My Town

I grew up in a small town. As a child things were usually pretty simple. Know the rules of the house. Be home before dark. Let Mom know where you are going.

Neighbors kept an eye on the kids in the neighborhood. Day to day it was the self centered fun kid thing with my pals. Games, bikes, etc.. learning the social skills of personal interaction at the most fundamental level.

I learned through trial and error my place in my simple little life. I had my home rules defined by Mom and Dad. I had kids rules defined by my childhood peers. The Church was at the core of many of my guidelines for interaction and an understanding of right from wrong, backed the watchful eye of my parents.

There was a local flavor of tradition, norms, and simplcity in a small southern town. I have fond memories of those times and where I lived.

I now live in Chattanooga. I like to tell people it is a wonderful mix of small town and urban in a beautiful setting. We have numerous churches which suits me as I am a Christian. All in all I like to say I would check all the boxes for the things I would want in a place to live. In many ways it reminds me of the small southern town where I grew up.

There is a sense of pride in family traditions, and our southern heritage. It is a welcoming environment for those new to town and  those that call it home. We carve out our lives, and work, and raise our family.  It is our comfort zone. Everything just seems to fit.

As always our lives are about change. One generation to the next. We all have to adjust to the next generation. New ideas. New innovations. It is how its always been. Or is it?

Is it possible for these normal changes to be too much? Is it possible that maybe we say that its just normal change and we just have too adjust, but deep down something seems radically wrong?

Do we reach a point where we stop making excuses for changes we feel are not a fit in our community/society? Do we speak out and say "enough". Are we and our traditions and our norms being swept away by a tide of new ideas and norms that seem completely out of synch with our town. Our values. Our sense of what's acceptable.

When it comes to change I like to say don't fight change, learn to dance with it. To play my part of the dance to lead or follow when neccessary. Unfortunately I believe we have begun just to follow someone else's lead. We stumble and trip as newer and faster dances are introduced. Finally we stand to one side watching others dance.

There are forces at play in our town that seek to shape our community, belittle our traditions, and radically change what is considered "normal". There is a struggle within our community, and our country to redefine who we are, what we believe in, and what the role of government should be in our lives.

As concerned citizens and parents it is our place to question the social and political currents that are threatening our normally solid footing in our town. It is time for the "adults in tbe room" to examine these changes. It is time to question, accept, or reject these currents that seek to "fundamentally" change our way of life.

Join us as we question these issues. Help us to preserve our town. Our unique flavor. Our wonderful mix of small town and urban setting. We can and should evaluate, accept, or reject these forces that we question. After all it is our town. Our community. Our country.

Hugh Orr, Hixson

What is the most important question you could ask about Chattanooga?

I think it is whether the area of Hamilton County is flourishing? We know that it is not flourishing for all. According to the U.S. Census as of July 1, 2017, of the 361,613 people, 14.5% are poor. And that is a complex problem which requires an assortment of problems to be teased out. Per capita income is about $28.5k. And all of our children are not doing well, in one of the struggling elementary school only 27.5% of third graders were proficient in reading and at the same school only 45% are proficient in math.  And we’ve all read about the “food desert” in our city’s urban communities.

But on the other hand, it is flourishing for many. Unemployment is at 4.9%, job growth is at a healthy 1.9%. Innovation and entrepreneurship are thriving.  We have no state income tax, but we do have a high sales and property taxes. Family median income is $61,368.00. Building permits doubled to over 2000 in 2014 from 2013. Business licenses are up 13.4% over the previous year, faster than any other county.  We have been voted one of the country’s most livable cities many times. All one must do is walk or drive through downtown or Ooltewah to see all the new construction or see the country estates blossoming from the Georgia border to Soddy Daisy.

An accurate number on churches is not kept by anyone I could find, but my guess is that it is between 800 and 1200. We have been identified as one of the most generous cities in the country by the United Way. The heart of the city can be kind and generous. I know that I pray for the “shalom” of the city every day, and have for years, based on Jerimiah 29:7.

There are more than enough problems to get everyone involved…but what are we moving toward? Are we moving towards a community that is flourishing for as many as possible? Where institutions work. Where neighbors love and care for one another. Where the marginal, innocent and defenseless are protected. Where a young person with a dream can come and see their business become a multigeneration family affair. Or are we becoming more divided. Will the word “inequity” divide us? Or will the word “opportunity” unite us. I prefer the word “opportunity”.

In our founding document we find this phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I think we forget these immaterial things in our business to pursue material things. HamiltonFlourishing is a new organization pushing for the good and resisting the things that tear us apart. We are a think tank with legs that will engage, educate and empower. We will deal with issues as diverse as fatherlessness, jobs, education and civility.

My family has been in Chattanooga since 1838, when the Cherokee were pushed out. My great-great-great-great grandfather was Colonel James A. Whiteside, a founding father of the new little town. He cared for the town and was a fruitful entrepreneur, builder and philanthropist.  For 180 years my family has cared about the welfare of the city. My hope is that it continues with my folks and that with that sense of seeking the shalom, the flourishing would grow during the next several generations.

2019 Resolutions for a Better Hamilton County

With each new year comes new opportunities to become better individuals, parents, citizens and community leaders. In 2019, we, as an organization and as Hamilton County citizens ourselves, renew our vows to America’s first principles – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – with resolutions for each.

 The phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is more than a dusty statement lifted from the Declaration of Independence. Instead, it is a calling that should ring loud and clear in the hearts of all Americans – its citizens and those who represent them.

The first unalienable right in the phrase is Life, which is precious to us all. Protecting life means supporting the powers in place that help protect our people from harm. Expressing our utmost respect for our military and our first responders – including our police force, firefighters and EMTs -- are the least of ways we can resolve to protect life for all American citizens. Protecting life also means imposing laws that communicate a national abhorrence toward criminal harm in all its forms.

 Liberty is defined as responsible use of the freedoms afforded to us so that we may live how we choose. Protecting liberty means empowering individual citizens and limiting the amount of government control on our thriving society so that we may pursue the livelihoods of our choosing. We believe that, if left unchecked, excess government involvement can become crippling to those who may desire more than what the State can provide. Concepts such as welfare, can potentially create dependencies which leave citizens out of the American dream – sometimes for generations. It is our duty to protect liberty by helping our fellow Americans come to understand the freedoms our forefathers fought for.

The pursuit of happiness is a broad term, as it should be. With the boundlessness of opportunity at its core, this right can be expressed in endless ways. Protecting the pursuit of happiness involves the removal of roadblocks that prevent our citizens from pursuing the careers, business endeavors and roles that will help them lead a productive life.

Our organization, Hamilton Flourishing, seeks to engage, educate and empower all Hamilton County citizens, helping them to renew their commitment to America’s founding principles – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We strive to promote civility as we encounter issues related to jobs, families, government, education and opportunity, as the least of these.

We invite you to share your resolutions for a better Hamilton County. Leave a comment or share this with your friends.

 To learn more about Hamilton Flourishing, or to share your gifts through volunteerism, email