By Jillian Waterhouse, Staff Writer—
In the midst of a pandemic and a mayoral election cycle, Chattanoogans are seeking alternative, safe ways to learn about their potential representatives running for office.
In an historical race with 15 candidates vying for the title of mayor, citizens are eager to understand their platforms. On Thursday, Feb. 4, the Tennessee Environmental Council hosted an online mayoral forum on the topic of Chattanooga climate and energy.
The Tennessee Environmental Council was founded in 1970 with their mission to promote community engagement in pursuit of improved environmental conditions and public health. With intent to keep climate change at the forefront of the mayoral election, the Tennessee Environmental Council hosted a forum with the express purpose of allowing candidates to present their plans to fight environmental issues. Streaming live on Facebook and Zoom, the mayoral forum was moderated by two members of the group, Sandra Kurtz and Erin Perry.
Nine candidates running for the office of mayor of Chattanooga were present for the forum, including Christopher Dahl, Dan Joranko, Chris Long, George Ryan Love, Tim Kelly, Elenora Woods, Andrew McLaren, Monty Bruell, and Wade Hinton.
In preparation for the forum, the nine were sent three questions regarding climate change in Chattanooga.
The first question called for the candidates to discuss their plan for slowing the climate crisis locally.
“There are a number of possible strategies to address the climate crisis in Chattanooga. These include – renewables, energy efficiency, greening businesses, land use, storm
water, and waste reduction – what would you prioritize? — and how would you implement your plan?”
The second question asked of candidates requested them to share their concept of a redesigned transportation system for the city of Chattanooga.
“How would you redesign our transportation system to reduce carbon emissions, increase electric vehicles, and make public transportation available to all?”
The third and final question encouraged the candidates to share their opinion on the importance of social justice as an aspect of sustainability.
“How would your climate and energy plan insure that underserved communities benefit?”
Each candidate was given roughly 2 minutes and 30 seconds to fully answer all three questions. Throughout the discussion, topics such as police reform, environmental justice, and democratic participation across Tennessee were highlighted and discussed by the candidates, as they emphasized their individual priorities in running for office.
The forum, which ran for slightly under an hour and a half, amassed over 1,200 individual views in the weekend following its broadcast. As the Tennessee Environmental Council decided to host the forum to highlight climate change as an increasingly important issue in public office, Chattanoogans displayed their interest by tuning into the discussion. The forum remains available for streaming on the Tennessee Environmental Council Facebook page.
Early voting for the election will begin on Wednesday, February 10th and last until February 25th, ending with election day on March 2nd.