Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Chattanooga City Council District 6 representative Carol Berz is running a different kind of campaign this month.
Instead of rallying the community to vote for her in the March 5 elections, the unopposed incumbent is on a campaign to find out what the issues are for her constituents. Since the boundaries of her district shifted considerably during recent redistricting efforts mandated by the state, her full-fledged campaign to get out the vote and find out more about local issues may be the first time some District 6 constituents have had the opportunity to dialogue with her.
At a recent town hall meeting hosted by the Jewish Cultural Center, zoning, homelessness and a growing Hispanic population in the area were some of the issues raised by local residents.
“We shouldn’t be making 20- and 30-year plans, we should be looking at increments in one year to two years to five years,” said Berz. “While we’re busy planning, life is happening.”
Over the next four years she said she will work to help protect neighborhoods in the area from development. Berz said she hopes to also help implement creative solutions to the district’s issues, and listed the new park at the airport as an example. Once completed, vacant buildings near the entrance to Wilson Air Center will be replaced with green space that has been designed to accommodate stormwater runoff from the surrounding areas.
One issue that has prohibited some economic development in the area has been the population of homeless individuals who have been congregating particularly on Brainerd Road, said Berz.
“The homeless are a problem,” she said. “But the police have done a great job of trying to clean that up.”
She recommended that when people see homeless soliciting or congregating in an area, that they call the police, adding that overall, crime is down across the district around 20 percent.
One growing concern for some in the area is a growing Hispanic population. Helping that community understand different laws and cultural norms can help area Hispanics better assimilate in the area and decrease crime as a whole in the district, said Berz.
Reaching out and providing educational programs for the local Hispanic community may be something explored in the future, especially relating to domestic violence.
“Machismo can be a real problem,” said Berz. “Some people think domestic violence is where you have to really beat someone up, which is not up to speed or up to par with current domestic violence law that’s as rigorous as ever.”