Council Questionnaire: Finbarr Saunders

Candidates in their own words

Metro Pulse sent the following questionnaire to all candidates for Knoxville City Council. Candidates' responses have not been edited in any way.

FINBARR SAUNDERS, candidate for At-Large Seat C

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 matters because it's the identitysetter for the region. Knoxville is the heart of commerce, education (Knox County Schools and UT), the arts and culture, athletics, energy ( TVA and new green-energy jobs) and more. Downtown Knoxville has become a vibrant, thriving neighborhood that draws people from all over our region to things like Dogwood, Sundown in the City, the Rossini Festival, the Tennessee Theatre ( our official Tennessee State Theatre), and the Regal Riviera Cinemas.

Economic developers from surrounding counties bring their prospects to downtown Knoxville and claim it as their downtown.

2.) Name three specific ways you would like the city of Knoxville to be different after your term(s) in office.

A.) I would like to see Knoxville become a leader in providing quality green-energy jobs. I would like to see more projects that reuse historic properties which rise to LEED certification.

B.) I would like to enhance the educational opportunities here in Knoxville with more innovative programs such as the STEM Academy and, more collaboration with the University of Tennessee

C.) I would like to see Knoxville become a model of more efficient transportation and more connectivity throughout the city via public transportation, sidewalks, greenways and the like.

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?

Our schools are a vital part of this. We've got to help our children break the cycle of poverty through quality education. But the schools are also the central agencies that know the children, and their guidance staff helps to link local social service agencies to children in need.Organizations like the Boys' and Girls' Clubs, Big Brothers – Big Sisters, Tribe One, Emerald Avenue Youth Foundation, and Knox/Tennessee Achieve provide mentors. Our community religious institutions provide guidance and support. Second Harvest is another key organization.

Through its sales tax, the city of Knoxville fully funds one quarter of the school'sbudget. City Council needs to continue and enhance funds for the schools as well as for these social service agencies that provide support for our low-income youth.

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.)

I am encouraged that Knoxville City Council and Knox County Commission are working together to craft an ordinance that will apply equally to the city and to the county. There must be agreement between the two on this issue. The long term vision for Knoxville and Knox County is part of a broader vision for sustainable growth for this area and is being studied now by Plan ET.

We must have good, sustainable development for the continued good health of Knoxville. We should encourage the adaptive reuse of significant properties rather than demolition. As we face increased energy costs, it makes great good sense to concentrate our resources on existing properties within the city and to promote proper infill to ensure a great mix of old and new to enhance to livability of Knoxville.

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?

While traditionally the city has been driven by the mayor as far as the agenda is concerned, it behooves city council members to take a proactive role in either working with the mayor and staff and/or making independent proposals which would benefit the entire community. It should not be one way or the other.

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. Again, I would like to see Knoxville become a leader in providing quality green-energy jobs. A.) I would like to see more projects that reuse historic properties which rise to LEED certification.

B.) The city is currently involved in rehabbing homes in low income areas to enhance energy efficiency (HUD program), and the city should continue to fund this project.

C.) I would like to see Knoxville become a model of more efficient transportation and more connectivity throughout the city via public transportation, sidewalks, greenways and the like.

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?

UT plays a major role in this city from the students it graduates to the multiplier effect of their payroll and expenditures in this community. There should be periodic meetings among the mayor, city council representatives and UT faculty and staff representatives. I think there are some examples of those initiatives. Knox Heritage has workedwith the university to develop a preservation plan. City council members, neighborhood representatives, and the mayor's staff worked with the university to develop a plan for the property off Sutherland Avenue. More of these efforts certainly should be encouraged, and a forum to ensure that coordination is achieved and maintained should be a goal.

The improvements of downtown have created a magnet that has drawn the staff and students from UT into the city and has served to draw these folks away from their "island" thus creating greater interaction. The UT gallery in the 100 Block of Gay Street is a great example of this.

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.

A.) The enhancement of public transportation hinges on development patterns. Given the dispersed pattern of our community, it makes service more difficult and costly. As the cost of energy and transportation rises, we will need to find more innovative ways to serve the community with different forms of fuel sources and vehicles (i.e. more green jobs).

B.) In order to encourage people to walk, it must be safe. The maintenance and expansion of sidewalks and greenwaysare essential. A greenway adjacent to your property not only enhances accessibility but raises your property value.

C.) Bike lanes are vital. Bike lanes are in use on parts of Central Ave. and have been proposed for the redevelopment on Cumberland Ave. I would like to see more bike lanes in our future.

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?

At-Large members of city council should reach out to diverse populations by visiting those communities and listening to their concerns. All neighborhoods should be encouraged to form neighborhood associations, and council should encourage more coordination among those communities and associations.

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?

One of the most important lessons is that all these different uses - business, commercial, residential, cultural, educational, entertainment - can "live" together in a healthy manner. Rather than being separate, they in fact enhance one another. We need to rethink some of our zoning codes to encourage multiple uses. Perhaps form-based code will help to achieve this in the south Waterfront, Bearden, Fountain City, etc.

BONUS QUESTION: Can you read, write, or speak any language other than English? (Even partial proficiency counts, but please indicate your level of ability.)