The big election on March 7 will decide the city's next mayor. There are four men up for the job: Chris Long, Larry Grohn, David Crockett, and current mayor Andy Berke. Two major topics in the scenic city are crime and parking.

Crockett doesn't believe current Mayor Andy Berke's Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI) is working, calling it a "social experiment". He says he has a three-point plan for reducing violent crime. First, be tougher on those who do commit violent acts. Second, change the culture. The third is to overhaul oppressed parts of the city.

"We have the largest community renaissance program ever proposed in the city of Chattanooga," says Crockett. "A billion-dollar program that will very holistically renew every single neighborhood and make them clean, green, safer, affordable, and prosperous."

Mayor Berke says the VRI has been working, citing recent reductions in property crime and overall violent crime, but gun violence is still an issue.

"We've added more officers than ever before in our history. We are investing in technology, public safety cameras, and a new real-time intelligence center," says Berke.    

He, like his challengers, agrees one of the most effective solutions is putting as many people to work as possible.

"The core issue of the violence is lack of housing, hopelessness in some areas of the city, lack of opportunity, and lack of job training," says candidate Grohn.

"That's why I'm a proponent of trade schools," says candidate Long. "We need to get out there and give these people something tangible they can hold in their hands and give them a good cost of living wage."

Regarding the $250,000 parking study recently announced, most of the men agree it'll be money well-spent. Many people say there's not enough parking, especially downtown, and sometimes it's too expensive, especially during major events.

Mayor Berke says the fact that a study needs to be done is the sign of a healthy, growing city with people who want spend time downtown.

"The study is supposed to help us answer how we can best accomplish this. That's both making better use of parking we have as well as creating new parking," says Berke.

Crockett says one challenge is being able to smoothly move people throughout the city once they've found spaces for their vehicles. More shuttles might help.

"You don't have to take your car with you, like leading a horse to every venue, and that's what Americans have gotten used to. C'mon, boy! C'mon, Toyota!" says Crockett with a chuckle.

He proposes improving the look of downtown parking by making lots by making them like eco-friendly green spaces. He also says he knows people who can develop underground parking.

Grohn is in favor of more public transportation to make it easier for people outside the city to come to town, reducing the amount of parking needed.

"We need to be working with CARTA and hopefully with the federal government and the state to develop some Park-N-Ride sites that are outside the city limits of Chattanooga," says Grohn.

"That's an issue that we have to get some experts on our level that people understand," says Long. "With our land banks we can get a lot of that stuff going."

The election is March 7. Early voting is February 15-March 2.