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Notes on Chattanooga

by Joan Veon in preparation for interview with Mayor Gene Roberts

Note: In Istanbul at the United Nations Habitat II conference, the city of Chattanooga won a "Best Practices Award" from the UN for what they have done in their city to conform to the United Nations Habitat agenda. All Americans should be extremely concerned by the number of "land trusts" springing up by individuals and funded with state monies which are buying property to "conserve" it. I was absolutely shocked to find that here in America, we already had a city which conformed in detail to the UN environmental agenda, Agenda 21 and Habitat II. All of the following can be found in the Habitat II and UN Agenda 21 Programmes of Action.

1991 Chattanooga became the first city in the country to launch a comprehensive environmental initiative plan that focuses on education, business development and community action.

Other environmental initiatives include:

--Tennessee River Gorge Trust - non-profit land conservation organization

charged with protecting 25,000 acres - received "Renew America National Awards

for Environmental Sustainability." The Trust's leadership has protected 25,000

acres through which the Tennessee River passes. CAN PEOPLE FISH/HUNT, ETC.?

--The TN River Gorge Trust, one of the most successful land trust organizations

in the U.S., received the Outstanding Organization Award from the UN Southern

Appalachian Man and the Biosphere (SAMAB) Cooperative

--Electric mass transit technology

--One of Three model communities in the nation to create a network of greenways

and linear parkways through an 8 county region

Awarded the President's Council on Sustainable Development for "citizen collaboration in cleaning up the environment, rebuilding the economy and revitalizing a city in decline."

River Valley Partners released a study of minority participation in economic development? Who is River Valley Partners

----Tennessee Aquarium - focus of downtown renewal - $45m - visitors and nature?

----The Volunteer Site - test location for a new soil and groundwater remediation technology that

could be used to clean up chemical contamination sites around the country...Joint Venture between the US Air Force and ICI Americas, which manages the Volunteer Site.

----Community Participation - How have they differed?

Vision2000 in 1984 and ReVision 2000 in 1993 - bring community members together for

participative planning.

In 1984, more than 1700 residents gathered to brainstorm about Chattanooga's future.

Vision 2000 led to 223 projects and programs that triggered an investment of more than

$800m. This visioning process has been modeled across the U.S.

---Urban Housing Improvement (how different from planned communities?)

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise received $2m grant in which it plans to leverage into a $33m investment in downtown housing to build "ethnically and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods. " Calls for 40 single family ones in $50-80,000, 18 in $80-120,000 range and 6 in $150-180,000 and $250-$300,000 range.

----Greenway Master Plan Approved - South Chickamauga Creek Greenway, representing 15 miles of natural land that is an anchor for an overall plan that will include 75 miles of trails in the city and county.....

---The Challenger Learning Center - high technology space flight simulator with/mission control..

with emphasis on technological and ecological sustainability.

A Model for Sustainable Development:

--Economic Development, Riverfront Development and urban Design

--Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise

--Community Visioning and citizen involvement

--Electric Buses

--Tennessee Aquarium

---The only U.S. City to receive the UN Habitat II Best Practices International Conference Award

as one of the world's 12 Best practices cities.

---One of two U.S. cities invited to send a delegation to the Global Forum 94 in Manchester, Eng.


---Environmental Education, - Grades K-12

The Living Machine, a constructed wetlands area that teaches students a variety of

concepts about the environment.....

Q. It is an accident that the most avid environmentalist in the United States who

happens to be vice president of the United States is from Tennessee? How has

that positioned Chat. for the global role it has today?

Q. Have you worked with the World Bank and their Environmentally Sustainable

division? Are they helping to finance any of the projects that Chat. has?

Q. Part of the platform from Habitat II is that everyone is entitled to housing. What kind

of .....are you allowing for that?

Q. The Habitat document is quite complex in my opinion, there are many, many

action items in it. Which action items appeal to you as mayor of Chattanooga?

Q. Sustainable development has been touted as the "New American Dream" - what makes it different from the dreams of millions of immigrants who have come to America?

