Expert: Chattanooga Growing; Pre-natal care, education, poverty a concern
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - The President & CEO of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies told a group of downtown business leaders on Thursday that Chattanooga is growing and still has challenges when it comes to pre-natal care, poverty, and education.
David Eichenthal addressed a Rotary Club luncheon. He explained that Chattanooga was the only city out of twenty cities that had lost more than 10% of its population at one time to reverse the trend. This growth was not the result of annexation. Eichenthal believes the city accomplished this over the past twenty years by making the city more attractive.
Eichenthal told the group, "Since 1980, twenty U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents have lost -- or are on track to lose – more than ten percent of their population in a single decade. Since 2000, our City's population has continued to grow – so that Chattanooga's growth rate is now greater that the County's overall rate of growth. And more people live in Chattanooga today than ever before."
According to the Ochs Center, one out of five residents in Chattanooga lives in poverty. The pockets of poverty also contain pockets of crime. These areas also have more than a third of children failing to meet state educational standards.
"For an individual, poverty is an income of $10,830. For a family of four, poverty is an income of $22,050."
When it comes to pre-natal care, the Ochs Center reveals that 37% of all pregnancies in Chattanooga go without pre-natal care during their first trimester. Nationwide, the number is only 17%. The lack of pre-natal care is also linked to low education levels and poverty, according to studies. Lack of pre-natal care has been linked to low birth weights, infant deaths, and developmental problems which often last a lifetime.
The state of Tennessee ranks 48th in the country in educational spending per student, behind Illinois and Florida. Eichenthal stressed that he understood other factors besides money influence success in education. He said Tennessee ranked 17th in the nation in per capita state spending on public assistance for the poor.
Eichenthal closed his remarks by saying, "Ten years ago, the challenge before the city and its leaders was could this singular turnaround be sustained? And it was. Today, the question is can all of us continue to work together to build a city – a community – where we can take on the tough challenges that I have discussed today and succeed. If we do, Chattanooga will continue to prosper, to grow and to be the great success story of urban America in the 21st Century."
According to his biography on the Ochs Center Web site, David Eichenthal has been the President and CEO of the Ochs Center. since 2005 In 2007, David was named a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Bookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. His areas of expertise include public finance, performance measurement, criminal justice policy, education and local economic development. David has two decades of experience in leadership positions in government and the non-profit sector. He is the former Chief Finance Officer of the City of Chattanooga, former Chair of the City's General Pension Plan and held a series of senior positions in New York City government, including serving as Chief of Staff to the city's second highest elected official. David is an Associate Professor of Public Administration at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga: he previously has taught at New York University, Baruch College and Georgia State University. He serves on the boards of the River City Company, a non-profit downtown development organization in Chattanooga, and the Center for Employment Opportunities, a New York-based organization that provides immediate, effective and comprehensive employment services to people returning home from prison and detention facilities.
The Ochs Center is working on "restorative strategy" projects for half a dozen major cities in the United States.