February 23, 2018

Gubernatorial candidates questioned: Part I

Tracey Wolfe
Grainger Today Editor

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Press Association (TPA) hosted a gubernatorial candidate forum as part of its winter convention held in Nashville.

The forum was held in the Nashville Public Library Thursday, February 1, and was moderated by TPA President Eric Barnes. Gubernatorial candidates Randy Boyd (R), Karl Dean (D), Craig Fitzhugh (D), Bill Lee (R) and Kay White (R) participated. Tennessee’s Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell, who is also a candidate for governor, was unable to attend the forum due to fulfilling her duties as speaker on the house floor.

Questions for candidates were submitted by readers and staff members via newspapers throughout Tennessee. The questions asked of individuals candidates varied.

In order to provide our readers with information about those candidates seeking their party’s nomination in the governor’s election, Grainger Today will publish the questions posed and answers given during the forum in a two-part series, beginning with this issue.

What are your thoughts on transparency in Tennessee state government, and specifically, would you support more transparency in state contracting, economic incentives and environmental permitting? – Submitted by the League of Women Voters

Candidate Bill Lee – I do believe that the taxpayers of TN deserve transparency. I would be deeply committed to transparency at every level of government. I think one of the challenges that we face is people don’t trust the government and part of the reason they don’t is because we don’t have access and transparency to the degree that we should. You asked about contracts for example, and incentives for business. I think that while it’s important to attract jobs into this state, it’s really important that we as taxpayers understand what that process looks like, holding it accountable, making certain that we know how much money we pay for jobs – individual jobs for example. And then making certain on the back side, that those arrangements are followed through with. You know we have an open records law that is not entirely open. There are certain instances where, for example, you’re not allowed to take a cell phone picture of a record. You have to go through certain hoops to get that record, or you can’t access it by email, you have to show up in person. And we need to be certain. In fact, as governor – in business we digitize most all of our records. We’ve gone paperless for the most part in our company, and many companies across the state. We need to do that with records so that people have immediate access to that. Transparency in open meetings. I believe we had a couple of exceptions when our open meetings came into place and now we have about 500. We need to look hard at access and how we do it in this state and transparency is critical to the taxpayers.

If you are elected governor will your administration continue the Drive to 55 program created by Governor Halsam, which among other things, guarantees at least a two-year degree or certificate to all Tennesseans. And if so, if you will continue it, how will you achieve the funding and the program goals? – submitted by the Southwest Tennessee Development District

Candidate Kay White – I can’t really say that I support the Drive to 55. There are some individuals in Tennessee who do not want to go back to college. I told you before that my father went to night school and continued his education. That was his desire. But to force people, or make them feel they have to, or they can’t get this job or that job, I feel that skills should be implemented more in our schools as they used to be. I am for education, but I am also for beginning, going back to, because the reason – I didn’t finish that sentence, I’m sorry – for going back to some of the old skill training that we used to have. In the 1960s – perhaps you’re not aware – but we were graduating our graduates at 100 percent. Do you know that today we’re graduating our high school students at 36 percent ability to go on to college or to survive in the world out here? It’s not all about a formal education. It is about being wise, having some common sense, knowing skills, and I have some plans, really good plans, to get people out of our jails, which is costing us a lot of money. And with that, I will close by simply saying that is to give a tax incentive to anyone who will take someone that’s a nonviolent criminal out of our jail system and give them a job, and train, and we’ll give them a tax break. Thank you.

Tennessee has begun climbing in national rankings on student performance, in part due to a focus on increased rigor. What will you do to as governor to make sure that Tennessee continues to improve the public education of Tennessee’s children? – submitted by the editorial department of the Citizen Tribune

Candidate Craig Fitzhugh – Thanks. Yes, we do have to have rigor in our classrooms, and our education system from start to finish. But we also need to not take away the literal joy of learning. I’m certainly for evaluations. I believe that we got off to a really bad start with teacher evaluations and we’re barely overcoming it now. We lost some great teachers, but we’re getting back where instead of one evaluation every six years, we went to almost six evaluations every one year, and now we’re balancing it to a better evaluation. So, yes, we have to make sure our teachers are trained. We need to give them that training. We need to give them the education and prepare them to be better teachers, and then as we’ve said before, as we all say I think, we need to pay them as the professionals that they are. And we need to recognize that profession again, which we’ve lost. I think the key to education is becoming clearer to me. We start with some type of pre-k, early learning, and then by the third grade that child has to learn to read. If that child can learn to read by the third grade, from the third grade on they can read to learn, and the teacher can assist that. And at some point in time that light will flicker on or flash on in that child’s mind, and the joy of learning will be there. And if we can keep that in education I think it’s as important as the rigor that we want as well.

