As Chattanooga and Hamilton County prepare to flip the calendar to a new year, lots of folks are more than ready to bid 2021 adieu.
It's been difficult — frustrating — to move the needle on several issues our our city and county have identified as critical over the last two years.
Those issues were top of mind in 2021's last Power Poll.
It should come as no surprise that education was identified as our top issue heading into 2022.
Of those who responded to the December Power Poll, 45% ranked education as numero uno.
We asked: “Looking ahead to 2022, please rank the top 3 issues Chattanooga and Hamilton County face.” Of the 80 respondents, 63 chose education first, second or third.
Supporting Special Needs Children in Chattanooga
The holidays are known as the season of giving, but for the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Community Trust, giving is a year-round mission.
The organization supports nonprofits across Tennessee with funding focused on:
- Charitable clinics
- Disease prevention and treatment
- Youth development, and
- Diversity and inclusion.
In 2021 alone, the Community Trust gave $517,054 to Tennessee nonprofits.
In Chattanooga, that included $4,000 to the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera (CSO) to support its Sensory Friendly Concerts. Six years ago, the CSO set out to create a concert series for children of all ages and abilities, and in particular those with sensory-processing issues. They worked with special-education professionals to create an informal atmosphere where clapping, singing and dancing are welcome. And they made sure to select venues with a quiet space nearby in case a child or family needs to take a break.
“We get children of all ages and families of every background,” says Amy Morgan, education and community engagement manager at CSO. “We have one dad who brings his 18-year-old son, who is nonverbal and autistic. His son rocks and responds to the music, and his dad is always so thrilled to tell us how much his son loves it. They come at least once a year.”
Now, in its 7th season, the CSO has welcomed more than 840 children and families to more than 25 sensory-friendly concerts.
“My favorite part is seeing these families connecting with each other,” says Morgan. “Some have never met a family with a child in the same age group who has a similar disability. Building those bridges is powerful. I like that we’re not just bringing music to the community, but we’re bringing members of the community together.”
More on Community Trust Giving
Of course, Power Pollers have consistently ranked education as our key issue. And this support will be important for new Superintendent Justin Robertson, who takes over a school district that has failed to close significant achievement gaps among student groups. The effects of the pandemic on student learning were bracing, as reflected in the state's most recent test results.
Survey respondents — 25% of them – ranked crime/public safety as the top issue. As we mentioned in the October Power Poll, violent crime surged nationwide during this pandemic year, and Chattanooga is in no way immune. Just this week, city officials announced a $20,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of individuals involved in the September Grove Street shooting that left 2 women dead and five injured.
Franklin McCallie, a retired educator and founder of Chattanooga Connected, said there is a way forward.
“The solution to so many of our problems is so clear: we must begin to see all ethnicities and colors of our fellow human beings as our brothers and sisters,” he wrote.
The December Power Poll survey, was conducted Monday through Thursday and surveyed 156 Power Poll members. There were 80 responses from various business, community and government leaders for a 51% response rate.
The monthly survey gauges what influential business, civic, education and nonprofit leaders and elected officials are thinking. While the survey is in no way considered a scientific poll, its results offer insights into the opinions and beliefs of key decision-makers in our area.
The second-by-second news cycle took the starch out of two Power Poll questions about federal spending. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's bombshell interview on Fox News torpedoed President Joe Biden's Build Back Better legislation, at least for now.
Power Pollers received the survey the morning after the Manchin news broke and consumed hours of talking heads and pundits spinning his decision one way or the other.
In response to the question,”Do you think President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan is needed?” 57% of survey respondents said “no,” while 43% said “yes.”
On the predictive question, “Do you think the U.S. Senate will pass the Build Back Better plan early next year?” 68% said “no” and 33% said “yes.”
We will see what happens in January.
And now, for the bit of fun. We asked for your headlines to capture 2021, and boy, did you come through! Headline writing is truly an art form. Some of you have the gift. Pandemic fatigue was prominent target; some political snark found its way into a few; and of course, some were just plain ol' funny. Fifty of you submitted headlines. Here you go:
— Help wanted: Starting salary — whatever gets you here!
— Going ... going ... Omicron
— COVID and Braves Topped the News In 2021
— The potholes along the road to recovery
— Here we go again
— Local Man Glad 2021 Over; Hopes 2022 Over Quickly Too
— At least it wasn't 2020
— 2021: Not Quite as Bad as 2020
— At least it wasn’t 2020
— Normalcy is no longer a viable option
— Doing better, but still not back to pre-COVID levels
— 2021: A year to forget!
— Covid Reigns in County Life
— Hindsight is 2020- 2020 and 21 best in hindsight. Welcome 2022!
— Trouble in 2021
— 2021 gets on track but derails
— 2021: It ain’t over yet
— COVID 19, a continuing threat
— Was 2021 the end of trust in news, government, science?
— Thank goodness it's over
— A year of readjustment ends
— The year ends; the uncertainty continues
— Another year of uncertainty with COVID-19
— Just when you think it’s safe — Omicron!
— A year of fear; a year of hope
— COVID continues
— High hopes for 2021 dashed by delta and omicron
— 2021-the good, the bad, the ugly
— 2021: The year much like the last
— People unbelievably refuse vaccinations and masking
— Persistently pernicious viral overload crushes optimism for harmony and peace
— 2021 looks great — in the rear-view mirror!
— COVID-19 kills
— Going through hell, world keeps going
— Cross currents impact U.S., world health, growth
— A demanding personal and professional year
— Hamilton County 3rd grade reading proficiency tops 35%
— Life-saving jabs and billionaires in space amid crippling cyberattacks
— A year to re-think and re-group
— Great turmoil, concern and hope
— Thought it was gonna get better, turns out it still sucked
— Democrats are destroying America
— How we spent all that extra money
— Determined citizens struggle to find new normal
— Rollercoaster year of turmoil and hope comes to end
— Can we make 2022 as strong as 2021?
— "The rich stay healthy while the sick stay poor." ("God Part II", U2)
— Polarization threatens America's future
— It is always something but we are headed in the right direction!
— Work for united, not divided, America
— Biden and Harris both gone under 25th amendment
— Democrats attempt to tank U.S. — foiled by Joe Manchin
— Best is yet to come, hopefully
—Politics replaces religion as restless Americans look for purpose
Contact Chris Vass at email@example.com.