When you hear someone talk about local government what comes to mind? You might think about taxes, schools, policing, roads, or even something as mundane as trash collection. But do you wonder how these aspects of government are managed? How are tax rates set? Who exactly oversees the police? Who determines the school budget? How can we, as citizens, stay informed and make our voice heard? If you've been looking for answers to these questions you’re in the right place.
Welcome to Chattanooga Civics.
I believe that local government is a vitally important and often overlooked part of our society. In fact I believe our sense of political value in this country is entirely upside down. You can find out nearly anything you want to know about federal politics with a quick google search, but to find anything about local politics usually takes some serious digging. So about a year ago I started looking for resources to help me understand Chattanooga politics. I looked in the paper of course, but the coverage was thin and I had to dig through several unrelated articles to find anything really helpful. I looked on city and county websites for information, but the websites were poorly designed and when I finally found what I was looking for the information was either densely worded legalese or vague PR jargon. What I really wanted was a blog or podcast that could break down what was happening, a central source of information I could consult to answer my questions: “Who makes this or that decision?” “What are the key issues up for discussion?” “Who is running for office and what is their platform?”. I thought “it’d be cool if someone started something like that.” and then more or less forgot about it.
Then 2020 happened! Viruses, emergency shutdowns, mask mandates, school closures, protests, election security and more we're brought to the forefront. I realized these were things we were all talking about at the national level, but the real action was at the local level. I realized that if I was going to have any real say in these issues I would need to understand how my local government works and how to make my voice heard. I realized it was time to roll up my sleeves and start doing my own homework. And I figured, if I’m going to be doing all this work to understand our local government, why don’t I bring the rest of the city along for the ride? I’m going to make it clear up front, I am not an expert on local government by any means. I am very new to this space. I’m really just a guy with an internet connection who decided to spend a lot of time on Google. But I want to share what I’ve learned with you. I hope you find this information helpful!