CHATTANOOGA’S TOP STORIES OF 2017
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.
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.