Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Candidates vying for spots on Red Bank City Commission, State House District 27 and State Senate District 10 fielded questions posed by local citizens at a forum organized recently by the Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association.
Topics introduced by moderator Carla Quinn of the RBNPA ranged from issues local to Red Bank such as property value concerns and ways to attract businesses and young families, to broader topics such as health care and unemployment.
Candidates for Red Bank City Commission participating included District 2 hopefuls Rick Causer and current Mayor Monty Millard, as well as Eddie Pierce, who is running unopposed for Commissioner at Large.
In response to the question of how he planned to address Red Bank residents’ concerns relating to safety, the city’s desirability and property values, Pierce said he plans to crack down on codes enforcement, keep a close watch on zoning ordinances and maintain the close relationship with the Police Department already established by the Commission.
“If we start with our neighborhoods and our families, then community growth will come,” he said.
Causer said he believes the 25-cent tax increase passed by commissioners in June has deterred business owners from locating in the city. He said he has counted eight vacant businesses on Dayton Boulevard that the city needs to be occupied in order to produce sales tax revenue.
He said he plans to attract new families to the city by encouraging businesses and entrepreneurs to come to Red Bank, as well as by looking into providing additional recreational opportunities for kids such as batting cages and skateboarding ramps.
Millard said he will draw in new businesses to provide needed jobs and revenue. He mentioned recreational opportunities the city offers such as the Dixie Youth facilities, recently expanded Norma Cagle Softball Complex, White Oak dog park and new trails on Stringer’s Ridge as attractions for young people considering a move to the small city.
If re-elected, he plans to form a committee to re-evaluate the city’s codes, remain in close contact with community businesses to continue to work toward economic growth, as well as find grant funds to provide police officers with in-car computer systems to improve efficiency.
Another question for commission candidates revolved around what services the city will provide for young professionals and young families moving to the city, though no one fitting that description was in attendance at the forum.
“I would be really supportive and pushing for our local government to do everything possible to bring in and encourage their business to expand,” said Causer.
Millard said he believes the new Red Bank Middle School he pushed for will bring in new families, as he said new schools have been proven to do, and the city’s PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement gives businesses an incentive to locate in Red Bank.
Pierce said the city needs to keep up with trends, including creating a bicycle-friendly community and putting in electric car charging stations.
“I know these things take money, and I’m sure we would have to look at grants,” he said.
Pierce’s vision for the city of Red Bank as it moves forward centers around the old Red Bank Middle School property.
“We need to have a plan and need to take our time and make it a good plan, and develop it in such a way where the citizens of Red Bank can use it also,” he said. “It needs to be the center or the heartbeat of the city, and it will grow out into the community around it.”
Causer said he feels there is already a good plan in place.
“I think we need to get in touch with North Chattanooga to try to go down that route,” he said, adding that Red Bank’s north end needs to be developed. “There’s nothing really up there right now.”
Millard said several of his connections are seriously considering opening businesses in Red Bank, including one who could potentially open a skating rink in the old Bi-Lo store.
“Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a call from somebody that knows me that’s thinking about moving a business to Red Bank,” he said.
Participating candidates running for office at the state level included Andrae McGary, who hopes to represent District 10 in the House (challenger Todd Gardenhire had a previous commitment in East Ridge), Senate District 27 hopeful Frank Eaton and incumbent Richard Floyd.
In response to a question that asked candidates to address unemployment, Eaton said jobs are his top priority.
“We need to focus on the middle class,” he said. “That’s where our recovery is going to come from.”
Eaton said he plans to encourage businesses with five employees or less through tax breaks and feels public education needs to be strengthened.
“A more educated workforce is going to be better serving businesses as we attract them here,” he said.
Floyd also stated that he feels the area’s children need to be better prepared to take advantage of job opportunities at companies that have located here, which he said are unable to find local people to fill certain positions. He also mentioned the need for a trade school in Chattanooga similar to the old Kirkman High School.
McGary agreed a technical school closer to Chattanooga than Sequoyah High School would be beneficial. He also said he is a big supporter of the Tennessee Works Act, a pilot program that provides funds to private employers to train workers whose jobs have gone overseas, with a provision that some of the workers must be hired by the company for funding to continue.
Candidates were also asked to state their position on business owners permitting firearms on their property.
“I support the Second Amendment with every fiber of my body,” said Floyd.
McGary said he supports the Second Amendment, but feels it is superceded by the business owner’s property rights. Eaton said he supports the Second Amendment, but business owners need to be at liberty to keep their employees and customers safe.
When asked if he supports “Obamacare,” McGary said he feels the state, as opposed to the federal government, should be responsible for the insurance exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which he compared to a supermarket for health care providers.
“We needed to get health care costs under control,” said Eaton. “[Obamacare] does that by allowing more people to be covered.”
He said he also supports the expansion of Medicaid.
Floyd said Obamacare has the potential to bankrupt nearly every state.
“Right now I would be opposed to the state handling the exchange,” he said.