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Knox County Commissioner District 5

The Knox County Board of Commissioners is the legislative body of Knox County and consists of 11 members: nine elected at the district level and two elected countywide to serve at-large. Commissioners meet multiple times each month, with their primary business meetings being a monthly work session and a monthly voting meeting. During the work session, commissioners generally debate items on the monthly agenda and take a non-binding vote on each item in advance of the more formal voting meeting, which is generally held the following week.The Board of Commissioners approves resolutions, ordinances, honorariums, road names, as well as most county contracts and large expenditures. Resolutions require a single vote for passage, while ordinances require two votes, or "two readings". The County Commission also serves as the appropriating body of the county and must approve an annual budget—presented by the mayor—which includes funding for the various county departments, including the Knox County Schools. The body also sets the property tax rate for the county.

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Kimberly Peterson (Dem) Caregiver

Biographical Information

Campaign Phone (865) 316-4854
Campaign Email peterson5thdist@gmail.com
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/kimberlypeterson5thdist

How will you address housing and business growth in Knox County?

Growth and development are the biggest challenges facing Knox County. We must develop and implement a strategic plan which anticipates our future needs. Currently, developers are building with little regard to how the people in the area of development will be impacted. We are seeing the aftermath of poor planning with flooding problems and increased traffic. County growth was last addressed in the Growth Policy Plan executed in 2001. The plan is a good blueprint for smart development, placing restrictions and guidelines to prevent urban sprawl and to maintain rural areas. Our Mayor, with the approval of County Commission and City Council, tried to rescind those protections. Fortunately, Farragut stood up for the community by saying proposed growth must contain clear provisions for infrastructure — roads, utilities, storm water/sewer drainage systems. I would update the Growth Policy Plan with the input of the community and neighborhood associations to include community agreements.

What will you do to increase affordable housing for low income families in the county?

We must get creative in our approach of solving the affordable housing problem. We can create housing trust funds and help with down payment assistance by dedicating a percentage of revenue earned from sources like real estate transfer fees and or recording fees for this purpose. The county can mandate inclusionary zoning ordinances which require a percentage of affordability in new development. We should also explore community land trusts. Fee programs (linkage or impact fees) could charge developers a fee for different types of development which would create funds to produce affordable housing. More affordable housing can be obtained if we look to successful models from around the country and be willing to embrace innovative strategic ideas.

Will you support increasing the county's property tax rate to pay for infrastructure improvements?  Why or why not?

I do not take the decision to raise property taxes lightly. I would conduct a budget review to identify areas that could be trimmed without a detrimental effect. However, I would not rule out a property tax increase. We do not have adequate infrastructure. The current budget does not include adequate funds to invest in infrastructure. The County has not raised property taxes since 1999. Conversely, the CIty has had two property tax increases. City property owners had incremental tax increases which generated dollars to reinvest in the community. This is a strategy worth exploring for the County.

Many want low taxes to entice people relocating to our area. Yet, if we invest in our infrastructure - public schools, libraries, roads and utilities - up front funded by property tax increases, the more attractive our County will be. Ultimately, property values will rise. A possible property tax increase could be an investment in the future of a healthy and desirable County.

What issues have arisen since the March Primary that are relevant to your office and how do you intend to address them?

The issue of policing has been on the minds of many lately. The police force is bound to protect and serve all in its community. Unlike our City counterpart, Knox County has not been willing to meet with the community for discussions or to review policing policies. We are missing a real opportunity to be proactive in improving services and the training of our officers. Knox County Sheriff’s Department needs to open its lines of communication. The Sheriff has not cooperated with releasing information requested by citizens. He has not been willing to have required public forums on the ICE 287(g) program and has signed the renewal of the contract only notifying the public after the fact. There is currently not a community oversight board for KCSO. One needs to be established. Having a citizen review/advisory board ensures that every Knox County resident is served equitably, helps build trust both ways, and fosters more positive relationships.

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John Schoonmaker (Rep) Knox County Commissioner

Biographical Information

Campaign Email jschoonmaker@tds.net
Facebook Page John Schoonmaker for Knox County Commission

How will you address housing and business growth in Knox County?

As a member of the Farragut West Knox County Chamber, I have been extremely supportive of our business community. In the 5th District, we have a need for more flexible use office space for startups and small businesses to encourage future business growth. Countywide, we should continue to work with our existing business base to find additional opportunities such as supplier chains for current businesses and have them relocate to our area. With regard to housing, the 5th District comprises one of the largest bedroom communities for the county and is almost at capacity. In order to expand our county's housing opportunities, we need infrastructure improvements in the East and South County areas. I am not against growth or development, but I do think we need to consider the impact of growth and development on our infrastructure and develop a plan to take care of the increased wear and tear that will result from additional growth and development.

What will you do to increase affordable housing for low income families in the county?

In the 26,000 acres of my district, the Town of Farragut controls about 40% of the land, and the City of Knoxville controls about 4.5%. That leaves approximately 55% of the 5th District controlled by the County. Unfortunately, there are not many tracts of land in that 55% that are still available for housing development. A successful location for low income housing should be close to retail shopping areas and be adjacent to KAT's bus line for transportation needs. Currently, this service only extents westward to Seven Oaks Drive. I believe City Council and County Commission should develop a joint task force to discuss the available locations in the city or county that would be most practical for low income housing. Then, we could partner with the state and federal government for grant opportunities to assist with funding these new housing opportunities.

Will you support increasing the county's property tax rate to pay for infrastructure improvements?  Why or why not?

I do not support a property tax increase, nor do I support a sales tax increase. As chairman of the Commission's Finance Committee, I have the knowledge and experience to find other ways of increasing funding for issues that are important to the citizens of Knox County without the need to raise taxes. Last year, I wrote and filed a bill with the TN State Legislature that will save over $1 million annually for the Town of Farragut, Knox County, and the City of Knoxville combined. Additionally, a new law was passed that will allow a larger percentage of collected sales tax revenue to flow into Knox County from purchases made online. This new law does not increase sales tax, it just reallocates the funds to the county. A portion of these two funding sources could be earmarked for infrastructure. These are just two examples of ways the County could stay on budget and still take care of needed improvements.

What issues have arisen since the March Primary that are relevant to your office and how do you intend to address them?

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated our community. As a result, Knox County Government has taken a big hit financially. As Chairman of the Finance Committee and member of Knox County’s Investment Committee, I continuously review the financial data on a weekly basis to monitor our financial position in light of these new developments. In addition, I will continue to assist businesses with getting answers from the State of TN on the proper guidelines to follow regarding the constantly changing requirements. Another issue that has resurfaced is the 5G wireless structures. In 2018, I was involved in formulating the county’s regulations governing the installation of the 35’ structures. Unfortunately, the Federal Government and the State of Tennessee stepped in and stripped the county of imposing regulations on the wireless carriers. I will continue to assist our community in doing whatever we can to reduce the negative effects of these new intrusions into our neighborhoods.