Thursday, April 8, 2010

Murfreesboro City Elections are April 20

Are you going to vote?

Are you going to vote informed?

I hope the answer is yes to both questions. I'm going to help with that. Today I e-mailed every candidate on the ballot with questions I felt were important. I'm going to let you know how that turns out. I sent a set of questions to the two mayoral candidates, a set to the nine council candidates (remember, you can vote for three of them), and to the six school board candidates (again, you can vote for three).

These are the questions I asked, and the responses I received. All e-mails were sent between 11 a.m. and noon on Friday, April 9.

CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR
Tommy Bragg (incumbent)
Tim Davis

The e-mail (identical to both candidates):
As I begin my exploration of the candidates for the Murfreesboro city elections, I would like to ask a few questions of you, that I hope you will answer to assist me in my quest to determine for whom I should vote.
1. What do you see as the three most pressing issues facing the city in the next four years, and how do you propose to deal with them.
2. The relationship between the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County school boards has deteriorated in recent years, particularly over the admissions policy established for Central Magnet School. What kind of role can/should you play in ensuring that kids who attend city schools aren't disadvantaged by decisions made by the Rutherford County School Board?\
3. One of the biggest problems I have in my subdivision is trash. My son and I regularly fill a 15-gallon trash bag  with trash that has blown into our yard because people do not properly secure their trash cans, or just litter indiscriminately. Many of the items I'm picking up are beer and liquor bottles that are discarded from moving cars, and I've had to replace my mailbox in the past year because either drunk or belligerent teens have decided to destroy it. I rarely see police patrolling my neighborhood, probably because it's considered middle class and not a major crime area. However, these problems annoy most of my neighbors. What do you propose to do for those of us dealing with these petty crimes on a daily basis?
Thank you for your time.
Tommy Bragg's response was received less than one hour after I sent my e-mail. Here is his response:
Briefly, the three significant opportunities facing our city government are maintaining superior municipal services within the tax dollars allotted by residents and business owners, continuing to keep traffic moving with road improvements and maintenance and, third, continuing our economic development efforts for new and existing business job expansion and growth.
I believe my record of fostering balanced budgets, cooperative efforts with all our state and local government leaders, and insistance on hiring and retaining only the best city employees should be continued to enhance these opportunities.
As to school issues, I would question the premisr you suggest. The city and county school board have worked cooperatively to improve roads, extend utilities, build tennis facilities for high school teams and residents, and provide new schools within the city and nearby areas.
There have been honest disagreements over who should pay the bill. The city, in any instance, wants to protect our taxpayers from having to bear an uneven share of costs. Thus, we work together to divide costs so that all county residents can share the benefits.
You have an elected school board member who represents you and would be interested in your comments regarding Central.
As to any neighborhood issues, you may have a homeowners association to use as a sounding board to raise awareness of your concerns. If not, then forming a gathering of like-minded neighbors can be helpful. Similar concerns are raised throughout any community and I would be happy to speak with you regarding any means our city staff can provide assistance.
Tim Davis responded 10 and half hours after sending my initial e-mail. His responses are below.
1. Debt; the current city debt is over $203 million. Jobs; Murfreesboro's unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Crime; according the Murfreesboro Post we have over 20 gangs in Murfreesboro.
We must reduce our city debt by lowering the taxes, which will allow money to flow which will create jobs.
With more revenue coming into the city we can reduce the debt and hire more Police officers and create a better community.
2. As Mayor I will give direction to the City Council to work with the Murfreesboro School board so that we ensure that no child is disadvantaged. I have promised that following the City Council session that the podium will be open for public input. This practice is currently not allowed. This will give you and the other citizens the opportunity to address issues such as schools.
3. This issue relates to my first statement of crime. I hate litter. I see it on a frequent basis, people just throwing trash out of their car. The car in front of mine on the way to my office this afternoon threw a piece of paper out her window. I blew the horn. We have to start at the elementary school level and teach not to litter. We also need to crack down on those who litter. A cleaner community is better for us all.
I thank you for your questions.
I ask for your vote. Early NOW thru April 15th
Election day April 20th.
Tim Davis
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COUNCIL
David Boyce
David Edwards (incumbent)
Madelyn Scales Harris
Shane McFarland (incumbent)
Thomas Connor Moss
Mark Nobles
Bill Shacklett (has withdrawn from the race. Read Sam Stockard's analysis of this decision here.)
Brian A. Vaughn
Doug Young (incumbent)


I sent the same e-mail I sent the two mayoral candidates. Their responses are below.

