NOOGA Guides    City

How to get involved in local government

(Photo: Pexels)

By Alina Hunter-Grah

Whew… Regardless of who you voted for, that was a little rough, huh?

After a day of voting and an intense election cycle, some of you now may be thinking about trying to run for office … and we think that’s fantastic. But there are also some other ways you can get directly involved with local government without needing to do the whole campaigning thing.

Your best entry point into Chattanooga government is to attend some meetings. From the weekly City Council to the biweekly Hamilton County Commission meetings, both offer a good overview of the hot-button issues in our community + the pressing concerns of local citizens.

But that’s just the start. The city and county together have 76 active boards, many of which encourage citizen participation. As they say, if you can think of it there’s probably a board that regulates it.

Air pollution, public art, historic zoning + plumbing … pick your interest. We’re glad you want to get involved.

Here are some easy ways to get acquainted with local government:

Attend some government meetings

If you’re looking for an easy window into government, you can attend the weekly Chattanooga City Council meetings and the biweekly Hamilton County Commission meetings.

These meetings are an easy opportunity to learn what the big issues are, what the lingo is, and who the major players are. At the very least, you can meet the people representing you.

Check out this map of the City Council and County Commission districts to figure out which one you live in.

Here’s when the next meetings are:

County Commission

📅 Wed., Nov. 7

⏰ 9:30 a.m.

📍 Hamilton County Courthouse, 625 Georgia Ave., Room 402

City Council

📅 Tues., Nov. 11

⏰ 6 p.m.

📍City Council Building, 1000 Lindsay St.

Want to dive a bit deeper? Try listening in on some of the city’s other board meetings or some of City Council’s earlier agenda session meetings. The full list of meetings, their meeting times and locations, can be found on the city’s website.

Jump on one of the boards yourself

The City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County have established several different governing boards to help with the policy and procedure making processes.

The county and the city combined have a list of 76 different boards, many of which encourage citizen participation to help advise decisions the two governments make.

Chattanooga has 39 boards that are currently in action and Hamilton County currently has 37. All of the boards range in topic and level of expertise required for the position. Each board appoints its members differently. Some will require one of the mayors to make the appointment, others may be appointed by City Council members or county commissioners, and some are appointed by another legislative body.

Details for city board positions can generally be found in the bylaws section under each board’s webpage.

Chattanooga Grants Specialist Chelsea Sadler said board positions are perfect for someone looking to get involved.

“This is a wonderful way for citizens who have the expertise to guide policy in the city,” Sadler said. “We can’t do it all, so having that citizens input is so important to us.”

The first is the Mayor’s Council for Women, which makes policy recommendations to Mayor Andy Berke about issues in the city and across the region. To join or learn more, citizens should consider attending a meeting or fill out the membership form on the council’s website.

Next meeting:

Justice Meeting

📅 Wednesday, Nov. 7

⏰ 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

📍 City Hall, 101 E. 11th St., Third Floor, The Veranda Room

The Mayor’s Council for Disabilities works to make Chattanooga accessible to everyone. This board currently has 10 open positions open. Interested individuals can apply on their website. These meetings are also open to the public.

Next meeting:

📅 Monday, Dec. 3

⏰ 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

📍 Development Resource Center, 1250 Market St.

Finally, the Budgeting for Outcomes FY20 result team appoints Chattanooga citizens to help with the budget allocation process. These individuals will provide input on what areas and which departments they think the city should provide more funding to. This board, which has 10 open seats, will serve primarily during budget-making time between January and April 2019. Citizens can also apply on the board’s webpage. The last day to apply for the Budgeting for Outcomes results team is Friday, Nov. 30.

Next meetings:

For council districts 7,8 or 9

📅 Wednesday, Nov. 14

⏰ 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

📍First Centenary United Methodist Church – Oak Street Center, 418 Oak Street

For council districts 1, 2, or 3

📅 Thursday, Nov. 15

⏰ 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

📍 Hixson YFD Center, 5400 School Drive

For council districts 4, 5, or 6

📅 Monday, Nov. 19

⏰ 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

📍 Family Justice Center, 5705 Uptain Road

The county also has 24 board vacancies coming up in 2019. The full list of boards can be found here. Those interested in a position on any of the boards should contact the appointing authority to find out more information.

It’s beyond well-known that voting is an essential part of our democracy, but what’s less talked about is how important it is for citizens to be active in their governments outside of the election cycles.

Our democracy is founded on the idea that the average Joe/Jane should be the ones running the show, and in order for that to happen, you (yes, you) have to get out there and speak up.

No one will ever have your exact experience. Your unique presence could make a difference in so many lives.

So get out there and serve.