KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Knoxville's six mayoral candidates met at JTV to debate ahead of the 2019 election on Aug. 27.
Eddie Mannis, Indya Kincannon, Marshall Stair, Michael Andrews, Calvin Skinner and Fletcher Burkhardt compete as Knoxville prepares to elect a new mayor for the first time in eight years.
The debate was in partnership with the Knoxville Chamber.
Before the debate: Knoxville 2019 Election: Where the candidates stand
How the candidates responded to your questions:
Infrastructure (Roads, Sidewalks, Greenways, Transit):
Andrews said infrastructure is the city's first impression and investing in better services to do any job right the first time will help significantly.
Burkhardt said transportation attracts revenue so he would want to focus on improving existing systems while exploring alternative transportation methods.
Stair said infrastructure was important for two reasons: quality of life and attracting business and growth. He discussed how he has worked to increase budgets to improve the infrastructure since he's been on council.
Kincannon and Mannis both said they would stop deferring maintenance on projects, which drives up costs. Mannis said he has proposed a policy that gives people access to a system that processes requests for areas of concern faster.
Skinner said he wants to make sure improvements extend to neglected communities.
All candidates said a tax increase to address infrastructure issues would not be necessary, instead, they would find ways to be responsible with resources and where they are directed. Mannis is the only candidate who was not completely against a tax increase.
All candidates demonstrated support for city police and fire departments and placed priority on public safety.
Kincannon, Stair and Burkhardt were in favor of an external investigation of the police department in light of recent revelations. Stair said an external review should come after an internal investigation, and he wants to approach improvements by getting numbers up, moving to the new North Knoxville facility and getting body cameras on all officers.
Mannis said he wants a zero-tolerance policy for the kind of behavior that came to light in recent months with the police department.
Andrews said he wants issues to be effectively dealt with in-house and have conflict resolution to be part of mandatory training.
Skinner said he wants to expand education, training and accountability in departments and to address representation in those departments as well.
Growth and New Jobs:
Mannis, Kincannon and Stair focused specifically on supporting small businesses and local entrepreneurs. Kincannon also wants to be the "economic developer in chief" by ensuring a highly-qualified workforce. Stair wants to make sure the city is recruiting high-quality jobs with creative technology.
Andrews wants to focus on sports and entertainment by bringing a WNBA team to the city and bringing more food and music festivals into Knoxville to make it a more walkable community.
Skinner wants to make sure the city is intentional about inclusivity and diversity in economics, specifically by creating a Bureau of Community Wealth Building, which works to spread economic growth and opportunity throughout the city.
Burkhardt wants to create a marketing and branding strategy that attracts people to Knoxville, and he wants to expand transit to make the city more accessible.
Parks and Recreation:
All candidates expressed that utilizing and improving parks and green spaces was vital to Knoxville. They also said partnering with the community to make sure the spaces are used and accessible across the city is essential to making Knoxville a more healthy and active place.
All candidates agreed affordable housing was a major issue within the city.
Mannis wants a designated funding source for the affordable housing trust fund and wants to utilize existing "blighted single-family homes" as a way to ease the crisis.
Kincannon also wants to support the trust fund, but her focus is on workforce development.
Stair wants to combine city dollars with private investment with oversight from a community board.
Andrews wants to make it a citywide project by getting people to make personal investments in the areas.
Skinner said a big part of the issue is utility bills, on top of rent, are too high.
Burkhardt is opposed to Recode and wants communities to vote on exactly how they want to address the issue.
All candidates said it would not be possible to completely eradicate homelessness, but they believe it is possible to significantly reduce the number of people living on the streets.
Mannis said it starts by addressing the issue in pieces, starting with homeless veterans and kids who have aged out of the foster care system.
Kincannon said the primary steps to fixing the issue are getting roofs over their heads and providing resources that support mental health and the outreach social workers.
Stair said taking steps to keep people in their homes is a huge concern and then providing resources and services.
Andrews, Skinner and Burkhardt want to focus on investing in existing programs and making sure people have access to them.
Biggest issue heard from the community:
Mannis, Kincannon, Stair and Burkhardt said the primary issue is homelessness. (See the previous section for their solutions.)
Andrews said youth and gun violence, and he would fix it by making conflict resolution courses a mandatory part of school lessons.
Skinner said poverty, especially in minority communities, and he wants to fix it by making the city more accessible to outlying neighborhoods.
Michael Andrews said he wants to take a "one community concept" if he is elected mayor, which means taking a grassroots approach to loving and investing in people.
Fletcher Burkhardt said he wants to approach the mayoral role in a 'people over politics method' to make the city government transparent.
Indya Kincannon said as mayor, she would listen to communities so the city government can work to make the best decision for the community.
Eddie Mannis said he wants to address how the city loves and cares for people by focusing specifically on how the government pays for things and bringing the right people to the table to make the best decisions for the community.
Calvin Skinner said as mayor, he would make far-reaching progress in unconventional ways to tell the fuller story of Knoxville, including his proposal to create the Office of Appalachian Culture and Preservation and the Bureau of Community Wealth Building.
Marshall Stair said his commitment and experience make him a good mayoral candidate, and he wants to give back to the city in making sure success spreads to all communities.
Know the candidates: What you need to know for Knoxville's Mayoral Debate on Tuesday, Aug. 6