David Boyce responded at 10:27 p.m. Monday, April 12. His e-mail response follows:
Thank you Steven for taking the time to get involved in the political process.

Q1. The three biggest problems we will face is unemployment, a growing debt, and crime.
   Our current unemployment rate is higher than the county, state, and national average. The fastest way to stimulate our own economy is to lower property taxes. The extra cash left in the private sector would increase economic activity and cause job growth which would also cause the city to collect more tax revenue. Another thing we can do to help our economy is to reduce the heavy regulations and ordnance's that this city council has placed on our business community. We have lost several business because they did not want to deal with these issues.
   We currently owe over 203 million dollars in debt. Growing our economy will help reduce this. We also need to justify each expenditure the city makes and cut out all the "would like to have" items and focus on the "must have" items. I have also introduced a plan that would change the way city government thinks. Currently all departments will spend any money they have left over at the end of the fiscal year because they are afraid that their budget will be cut if they turn in any money. Lets tell all the departments up front that unless there is across the board cuts, those departments that turn money in will be guaranteed full funding next year and for each dollar they turn in and city will return 50 cents. Under this plan a department could turn in $30,000 dollars, get guaranteed full funding next year and receive $15,000 back next year to help pay for a capitol project. There are also some smaller ideas I have that would save a lot when combined together.
   Improving our economy would also help out on the crime rate. However their are more gangs moving into the Murfreesboro area. I think our right to bear arms under the 2nd amendment is important especially on the green-way. Our police department already has very good equipment to work with so I would just like to see a more coordinated effort between the city, county, and state officials to fight crime.

Q2. This really sounds like a issue to be worked out between the school boards but I would be glad to help solve any problems that might come up because that is what I do for a living, I solve problems.

Q3. I would be happy to come over to your home and take a look at the situation. To be honest it would be hard to offer any real answers without seeing the property and knowing its location.
I hope this has answered some of your questions. I'm for limited government, more freedom, less taxes, and more job growth. I'm a Major in the TN Army National Guard, in management in the private sector, and belong to the NRA and the Heritage Foundation. I hope this info will help lead you to voting for me. Also please excuse any bad grammar for I have only been sleeping about 3.5 hrs per night. Thanks David
David Edwards has not yet responded.

Madelyn Scales Harris has not yet responded.

Shane McFarland responded seven hours after I sent my initial e-mail. His e-mail response follows:
Thank you for your email.
1)  I don't think you can narrow just one issue that we have in the City that we will be dealing with in the next four years.  The obvious answer is the economy, but I think there are so many things that we will be dealing with.  Supporting our safety providers and continuing to make sure that our community is safe will be a top priority.  I will continue to work on the budgeting issues to make sure that every tax dollar is spent wisely.  Education is a top priority.  I will continue to work with the City administration and teachers to make sure we provide an education that is second to one.  I would propose that we continue to look at ways that we use technology to lessen tax burden and increase our operations efficiency.  I would also propose streamlining several departments to make sure that customer service is job 1.
2)  I have talked with several County School board members to try to find a better way to work together.  I honestly think the willingness is their between the school board and the City Council, but there is no willingness with the current Superintendant of Schools to cooperate with the City.  I have proposed and will continue to push for meetings with the County School board to better address the Citizens of Murfreesboro.  We all are Rutherford County residents and County tax payers.  We should not be penalized for living in the City of Murfreesboro.  There should be no distinction made between a county resident and a Murfreesboro City resident.  I will continue to push for these ideas.
3)  I will continue to support putting more police officers on the street.  We have to be able to have our officers in proactive situations where we can patrol areas and not just deal with reactive issues.  I will continue to support finding ways to better use our officers in ways that enhance every member of the community.  If you will let me know your subdivision, I will request patrol to help alleviate some of the issues.  I think we have to work with our residents when we have input to make sure any crime or potential crime issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently.
I have made it a point over the last four years to always listen to resident input and follow through.  I will always follow up on resident requests and resident complaints.  That is my job!
I would appreciate your vote and support.  You can always email me or call me @ 642-9244.
Sincerely,
Shane
Thomas Connor Moss has not yet responded.

