BOMA hopefuls address voters, answer questions
Paying for the privilege to engage with the public inside Farragut Community Center, one candidate for Town of Farragut mayor and two aldermen candidates, one from each ward, came before about 70 citizens and made many of their positions known while answering citizen questions Thursday evening, June 23.
This week’s profiles focuses on mayoral challenger Bill Johns and Ward II (South) candidate David White.
Ward I (North) candidate Adam Atherton, also a part of this forum, will be profiled, along with two other alderman challengers and two Board of Mayor and Aldermen incumbents, prior to Early Voting, which begins Friday, July 15.
The forum was moderated by Sean Murphy, a local social media political journalist.
Marking his second bid to become mayor — losing to then Mayor Eddy Ford in 2005 — Johns was challenged by a citizen to reveal his plans to improve the Town of Farragut before his “Day One” in office.
Johns delivered on his promise to have an outlined plan ready by Monday, June 27, which first came to farragutpress in a condensed version before he released an even more comprehensive plan later that day. The condensed version that follows summarizes five major points, with three shortened slightly due to space limitations:
1). Putting citizens first in everything Farragut does. “…. We will solve this by putting Citizens Forum first on the agenda for every meeting, including more opportunities of participation, and developing a Town culture that is friendly, welcoming and inclusive to all its citizens, stakeholders and visitors. …”
2). Controlling Farragut’s growth to match its infrastructure and services. “Because there has not been a proactive vision or plan, growth has been out of control and independent to the capacity of our infrastructure and service capabilities, and transportation impacts have been an afterthought, everyone’s quality of life has been negatively impacted.
“We will address this immediately by slowing down (“pausing”) how we grow and plan our community by examining our Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), ordinances, zoning rules and regulations and land use policies to make them consistent with all development opportunities moving forward.
“This includes making the Town itself consistent. Likewise, we need to stop the urbanization of our community.
“We will also compare our community to other peer communities who have been developed and planned better than Farragut and invest in the training, travel and resources necessary to have the best decision outcomes for those serving on the Municipal Planning Commission representing the citizens’ voices.”
3). Building trust and confidence through transparency and ethics. “We must gain the confidence of the entire community of citizens, stakeholders, media and volunteers. This entails first being transparent in everything the Town does: video broadcast every formal meeting, including all committees, and have clear and consistent expectations, boundaries, responsibilities and consequences for everyone representing the Town.
“We will need to implement a citizen ethics committee as I suggested in 2005, develop reporting and auditing standards, have regular training and education opportunities and foster closer relationships with watchdog, open government and Tennessee regulatory entities.”
4). Traffic is a nightmare, and it is only going to get worse. “… The first thing we need to do is “stop digging when we are already in a hole” and truly look at the root causes (overbuilding, not proactive planning, creating roadway nightmares with high-density developments, etc. that are causing these problems.)
“As someone with a transportation/supply chain background who worked in a city transportation department, I will be able to quickly address our current situation and provide better solutions to this ever-growing quality of life and safety problem.”
5). Creating an emergency preparedness and response plan and culture for the Town. Johns said he “… has first-hand experience with emergencies in communities and volunteering with our region’s preparedness groups.
“Farragut does not have a plan and relies on other government agencies. … With the pending crisis of supply chain disruptions, inflation and the recession with associated increase in crime, Farragut needs to ‘be prepared’ for any scenario. Farragut will have a robust plan.
“Our community is home to many experienced specialists that we will leverage in a new committee supporting our plan. In addition, we will welcome more collaboration with the Knox County Sheriff’s (Office) and other law enforcement / first responder organizations and security entities.”
Seeking to replace retiring Ward II Alderman Ron Pinchok, White is making his first bid for elected office.
A 1964 Farragut High School graduate, “We’ve lived in this community that is now called the Town of Farragut for over 71 years,” he said.
About the Town’s overall status, “I know where we’ve been, but I don’t like where we’re going,” the candidate said.
White said he “got involved in a couple of issues way before the election, where it was evident the Board of Mayor and Aldermen deliberately violated the Code and didn’t really want to do anything about it. And after discussing the issue, just kind of ignored me.
“… I was at another meeting where Adam was terribly mistreated,” he added. “So I said, ‘that shouldn’t be happening, that’s not us,’ and I just didn’t like what they were doing.
“I want to get there and see if I can change some things. … The citizens are the key and need to be treated with respect, and when you want to get up and speak on an issue that’s on your heart, on your mind, then you ought be allowed that courtesy.”
One citizen asked White, “What is your vision for the South side? What’s on your platform, the top three things that you would do?”
“Every vote I make will be in accordance with the Code,” the candidate answered. “This Town was founded by a charter and approved by Nashville, Tennessee, and designed as a ‘Code/Ordinance Town.’
“I’m sick of arbitrarily changing zoning, arbitrarily changing ordinances to accommodate one and not accommodate another,” White added.
While saying “the Town has the right to adjust, to change an ordinance,” he added, “They do not have the right to arbitrarily ignore it ... .”
As for Town growth, “I don’t like where we’re headed traffic-wise and density wise,” White said, adding the residential element of the new Town Center will add to this problem, along with “225 apartments in Dixie Lee Junction” and possible residential growth along North Watt Road.
“Before long you won’t be able to get your kids to school; you won’t be able to go anywhere.”
Asked by a citizen, “What are you going to do about it?” White answered, “I can’t do anything about it; it’s too late.
“… The only thing we can do now is try to keep the density down,” he added.