Chattanooga: A Polluted City

Friday, August 11, 2017

I remember first moving to Chattanooga when I was 18.  Excited to move south, I was eager to complete my college education and then launch out into the real world.   

Having grown up in Madrid, Spain, I was accustomed to pollution, given Madrid’s awful track record in the 1960’s and ’70’s.  But despite this, one of the first things I noticed as I settled into my new home city in Tennessee was its own pollution.  It was just a decade earlier when Chattanooga had been declared to have the worst air pollution in America, and there was no avoiding the dirt, filth and smog. 

But nearly 40 years later, one of Chattanooga’s claim to fame is the way in which it acknowledged its worst standing in America.  As the #1 polluted city, Chattanooga put a plan in place to tackle the scourge for which it had become known.  Government officials, agencies, businesses, and civic leaders all came together to lead in confronting the literal cloud that hung over them.  Today Chattanooga is known for its vibrant and rejuvenated downtown and is now regularly acknowledged for the beautiful city it has become.   

But in spite of the pride Chattanoogans have for the city we all love, there is another pollution that is much more serious than the smog and dirt that permeated our air just a few decades ago. 

I was recently reading in the Bible in Numbers 35:33 (in the Old Testament) and I came across this astonishing statement:  “Murder pollutes the land.”  Stop for just a moment and let that statement sink in.  I wonder how many of us have ever truly considered the impact that a murder has on a city, or nation?   

Of course, murders happen everywhere.  But in some places murders happen in more frequency.  Chattanooga is one of those places.  Sadly, in 2016, Chattanooga ranked as the #9 most dangerous cities in America for crime (in the under 200,000 population category).  Much of the reason the city known for conquering its air pollution problem, sank to a #9 ranking in crime, is due to its increasing murder rate.   

If murder pollutes the land, then Chattanooga is being polluted at an ever increasing rate.  But unlike the air pollution of the 60’s and 70’s, the impact of murder is a permanent one.  The loss of a life is perhaps the worst kind of tragedy that one can experience.  The families, friends, neighbors and co-workers of a murder victim are forever changed.   

Americans are known for our interest in cleaning up our environment, protecting our natural resources, and generally tackling problems until we find their solution.  But to date, the pollution of murder in Chattanooga is not seen as a crisis for our city.  And until it is, or until we begin to recognize that murder is polluting our land, I fear we will continue to see this scourge poisoning our lives and that of our fellow citizens.   

I have come to realize this truth over the years: "That on which we focus we excel." 

To date, Chattanooga has offered much lip service to tackling the scourge of murder in our midst, but the focus has been lacking.  And by focus, I mean across the board, from all corners of our community.  The underlying factors that brought us to a #9 rating did not happen overnight, anymore than sinking to the worst air polluted city in America did.  And just like reversing our air pollution took a multi-disciplinary approach, likewise, saving lives by reducing our murders will require the same.  Government officials, agencies, courts, business leaders, churches and individuals must all come together to lead in finding the solutions.  And we must continue to do so until the solutions work.  Unless or until we do, the pollution of our city will continue, and likely worsen. 

In the second half of the verse in Numbers we read this:  “No sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.”  While it may sound insensitive or old fashion to some, the truth is that prompt and commensurate punishment is a strong deterrent to crime.  So when it comes to the taking of life, the way to purify the land from this pollution is to execute the one who took the life.  This is harsh, but this is justice.  And this is God’s remedy. 

Finally, I have learned that what we see on the outside flows from what is in the inside.  The murders and other crimes we continue to see proliferated through our city and nation are merely a symptom of what is inside us.  Until we clean up the pollution inside our own lives, we will never clean up the pollution of murder, as hard as we try. 

So what about it Chattanoogans?  Or for that matter Americans, since murder happens across this land.  It’s time to step up and tackle the pollution of murder in our midst. 

“…for murder pollutes the land.” 

Mark West



Appreciation Given And More Transparency Needed

On behalf of the some 900 retirees from the city of Chattanooga, I would like to publicly thank the members of the Chattanooga City Council for reversing their decision about the retirees insurance provider. We would also like to thank the staff that worked diligently to make sure that we could continue with our current coverage.  We would also like to plead with the council ... (click for more)

Alabama Worked Overtime To Right The Ship

What a majority of the good citizens of Alabama taught the rest of our country last night is that if one waits long enough and suffers long enough being ridiculed, stepped on, abused, ignored, and hurt, the day of reckoning will come.  How that happens has become akin to what today is known as the political process.  I am an experienced FDR Democrat but a staunch supporter ... (click for more)

Man Barges Into Woman's Home In MLK Neighborhood; Tries To Rape Her; Photos Of Suspect Released; Thomas Carr, 28, Is Arrested

Chattanooga Police said a man barged into a woman's home in the MLK Neighborhood around noon on Tuesday and tried to rape the woman.   Thomas Lee Carr, 28, was taken into custody on Wednesday morning. Carr is charged with one count of attempted rape. Police said, "The victim was followed by the suspect into her residence where the victim was then ... (click for more)

Moccasin Bend Resident Asks City To Move Police Firing Range So He Can Open Bed And Breakfast Inn

A Moccasin Bend resident is asking the city to move a police firing range from off the historic Bend so he can open a bed and breakfast inn. Steve Holmes also said the move needs to take place because the new Moccasin Bend National Park is set to begin implementing its management plan early next year. He said the park should bring 250,000 visitors to Chattanooga each year with ... (click for more)

Hayes Surpasses 1,000 Points As Lady Canes Beat Walker Valley 54-43

East Hamilton sophomore Madison Hayes scored 17 points in a 54-43 victory at Walker County in Cleveland on Tuesday night and pushed her career scoring past the 1,000-point mark in the process. Hayes scored a team-high 19 points Friday in a 52-40 victory over Notre Dame in the East-West Classic, giving her 996 points in her career, including eighth-grade and freshman seasons ... (click for more)

McMinn County Slaps Soddy-Daisy With Two 5-3A Losses

McMinn County roared into Soddy-Daisy on Tuesday night and blasted the Trojans and Lady Trojans lop-sided victories in District 5-3A high school basketball action. The Cherokees (3-5, 3-0) blitzed the Trojans (3-5, 1-2) early to build a 26-14 halftime lead, built a 20-point lead and cruised to an impressive 58-30 victory. The earlier game was even more one-sided as the ... (click for more)