Mayor Questionnaire: Mark Padgett

Candidates in their own words

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

MARK PADGETT, candidate for mayor

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?

Knoxville (especially downtown) is the business, tourist, and cultural center of Knox County and the surrounding region. Even if you live in the county, chances are you work, shop, attend events, and/or do business in the city. So the city definitely matters and should continue to think, plan, and lead beyond city limits.

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

1. I want Knoxville to have the strongest, most robust economy in the region. When people think of Knoxville, I want them to think of a great and innovative place to start and grow a business with a strong creative class and educated workforce.

2. I want Knoxville to be more connected, both physically and culturally. As mayor, I want to improve connectivity between from our parks and greenways to our neighborhoods and downtown. I've also pledged to make Knoxville the most bikeable, walkable, and runnable city in the Southeast. Meanwhile, I want to further improve the cultural connectivity between our communities and neighborhoods. We've come a long way, but Knoxville remains too socio-economically and racially divided. My administration will support diversity in city government, continue the progress downtown, and support cultural events and festivals.

3. I want Knoxville's city government to be more efficient and innovative. My administration will cut waste, streamline codes and permitting, increase online services and public records, and employ new technology to save taxpayers money and headaches.

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?

I believe the bridge that connects the impoverished to a better life is education. All schools are administered by Knox County, and 72 percent of city sales tax goes toward funding schools. While I may not have a direct say in the education system, I will work with the county and school board to support literacy, mentoring, graduation rates, and gang-prevention programs. As mayor, I will also focus on creating jobs and growing the economy, and I firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all ships.

4.) What should be the role of the city mayor in economic development, in respect to working with the county government, the Chamber of Commerce, and other economic development entities? In your opinion, is the city being well served at the moment by its economic development agencies? Is there anything that could or should be done better or differently?

Working with the various organizations and the business community, the mayor needs to lead and drive economic development. Our current regional approach is serving Knoxville well, but much like fiscal responsibility, economic development is not a one-time exercise. As mayor, I'm going to proactively push for smart development that grows our economy and strengthens our neighborhoods. My administration will cast a vision, set milestones, strategically invest, and get everyone rowing the same direction in the following key areas:

Increase support to small businesses and the entrepreneur community through regular meetings, job training, and education initiatives that lead to a more educated workforce (literacy, mentoring, graduation rates, and gang prevention).

Provide additional access to capital for high-growth companies and start-ups.

Create a more business-friendly atmosphere where we don't over-tax and over-regulate in order to give them opportunities to grow and create jobs.

Promote a more inclusive atmosphere to promote women and minority-owned businesses.

Proactively recruit nonlocal vendors and companies that already do business with our larger corporations.

Proactively recruit industries with a strong presence in Knoxville including clean energy (e.g. solar, biofuels), automotive components, high-tech (e.g. material sciences, electronics), and TV production.

Support and improve our start-up development process: moving the idea or technology that starts in Oak Ridge to Cherokee Farms, into an incubator and accelerator to develop private investment, and finally into their headquarters within city limits.

5.) 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 don¹t think the city should encourage sustainable development, you can say that, too.)

I have a young family that regularly enjoys our parks, rivers, and mountains, so I support any plan that protects our natural resources. I didn't support the original Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan because I thought the 15 percent requirement was too aggressive and hard to administer since slopes and ridges aren't uniform. But I do support a plan, and I'm encouraged that all the stakeholders are back at the table to work out a new plan. Ultimately, the plan needs to protect property owners, preserve natural resources, promote smart growth, and allow for economic development so we can continue to grow our economy and create jobs. I'd also like the plan to include more comprehensive transferable density rights.

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. As a fourth generation Knoxvillian with a young family, we appreciate and utilize the area's parks, rivers, and mountains. I support any initiative that protects the air we breathe, water we drink, and land where we build our homes, schools, and businesses. My administration will focus on a number of areas including:

Improve connectivity between our parks and greenways to our neighborhoods to downtown. I've also pledged to make Knoxville the most bikeable, walkable, and runnable city in the Southeast. This initiative will increase the amount of "green spaces" in Knoxville, promote a healthier lifestyle, decrease pollution caused by automobiles, and attract new businesses to our area.

Proactively recruit clean energy (e.g. solar and biofuels) industries to the city.

Work with KUB to help finance a program to upgrade old houses and buildings to increase their energy efficiency. Older homes can often have higher utility bills than mortgage or rent payments. Upgrades will create green-collar jobs and lower these structures' energy usage, which will lower utility bills and decrease pollution and wasted power.

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 mayor can take to more actively engage the University¹s leadership, faculty, and students in the daily life of the city? Do you think that¹s important? Why or why not?

I have more than 20 interns, most of whom are either UTK students or recent college graduates, who tell me how great our downtown has become. However, there's still a lot of room for improvement. We should increase the connectivity between campus, Cumberland, downtown, the Old City, and surrounding areas. We should also invest in sidewalks and transit and look to further increase safety and the number of cultural events and festivals. I'd also like to explore the possibility of adding a student representative to city council and meeting quarterly with the UT administration to find news ways to collaborate, share information, and maximize resources.

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.

Building a strong community means having a number of transportation options. It helps relieve traffic congestion and promotes a healthier lifestyle. I support public transit, but we face a number of unique challenges including: a spread out community, little funding outside of the city, and a perception/cultural problem of getting folks out of their cars and utilizing the available routes in their community. My administration will focus on:

Improve connectivity between our parks and greenways to our neighborhoods to downtown. I've also pledged to make Knoxville the most bikeable, walkable, and runnable city in the Southeast. This initiative will increase the amount of "green spaces" in Knoxville, promote a healthier lifestyle, decrease pollution caused by automobiles, and attract new businesses to our area.

Improve the KAT bus and trolley-stop infrastructure. Currently, there are a lot of dangerous KAT stops that don't have proper lighting, signage, or coverage.

Use the "bully pulpit" of the mayor's office to strengthen a lot of our existing plans, such as the Knoxville Regional Bicycle program. As mayor, I'll lead a concerted and comprehensive effort to help change attitudes and perceptions.

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 the city mayor do to encourage more communication and connection between races, communities, and neighborhoods?

Broadly speaking, the mayor should lead by example and actively promote events and programs that benefit and connect our entire city. I believe that city government should represent the whole city, and our community has grown to expect nothing less. I will support diversity within my administration, boards, commissions, and appointments. I will also regularly meet with neighborhood and community groups throughout the city. They serve on the front lines, and I consider them a mayor's informal board of directors. And lastly, I've pledged to have an open-door policy. The only way we're going to move Knoxville forward is by working together – everyone deserves a seat at the decision-making table. If government is standing in the way of opportunity, my administration will take action to change it.

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?

Ten years ago, downtown Knoxville looked very different. Shuttered businesses, "for lease" signs, and empty streets on weekends were the norm. Housing was scarce and too many people believed it wasn't safe. Many thought revitalization was a pipe dream. But under the leadership of Mayor Bill Haslam and organizations like the Central Business Improvement District (CBID), our downtown is growing and thriving. Knoxville currently has over $300 million in planned redevelopment projects. While each area requires a unique approach, the process should be much the same: collaboration between the city, residents, and existing businesses to turn these plans into bricks and mortar. One of the primary barriers to making these plans a reality is private investment and capital, but we can also help the process by eliminating tedious, redundant and, in many cases, unnecessary permits and back-end paperwork. I'm committed to working with the various stakeholders to ensure that we're investing strategically and balancing new development with the historical integrity and aesthetic of our neighborhoods.