July 16 Shootings
Five service members were left dead after a Hixson man, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on two military installations in Chattanooga. The shooter parked outside the Armed Forces Career Center on Lee Highway and firing several rounds into the building before driving to a Navy Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway. There he drove his car through a security gate and began firing again inside a building and a fenced-in motor pool wounding several before he was killed Four marines were killed on-site and a Navy sailor died two days later from wounds he sustained.
Though the federal investigation is still ongoing, authorities have confirmed that Abdulazeez was a naturalized American citizen from Jordan, born in Kuwait. A special agent with the FBI said that he is being treated as a “homegrown, violent extremist.” Several officials have commented on the shootings, including Vice President Joe Biden when he visited Chattanooga, and some have made inflammatory statements about what these events mean for the nation. Most recently, Hamilton County Sheriff, Jim Hammond, received serious backlash after he stated that “Islam is communism with a God.”
Chattanooga City Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage this summer which guarantees equal protection to city employees of all sexual orientations. The ordinance specifically prohibits the unlawful harassment of city employees based on their gender identity, whether that be through unfair hiring or firing policies or the creation of a hostile work environment. The ordinance further defines gender identity as “The actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s sex at birth."
The bill was sponsored by two councilmembers, Chris Anderson and Moses Freeman, who heralded it as a victory for Chattanooga, but not everyone was thrilled. Councilmembers Chip Henderson and Larry Grohn raised concerns on more than one occasion, consistently asking whether allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom for whatever gender they identify with.
Private investors and local government are continuing to work hand in hand, pouring hundreds of millions into developing the city to accommodate changing needs and a growing populace. Rivercity Company, one of the main engines behind Chattanooga’s development, reported that the central downtown area alone is receiving more than $150 million in investments over the next year. These include various mixed-use buildings that officials hope will provide both affordable housing and creative public places for young professionals and millennials moving to the city.
Other upcoming projects include a complete reimagination of Miller Park and Plaza in the heart of downtown. Though local officials are still surveying what the community wants to see in a new park, it will certainly be more connected across MLK Boulevard. Other projects include a redevelopment of Broad Street which will reduce vehicle lanes in order to open bike lanes, and a redevelopment of the Chattanooga Choo Choo and 14th Street.