Mark Nobles has not yet responded.

Bill Shacklett has not yet responded. He has also withdrawn from the race. Read Sam Stockard's analysis of this decision here.

Brian A. Vaughn responded by e-mail at 10:39 p.m. Monday, April 12. His response follows:
1. Reducing debt- by becoming more efficient, higher training and the tools to accomplish more in less time.  If we do not address  the debt we could end up with city taxes in the $8000-$10,000 annual range for each of our houses, like it is in New Jersey.  Jobs- We need to attract industrial, technology and high end jobs here that will also create labor positions.  This unemployment and abandonment of buildings is costly and bad economically for the city.  Planning- right now we have no long term plan to address paying off debt, or what our city will look like in twenty years.  The planning and zoning commissions could work together with the historical commission to set an idea of what we need/want and how to get to it on a longer idea than just one year.  We are currently approving and building with no comprehensive plan in sight.  If this is not addressed we run the risk of a really poorly planned city with bad infrastructure and city employees that are not valued.
2. This is a complex question and I do not have enough information to answer because I am not yet "on the inside".  The fundamental problem you have already alluded to; the city and county don't talk.  One of my priorities is to fix that.  We need a good, humble crew from the city to the county.
3.  I think we need to do a few things- off the cuff I would see how many police officers we actually have policing the streets.  I think the ratio of desk jobs to street police will amaze both of us.  I think tickets for beligerent littering could be written if necessary but I also think if we could get communities to be responsible for their neighborhoods and have some pride in their city that would go a long way, especially if citizens know they are backed by the police and council when they do the right things for the right reasons.  I also think the city should invest more in the neighborhoods that have neighborhood groups and a passion to combat trash and violence and other issues, people that invest.
These are all great questions Steven and one thing I am certain of; I won't try to make any of these decisions by myself to make a name.  I am not in this for me; I simply, without other motives, want to help our city to be the best in the nation... according to us.   
Please contact me with any other questions you may have and I hope to meet you face to face in the future when begin tackling some of these issues.   REMEMBER- VOTE VAUGHAN on April 20th.
 

Thanks,
Brian Vaughan for City Council. (615) 598-4357

Doug Young responded by phone call 21 minutes after I sent the e-mail. We spoke for nearly 15 minutes about the issues in the e-mail. He also took the time to ask me about other issues I felt the city needed to address. He promised to call the chief of police today and seek more patrols in my neighborhood, particularly at nights and on the weekends, when public drinking seems to be an issue with the college kids who live on my street. He talked about looking into issuing citations to people whose yards were clearly unkempt, which is a violation of city ordinance. He talked about how the school boards need to have a better relationship, and that it was something that needed to be addressed. In response to my first question, his major concern is the city's ability to continue to be able to provide adequate city services with declining revenues. I was impressed by his answers, his concern, and his prompt response to my call.

CANDIDATES FOR MURFREESBORO CITY SCHOOLS BOARD
Ray Butrum (incumbent)
Kevin N. Fisher
Patrick McCarthy
Eric Newell
Dennis L. Rainier
Mary McKnight Wade (incumbent)

Because I have a son, I place more emphasis on this election than the other two. I tailored at least one of my questions to the candidate specifically. I have to say regarding the two incumbents, I have little expectation of receiving a response, as earlier this year, when I e-mailed every member of the current board regarding the upcoming vote on the school calendar, only current board member Nancy Duggin bothered to return my e-mail and discuss the issue with me. As far as I'm concerned, she's the only current member of the school board who actually cares about parents and their kids.

