Mayoral Candidates Address UTC Students’ Concerns as Election Day Approaches

Photo by Olivia Ross

By Lorena Grajales, Editor-in-Chief—

As the race for mayor draws near in Chattanooga, four out of the fifteen mayoral candidates eagerly responded to an exclusive questionnaire from UTC’s Student Government Association.

Candidates dove into a variety of topics covering immigrant population, police brutality, lack of school funding, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and more.

Taylor Flores, UTC’s SGA’s Government and External Affairs Chairperson said the idea to send out a questionnaire was inspired by similar questions on social issues, that were asked to candidates in Fall 2020 during the state and federal election.

“In general, we all just really wanted to make sure that the questions were really intersectional, as well. And that we didn’t really tip-toe around certain points,” said Flores.

When candidates were asked what their particular administration would do to reduce the vast amount of UTC students that leave the city after graduation, answers varied as they each made their case on the final days before the election.

Chattanooga native, Monty Bruell said the city needs to be more open-minded when it comes to recent graduates.

“Students have to see how they fit into our community. We must make sure that every aspect of Chattanooga is inclusive. I think that many students who come to UTC feel isolated, unseen, and unheard. We can do better.”

Former UTC Adjunct Professor, Tim Kelly provided his views on how the city should be equipped to confront this issue.

“We can and will do a better job of building opportunities for graduates to grow and thrive in our city…we need a mayor with business experience who demonstrates strong leadership and intentionality in how to approach recovery amid changing economic times.”

UTC alumni, Kim White mentioned four steps she would take to overcome the loss of residents, her first one focusing on prioritizing business relations with students.

“…I’ve had the pleasure of serving on various boards for UTC…My goal is to continue to amplify this work once I’m mayor. First, I will encourage Chattanooga businesses to have stronger partnerships with UTC including offering students employment and internships.”

Former Chattanooga City Attorney, Wade Hinton wrote that he is determined to support the increase of paid local opportunities to create a fair environment for all, especially for African American students.

“As mayor, I will continue to support the fellowship and work to implement their recommendations, which include providing more connections to paid internships with local employers, creating opportunities for professional mentorships for students, and enhancing the cultural and social climate for Black students in Chattanooga.”

Although some organizations like UTC’s Young Democratic Socialists of America have decided to endorse a specific candidate, SGA has stepped back to allow students develop their own thoughts opinions.

“Regardless of what our personal beliefs are, we want to ensure that we provide equal representation from UTC students…We would never step out of line and try to align or endorse one candidate over another,” stated Flores.

Flores made a final call to action for students to make their voices heard on issues they want to see addressed.

“All of the reasons why you were upset last year in 2020 or even in 2021, you can do something to change that locally here in this election…Voting is one of the most sacred, important parts of our democracy and we should all be very enthusiastic to exercise it in any way that we can.”

To view the full questionnaire and every one of the four mayoral candidates’ answers, click here or contact Taylor Flores (QDG417).

For more information about voting times, locations, first-time voting information and more, visit https://utcvotes2021.carrd.co/.

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