Thursday, February 7, 2013
Early voting for the March 5 Chattanooga City Council election starts Wednesday, Feb. 13 and runs through Thursday, Feb. 28. We asked candidates who could be representing citizens from districts 1, 2 and 3 to respond within 150-200 words to the following questions:
What qualifies you to run?
What do you think the most important issue your district faces and how do you plan to address it?
District 1 candidates
Approximately 70 percent of new jobs are created by small businesses. I have started and run several successful small businesses, mostly in Chattanooga. By doing [so], I know the problems with government regulations, taxes and fees. A business perspective of efficiency and customer concern is lacking in our city. I have a master’s in business administration and have studied the city budget and have been working to solve these problems for three years. My graduation from the Citizens Police Academy, ride-along with the police and research in gangs have given me an understanding of our crime problem and solutions.
City budgets will spend about $210 million in 2013. Managing our money with leadership to handle basic services instead of political wants of our mayor has led to lack of funding for necessary police functions, roads and neighborhood maintenance. We can cut the waste, partly shown on my website www.electjimfolkner.com, and have the money for paying most of our city employees better, solving the gang problem and cutting our taxes and fees.
Legally, the qualification for running is living in the district for at least a year, and having the qualifying papers signed by 25 registered voters from your district. It’s that easy! I feel I’m qualified because I have lived in Chattanooga for over 55 years. I also retired from TVA after 32 years, 26 of those years in accounting. My last position was manager of fixed assets, responsible for well over $100 billion in assets. I think it’s time for a change on the City Council, across all districts. New people, new ideas.
One of the most important issues in District 1 is the same issue for all districts: reducing crime. I also think my district should get the same attention that the downtown districts seem to always get. I will work with the new mayor and express the concerns of the people in District 1. Renew Chattanooga!
For 22 years, I have been making sound business decisions that have successfully guided my company through one of the worst economic downturns in our industry’s history. By practicing fiscal responsibility along with accountability to my customers, my company has been able to compete and thrive while other good companies were forced to close their doors. I understand what it takes to operate the city from a strong financial position, because I have done that in my business. I understand what it takes to be marketable, because I have done that in my business. I understand what it takes to create a budget and have to stick to it, because I have done that in my business.
While the rising debt of our city and the plague of gang violence must be addressed, the overwhelming concern I hear from District 1 residents is the deplorable conditions of our roads. Out of a $202 million budget, the city allocates only about $1.7 million towards maintaining our roads. Recent studies indicate we need to be allocating as much as $5 million towards our roads. I would assign priorities based on condition and traffic loads of our roads, then post a list on the city website so taxpayers would know when they could expect to get their roads fixed.
Holding a seat on Chattanooga City Council is a major responsibility within city government. The Council passes resolutions, supports or rejects capital expenditures and budget issues that impact taxes and the quality of life for all city residents. My 36 years in school administration, both public and private, has allowed me to work with a variety of people, understand the complexities of a large budget, and has given me the experience of making decisions in a public arena.
District 1 stretches north to south from the Soddy-Daisy city limit in Hixson to the Georgia state line in Lookout Valley. Representing such a large geographic area will not be easy. The issues facing each of the communities in my district vary. I am committed to establishing consistent and open lines of communication throughout the district. I will create and hold forums on a regular basis in each area. The people in my district will have multiple opportunities to discuss the issues with the person representing them on City Council.
District 2 candidates
I have the experience, leadership and passion to make a difference in District 2. My experience is a balance of both public and private sector, from owning and working in private businesses for over 30 years (both internationally and domestically, from workforce to commercial real estate development), to my nearly seven years as the administrator of the [city of Chattanooga] Department of Parks, Recreation, Arts and Culture. During that time, we created a large growth in parkland and gained efficiencies in operational costs, all while engaging the community extensively in the decision-making process to improve the quality of life for our citizens and businesses. Having lived and supported businesses in District 2 almost all of my adult life, I understand my home district and I will work hard to address the issues we face.