Ray Butrum responded about six hours after I sent my initial e-mail. I have not yet called him directly, as he asked me to do. As soon as I am able to do so, I will post that discussion.
The e-mail sent to Mr. Butrum:
As I begin my exploration of the candidates for the Murfreesboro city elections, and after reading your profile in the Murfreesboro Post, I would like to ask a few questions of you, that I hope you will answer to assist me in my quest to determine for whom I should vote.
1. You said in your profile that the most pressing issue is is repairing and restructuring the climate, culture and reputation of the board and system. I assume this stems from the low scores that have emerged from some schools as part of the No Child Left Behind Act. What is your opinion of that law, and do you think it has been beneficial or detrimental to our children's educational development? What would you like to see done with this law?
2. The relationship between the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County school boards has deteriorated in recent years, particularly over the admissions policy established for Central Magnet School. What kind of role can/should you play in ensuring that kids who attend city schools aren't disadvantaged by decisions made by the Rutherford County School Board?
3. The new director of Murfreesboro City Schools, whom you praised in your profile, seems to have entered into a tyrant mode of late, ignoring requests and calls by parents about decisions she is making and proposing, such as the school calendar issue. I know several people who have tried to contact her about her proposal to eliminate bus service to the Discovery School, but she refuses to answer or return those calls. How do you deal with her in issues like this? And what's your stance on bus service to Discovery School students?
Mr. Butrum's response:
Mr. Chappell,
Thanks for the email and questions.  I appreciate your interest in the school board and the upcoming election.  You questions are good ones and seem to be well thought out.  Rather than writing my responses, I would hope that you might be able to call and I can answer them in person, by phone.  My explanation of some of them may take a few minutes and will probably generate more questions.  Please feel free to contact me at my cell (584-3197) to talk.  I teach a grad class today from 4:30 - 7:30 and should be available after that.  On Friday I am free after 4 and will be free to talk most of the weekend.  Please call at your convenience.
Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.
Ray Butrum
Kevin N. Fisher responded with a phone call within an hour of my sending the e-mail. The e-mail I sent Mr. Fisher:
As I begin my exploration of the candidates for the Murfreesboro city elections, and after reading your profile in the Murfreesboro Post, I would like to ask a few questions of you, that I hope you will answer to assist me in my quest to determine for whom I should vote.
1. You are one of the few candidates to address parental involvement as a major issue affecting our schools. As a parent who is very actively involved in my child's education, I agree that's a problem. But, I think it goes far beyond school choice. In fact, a major part of the problem are parents thinking that sending their child to the correct school will solve all of their child's problems, when, in fact, just getting the parent involved in the school would go a long way toward solving those problems. I volunteer at my son's school, and I haved worked with kids who tell me their parents have never read with them, sat down with them to help with homework, or even come to a school event. In my opinion, school choice does nothing to help with this issue regarding parental involvement. Do you have any ideas to motivate parents to get involved with their child's education on a proactive basis?
2. The relationship between the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County school boards has deteriorated in recent years, particularly over the admissions policy established for Central Magnet School. What kind of role can/should you play in ensuring that kids who attend city schools aren't disadvantaged by decisions made by the Rutherford County School Board?
3. The new director of Murfreesboro City Schools seems to have entered into a tyrant mode of late, ignoring requests and calls by parents about decisions she is making and proposing, such as the school calendar issue. I know several people who have tried to contact her about her proposal to eliminate bus service to the Discovery School, but she refuses to answer or return those calls. The receptionist at the MCS office acts like she doesn't even know what we are talking about when we call. How do you deal with her in issues like this? And what's your stance on bus service to Discovery School students?
Mr. Fisher and I talked for nearly 20 minutes. He is a strong, strong proponent of parental choice and parental involvement. He supports school choice, but he also has some ideas for getting parents involved directly with their children's school and their education. I firmly believe in parental involvement, and that if parents were more involved with their child's education, our schools would not have the problems they have now. Mr. Fisher agreed that more needs to be done to ensure all of our children are given equal access to education, and that discrimination for any reason is intolerable (read my earlier blog on the Central Magnet debacle). He agreed that bus service to Discovery School should not be cut just for financial reasons; that the impact of that cut must be fully explored before any decision is made (however, director Dr. Linda Gilbert seems to have no such concerns). We also talked about his background as a corrections officer and a single parent, and how that will shape his decisions as a member of the school board. He talked about the need to make our schools more safe, and brought up an issue that has not been mentioned much: The recruitment of gang members in our elementary schools. He talked about seeing younger and younger kids being recruited into gangs as a corrections officer, and that security and safety needs must be addressed in the future. He said that the board needs to be proactive, to prevent it from happening, rather than reactive. Again, I liked his viewpoint. As a single parent, he talked about the needs he has, and how he often finds school officials to be unwilling to respond to him when he has concerns. He wants to open lines of communication and ensure that all children, regardless of background, socioeconomic status or ability, are treated fairly.

