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As the new city council settles down to work, its seven new members, including new Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem, working with the two returning incumbents, will begin prioritizing goals from among the many challenges and opportunities confronting the city. The Pulse asked Hakeem four key questions about the next four years. Here are the questions and his responses.
The Pulse: What do you see as the main priorities in the next four years for the City Council?
Yusuf Hakeem: Improving constituent services, transparency of council actions, maximizing the use of tax dollars in order to not cut services, and greater opportunity for all of our citizens to build a stable future for themselves.
TP: What proposals do you think will be brought to the table in the near future?
YH: Economic shuttle service to and from jobs and places of higher education, second-chance opportunities for people who have turned their lives around, and engaging citizens for their buy-in for commonsense change.
TP: The council just approved Mayor Berke's proposed changes to city government structure, but you told him he will now have to make good on it. How cooperative do you see this council being with the mayor and his plans?
YH: The other half of my comments was that we are in this together. If we are successful, then the citizens we all represent will be successful. I have no doubt that there will be a cooperative working relationship between Mayor Berke and the city council. We are also mindful that the council is not a rubber stamp for the city administration.
TP: Do you think Chattanoogans were sending a message to the council when they did not re-elect several members? What was the message?
YH: I believe part of the message citizens were sending is that gridlock between the mayor and city council or between council members is not an option. The people want results from their local government on crime, education, employment and business development, among their many priorities. The people believe that working together works.