Making local government more accessible is the most important thing we can do in the next four years. That means involving and engaging citizens in the decision-making process so we can achieve solutions that will be more helpful and less cumbersome to all. If we do this, I believe we will improve public safety in our neighborhoods and schools, make city services more responsive and efficient and see our businesses grow and profit.
I want Chattanooga to retain the progress it has made and grow it even more. I have enormous respect for the city taxpayers and take seriously the responsibility of how the city government expends money. I believe my unique experience working as a certified government financial manager at the city of Chattanooga for almost 38 years is invaluable. I understand how the city functions and where there can be improvements.
Safety is an important issue. We need to support the Police Department by providing them with a full workforce, adequate equipment, vehicles and training. There needs to be a discussion with the Juvenile Court judge to see what can be done to punish minors who commit crimes as gang members. The RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] law does not apply to minors and the majority of gang members are minors. Years ago there was a summer youth work program sponsored by local businesses and Inner Cities Ministries; that program needs to be restarted and expanded. We have to evaluate whether our city recreation centers are offering programs for minority teenagers. We need our neighborhood associations and churches to create programs that engage teenagers in helping their community.
[I] offer my 37 years of private business experience to solve problems in our neighborhoods: crime, deteriorating property values, and a government that’s growing unresponsive and unaccountable. By bringing a voice of reason and transparency, I will offer a real-world perspective of how our citizens’ tax dollars should be respected by local government and directed toward essential services. It’s time to end the political puppetry in our local government at the hands of power-hungry individuals desiring to prosper on the backs of the taxpayers. I assure you, of the candidates running in District 2, I possess the authentic business experience and leadership skills sorely needed on the Council.
[I plan to] address personal safety in our neighborhoods; law enforcement concerns are key. The police should be able to drive the cars home and be respected for the presence they provide and have first-time offenders and those who commit less serious crimes literally pay their debt to society by cleaning out debris-filled ditches, repainting over graffiti, etc. [That] along with accountability by protecting our citizens’ money against waste and pet projects is critical to returning trust to our city government. Bloated salaried positions like the administrator of [the city’s Department of] Education, Arts and Culture should be eliminated.
District 3 candidates
- Having completed my first term in the position of City Council representative for District 3, I believe I am uniquely qualified. I have learned a lot during my tenure on City Council and realize there is a vast amount of learning ahead. I have completed two courses through University of Tennessee at Knoxville in elected official curriculum and a course on salary and wage administration. I attended the annual meeting of Municipal Leagues National Cities. All of these courses and travel expenses I paid out of my own pocket.
I have built solid working relationships in my district and throughout the city and with officials in Hamilton County government.
- Infrastructure and capital improvements are the most important issues in my district. I have worked hard to secure funds for acquiring the old Hixson Middle School and we are in phase two of converting this facility to a new community center. There are other crucial phases ahead including parking near the building for seniors and more handicap parking.
Roads are always a concern. This winter, we will authorize contracts to begin work on reconstruction of Hamill Road. All access roads to Big Ridge need reconstruction as well as Lakeshore Terrace. I will continue to work to keep capital improvement money going to these infrastructure projects in District 3.
On far too many issues our current city councilwoman [Pam Ladd] has made key decisions inside a vacuum and without listening to the concerns of the taxpayers and local neighborhoods in District 3. Since taking office, she has voted to increase property taxes by 19 percent and stormwater fees by 191 percent, reduced police presence in our city by parking police cars, approved budgets that underfund our essential services including road maintenance and public safety. Our community needs someone that will lead on the key issues impacting District 3 while challenging the status quo at City Hall.
We have an increased crime problem, much of which can be attributed to gangs and how Mayor Littlefield and this City Council ignored it for years. I earned the endorsements from local firefighters and police officers because they believe I have a better understanding of the unique challenges they face in our community and will fight to increase staffing levels and ensure they have the necessary resources to protect and serve our neighborhoods.
The poor condition of our roads is another issue for our community. For years, Mayor Littlefield and this City Council have ignored a study that recommended spending $5 million per year for road maintenance. Yet the city continues to only spend $1.7 million. Decisions like this impact our community and make it nearly impossible to address needed improvements.