Candidates for Shelbyville City Council in the Nov. 4 general election were asked to answer a standard set of questions, with a 100-word limit on each response.
Jo Ann Holland, Ward 1, incumbent
Bobby Lee Parker Sr., Ward 1
Chad Graham, Ward 3
Kay Rose, Ward 3, incumbent
Jean Pruitt, Ward 5
Randy Vernon, Ward 5, incumbent
1.) Given the tough economic times, how would you propose the city could save money?
HOLLAND: I agree that the United States is going through tough economic times. However, according to financial records, the City of Shelbyville has been running smoothly over the past years. Since the cost of goods has increased, all expenditures in each department will have to be reviewed. It is time to tighten our belts.
PARKER: To start with, cut out wasteful spending. I like the idea of a freeze on spending until the budget gets balanced again, and then keep a close eye on all spending.
GRAHAM: First I would call together the leadership, including department heads, and prioritize essential services. Next I would put forth a strategy that would measure the severity of the cutbacks relevant to the actual economic impact seen at the local level.
ROSE: We've taken steps, such as a four-day work week for some. The budget is already tight, but department heads are working to decrease spending. There will be a meeting to discern their findings.
We are $89,000 ahead of budget; sales taxes are up 2.9 percent. We can't be complacent, however; we must remain frugal.
A total freeze on spending and hiring, as some suggested, could eliminate some projects and programs that could be beneficial for present as well as future goals. We must remain progressive. A freeze on (replacement) hiring could be detrimental to health and safety concerns.
PRUITT: [I would propose] a freeze on new hires. Promote small business development. Set up a cost reduction/cost avoidance team with members from various departments.
VERNON: Whether a city or a business, if planning for times such as these were not in place before now, the game is long lost. We are fortunate that we have budgeted in such a way that Shelbyville is better positioned than most cities to weather this storm. Conservative estimates when it comes to revenues as well as prudent spending plans already have us nearly $100,000 closer to a balanced budget than where we started this fiscal year. Good long range planning and good management by our department heads have also served us well.
Barriers to growth
2.) What do you think is the biggest barrier to Shelbyville's successful growth over the next 20 years, and how would you overcome it?
PARKER: Looks like to me, we have created too many restrictions on developing and building. These need to be looked at and maybe some changes should be made to some of them. We as a city need to encourage people instead of discouraging them from coming here.
HOLLAND: I think that control and containment of growth, so that it complements both businesses and residents, is the key to successful growth. One of the biggest barriers to this is roads. Over the next 20 years, we need to successfully connect all areas of our city to each other and to other counties. Protecting roads ensures current and future businesses the ability to transport goods and citizens the ability to travel through our city safely.
ROSE: One of the biggest barriers is negativity instead of proactive ideas. We must be progressive in our actions; we must have citizen involvement, consisting of capable leaders who are willing to do whatever work is necessary. If we are guided by negative thoughts and actions, we will stagnate and eventually dry up.
I want to be part of a plan that leads Shelbyville to growth and prosperity while maintaining our small-town character and values. Shelbyville is a wonderful place with much to offer; let's promote that!
GRAHAM: The experts say Shelbyville continues to strengthen its position for recruitment of industry and quality of life. It is a competitive market and we must be aggressive with our attempts to recruit. A Spec building may be a reasonable investment to help attract vendors who do not require direct interstate access, however, we must continue to foster higher education, infrastructure, and public safety as they are the building blocks for a great community.
VERNON: I believe our greatest obstacle to growth is the belief on the part of some that we can do things like we have always done and have any hope of competing for growth in today's economy. An aggressive growth plan and investment that makes Shelbyville more attractive to prospective industry is a must. Development of the next generation of leaders through programs such as Leadership Bedford and Bedford Beginnings that will want to be Shelbyville's leaders of tomorrow is also vital.
PRUITT: [The biggest barrier is] negative thinking. [We should] work to promote greater cooperative efforts and resources between City and County.
3.) Should the city build an industrial park near the proposed Shelbyville bypass, and if so, how would you approach it?
HOLLAND: No city can be successful without jobs. The news of the impending loss of Summit Polymers Inc. is a blow to our community. An industrial park is costly, but most times we must spend money to make money.
The proposed Shelbyville bypass has already been funded by the state. This bypass would give access from 41-A East to U.S. 231 North. Logically, along this bypass would be the best area for an industrial park, both geographically and economically.
PARKER: Yes. If you have an industrial park, you have a much better chance of getting industries in here. Location means everything. You would have to study where the best spot is and try to buy it.
GRAHAM: I do believe the city would benefit from its own industrial park, however, its exact location must be very carefully studied. There are pros and cons to the current industrial site on U.S. 231 North and we must be wise with the taxpayer's dollars when addressing this issue.
ROSE: We definitely need an area as a draw to new industry, but we simply do not have the funding at this time to buy and develop property near the bypass. Many surrounding communities have been successful with industrial parks and spec buildings and we need to make an in-depth study as to what steps were taken for that success.
Our only answer at this time is to follow the guidelines of our parents: Save until we can afford to purchase. And in the meantime, be good stewards, work and promote our great city and its people.
PRUITT: Yes. This site is ideal because of railroad access and commercial routes. The development of such an industrial park should be time-phased in conjunction with the completion of the bypass.
VERNON: The need for quality employment for our citizens has got to be our top priority. I support an industrial park project but I question whether the bypass is the best location at this time. I believe that our area is ripe for support industry that will come to Tennessee along with the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. However, with the bypass still not under construction, it may be more attractive in the immediate future to look at a site going north on U.S. 231.
4.) In your opinion, what is the top issue facing the city not mentioned above, and what do you propose to do about it?
PARKER: The overall economy. We need new leadership in city government that will do more than attend two meetings a month. We need a working city government that will work with the county and Chamber to develop this community and make it a lot better place to live for us and for future generations to come.
HOLLAND: In my opinion, the top issue facing the City of Shelbyville is making sure services (education, health, police and fire protection) are available to meet our citizens' needs. These services receive funding based on population. If we don't have an accurate count of people living in our community, these services will likely suffer. I propose that before our next census in 2010 we find a way to ensure an accurate count.
ROSE: Illegal immigration is draining the life out of our resources (and the key word here is "illegal"). Our schools are overcrowded, our health systems are taxed to the limit due to this influx. We must hold employers of these illegal immigrants accountable.
Another concern is beautification, and that ranges from litter to refurbishing areas of the square to the numerous dilapidated buildings and areas covered with trash and brush all over town. We must enforce laws to make people clean up their property, and it should be done within a reasonable amount of time -- days, not months and years.
GRAHAM: Restoring the public's trust in our governmental system.
I believe the public is who we serve. The tone of our government as a whole has really lost touch with the people. We need to be efficient and accountable in our actions. If we are going to have a quality service, we must strengthen the resources that provide it.
City Hall should be a place where the public goes for resources and help. The attitude of the leadership must be one of "It's a privilege to serve."
VERNON: The issue is immigrants. Illegal immigration must stop, but my concern is the great number of immigrants here legally. We cannot continue to provide services for this growing segment of the population that is reluctant to be counted in census figures because they fear the system. The city receives state and federal dollars for each person counted. Not counted -- no dollars. The ultimate result is potentially higher taxes. My solution is simple. Stop treating legal immigrants like outcasts and make them a part of the community. If all are counted, we all benefit.
PRUITT: Obviously the constraints of industry closures and related job loss are always a threat. We should do everything possible to continue the development and promotion of potential support industries related to the Volkswagen manufacturing facility and other manufacturing operations that develop.