Metro Pulse sent the following questionnaire to all candidates for Knoxville City Council. Candidates' responses have not been edited in any way.
GEORGE WALLACE, candidate for At-Large Seat A
1.) The city of Knoxville holds less than half the population of Knox County, and an even smaller percentage of the total metropolitan area. Why does the city matter? What role does city leadership play in setting or shaping an agenda for the region?
The city of Knoxville serves as the hub for the region culturally, civically and economically. A vibrant city is crucial for attracting business, industry and tourism to the area. The city is a storehouse of historic landmarks and a unique feature of our local landscape. City leadership should work to protect our urban environment, should recognize the importance of its roles and use its resources wisely to attract businesses, retain businesses and make it a destination for many to enjoy.
2.) Name three specific ways you would like the city of Knoxville to be different after your term(s) in office.
A. Increase the number of quality jobs in Knoxville without losing a major employer due to relocation.
Additional 10 miles of new sidewalks that will connect neighborhoods to the greenways, connect neighborhoods to businesses and connect neighborhoods to neighborhoods;
C. Reduce the number of blighted properties in the city and return those properties to the city tax roles.
3.) About one out of three children in Knoxville lives near or below the poverty level. What specific things can or should the city government do to serve their needs?
Education and the use of public buildings are the keys to focus on. Educating the adults and the children is key for obtaining better jobs both now and in the future. Both adults and children have to learn to read and a program that encourages adults to read to their children is the first critical step in the process. Engaging children with the arts will produce a more engaged student. The schools located within the city limits could be better utilized during off hours or off-season to promote adult and children education. Encourage the use of volunteer tutors. Schools have the facilities that can be better utilized for multiple purposes. The schools can become the community hub by offering different programs and with extended times.
4.) Do you support the goals of the Hillside and Ridge top Protection Plan? More broadly, how should the city balance long-term concerns about sustainability with short-term demands of developers or builders? What does "sustainable development" mean to you? What are some specific ways the city can encourage it? (If you don't think the city should encourage sustainable development, you can say that, too.)
I support initiatives to preserve the ridge tops. I propose that the city and county establish a high topographic contour line that would require a use on review submission for any development. Call it a ridge top protection zone and set criteria for protection. The high contour line could possibly be between 1075-1100. A high contour line would permanently protect the ridge tops and protect scenic vistas.
Sustainable development means balancing today’s development needs with an eye on the future; giving consideration to minimizing the impact on environment while delivering a product that the consumer wants. The concerns and demands should be balanced carefully. Consumer demand will drive these trends. Knoxville is already seeing demand for green building practices, sidewalks, mixed use development, small square footage and lot size. These trends are being driven by demand that I hope will continue and increase. Developers that are able to creatively embrace sustainable models of development will contribute to the greater good of the community.
5.) What is the proper role of City Council in dealing with the mayor? Should Council members mostly let the mayor lead and react to the mayor's initiatives, or should they take leadership roles themselves in setting the city's agenda?
This election cycle is very important because there will be 3 at large members elected, 1 new district member and a new mayor. Particularly at large members should be offering new initiatives and assisting the mayor with new ideas. Personally, I like new ideas. Finding new ideas and working with people to determine whether that particular idea is worthy of implementing is a primary role of a councilman. At Large members should be assisting district members when asked but mostly looking at the big picture of the city. At Large members should spend their energy working on the issues that affect the entire city. Those primary issues are jobs, pension issue, homeless concerns, sector developments. Council members have to use solid fundamentals to ensure the proper building blocks are in place that will allow Knoxville to flourish.
6.) Is it a priority for you to make Knoxville a more "green" city? If so, name three specific ways you would pursue that goal.
Yes, the city of Knoxville should make every affordable effort to be more green.
A. Make Knoxville bicycle friendly; promote the use of bicycles; bike lanes; bike stands; cycling events;
B. More mixed use and infill development; utilize form base codes; prepare brown fields for development and offer incentives for its use; protect the ridge tops;
Continue to purchase land to expand and develop parks.
Mandate efficiency standards for city buildings; any new city building or any renovation of more than 5000 square feet should be LEED certified.
7.) The University of Tennessee sits within city limits, but has often seemed like kind of an island, culturally and geographically. Are there any steps the city can take to more actively engage the University's leadership, faculty, and students in the daily life of the city? Do you think that's important? Why or why not?
I have had the honor of participating in UT’s Chancellor’s Associates. This is a three-year program designed to educate and promote UT to the at large community.
Great question on the heels of the published report naming UT’s campus as unsightly. To begin to bring about change conversations have to happen with administrators about this concern. I would like the opportunity to network with administrators about these issues and work towards a better outcome. UT can make their campus more attractive and more of a destination other than football Saturdays.
8.) Knoxville remains a difficult city to get around via any means other than automobile. Is it important to you for the city to become more accessible via public transportation, bicycle, or foot? Why or why not? If so, name three specific transportation-related programs or projects you would like to begin or expand on.
Personally, I am an avid cyclist and have ridden all over the city. I have ridden extensively on the greenways and on the streets. I have endured the taunts of many drivers. I thoroughly enjoy riding a bicycle both for recreation and for transportation. But I believe the city should seek to become a bike friendly community
Build new sidewalks; new subdivisions should have to include sidewalks
Every new major road project should create a bike lane; any new bridge should include a bike lane; promote cycling as a form of commuting,
More efficient public transportation; smaller buses; routes designed to build commerce; promote downtown events using free bus service; invest in PSAs about the benefits of public transportation
9.) Fifty years after the Civil Rights movement, Knoxville remains fairly segregated in terms of where people live, work, and play. What can or should At-Large Council members do to encourage more communication and connection between races, communities, and neighborhoods?
Council members can lead by example. They can be the ones to stretch out their own hand across the isle and invite others to communicate. Build community by building relationships which are built one at a time. Council members can encourage others to get involved, lead by participating and show support for communities and neighborhoods all across the city. I have and I will continue to support people based on who they are not on their race or where they live. I will lead by example.
10.) What are the most important lessons from the successes of downtown development over the past decade, and how can they be applied to other parts of the city?
Recognized that downtown is extremely important to the vitality of the city;
Recognized that downtown is the city’s neighborhood; if we have a vibrant downtown other development will follow around the city.
Recognized that saving historic structures adds to the unique character of the city and that people are attracted to it; people will embrace the city’s heritage; increased appreciation of urban development
Recognized that people want to have a downtown that they can be proud of and point to it as successful.
Learned that having a plan and then implementing that plan is a key to success.
All of these lessons apply across the city. Develop a plan, build community by building relationships and gather information on a broad basis. Make our city attractive to private developers to take financial risk and then support those developments The role of city leadership is to cast the vision for the greatest good of its citizens.
BONUS QUESTION: Can you read, write, or speak any language other than English? (Even partial proficiency counts, but please indicates your level of ability.)