In speaking with residents around the 4th district, some were excited by opportunities the changing code presented while others were concerned. We must ensure throughout this process that the needs and wants of local neighborhood residents, assessed through meaningful public input, guide this process. This is an opportunity to impact how Knoxville develops over the next 30+ years. When considering incentives, we should prioritize investors and entrepreneurs who invest in our goals such as local job creation, walkability, and reducing carbon emissions. It is an opportunity for us to encourage future developments that will help to eliminate food and health deserts that require whole neighborhoods to travel across town for basic necessities. It is an opportunity to develop code that supports affordable housing expansion; and code that helps facilitate the provision of amenities throughout the city with access by foot, bike, public transit, and less often by car. A healthier Knoxville.
The objectives of the current council and administration have largely been focused on redevelopment efforts in downtown and along the four corridors leading into the city as well as making Knoxville a greener, biker-friendly, more energy-efficient, and walkable city. I would like to build upon the city’s efforts to reduce Knoxville’s carbon emissions by improving access to public transit in the city to increase the number of users but also to reduce the commute times of residents who already rely on the bus. To stop gentrification, however, we must change course on the city’s efforts to expand out from the city and instead direct those dollars toward economic centers in each corner of the city that strengthen neighborhoods from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. Such development can lead to gentrification and in fact, in many ways already has. Ultimately, the future direction of the administration and next council must be guided by the meaningful input of our residents.
Over the past 5 years, engagement in my community has helped prepare me to serve on city council. I've served as the treasurer of the Birdhouse Community Center in 4th and Gill. I have also been involved in the work to end disparities in our public schools through my work with Stop School Pushout, Black Lives Matter Knoxville, the Knox County Discipline Committee, and the Cultural Competency RFP Committee. As executive director of SOCM, I helped bring a people-powered radio station to the Knoxville community, WOZO radio 103.9 FM, housed at the Birdhouse and I was also involved in early efforts to promote a city-wide weatherization initiative to address high utility bills & reduce carbon emissions. After SOCM, I became director of Peace Brigades International–USA, through which I’ve partnered with local groups to bring human rights advocates for dialogue, training, and skill sharing. I helped form the City Council Movement to both be and support people-centered leadership in Knoxville.
Working on zoning with businesses and neighborhoods for the last 12 years, I've seen a "One Size Does Not Fit All" problem with current land use rules that mandates a live here, drive to work, and shop in between pattern. For 50 years we’ve relied on zoning by variance to force the code to work. The overhaul should add flexibility, remove outdated language, and allow for more walkable neighborhoods, connections to commercial centers, and live/work/play options. Many neighbors want to stay in their suburban, residential neighborhoods but want pedestrian-friendly access to shopping districts with a pharmacy, grocery store, sandwich shop, etc.; our current code does not easily allow for such uses. New projects often are not initiated or are abandoned because they can’t fit the code, and older buildings can’t be made to fit current regulations. Redevelopment should take advantage of our existing infrastructure and building stock. Zoning can foster smart growth rather than act as a hurdle.
Downtown is an economic hub due to infrastructure improvements that spurred private investment. Land repurposing added properties to the tax rolls, creating city revenue and jobs. Our economy is built of smaller businesses and we can foster small business startups by tackling blight/abandoned properties. I will build upon a strong city center to address business corridor and neighborhood needs and will: Foster corridor revitalization by tackling barriers that stall redevelopment; Budget to spur economic development, provide quality city services, and generate additional property tax from new development that creates jobs and increases housing options; Address traffic concerns that impact quality of life through modernized traffic signals, improving public transit, and linking existing greenways and bike lanes; Consider housing needs for all income levels, especially lower- middle-income, as housing is essential to the city’s stability and ability to attract and keep businesses.
The best prepared council member is one who has been engaged in the community and is an active listener. I've been a dedicated advocate in the community for the past 12 years and have used that time to interact with and learn city government. I represent my community at City Council, County Commission, MPC, BZA, and BBB meetings. I have engaged in efforts over the past 18 months to rewrite the zoning code and have attended all council meetings, workshops, and public input sessions on mixed-use zoning, Recode Knoxville, and Parking Ordinance revisions. I contributed to revitalization by organizing neighbors and returning blighted and vacant properties to the tax rolls. My involvement over the past 5 years includes: Broadway Corridor Task Force co-chair and founding member; City of Knoxville Neighborhood Advisory Council member; First Creek Greenway improvement leader; CoK Public Property Naming Committee member; Old North Knoxville neighborhood president and board member.
I support simplification of the current code while adding flexibility to the new code. The concept of multi-use zoning in our commercial corridors is worth pursuing. Any changes should enhance the status of our many diverse and unique residential neighborhoods and business districts.
The current city government works in two main areas, neighborhood services and community enhancement. The annual city budget and the zoning code are the two primary vehicles by which these priorities are established. With term limits, we will install a new government over the coming months. I believe that the new members of the city government should work to complete the existing agenda and work with the community to create a new agenda for the future. That agenda would include smart growth, development, and redevelopment, that results in sustainable growth, strong and safe neighborhoods, recreational choices, affordable housing options, business opportunities, jobs, and stable taxes.
I will bring a life-time of service and experience to the community and our state as a member of the Knoxville City Council. I am the only candidate in any district with experience in elected government. With a new majority being elected to city council, my experience, knowledge and relationships will enable me to hit the ground running and to continue the improvements that make Knoxville such an attractive place to live, work and visit.