I'll keep this short and sweet. Based on Facebook posts I've seen and the actions of the mayor's office, it appears that the majority of the Chattanooga public wants the Delta Queen riverboat to hang around. The folks who are concerned about the obstruction of the views from Coolidge Park are seemingly in the minority.
At the urging of another media editorial writer, I shared my own thoughts on the Delta Queen controversy with Mayor Andy Berke via email. This is what I said:
I am a part-time fishing guide on the Tennessee River at least 50-60 days a year, if not more, with clients from all over the country. I regularly make it a point to go out of my way to give my clients a "drive by" of downtown Chattanooga and the Delta Queen from the water. I would not do that if I considered it "an eyesore." I am, however, frequently saddened when I must parade my clients past dozens of seemingly abandoned barges not far downstream from the majestic Delta Queen. Those, indeed, are true eyesores.
I don't disagree that the owners of the Delta Queen have a questionable business model, and she could use some touch-up paint. However, I believe there is great potential for the historic riverboat to be a great (or greater) asset to the city and its Riverfront.
I am absolutely baffled by the "he said, she said" war of words of whether the Delta Queen has paid the city its fair share or not. Regardless, I respect your efforts to ensure she doesn't cost the taxpayers money.
However, based on what we, the relatively uninformed general public, know at this point, I believe we should be encouraging the Delta Queen to remain, pay her fair share and take an aggressive role in furthering our city's Riverfront renaissance.
Thank you for your consideration.
I am sure it was COMPLETE coincidence that mere minutes after hitting "send" on that email, the mayor's office issued a news release announcing that they have backpedaled and are granting the Delta Queen an extension, based on certain contingencies.
Today comes the email response from Berke:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me. My administration has been working directly with Xanterra, owners of the Delta Queen, to reach an agreement about the continued mooring of the vessel.
I am pleased to inform you that the city has reached an agreement with Xanterra Cruises, extending their position for six months. Due to the delinquent nature of past payments, this new agreement between Xanterra and the city is conditioned on all payments being made on time each month.
In the meantime, Xanterra is attempting to sell the Delta Queen. I have let them know that we will talk with any new owners about providing a permanent location in Chattanooga for the steamboat if they should desire.
I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me, and please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.
No, I shan't take credit for the turnaround. I am certain a barrage of emails and telephone calls convinced the astute politician to rethink his earlier position.
Regardless, I am very happy that in one of my "other" jobs, I will be able to idle down the river and share the Delta Queen's rich history with visitors to our fair city. That, coupled with the experience of catching monster catfish and smallmouth bass, keeps my clients coming back for more.
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