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League of Women Voters hosts city council candidate forum

Knoxville voters heard from city council candidate ahead of the August primary elections.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Voters in Knoxville are getting ready for election season, with August's primary elections just around the corner. The League of Women Voters wanted to make sure people knew the candidates before they headed to the polls.

They hosted a candidate forum on Thursday, where candidates spoke about a variety of issues. Five of the nine city council seats are up for re-election in the November general election.

You can see a full list of the candidates below:

  • District 1
    David Hayes
    Elizabeth Murphy
    Tommy Smith
  • District 2
    Andrew Roberto
    Kim Smith
  • District 3
    Nicholas Ciparro
    Seema Singh
  • District 4
    Jim Klonaris
    Jen McMahon
    Lauren Rider
  • District 6
    Deidra C. Harper
    Garrett Holt
    Gwen McKenzie

Candidates started the forum with opening remarks, where they explained their platforms, qualifications and anything else relevant to their campaigns. Then, the forum continued on to questions from the audience. The first one focused on how candidates would handle the city's budget and what the candidates would prioritize.

Hayes was the first to answer, and he said he would focus on addressing poverty in the city. He said that he would invest in affordable housing and work to implement a "democratic budget," which would use input from the community when deciding how money is spent.

Smith then said that he would focus on improving public transportation and improving apprenticeships to ensure people can find jobs after school. He also said he would focus on protecting neighborhoods from violence and would work to bring more affordable housing to the city. He also said that he would use the budget to implement more environmental sustainability initiatives.

Harper then said she agreed with Hayes' emphasis on collecting community input for the budget. She also said she would prioritize youth enrichment and school programs, to ensure children feel heard and empowered. She also said she would invest in grassroots organizations to support the community.

McKenzie then said education is important to her but said the city council does not dictate Knox County Schools' policies. Affordable housing, addressing homelessness, improving infrastructure, economic development, public safety and nonprofit support were all priorities, she said.

She said that there are several conversations with leaders ahead of allocating funds to establish mutual trust with the community, ensuring that initiatives are executed well.

Roberto then mentioned the economic stability fund, which he said makes up around 25% of the general fund. He said it helps the city maintain a AAA bond rating. That rating allows Knoxville to refinance some debt, which he said saves taxpayers money.

He said people wanted to see more green spaces and improvements in public safety, and he would focus on those areas along with affordable housing.

Singh said that she would focus on preventing crime, but emphasized she would ensure the police system was funded as well.

"If you're going to spend money on social services, we also need to bring money in. So a part of that money needs to go to economic development as well," she said.

McMahon answered last and said she would prioritize affordable housing and addressing homelessness before investing in sustainability. She said that 3,827 people are experiencing homelessness and 599 of them cite a lack of affordable housing for it.

Posted by League of Women Voters of Knoxville/Knox County on Thursday, July 29, 2021