Chattanooga’s new mayor-elect, Tim Kelly, was determined the winner of the runoff election on Tuesday evening. Kelly secured 60 percent of the votes over former River City Company President and CEO Kim White.
In his victory speech, Kelly stated that this election marked the beginning of achieving social justice. He said that his first actions would be to establish a COVID-19 response team and address racial disparities.
[C]hattanoogans from every walk of life came together to choose a better way forward. A way for that ensures every child in our community has access to the early childhood opportunities they need to succeed. A way forward that will begin to close the opportunity gap between our Black neighbors and our white neighbors. A way forward that brings every community to the table instead of the divisiveness along the same old partisan lines that too often keep us bitter toward one another. Chattanooga’s special, and together we chose the vision of One Chattanooga.
Kelly’s platform, “One Chattanooga,” focused heavily on social justice issues. He promised that these plans would make Chattanooga a “less frustrating and more enjoyable city to live in.”
A major component of Kelly’s platform centered on the Black community. He promised to address structural racism through what resembled an affirmative action-style set of initiatives. In part, Kelly pledged to increase Black homeownership, businesses, income, jobs, creative talent, and cultural representation.
Kelly is also a proponent of police reform, such as “decriminalizing certain nonviolent offenses” and “decriminalize[ing] poverty.” He advocated for community policing through a “community outreach response team” to address nonviolent situations: mental illness, homelessness, and addiction. Additionally, Kelly promised to increase minority representation within police.
Further, Kelly pledged to give the homeless permanent housing and rewrite laws so as not to encroach on their lifestyle.
Chattanooga will strive to ensure that city law enforcement has the necessary tools to provide homeless individuals services without making an arrest. Additionally, Chattanooga will review the City’s policies and ordinances that serve to penalize the homeless population, versus a more appropriate long-term response that relies upon the use of supportive services.
The mayor-elect’s other top priorities include improvements to education and public transportation. He promised a $15 minimum wage for teachers in Chattanooga’s Head Start, a pre-K program which he pledged to expand as well. He also promised to expand apprenticeship programs.
Notably, Kelly also promised free transportation for city residents by 2022. Funding would be sourced from non-fare revenue instead, like advertising. Kelly envisioned modernized and expanded public transportation, as well as incentivized usage through mobile apps.
The complete list of Kelly’s policy framework, “Vision 2021,” includes minority-focused affordable housing; “common-sense public health policy” for COVID-19 recovery; more aggressive recruitment of businesses to compete with Nashville and Atlanta, Georgia; and sustainability across a wide swath of concerns with the environment, economy, and culture.
White conceded the race to Kelly on Tuesday evening, calling it the race “positive, well-run, [and] issues-based.”
I wish Mayor-Elect Tim Kelly all the best in leading Chattanooga forward. Congratulations on a positive, well-run, issues-based race. Thank you to each of my supporters for being with me since the beginning of this campaign. It was the experience of a lifetime. I love this city. pic.twitter.com/cih1VSsKZF
— Kim White for Mayor (@KimWhiteforCHA) April 14, 2021
Kelly will be sworn into office next Monday, April 19.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tim Kelly” by Tim Kelly. Background Photo “Chattanooga Downtown” by Imilious. CC BY-SA 3.0.