Q. In your brochure, "Attaché, - A Portfolio of Press on Chattanooga's Progress," you quote The World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, and their definition of sustainable development, " meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." How does this translate for Americans? Exactly what does it involve? What is Chattanooga doing different to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations?

Q. At what point do you preserve jobs versus preserving the environment--sustainable forestry, biospheres.

Kurt Schmoke

Q. The recommendations of Vision 2000 - although you have a diverse group of 1700 individuals, how are those citizens who oppose, for whatever reason, some of their recommendations heard in the community process?

Q. What has it cost the citizens of Chat. and the State in terms of higher costs and taxes for a

sustainable city?

Q. What kind of school system are you re-inventing? What was wrong with the old system

and what is the new system?

Q. Do you have any opposition to the educational changes which are being suggested?

Q. Do you have opposition to the environmental changes being suggested or implemented?

Q. What will Chatanooga look like in 2025 - by the time the UN predicts 2/3's of the world's people will live in cities?

Q. In the Habitat Agenda, it calls for public-private partnerships. Exactly what does that mean

and Is it different from what Chattanooga is doing?

Q. It appears that all of the changes in Chatanooga are through nonprofit organizations--

is this part of the de-centralization of government which the Habitat document


Q. What is the difference between an "urban revitalization" program and sustainable development?

Q. In studying sustainable development, I find that it has many components--reduction in

population and a close monitoring of all of the earth's resources. Are you familiar

with the family dependency ratio which is part of sustainable development and the

use of resources?

Q. In a number of the various UN- and UN - related workshops that I have attended there is

discussion about the cross over point where regulation stifles growth--what kind of you have to ensure that does not happen to Chat?

Q. According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor on January 13, 1995, part of the

revitalization of the city is as a result of privately supported civic programs and

Q. In reading a number of articles about the transformation of Chatanooga, you have had

a great deal of help from foundations, non-profit-corporations, privately-supported

civic-involvement programs, the EPA Superfund Program, various trusts for preserving

greenways and the biosphere, wildlife reserves, and The Southern Rivers Council

which is partnership which includes the TVA, U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Tennessee

Division of Land Reclamation and what appears to be a private non-profit corporation, Friends

of the North Chickamauga Creek Greenway, Inc.

Who retains the ownership of the buildings improved or the land moved into

the various preservation projects, wildlife reserves and trusts? Do they pay taxes

to the city to help with the costs?

Q. In 1984, the chamber initiated Chattanooga Venture, a privately supported civic-involvement program where a mixture of residents from all walks of live came together to draw up goals to be completed by the year 2000 - Was Chattanooga a visionary without Habitat?

Q. Mayor Kurt Schmoke from Baltimore -

Q. What is an "eco-industrial development center?

Q. It appears that you have had the financial and business strength of the

Lyndhurst Foundation. What do you tell visiting countries who may not have

a local Lyndhurst Foundation?

q. Your city is participating in an international effort though Global Action Plan for the Earth, a non-profit organization from NY who is organizing "Ecoteams" which are grass-roots neighborhood group....


1. By way of introduction, Mayor Roberts, as I was preparing for our interview, I was basically "blown away" by the changes which Chattanooga has made in the last five to ten years. In addition, in June, the UN conference on Habitat II was held. It appears from what Chattanooga has done that you are at least five to ten years ahead of the Habitat document. Is that a correct summary of your progress? Could you provide us with an

overview of what Chattanooga has done?

2. Mayor Roberts - Representatives from Racine, WI, my hometown, recently visited your city as they are considering sustainable development. What did you tell them based on the changes which have been effected in Chattanooga?

3. I have found that there are many facets to sustainable development. What does it mean

to you and the City of Chattanooga? What (are the) components of sustainable development

is your city working on?

In your brochure, "Attaché - A Portfolio of Press on Chattanooga's Progress," the official U.N. definition of sustainable development by The World Commission on Environment and Development as found in their report, Our Common Future, is quoted. How does this translate for Chattanooga and how are you going to meet the needs of the present without

compromising the ability of future generations?

4. What is the difference between sustainable development and an urban revitalization


5. Is it any accident that the most avid environmentalist in the United States who happens

to be vice president of the United States is from Tennessee? How has that helped to

position Chattanooga for the global role it has today?

