in 2013. The Fourth of July was completely washed out. Our local meteorologists need to hold a rain summit to figure out what they can do to make sure this never happens again. Perhaps they can fashion some sort of huge umbrella or rewire their complex weather radar systems so that they can track—and then destroy—storms before they reach our area. We're counting on you, guys.
Chattanooga needs more free parking.
I love downtown Chattanooga. I loved it even more before all the free parking started to disappear. Can we strike some sort of balance? I'm getting sick of circling the block 14 times.
Chattanooga needs to unplug.
Chattanooga is by no means alone in its excessive use of social media. I am guilty of this myself. We share too much. Too many pictures of meals. Too many selfies. Too many selfies during meals. Too many pictures of dogs on couches. Too many posts just because we can. Too many posts, period. There is nothing wrong with keeping things to ourselves. There is nothing wrong with living more and talking about living less. I am going to unplug more this year. I need to. You should, too.
I'm sure I've missed some. What do you think Chattanooga needs this year?
Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) news, culture and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 6:38 p.m. on 12/31/13 to correct a factual error: Slate.com named Chattanooga potentially one of the next Silicon Valleys Dec. 19, not this week, as originally reported.