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our view: Election promises

Next Thursday evening, April 23, the town of Farragut will experience something that has only happened twice during the Town’s nearly 30-year history: the swearing in of a new mayor.

Mayor-elect Ralph McGill, following his landslide victory over incumbent four-term Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III, will take the helm as only the third person to serve as mayor of the town of Farragut.

The first being Mayor Robert “Bob” Leonard and the second, of course, Mayor Ford.

This year’s mayoral race attracted 2,366 voters out of a total of 16,220 registered voters, which unofficially equates to 14.6 percent of the electorate.

The issues that seemed to be prevalent in this year’s race were: the islands of Grigsby Chapel Road, the purchase of the Seal property along McFee Road and to some, the Town’s impotence in keeping its citizens enrolled at Farragut High School.

Mayor-elect McGill’s low-key campaign centered on several issues; most notably, term limits for Town elected and secondly, aligning Town election cycles with Knox County hopefully to generate more voter turnout.

These are both worthy goals and the first should have been proposed in the Town when Knox County voters decided by referendum to impose term limits on its elected office holders in 1994.

McGill’s latter notion of having elections coincide with Knox County only makes good fiscal sense, as the Town wouldn’t have to bear the brunt of election costs.

The new Board seems nearly unanimously aligned on term limits and hopefully will move quickly and vote to construct a referendum letting the voters of Farragut decide. Knox County’s 5th Commission District, in which Farragut lies, has one of the largest, if not the largest, voter turnouts during Knox County and national elections.

The showing for the Alderman Ward I race won by political newcomer Robert “Bob” Markli over incumbent Thomas “Tom” Rosseel attracted 16.2 percent of half the Town’s electorate, while unopposed Alderman Ward II candidate Jeff Elliott attracted 10.6 percent of half the Town’s electorate vote. This is based on the assumption that Ward I and Ward II are equal in population and voters only vote in their respective wards, while the mayor’s race is an at-large election encompassing both wards.

Leadership in the Town was decided by roughly less than 20 percent of its population. That doesn’t say much for a Town with a population of a little more than 20,000. But, it seems in line with the nation as a whole.

Markli campaigned on the Seal property purchase, fiscal responsibility and support of schools.

Ford’s support of the Seal purchase issue could be argued as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for his campaign. The purchase of the Seal property can’t be taken back and not purchasing the remaining two tracts belonging to Ralph Dimmick wouldn’t make much sense now.

Markli, in a story found on page 1 of this issue, says he supports forming a business development board, a cause championed by Rosseel in his first campaign four years ago and still today (see letter, this page).

It will be interesting to see what improvements Markli proposes for the fiscal state of the Town, which has no debt and at this time a surplus of funds — something most municipalities envy.

For years residents have heard that the town of Farragut is “not in the police business, not in the school business and not in the trash pickup business.”

Will Alderman-elect Markli propose the Town take a more active role in Farragut schools or continue its practice of making a yearly $10,000 contribution to each school? Will the Town get into the school business? We’ll have to wait and see.

Alderman-elect Elliott, running unopposed, really didn’t have to campaign, but did share (see the related story on page 1) with us his support of term limits. The “Buy in Farragut” creator also wants to see that program expanded to a frequent event and hopes to attract new business for the Town.

Elliott says, “If we feel we need a certain restaurant or a certain service industry, maybe we go try to promote ourselves.” This is a welcome change to the anti-business perception the Town has been labeled with over the years.

Other issues that might be addressed are: what to do about the Grigsby Chapel Road islands: leave them and let the residents get used to them or spend more State Shared Sales Tax money to remove or alter them, which wouldn’t make good fiscal sense to throw good money after bad. (Remember: Farragut levies no Property Tax or other taxes on its citizens and its funds come from anyone and everyone who “Buys in Farragut.”)

Another issue, which Knox County addressed via lawsuit, is transparency and compliance with the state Open Meetings Act, or Sunshine Law, which mandates any two or more members of the same body cannot meet, have lunch or attend the same public or private gathering without notifying the public. Knox County has exercised its due diligence since losing this lawsuit to comply with the law. Media and the public now know when officeholders are in an environment where County business could be discussed. The County also has taken steps to make e-mail correspondence between the elected open to public scrutiny.

A law presently moving through the state Senate (SB 832) would expand the state Sunshine Law online. The law would require officeholders to use a public e-mail/blog system to openly communicate with each other on issues and such that could be accessed by media and the public eliminating the propensity for private conversations about votes and issues between elected officials.

Perhaps the Town will follow suit and construct a similar system.

Yes, there is a new face on Town government and farragutpress wishes it luck, wisdom and Godspeed.


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