Patrick McCarthy responded 11 hours after I sent my initial e-mail. My e-mail to Mr. McCarthy:
As I begin my exploration of the candidates for the Murfreesboro city elections, and after reading your profile in the Murfreesboro Post, I would like to ask a few questions of you, that I hope you will answer to assist me in my quest to determine for whom I should vote. Having met you on more than one occasion, and knowing your wife through The Discovery School, I feel I know most of your answers. But out of fairness, I feel the need to ask you the same questions I've asked of the other candidates.
1. You identified Race to the Top as one of the major issues facing the schools in the coming year. How do you see Murfreesboro City Schools making use of that money?
2. The relationship between the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County school boards has deteriorated in recent years, particularly over the admissions policy established for Central Magnet School. What kind of role can/should you play in ensuring that kids who attend city schools aren't disadvantaged by decisions made by the Rutherford County School Board?
3. The new director of Murfreesboro City Schools seems to have entered into a tyrant mode of late, ignoring requests and calls by parents about decisions she is making and proposing, such as the school calendar issue. You, however, have praised her on your blog. I know of several people who have tried to contact her about her proposal to eliminate bus service to the Discovery School, but she has yet to answer or return those calls. The receptionist at the MCS office acts like she doesn't even know what we are talking about when we call. How do you deal with her in issues like this? And what's your stance on bus service to Discovery School students?
Mr. McCarthy's response:
Great questions. Let me take them in reverse order.Yes, my initial response to the new director was positive based on the early indicators of a more open, collaborative approach. You point out two recent examples that raise legitimate questions on that front. In such cases, I certainly am willing to speak out. In fact, I just posted a new blog entry on my website (www.mccarthy4kids.com) earlier today that explicitly opposes the bus proposal (and the administration's role thus far on this issue).Your second question hits on two big issues with me. The first is fairness. As you'll see from my blog entry on the busing issue, fairness concerns stir me to action. 
The second issue is developing a more cooperative, coordinated relationship with the county board. During my first term on the city school board (2004-08), I was the only city board member who took the initiative to attend county board meetings and to individually meet with the county board chair and director. I did so explicitly to improve the relations and coordination with the county. However, my term ended before that developed further. I believe that I have a positive rapport with their chair (Mark Byrnes), and although we may disagree at times, we are mutually respectful and capable of frank and meaningful dialog. That's a critical starting foundation. 
You also raise an important question about how we will handle Race to the Top. I've become involved with Senator Frist's State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) to help lead current research into the best ways to improve Tennessee's education systems (including, of course, Murfreesboro city schools). While that's not yet complete, it's certainly clear that we need to target enduring education infrastructure investments and not momentary stopgap expenses.  
I'm not sure if this is longer or briefer than you were looking for, but you're welcome to call me anytime if you want to talk about any of this further. My cell number is 615-418-2126. You're welcome to keep in touch by email anytime too. 
By the way, if I'm elected, I will continue to be responsive to any comments or questions that you have in the time ahead. 
Thanks for your interest, 
Patrick McCarthy
Eric Newell responded Monday, April 12, at 9:16 a.m., nearly three days after sending my initial e-mail.
My e-mail to Mr. Newell:
As I begin my exploration of the candidates for the Murfreesboro city elections, and after reading your profile in the Murfreesboro Post, I would like to ask a few questions of you, that I hope you will answer to assist me in my quest to determine for whom I should vote. 
1. You said in your profile that the most pressing issue would be to ensure the Race to the Top changes include ambitious yet achievable goals that benefit students, and whose measurements are fair and equitable to the teachers. What kinds of changes and measurements do you think need to be implemented? 
2. The relationship between the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County school boards has deteriorated in recent years, particularly over the admissions policy established for Central Magnet School. What kind of role can/should you play in ensuring that kids who attend city schools aren't disadvantaged by decisions made by the Rutherford County School Board? 
3. The new director of Murfreesboro City Schools seems to have entered into a tyrant mode of late, ignoring requests and calls by parents about decisions she is making and proposing, such as the school calendar issue. I know several people who have tried to contact her about her proposal to eliminate bus service to the Discovery School, but she refuses to answer or return those calls. How do you deal with her in issues like this? And what's your stance on bus service to Discovery School students?
Mr. Newell's response:
Steven,
I apologize for taking so long to respond.  Its been a busy weekend.