6. Sustainable development has been touted as the "New American Dream" - what

makes it different from the dreams of millions of immigrants who have come to


7. Part of the success of Chattanooga is due to the Vision 2000 program in which you

brought together people from all walks of life to give input as to what they wanted

to see in their community. This appears to be part of the success you have had. Because we are all different and have different views, how does this kind of program.

What kind of power and accountability does it have and what is the

recourse for those who may not want a particular program?

8. I read that you are creating one new school system which will combine the best

of the existing city and county school systems and that no other community in the

U.S. is rebuilding its educational system from the ground up. Could you comment

on what this involves and where you got the model for the new educational

school system. Will it be based on sustainable development?

Have you had any opposition to it?

9. for those of us who are homeowners, we find that when we want to improve something,

that we run into unexpected problems and cost overrides. What has the conversion

to a sustainable city cost the taxpayers of Chattanooga? Are there offsets?

10. Mayor Roberts, Chattanooga has been very fortunate to have the Lyndhurst

Foundation who has spearheaded the necessary leadership and finances to

help re-create Chattanooga. What do you tell the visiting officials from cities

and countries around the world when they may not have the benefit of a Lyndhurst?

How different would your city be without their help?

11. In a speech which Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali gave to the World Assembly

of Cities and Local Authorities in Istanbul, in referring to the rule 61, 62 and 63, he said,

"This rules change...was not intended to be a brief alteration in United Nations procedures,

but to institutionalize a relationship of cooperation between authorities and United Nations

for the future." Mayor Kurt Schmot called his participation in the UN conference, quote It is the beginning of a new era with local government officials being listened to in the development of UN documents and we see this as kind of the wave of the future. unquote How do you see this being played out in your city?

12. I find in a number of international conferences which I have covered that the

corporation-of may local actors--local government, private businesses and

non-governmental organizations--is being supported by major corporations

all over the world, foundations--including the Prince of Wales Business Trust,

and non-governmental organizations. Also, the World Bank and their

Environmentally Sustainable Development Group is also an important player.

It appears that you have had this kind of cooperation in Chattanooga otherwise you would

not have won the UN Best Practices Award. Can you comment on this momentum?

13. With regard to the number of non-profits who have helped develop Chattanooga through

the Southern Rivers Council, The Chattanooga Venture, The Neighborhood Enterprise,

the Westside Community Development Corporation, who retains the ownership in

these redevelopment programs?

14. With all of the globalization that Chattanooga is going through, are you afraid you will lose

or change the "Davey Crockett/Daniel Boone" heritage?

15. Chattanooga and E. Tennessee, along with parts of Georgia, northeastern Alabama, western South Southen Carolina, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia are part of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve which is designated as the primary zone of cooperation under the auspices of the Southern Appalachian man and the Biosphere program. In 25 years, what will the Biosphere in which Chattanooga look like or be part of? Will it have grown into a buffer zone or become part of the core areas (which includes Smokey Mountains National Park)?

RiverValley Partners -

A merger of two former economic development agencies, RiverCity Co. and Partners for Economic Progress, a regional public/private non-profit organization with area wide responsibility for economic development.

--develops physical properties that become catalysts for economic growth

Have accomplished:

1. Tennessee Riverpark: Mixed-use development of 22 miles of riverfront

2. Ross's landing: Anchored by the $45M Tennessee Aquarium, it marks the

renaissance of the birthplace of the city. It will cast over $150m in new development.

3. Riverfront and Downtown Revitalization -

Westside Community Revitalization

An inner city neighborhood -

The Westside Community Development Corporation was formed in October, 1994 to implement

the visioning plan.

--The new Westside Medical Home - primary health-care facility and also provides

outreach and education programs with funding from the Robert Woods Johnson

Foundation, Erlanger Medical Center, The Community Foundation and United Way.


approximately $2.1 million from public and a private sources has been pledged with support from the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Benwood Foundation, the Maclellan Foundation, the

Community Foundation and the Tonya Foundation.