In Henry County, along the way the TDOT project to widen Hwy. 641 is expected to begin this year. What is your position on regional infrastructure projects such as that, and the others, that are planned or underway? Would you support scaling back these projects or even expanding what’s already been proposed in terms of infrastructure spending? – submitted by the Paris Post Intelligencer

Candidate Karl Dean – Well, I think anybody who’s served in government certainly understands the importance of infrastructure. And one of the things that doesn’t get talked enough about, for instance, while I was mayor we spent probably more money on things underwater or underground in terms of storm water management, cleaning water, making the city work. Infrastructure is expensive, but if you ignore it, you don’t take care of it, you end up paying more later. Infrastructure is also a key economic development tool. So I would support expanding regional efforts to have roads available that are going to help bring in business, bring in jobs, to areas. I think that’s vitally important. I think the regional concept, in terms of transportation, is important, whether it’s mass transit or whether it’s roads. And I think as governor, I think I would be anxious to play a leadership role in working together on regional issues to bring people together to solve those problems. Because when you get to county lines at some point you’re gonna need the state’s help. One of the things I’m proudest of as mayor, when I was mayor, I asked all the mayors in Middle Tennessee to come together and we formed the mayors council, where basically we all met regularly to work on issues that faced our region. And the main issue that faces our region is transportation, and there’s widespread agreement. But to get that to the next level you’re going to need leadership from the governor’s office.

A free and open press is essential to the operation of our democracy. What will you as governor do to increase transparency, improve the state’s Sunshine laws and protect regulations mandating public notice in newspapers? – submitted by the Citizen Tribune

Candidate Randy Boyd – Thank you. Thank for the opportunity to talk a little bit about making Tennessee the most transparent state in the country. So, as a businessman I learned pretty quickly that if you’re going to be successful you have to empower your associates. And as I would always share with my associates, information is the (correlation) of empowerment. If you don’t have information, you can’t make decisions like owners. So, as a company, we knocked down all the walls and all the partitions. One big open space. I’m at the same desk with everybody else. Because we’re a pet company we also have dogs running around. But, we’re a private company. Everybody got complete financial statements at the first of each month, whether you’re the first day on the job or if you’ve been there for 20 years. I believe that information is critical to making decisions and running an organization. When I became commissioner of economic and community development we did similar things. We knocked down all the walls and the partitions. I had a small desk in the middle with everybody else. We started sharing staff notes with the entire department. We did a weekly newsletter to every board in the state. And importantly, we created something called Open ECD, an online site where people could go and get every bit of information they could possibly get about all our programs across the state. You could not only access the information, but it was in a very presentable manner. One of the things that I want to do as governor, is take those same type of cultural changes and take it all the way through state government. We’re here for the people. We’re here to serve them in the best way we can serve them. The best way we can empower them as better citizens is to share information. And so, that’s what we intend to do.

Part II of “Gubernatorial candidates questioned” will appear in the February 14 issue of Grainger Today.

Grainger County Business & Industry Directory

Grainger County Business & Industry Directory

Gubernatorial candidates questioned: Part I

Tracey Wolfe
Grainger Today Editor

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Press Association (TPA) hosted a gubernatorial candidate forum as part of its winter convention held in Nashville.

The forum was held in the Nashville Public Library Thursday, February 1, and was moderated by TPA President Eric Barnes. Gubernatorial candidates Randy Boyd (R), Karl Dean (D), Craig Fitzhugh (D), Bill Lee (R) and Kay White (R) participated. Tennessee’s Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell, who is also a candidate for governor, was unable to attend the forum due to fulfilling her duties as speaker on the house floor.

Questions for candidates were submitted by readers and staff members via newspapers throughout Tennessee. The questions asked of individuals candidates varied.

In order to provide our readers with information about those candidates seeking their party’s nomination in the governor’s election, Grainger Today will publish the questions posed and answers given during the forum in a two-part series, beginning with this issue.

What are your thoughts on transparency in Tennessee state government, and specifically, would you support more transparency in state contracting, economic incentives and environmental permitting? – Submitted by the League of Women Voters

Candidate Bill Lee – I do believe that the taxpayers of TN deserve transparency. I would be deeply committed to transparency at every level of government. I think one of the challenges that we face is people don’t trust the government and part of the reason they don’t is because we don’t have access and transparency to the degree that we should. You asked about contracts for example, and incentives for business. I think that while it’s important to attract jobs into this state, it’s really important that we as taxpayers understand what that process looks like, holding it accountable, making certain that we know how much money we pay for jobs – individual jobs for example. And then making certain on the back side, that those arrangements are followed through with. You know we have an open records law that is not entirely open. There are certain instances where, for example, you’re not allowed to take a cell phone picture of a record. You have to go through certain hoops to get that record, or you can’t access it by email, you have to show up in person. And we need to be certain. In fact, as governor – in business we digitize most all of our records. We’ve gone paperless for the most part in our company, and many companies across the state. We need to do that with records so that people have immediate access to that. Transparency in open meetings. I believe we had a couple of exceptions when our open meetings came into place and now we have about 500. We need to look hard at access and how we do it in this state and transparency is critical to the taxpayers.

