Matt Adams, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Hamilton County, knows from his eight years in the US military that the best commanders are often those who listen.
“They’re the ones saying, ‘I’m at the head of the table, but every single one of you at this table knows more than I do. Each of you at this table is smarter in your field than I am. am, and if I try to make a decision without your input, then the mission may fail,” the 26-year-old paralegal told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in an hour-long interview Monday. “I’ll be the first to say that if I’m elected mayor of the county, that’s how I want to lead.”
Adams enlisted in active duty at age 17, working in national security law as well as criminal prosecution and defense. He is now in the US Army Reserves serving as a senior administrative paralegal. He is an independent paralegal on the civil side.
Crime, public transport and education continue to be among Adams’ top concerns as he enters his final weeks of campaigning. He and Republican Weston Wamp are in the running to replace incumbent Mayor Jim Coppinger, who has elected to retire after serving in the post since 2011. The general election will be held on August 4.
Adams said education has always been a primary focus of his campaign, particularly the need to fix broken physical and digital infrastructure, but as he spoke to voters, Adams said his platform had faltered. extended to also include the increase in teachers’ salaries.
Matt Adams, Democratic candidate for mayor of Hamilton County
Hamilton County schools need to ensure pay keeps pace with the cost of living, and increases to date have not been enough to keep pace with inflation, Adams said.
He also wants to refine how the school system handles discipline. It should come as no surprise, he said, if a 12-year-old student who is arrested or suspended for something trivial ends up being a repeat offender by the time he turns 20, he said. said.
“If you’re treated like a criminal as a child, then you’re going to grow up thinking you’re a criminal,” Adams said.
Adams added that he is still the only candidate to speak about the need to expand local public transportation. In the long term, Adams would like to see the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority increase the number of fixed stops and routes, but there are also other options for providing cost-effective commuter service, he added.
“CARTA gets calls daily from municipalities outside of Chattanooga from people saying, ‘I need to go to the doctor, I need to go to the grocery store, I need to get to work,’ and CARTA basically has to say, ‘I I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do,'” Adams said.
CARTA has a program called Care-A-Van that provides transit to residents unable to access fixed bus routes due to permanent or temporary disabilities. It serves Chattanooga and a few other municipalities in Hamilton County. At a bare minimum, Adams said, he would like to see CARTA expand that service throughout the county.
As it stands, existing routes are not enough to serve people who rely on public transport, he said. A year ago, for example, Adams said he couldn’t drive for medical reasons, and even though the office where he worked was only seven minutes away, it would have taken him nearly an hour. to get there by bus.
“Fortunately, I’m a paralegal, so I have a job that I can work from home, but a lot of people don’t have that luxury,” he said.
Adams’ mayoral opponent, Weston Wamp, told The Times Free Press by telephone on Monday that Hamilton County’s government was operating on a thin margin and keeping tax rates low. The county has its lowest mileage rate in 70 years, he said.
“When election candidates make promises about public transit, which historically hasn’t been the purview of county government, you’re actually offering a tax increase because we’re running a tight budget,” he said. he declares.
Instead, the county needs to focus on its core responsibilities: education, public safety, health care and growing infrastructure needs, Wamp said.
Adams also wants to put more emphasis on community engagement, starting with the sheriff’s office. When talking to voters, Adams said, crime is usually their second priority right after education.
“We certainly have an obligation to get tough on crime in our cities and in the county, but the way we’ve dealt with crime in this county has been disproportionate,” he said.
Often that can involve punishing someone with a drug offense as harshly as a violent criminal, he said.
“It’s fundamentally irrelevant,” he said. “If someone is a drug addict, we have a moral obligation to get them the help they need. As a priority, we do not put ending recidivism at the top of our list for crime prevention here in Hamilton County. It’s remarkable how well, an effective law enforcement community engagement program can help end the problem of recidivism.”
Adams said Nashville implemented a community engagement program that resulted in modest decreases in violent crime and gang involvement, as well as increases in literacy rates and standardized test scores. Officers were more deeply integrated into their communities, visiting students at bus stops and reading to children at school.
“Instead of reacting to crime and that being the only focus of the police force, they were engaging the community,” he said. “They were showing the community that they were their neighbors.”