Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Candidates make their case at Bellevue Candidate's Forum.

Michelle Foreman
Rod Williams, 6-4-2019 - Six candidates addressed about one hundred people packed into two joined rooms at Corner Pub in the Woods in Bellevue last night for a candidates forum, hosted by The Bellevue Exchange Club. Candidates included Art Allen, Gloria Hausser,  and Todd Sneed running in District 22; Mina Johnson running reelection in District 23; and incumbent Councilman Dave Rosenberg and challenger Michelle Foreman running in District 35.

The event was well organized and ably led by David Hairston. The event started and ended on time and moved at an orderly steady clip. Events like this can get boring. It is a challenge to give everyone an opportunity to say what they want to say and yet keep them from rambling and saying nothing.

Dave Rosenberg
At the start of the meeting each candidate was given three minutes (I believe three)  to introduced themselves and share their credentials and reasons they are seeking the office for which they were running. I am not going to try to remember who had done what, but I was impressed with almost all of them. Candidates own and run their on businesses, have excelled in careers, overcome obstacles, organized boat rescue in the 2010 flood, and served in service organizations and served as volunteers in their children's schools.  While I do not think having a list of civic involvements or personal success is the deciding factor in selecting who I would vote for, it is a factor.  Before entrusting someone with the office of council member, I want them to have already been active in their community and already done something that indicates they have intelligence, tenacity, civic concern and a good work ethic.
Gloria Hausser

One take-away from the meeting is that everyone wants orderly growth and seems concerned with the rapid growth we have experienced and is concerned about traffic. In a discussion about what we should do about traffic, one got the normal answers of study the issue and the need for a regional plan. Todd Sneed said we need more buses and better bus routes. Dave Rosenburg said we need to study the problem and we need more circulatory bus routes. Michelle Foreman said the instead of big buses we need vans. She said buses often run empty. I thing we have all seen big buses with only two or three people on them. This makes so much sense. I think she gave the best answer of any of the candidates but none of them really impressed me in answering this question.

One thing that struck me in the discussion of traffic is that some candidates do not know the difference between "smart" traffic lights and synchronized traffic lights. They seemed to talk as if it was the same thing. If they did know the difference they didn't make that clear. I was disappointing that none of the candidates advocated a bold transformation of mass transit that relied on market forces and new technology.  No one was thinking outside the box. To see what I advocate, follow this link. I would have like to heard something like this from the candidates. Some people in metro, such as Councilman Robert Swope are thinking bold. I hope to call attention to his traffic plan at some point.

Todd Sneed
Another take-away from this forum is that incumbents know more details about issues than challenges. Mina Johnson in discussing traffic and development threw in reverences to NashvilleNext and subarea plans. Dave Rosenburg knew tax rates and details of financial arrangements with the convention center. This is to be expected but, in my view, is not reason to necessarily give the person my vote.  If someone is intelligent they can get up to speed on the details and the jargon pretty quickly.  At one time the incumbents did not know that stuff either. The way I see it, political values compatible with my own combined with talent, intelligence and work ethic or more important than having mastered some details.

On a question about using one-time money, as in the upfront money from the parking meter privatization plan, to fund on-going expenses, all thought that was a bad idea. On the question of whether or not they would support a tax increase, all were opposed although Dave Rosenburg came closest to saying he thinks we need a tax increase but will follow the will of his constituents and oppose one if that is what they want. 

While I am not persuaded we have to have a tax increase, I do think it is wise to realized that Metro is
Art Allen
in dire financial shape.  Fire services and police services are understaffed, employees deserve a pay raise and teachers are underpaid. In addressing the issue of raising taxes, Rosenburg pointed out that much of the revenue generated by downtown tourism goes to the convention center and that the convention center has a $100 million surplus. He said that Metro can't access that money. This is where I think Rosenburg and many other simply lack vision. He identified the problem but did not propose fixing it.  It took Metro requesting the state to make that the policy for it to become law.  If Metro tried to get the State to amend that law, no doubt they could. I have heard Councilman John Cooper address this same issue, but he says we do not need a tax increase; instead we need to fix the problem.

In making the case for a tax increase, which he said he will oppose if that is the will of his district, Rosenburg made the case that we are under taxed. He stated our property tax rate and gave the tax rates for several other Tennessee cities. While I accept the tax rates stated are accurate, I don't think that we have a lower tax rate is an indication that we are under taxed. If you take a three bedroom, bath and a half house in a subdivision in Bellevue and compare it to a very similar home in a similar part of town in Knoxville, the Bellevue home may be appraised for $375,000 and the similar Knoxville home maybe appraised at $175,000. The Nashville homeowner will be paying much higher taxes. Don't be persuaded that you are under taxed by a simple comparison of tax rates. 

Of the all the candidates speaking last night, I was most impressed by Michelle Foreman.  The moderator asked a question about what we should do about General Hospital. All of the other candidates gave ho-hum answers about the need for a charity hospital and they supported General. Foreman was armed with facts. She said last year the hospital's subsidy was increased from $11 million to $46 million. She said the board that manages General is dysfunctional and was critical of the board for giving the hospital director a contract extension and a raise without even doing an evaluation. She pointed out that General can not fill its beds because no one wants to go there and that there is no need for a charity hospital since hospitals cannot deny services to indigents. She said if Nashville needs to subsidize the hospital needs of low-income people that there are lower cost ways to do it than continuing to fund general.

This event was a good candidate's forum.  It is a shame that there are not similar candidate forums across all of Davidson County. Often, people give little thought to who they vote for, for Council and just vote for the name they recognize and usually that name recognition is based on  who has the most yard signs. That is a poor way to make a decision. It is also disappointing that the press did not cover this event. Back in the early 80's when I ran for Council I once took part in a forum and it was covered in a community press, the two dailies and television. I think the demise of the local press is a danger to our democracy. Amateur bloggers with low readership, like myself, cannot take the place of a professional press, but that is commentary for another day. I am an amateur and have a point of view, but try to  be accurate and fair. If any candidate or other interested person thinks that I failed to accurately report on the forum or misrepresented a candidates point of view, please feel free to leave a comment and set the record straight.

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1 comment:

  1. Michelle Foreman is great. I don't know much about the others. Met Gloria Saturday at the Campaign Finance Seminar. Thank you, Rod, for taking time to write. I have so much to learn. Whether I am elected to the council or not, I need to keep learning more about problems and how to fix them. We have to come up with creative solutions instead of doing the same old things that aren't getting good results. Lydia Hubbell