Walnut Street Bridge

--Restored the 104 year old structure. The Walnut Street Bridge is the largest renovation project in the U.S. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Listed in the book, Great American Brides and Dames by Donald C. Jackson, the Walnut Street Bridge is the oldest surviving truss bridge of its size in the south and along the Tennessee River.

The Electric Bus Initiative

--The nonprofit Electric Transit Vehicle Institute (ETVI) purchased the first battery-powered buses and leased them to the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) to use in a shuttle route downtown.

Orange Grove Recycling Facility

--Orange Grove is the sole partner with the City of Chattanooga in the processing commingled recyclables picked up weekly from 55,000 homes and serves as a training facility helping disabled persons become productive workers.

Tennessee Aquarium ($45 m to build)

--A private non-profit educational organization, it is dedicate to the understanding, conservation and enjoyment of rivers..... The AQUARIUM will build, own and operate a 400 seat 3-D IMAX theater and a Creative Discovery Museum for $12m.

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise

CNE is a private, non-profit organization with a mission to develop, finance, renovate and manage affordable housing for Chattanooga and Hamilton County's low to moderate income citizens. Its goal is to eliminate substandard housing as a major community problem by providing financial and technical support....affordable housing for all. They receive $1m per year from Lyndhurst Foundation.

It is in the unique public/private partnership created to solve problems...public support comes from federal, state and local entities. Private funds include charitable foundations, financial institutions, businesses and private donors.

Services include:

1. Homeowner Rehabilitation Loans - low-interest loans

2. Home Purchase/Rehabilitation loans -

3. New Housing on vacant lots as well as new developments such as Orchard


4. Home buyers education Program

5. Neighborhood and Community Revitalization Programs

RiverCity Company NOW River Valley Partners

- Lyndhurst foundation jointed with local government in 1986 to establish the RiverCity Company which directed design and construction of the aquarium and its plaza, the Tennessee Riverpark, renovation of the Tivoli Theater and other projects with participation from the foundation. In 1993

Tennessee River Gorge Preservation Project

The Riverfront and Downtown Planning and Design Center

The Chattanooga Venture 1984 -

Privately supported civic-involvement program

--a nonprofit organization created to generate positive change through citizen involvement

--has played an important role through the incubation and facilitation of task forces, projects and nonprofit organizations including Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Partners for Academic Excellence and Walnut Street Bridge.

Environmental Education Alliance

Alternate source of revenue- raising without levying more taxes.


--Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Greaty Smoky Mountains National Park with its cooperative relatinships with communities, agencies and institutions in the region was used as an example of the proposed biosphere reserve concept. In 1976, GRSM and Coweeta Hydrological Laboratory were among the first biosphere reserves designated by UNESCO.


The Southern Appalachians are recognized as having the greatest diversity of tree and shrub species in North America.

--Great Smoky Mountains National Park - created to "protect the largest remaining tract of virgin forest in the eastern U.S." along with the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 to plan for the proper use of all the resources of the Tennessee River Drainage basin.

The Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve has been designated as the primary zone of cooperation under the auspices of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere program.

Southern Appalachian Man and Biosphere Foundation put in place in 1989-1991. Eleven federal agencies and three state agencies are now members of the SAMAB Cooperative. They have promoted many projects and programs.


My guest is Gene Roberts, Mayor of Chattanooga, which is a a model for sustainable development here in the United States. Most recently, Chatanooga was honored as one of the worlds' "100 Best Practices cities" at the UN Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul in June, 1996 and was one of the 12 award winners as judged by a ten member international jury which selected the 12. Over 25 years ago Chattanooga was named the country's worst air polluter. Today it is now an example for the rest of the world. In 1991 a comprehensive initiative was designed to position Chattanooga as an environmental city. There is much we could say about the rebirth of Chattanooga.

Gene Roberts became Mayor of Chattanooga in April, 1983 and has since been reelected three times. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where he was editor of the campus newspaper and an exchange student to France. Mayor Roberts has been in journalism , reporting for both Chattanooga newspapers as well as a Special Agent with the FBI. Mayor Roberts was one of the three mayors from America who was part of the U.S. delegation to the UN Conference in Istanbul. I am sure the transformation we are going to talk about is due to some of the vision you have had. Thank you Mayor Roberts for your time today.