Metro Pulse sent the following questionnaire to all candidates for Knoxville City Council. Candidates' responses have not been edited in any way.
MARSHALL STAIR, candidate for At-Large Seat B
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 is the heart of the economic region. Despite the fact that many Knox County residents live outside the city, many come into the city to work, enjoy the parks, attend arts and cultural events, and shop. The entire health of the region depends on the success or failure of the city and the city government. City leaders play a key role shaping the services and the look and feel of the city. The city is vitally important to the region.
Unfortunately over the last few decades we have seen tremendous growth outside the city and in the surrounding counties, while only moderate growth in our center city. With the price of gas continuing to rise, now we have the opportunity to attract businesses and residents into the heart of Knoxville. This is what I will focus on if elected.
2.) Name three specific ways you would like the city of Knoxville to be different after your term(s) in office.
I would like Cumberland Avenue to look and feel different and be more pedestrian oriented, at least one major new business in Knoxville, and significant progress on building and connecting 30+ miles of bike/hike trails in South Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.
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?
Continue to fund the schools, work to make sure children are safe in their neighborhoods, and increase efforts to grow the local economy.
4.) Do you support the goals of the Hillside and Ridgetop 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.)
Yes. I think the hillsides and ridges are valuable assets and I am hopeful that the joint committee will come up with a plan that is acceptable to City Council, County Commission, and the stakeholders.
Sustainable development means development that does not impact the environment in a way that harms future generations. I believe by focusing on bringing residents and businesses to the city’s core, we can protect the surrounding green fields and reduce the negative impacts of transportation. As a City Council member, I would work to modify codes and zoning that encourages sustainable development where appropriate.
Additionally I fully support the City’s Energy and Sustainability Plan to reduce energy consumption, reduce waste, expand recycling, and encourage sustainable growth. I believe is not only is the right thing to do for the environment and future generations, but it also saves money and improves the health of our 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?
Both. We have a strong mayor form of government, so yes a lot of what City Council does is react to the mayor’s proposals. However, if Council or its members feel the mayor is failing to address an issue, I think it is appropriate for Council to take a leadership role.
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.
My priority is to make Knoxville one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in the region. Being environmentally friendly or “green” is an important part of that goal. I would push smart growth development, increase transportation options like walking or biking to reduce auto emissions, and work to promote local produce.
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 think the greatest resource provided by the University of Tennessee is its students. They are some of the best and brightest from the state and world. But too often they come to Knoxville for their education and leave to start businesses and careers elsewhere. We need to grow the city in a way that will do more to entice them to stay after graduation rather than just come to Knoxville for the education.
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.
Pedestrian access is important to me. Since moving back to Knoxville in 2005, I have always walked to work or school.
I believe we should live in cities where we do not have to drive to take a walk.
Nevertheless, the reality is the automobile will be the dominant form of transport for the foreseeable future. However, I believe we must invest in infrastructure that gives people transportation options. I think by having neighborhoods with transportation options we separate our neighborhoods from those outside the city and in the surrounding counties. I believe people are looking to locate in neighborhoods with transportation options. They understand they will need a car but like the option of being able to walk to a park or ride a bike to a convenience store or local restaurant.
I would work to connect greenways, continue to fund sidewalks, and work with KAT to make public transportation more efficient.
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?
I believe diversity is important for a number of reasons, one of which is future economic growth. The “creative workforce”, “digital workforce”, and many others are looking for cities that provide the stimulating mix of food, arts, events, and culture that is accompanied with a diverse citizenry. In today’s economy, the most dangerous prospect for any city is to be known as closed minded or intolerant. I would work to celebrate the diversity we have and maintain an open dialogue with different communities to ensure they feel engaged with the city. I would also work with the administration to ensure that our city’s workforce reflected the diversity of our city.
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?
Aesthetics matter. Downtown has experienced remarkable success over the last fifteen years due to community based development that focuses on creating attractive public spaces surrounded by vibrant small businesses. The City was key to this development by making the public spaces (the streets and Market Square) attractive. This sent a signal to small business and residents that the City was invested in the success of the area, and they began to move in and started the organic growth. The transformation did not occur overnight but this model for quality development can be used in other parts of the city. Any area’s success depends on how it looks and feels and it starts with public spaces.
BONUS QUESTION: Can you read, write, or speak any language other than English? (Even partial proficiency counts, but please indicate your level of ability.)
I speak Spanish fluently but not perfectly. Viva Knoxville!