CHAT­TANOOGA’S TOP STO­RIES OF 2017

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF RE­PORT

Pol­i­tics, crime, ed­u­ca­tion and ath­let­ics dom­i­nated lo­cal head­lines this year. The top story was Sen. Bob Corker, a Chat­tanooga-na­tive, and his an­nounce­ment he would not seek re-elec­tion for a third term. His crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent and sub­se­quent Twit­ter feud be­came a national hot topic in po­lit­i­cal news.

A poll re­leased weeks af­ter the Twit­ter storm showed Corker’s ap­proval rat­ing dropped from 52 to 45 per­cent among Ten­nessee vot­ers, while Trump’s ap­proval rat­ing held steady at 50 per­cent — well above his national av­er­age of 37 per­cent.

The No. 2 story took a look at how the Iron­man triathlon trans­formed Chat­tanooga into an in­ter­na­tion­ally known out­door des­ti­na­tion, host­ing four com­pe­ti­tions in one year.

Be­low are 2017’s top sto­ries, in or­der, ac­cord­ing to a reader sur­vey:

1Corker says no to third . Se­nate term: Weeks af­ter crit­i­ciz­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­marks about a white su­prem­a­cist rally in Char­lottesville, Va., at which a coun­ter­protester was killed, the Chat­tanooga na­tive an­nounced he would not run for a third term in the U.S. Se­nate. His an­nounce­ment and crit­i­cism was fol­lowed by a bar­rage of tweets by Trump, say­ing, “Lid­dle Bob Corker” de­cided not to run for Se­nate again be­cause the pres­i­dent didn’t en­dorse him and that he “couldn’t get elected dog­catcher.”

For­merly, the pres­i­dent and sen­a­tor got along very well — Trump had con­sid­ered him as a po­ten­tial vice pres­i­dent and later for sec­re­tary of state.

2Chat­tanooga be­comes pre­mier city for Iron­man: The city be­came the first in the world to host four Iron­man events in one year and set a record for the big­gest Iron­man 70.3 event with the world cham­pi­onships.

3Haslam’s gas tax plan: Ten­nessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s IM­PROVE Act raised fuel taxes for the first time in nearly 30 years, which will pay for the re­vamp of the In­ter­state 75/In­ter­state 24 in­ter­change and U.S. High­way 27 widen­ing projects, among many oth­ers in the cir­cu­la­tion area.

4Grundy County at­tempted rape case: Five foot­ball play­ers — a fresh­man, three ju­niors and a se­nior — have been ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to rape a 15-year-old fresh­man team­mate with the metal han­dle of a dust mop in the school’s foot­ball field­house some time be­fore 6 a.m. CDT on Oct 11. Months af­ter the in­ci­dent, school of­fi­cials refuse to an­swer ques­tions, and a judge al­legedly placed a nondis­clo­sure or­der on the case, pre­vent­ing any­one from dis­cussing any de­vel­op­ments. Other in­ci­dents of van­dal­ism and shift­ing of se­cu­rity cam­era mon­i­tors have raised ques­tions among com­mu­nity mem­bers.

5Er­langer breaks ground on new chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal: In the big­gest cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in its 128-year his­tory, Er­langer Health System and its part­ners are build­ing more than $100 mil­lion of new fa­cil­i­ties at four dif­fer­ent sites. The con­struc­tion projects are all slated to be com­pleted next year and will likely add sev­eral hun­dred new jobs at Er­langer and its med­i­cal part­ners and providers.

6New build­ing in­vest­ments: Nearly $1 bil­lion has been in­vested in new hous­ing, ho­tel and com­mer­cial space in Chat­tanooga in 2017. That in­cludes about 2,600 apart­ments and 750 ho­tel rooms and al­most 600,000 square feet of com­mer­cial space. With the in­crease in res­i­dents, the most in-depth park­ing study of down­town Chat­tanooga in about two decades was ini­ti­ated.

7Wood­more Ele­men­tary School bus crash: Wood­more Ele­men­tary School em­ploy­ees have filed law­suits claim­ing they suf­fered acute emo­tional trauma from last Novem­ber’s deadly crash and want the bus com­pany to pay for its neg­li­gence. Around 40 law­suits have been filed since the bus crash that killed six chil­dren. Five have been set­tled and one was dis­missed.

8New schools su­per­in­ten­dent: Af­ter nearly a month of ne­go­ti­a­tions, the Hamil­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion ap­proved Su­per­in­ten­dent Bryan John­son’s four-year con­tract in July. John­son was ul­ti­mately picked out of 14 can­di­dates who ap­plied for the po­si­tion in April.

9Hamil­ton County Schools’ cap­i­tal build­ing plan: With­out any pub­lic dis­cus­sion, the Hamil­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion voted dur­ing its Oc­to­ber board meet­ing to spend $125 mil­lion to build, merge and ren­o­vate schools. The move caused a stir among par­ents that night, many of whom said they only knew to be there be­cause of a previous re­port by the Times Free Press, alert­ing the pub­lic of the po­ten­tial plans.

10Sig­nal Moun­tain schools: The town formed a committee to study split­ting from Hamil­ton County Schools in Fe­bru­ary. Since then, the committee has re­leased its fi­nal re­port, stat­ing that a new dis­trict would be vi­able if cer­tain ob­sta­cles are over­come. Crit­ics of the split say the ob­sta­cles are costly if not im­pos­si­ble to over­come.

STAFF FILE PHO­TOS

The top sto­ries of 2017 cov­ered a wide range of sub­jects from pol­i­tics to sports, in­clud­ing Bob Corker’s feud with the pres­i­dent, an at­tempted rape case, a school bus crash and a new chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal.

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