If you are elected governor will your administration continue the Drive to 55 program created by Governor Halsam, which among other things, guarantees at least a two-year degree or certificate to all Tennesseans. And if so, if you will continue it, how will you achieve the funding and the program goals? – submitted by the Southwest Tennessee Development District

Candidate Kay White – I can’t really say that I support the Drive to 55. There are some individuals in Tennessee who do not want to go back to college. I told you before that my father went to night school and continued his education. That was his desire. But to force people, or make them feel they have to, or they can’t get this job or that job, I feel that skills should be implemented more in our schools as they used to be. I am for education, but I am also for beginning, going back to, because the reason – I didn’t finish that sentence, I’m sorry – for going back to some of the old skill training that we used to have. In the 1960s – perhaps you’re not aware – but we were graduating our graduates at 100 percent. Do you know that today we’re graduating our high school students at 36 percent ability to go on to college or to survive in the world out here? It’s not all about a formal education. It is about being wise, having some common sense, knowing skills, and I have some plans, really good plans, to get people out of our jails, which is costing us a lot of money. And with that, I will close by simply saying that is to give a tax incentive to anyone who will take someone that’s a nonviolent criminal out of our jail system and give them a job, and train, and we’ll give them a tax break. Thank you.

Tennessee has begun climbing in national rankings on student performance, in part due to a focus on increased rigor. What will you do to as governor to make sure that Tennessee continues to improve the public education of Tennessee’s children? – submitted by the editorial department of the Citizen Tribune

Candidate Craig Fitzhugh – Thanks. Yes, we do have to have rigor in our classrooms, and our education system from start to finish. But we also need to not take away the literal joy of learning. I’m certainly for evaluations. I believe that we got off to a really bad start with teacher evaluations and we’re barely overcoming it now. We lost some great teachers, but we’re getting back where instead of one evaluation every six years, we went to almost six evaluations every one year, and now we’re balancing it to a better evaluation. So, yes, we have to make sure our teachers are trained. We need to give them that training. We need to give them the education and prepare them to be better teachers, and then as we’ve said before, as we all say I think, we need to pay them as the professionals that they are. And we need to recognize that profession again, which we’ve lost. I think the key to education is becoming clearer to me. We start with some type of pre-k, early learning, and then by the third grade that child has to learn to read. If that child can learn to read by the third grade, from the third grade on they can read to learn, and the teacher can assist that. And at some point in time that light will flicker on or flash on in that child’s mind, and the joy of learning will be there. And if we can keep that in education I think it’s as important as the rigor that we want as well.

In Henry County, along the way the TDOT project to widen Hwy. 641 is expected to begin this year. What is your position on regional infrastructure projects such as that, and the others, that are planned or underway? Would you support scaling back these projects or even expanding what’s already been proposed in terms of infrastructure spending? – submitted by the Paris Post Intelligencer

Candidate Karl Dean – Well, I think anybody who’s served in government certainly understands the importance of infrastructure. And one of the things that doesn’t get talked enough about, for instance, while I was mayor we spent probably more money on things underwater or underground in terms of storm water management, cleaning water, making the city work. Infrastructure is expensive, but if you ignore it, you don’t take care of it, you end up paying more later. Infrastructure is also a key economic development tool. So I would support expanding regional efforts to have roads available that are going to help bring in business, bring in jobs, to areas. I think that’s vitally important. I think the regional concept, in terms of transportation, is important, whether it’s mass transit or whether it’s roads. And I think as governor, I think I would be anxious to play a leadership role in working together on regional issues to bring people together to solve those problems. Because when you get to county lines at some point you’re gonna need the state’s help. One of the things I’m proudest of as mayor, when I was mayor, I asked all the mayors in Middle Tennessee to come together and we formed the mayors council, where basically we all met regularly to work on issues that faced our region. And the main issue that faces our region is transportation, and there’s widespread agreement. But to get that to the next level you’re going to need leadership from the governor’s office.

A free and open press is essential to the operation of our democracy. What will you as governor do to increase transparency, improve the state’s Sunshine laws and protect regulations mandating public notice in newspapers? – submitted by the Citizen Tribune

Candidate Randy Boyd – Thank you. Thank for the opportunity to talk a little bit about making Tennessee the most transparent state in the country. So, as a businessman I learned pretty quickly that if you’re going to be successful you have to empower your associates. And as I would always share with my associates, information is the (correlation) of empowerment. If you don’t have information, you can’t make decisions like owners. So, as a company, we knocked down all the walls and all the partitions. One big open space. I’m at the same desk with everybody else. Because we’re a pet company we also have dogs running around. But, we’re a private company. Everybody got complete financial statements at the first of each month, whether you’re the first day on the job or if you’ve been there for 20 years. I believe that information is critical to making decisions and running an organization. When I became commissioner of economic and community development we did similar things. We knocked down all the walls and the partitions. I had a small desk in the middle with everybody else. We started sharing staff notes with the entire department. We did a weekly newsletter to every board in the state. And importantly, we created something called Open ECD, an online site where people could go and get every bit of information they could possibly get about all our programs across the state. You could not only access the information, but it was in a very presentable manner. One of the things that I want to do as governor, is take those same type of cultural changes and take it all the way through state government. We’re here for the people. We’re here to serve them in the best way we can serve them. The best way we can empower them as better citizens is to share information. And so, that’s what we intend to do.

Part II of “Gubernatorial candidates questioned” will appear in the February 14 issue of Grainger Today.