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Public Q&A Forum for Upcoming Election Candidates

By: Victoria Shelton

Voting season is almost upon us which means it is important to know what is going on in the city of Gallatin and understand what our potential new elected officials plan to do in the future. Voting is important but constituents should also be knowledgeable of who they choose to cast our votes for.

All potential candidates for public office in Gallatin were emailed questions regarding increasing college student involvement with city functions and how they intend to make housing more affordable for students or adults looking to live independently. A few of them answered back and their responses are listed below:

 What would you like to say to encourage college students to be more active in city functions?

 “I think being involved in the community in which you live is a responsibility.  Younger people have the opportunity to make the greatest impact, as those in government should be planning for future generations rather than their own.  Engagement is full of fun involvement, wonderful chances to network, and exposure that you simply cannot get in an education only environment.  Some of the people I know who have the best careers were introduced to those paths by leadership classes, volunteering for non-profits, or just making an effort to meet influencers in their community.  Non-profits, chambers of commerce and local government all offer many ways to participate.  I think college students can learn a lot, meet many interesting people and make important connections that can benefit them in life.  I understand that the college and young adult years are full of lots of things to do, but if you want to find meaning in your efforts and make a difference, I’d encourage people to get involved in your community.” – Paige Brown, Mayor re- election.

“I think that everyone that can should be involved in the city they  live in.  College students especially since they will be graduating in a few years. They need to see how the City is run by the Mayor and Council.  You never know , they may end up living here or even getting involved in politics in the community.” – Craig Hayes, Alderman District 4 re-election.

“You need to get involved because decisions made today by the city government will impact you and your community for the rest of your life.” -Pascal Jouvence, Alderman District 3 candidate.

“Get to know the structure of your local government and meet your elected officials.  Most of them would love to assist with this.  Too often more attention is paid to our national politics when it is your local government that affects you the most.  And because local politics doesn’t draw much television coverage it is incumbent on us as citizens to be more proactive.” – John Ruth, Alderman at-Large candidate.

“I asked my niece who goes to Vol State this question to get her perspective and she suggested ways to encourage students like her was to: pay them (not likely, sorry guys…  😊 ), communicate events thru social media or texts in a timely manner, or have an event where her friends are attending. While those are wonderful ideas and I realize that people get busy living their lives, whether as a student, in a job, being with family, etc., the bottom line is that what happens at ALL levels of government effect you!  Whether thru taxes, costs of education, fuel, food, etc., we are all impacted by what government does – at all levels.  I would just say that according to Plato, “If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rules of fools.”  And, while I desperately hope as a Gallatin City Council member to be an exception to Plato’s statement, the best way for citizens of all ages to avoid bad decisions being made by any government representative is to have citizens who get more active and provide input to their elected officials.  The Tennessee Constitution, Article 1, Section 1, Subsection 23, specifically states that citizens should “instruct representatives” as to what they want, and the Tennessee Constitution also provides for the “free communication of thoughts and opinions.”  So, while the writers of our Constitutions provided the TOOLS for citizen input (including the First Amendment), it is up to the citizens to use those tools. I’m a firm believer in getting input from different sources and that many hands make light work. The more active people are in City functions, the more the services provided by the City will be what they actually want. Communication and education are also a strong part of my platform and I will be working to improve those across Gallatin.  If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I would love to speak with Vol State students about ways to have Vol State student forums and share information in both directions. In the meantime, students are welcome to call me at 615-975-7884 if they have questions or want to talk.” – Ruth Fennell, Alderman District 4 candidate.

With the housing market being so costly, and inflation causing prices everywhere to rise, how do you intend to make housing more affordable for the younger generation looking to buy a home or rent an apartment?

“This is a tremendous challenge because while there are so many people moving to the area, there is an anti-growth sentiment growing.  Affordability directly correlates with supply, and without increasing supply, prices are inflated.  I am a proponent of density in the cities that concentrates housing so that the rural character of our beautiful county can be preserved.  That said, people do not like traffic (understandably), they don’t like change and no one ever wants anything built on the property adjacent to them.  There is a housing shortage locally and nationally, and until that supply is replenished, or there is some apocalyptic change in the population of the country, prices will continue to be high.  Our city is constantly planning our infrastructure for the future and working to mitigate congestion, but neither local governments nor the state are keeping up.” – Paige Brown

 “We understand the housing dilemma. We not only don’t have enough affordable housing for younger generation or first time buyers but also not enough for our workforce. I plan to work with our Economic Development agency to put together a task force to look into the problem.  Part of this will be to collect information across the US to look into what other cities are doing.” -Craig Hayes

“City elected officials are telling us for the last few years now that we need more roofs so we can get more affordable houses. They have approved more than 10,000 units in the last several years . If we follow their logic, the median market price of Gallatin real estate should have fallen. This is not the case. Per, the median price in Gallatin was 499K in august 2022, trending up 25% year over year. With today’s interest rates and a 10% down payment, the monthly cost of a 30 years mortgage would be around $3,500. This is not what I call affordable. What we need is to focus on bringing more high paying jobs to our community. If young people have a good job and make enough money, they will be able to afford to live in Gallatin.” – Pascal Jouvence

“Middle Tennessee has been discovered as a great place to live for a variety of reasons.  As a result we are experiencing explosive growth.  It really gets back to the basics of economics.  When demand exceeds supply prices tend to go up.  When supply exceeds demand prices tend to go down.  With the growth we are experiencing here demand is exceeding supply in the housing and rental market so there is upward pressure on prices. Many times elected officials try to manipulate these “facts of life” and often make the situation worse.  I believe the best way to make housing affordable is to try to recruit companies with high paying jobs.  You can research this and find out for yourself but many people are leaving the places they lived because the local and state politics has become “intolerable” as some have said to me.  Usually they talk about what they feel was an “excessive” tax burden where they used to live.  When they learn about Tennessee’s tax structure or that of many other southern states that becomes the motivation for relocating.” -John Ruth

“First of all, I agree that housing market prices are rising, and it is becoming harder for the younger generation to get into that first home. However, inflation is caused by too much money being printed and put into circulation  (too many dollars chasing too few goods) – and that is a problem caused by the Federal government. As for the local conditions in Gallatin, we currently have thousands of newly constructed apartments, plus, over 3500 apartment units that have been approved to be built but have not yet started construction. For Vol State students, they are doing the right thing by working hard and getting a good education for a skill or trade that will allow them some future financial flexibility in purchasing a home.  I would also suggest that, if they are looking to buy, start building their credit history, and talk with banks and/or loan officers to explore creative options for loans and down payments. There may also be some loan programs for first-time buyers, loan forgiveness, etc. that they could explore (however, those programs are always subject to change or expiration). In addition, smaller homes and townhomes or condos might be a good option to start with, especially as people are getting started in their careers and building financial strength. Government is a double-edged sword. It can be a blessing or a curse – it can give or take away.  As Thomas Jefferson said, “Any government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”  There may be mechanisms to help, but I believe that responsibility as to what someone accomplishes and how, ultimately, lie with the individual.” -Ruth Fennell

If you have not yet registered to vote, the deadline is October 11. You can also register in person at the election office, print out the forms and mail them into the election office, or fill out the application online.

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