I prefer 25 years but I can do the next five.
1) Mall retail and offices are constructed and apartments built or in process.
2) Increased manufacturing in existing locations within the city.
3) New broad spread publicity about the entire area and its assets resulting in an influx of history, recreation, and education tourists and an upward trend in new residents.
4) A top flight executive retreat/celebration/reunion business using Clark Center Park (a public/private partnership lodge and campground,) Haw Ridge, Centennial, and Wind Rock facilities along with other convention and visitor services.
5) National recognition for water sports including, but not limited to, rowing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing (bass, pike, muskie, e.g.) tournaments.
2. What is your plan to generate additional revenue to support or enhance city and/or school services? Give at least two specific examples.
1) Increased businesses with accompanying sales and property taxes: mall, manufacturing, service industries, retirement. I think the council has already facilitated these and will do more.
2) The Main Street City Center will generate considerable new use taxes during construction and sales taxes thereafter. Sales taxes support the schools. The development will also increase property values for surrounding commercial areas not in the TIF district and that will ultimately bring a rise in property tax proceeds. Once the retail center there is open, I believe we will recapture many sales lost to Turkey Creek and attract new customers from Harden Valley and neighboring towns.
In addition, I would prefer to see a restructuring of the city’s economic development outlays. I believe the Industrial Development Board needs new direction from the council to focus more effort on filling vacant commercial and industrial properties toward the center of town. It would help if they could investigate ways to assist smaller businesses, new and existing, to grow and thrive. It’s nice that Tech 20/20 markets ORNL inventions but it would be even nicer still if they would do so locally. The IDB and Tech 20/20 might do some research among our very successful local industries to discover what would have helped them grow sooner.
3. The relationship between the Board of Education and City Council has been strained. What is your plan to help build consensus between the two bodies?
I doubt consensus is possible or even desirable since it means to be in unanimous agreement. Part of what makes both bodies valuable is the diversity of experience and thought represented. I do believe that we can achieve cooperation. The five council members who have participated in the planning and policy sessions have surprised ourselves at the degree to which we create better ideas as a team and appreciate each other’s viewpoints. I think if council and school board came together to seek solutions for mutual challenges we might have a similar experience. I believe the BOE members take their responsibilities very seriously. They have lots of experience to share and so do council members. We all are devoted to the education of the city’s children and the safety and support of their school environment.
4. Healthy housing is important to a healthy community. What three specific actions would you take to enhance housing in the city?
Well, I am rehabbing an “A” house to an efficient and aesthetically pleasing new state. Does that count? Okay, actions for council to take:
1) Direct the city manager to focus on enforcing the city codes more thoroughly and uniformly and respond to neighborhood requests for enforcement.
2) Celebrate and publicize the excellent housing and neighborhoods we do have all over this city. I have recommended to the city manager that we make a professional writer part of the economic development team to do stories on the livability aspects of the city directed at specific publication markets. “Let’s share our ‘secret’ with the world.”
3) Collect stories and pictures from people who have chosen Oak Ridge as a place to live and turned existing housing into homes with their own unique stamp. Put those stories and pictures on a city website section and create links to them from CVB, OR Chamber, Anderson Chamber, Roane Alliance, and Anderson Tourism websites.
5. What relationship should the city council have with the Chamber of Commerce and other business developers?
The city should be a member of the Chamber of Commerce. The city should do all it can to create ease of use in Community Development resources and requirements. The codes are fair but navigating them can be daunting. We have skilled people running Community Development but sometimes we all can get a little too close to our work.
6. Do you have any other issues you would like to address?
I would like to know what the Chamber of Commerce’s vision is for Oak Ridge. I think I have been very open about mine and tried to understand other people’s vision. I don’t mean a “vision statement.” I mean a picture of what they think Oak Ridge should or could look like realistically in 25 years. I think it is a wonderful and desirable place to live now that, with attention and honesty, can get better and more enjoyable, more livable. It is still going to be a nice, modest-sized Southern town with a surprising variety of people and cultural assets.
I would also like to see all Oak Ridge organizations reach out to their counterparts in Anderson and Roane counties especially to leverage our resources together for our mutual growth and satisfaction. I would like to see the Oak Ridge Chamber become more responsive to and supportive of our smaller businesses.