1) Race to the Top is basically a plan that places as much as 50% of a teacher’s evaluation on student performance.  In other words, it holds teachers accountable for student performance.  The plan calls for setting goals that are “ambitious yet achievable.”  I want to see that these goals are fair and provide rewards for those who do a good job improving student achievement.   As you may know, Tennessee’s application was approved and the state has been awarded funds from this program.
2) I believe it is important that both the city school system and the county school  work together to see that all students in our county are successful.  I would make every effort to be an advocate for city school students to see that admissions policies are fair and beneficial to all. 
3) I am disappointed to here that your calls are not being returned.  As a board member, I would hold the director accountable for responding to parent concerns in a timely and effective manner.  If an issue was being ignored, I would hope I would be contacted to see that the matter is addressed and meet with the director to see that this is not how issues are handled.
I would like to see bus service for Discovery School students continue. 

Thank you so much for your questions and this opportunity to respond.  Please contact me again if you have additional questions or wish to discuss these further.

Eric
Dennis L. Rainier has not responded.
My e-mail to Mr. Rainier (sent through his Facebook account):
As I begin my exploration of the candidates for the Murfreesboro city elections, and after reading your profile in the Murfreesboro Post, I would like to ask a few questions of you, that I hope you will answer to assist me in my quest to determine for whom I should vote.
1. You said in your profile that the most pressing issue is being sure that No Child Left Behind measures are met. What are your opinions of No Child Left Behind as policy, and would you like to see that act overturned, or at a minimum, revamped to solve its problems? Or, do you like the act as it is?
2. The relationship between the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County school boards has deteriorated in recent years, particularly over the admissions policy established for Central Magnet School. What kind of role can/should you play in ensuring that kids who attend city schools aren't disadvantaged by decisions made by the Rutherford County School Board?
3. The new director of Murfreesboro City Schools seems to have entered into a tyrant mode of late, ignoring requests and calls by parents about decisions she making and proposing. I know at several people who have tried to contact her about her proposal to eliminate bus service to the Discovery School, but she refuses to answer or return those calls. How do you deal with her in issues like this? And what's your stance on bus service to Discovery School students?
Mary McKnight Wade has not responded.
My e-mail to Ms. Wade (sent through her Contact Us page on her election Web site):
As I begin my exploration of the candidates for the Murfreesboro city elections, and after reading your profile in the Murfreesboro Post, I would like to ask a few questions of you, that I hope you will answer to assist me in my quest to determine for whom I should vote.
1. You said in your profile that the city schools have been appropriately managing its fiscal issues, yet the DNJ recently had a story discussing how school board members were spending lavishly at a workshop in Nashville, even paying for expensive hotel stays at Opryland when the board members could have commuted to the workshop. How do you respond to that? How is that being fiscally responsible?
2. The relationship between the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County school boards has deteriorated in recent years, particularly over the admissions policy established for Central Magnet School. What kind of role can/should you play in ensuring that kids who attend city schools aren't disadvantaged by decisions made by the Rutherford County School Board?
3. The new director of Murfreesboro City Schools seems to have entered into a tyrant mode of late, ignoring requests and calls by parents about decisions she making and proposing. I know at several people who have tried to contact her about her proposal to eliminate bus service to the Discovery School, but she refuses to answer or return those calls. How do you deal with her in issues like this? And what's your stance on bus service to Discovery School students?


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading -- and for the feedback!