Written by Bailey DuBose and Aubri Dancek
On Oct. 9, the Nightside Pachyderm Club of Hamilton County, a Republican group with programs centered around government and politics, hosted a public forum at Wired Coffee Bar, where Collegedale commission candidates presented their platforms to 13 residents in attendance.
Only three of the seven commission candidates running for office participated in the forum: Alexander Brown, Matthew Sadler and Christopher Twombley. Each candidate was given approximately five minutes to present his platform. After each candidate spoke, the forum continued in a question and answer format.
Absent from the event were four other commission candidates: Mayor Katie Lamb, Vice Mayor Tim Johnson, Commissioner Debbie Baker and Johnnie Hoskins. Lamb, Johnson and Baker are the only incumbents in the race. The three candidates with the most votes will be elected or re-elected to office in the Nov. 3 election. Once all commissioners are elected, the mayor and vice mayor will be chosen by the commissioners.
Topics addressed at the forum included the Collegedale city budget, a 39 cents property tax increase and the current management of Collegedale’s leadership.
Brown, Sadler and Twombley all said they would like to see more transparency from city government. Twombley referred specifically to the four candidates who didn’t show up, linking their absences to a lack of transparency. “Transparency implies that you have nothing to hide and that you’re willing to talk about the issues,” he said. “When] we wake up every morning, we make some decisions. We decide what our priorities are for that day. And today, [for the other commission candidates], being here [and] listening to what the people have to say was not a priority.”
Brown agreed with Twombley’s statement and brought up a property tax increase levied by the city last year. “If we were informed there was a tax increase about to occur, more people would have shown up to that meeting before they would have that vote,” he said. “More people would have said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ They’re getting into our pocketbooks. But what are they doing in return for us?”
Brown said he believes a lot of what’s happening in city government is “not told to us [residents], not communicated or they’re swept under the rug.”
At the May 28, 2019 Collegedale Commission Workshop City Manager Ted Rogers presented the 2019-2020 Collegedale budget which included the 39 cents tax increase. Several citizens expressed their concerns for this proposed tax increase in the following June 3 and 17, 2019 Collegedale Commission meetings.
During his first five minutes, Sadler said, “Collegedale has some serious issues with transparency” and his platform has been based on that issue and financial responsibility.
“I was at the meeting last year where they initially had the first and the second readings of the budget with increased property taxes,” he said. “I cannot recall a single person who went up there and said, ‘I’m in support of this.’”
“There were some people who went up there and said, ‘I’m against this entirely’ he said. “Ultimately, I feel the commissioners feel that their responsibility is to the city manager, and that’s not how a relationship wins and that’s not how a relationship should be interpreted.”
The Accent attempted to reach the four candidates who were not present for comments regarding their absences. Baker and Johnson said they had prior commitments and were unable to attend. At the time of publication, Lamb had not been reached for comment.
Hoskins said he spent the evening reaching out to voters in the community. “Historically, these events have had a very low turnout of Collegedale citizens present,” he said of the forum. “With that said, I made the decision to meet as many citizens as possible by knocking on doors this evening.”