PRINCIPLES

FIRST

REPRESENT YOUNG FAMILIES

The reason I am doing this is to provide representation for the young families that are a significant portion of our town and whose children are our future. Signal Mountain is an awesome place to raise a family, and we need to work to keep it that way. Keeping the town a desirable place for families should be a priority of our town council and how our town spends money.

INCREASE REPRESENTATION OF ALL CITIZENS

I believe it is unlikely that a given member of the council (including myself, if elected) is wiser, more intelligent, or more moral than you, and certainly not than the collective wisdom of the citizens of this town. As a group, we know best what benefits the town and prepares it for a bright future. No, we will not agree on everything, but five elected proxies are not going to represent well what the whole can decide for itself. 

The way we conduct business as a town has not evolved in any significant way from the town's founding, and this should change. We have a 5 person town council, 3 of which you get to elect from a pretty small group of volunteers every 2 years. That town council relies on: (1) those that voice their opinions at town council meetings held at pretty inconvenient times and (2) their relatively small group of friends and family. Maybe you are passionate about a certain matter, passionate enough to show up at one of these meetings; however, we are all the most passionate about our children, who often have major events during these times. Our children win that priority every time.

While electing 5 proxies for your opinion made sense back in a time when transportation and communication were much more expensive in terms of time and money, it does not make sense today. The town council can and should be more actively seeking to understand the desires and priorities of the citizens of the town. We have the tools now to do this at very small or no cost. It does not have to involve a formal (and expensive) polling process. We can lower that cost/passion requirement to have your voice heard by allowing you to do it at your convenience. While I am not exactly sure how this could look on the whole, a few ideas would be:

  • Annual surveys where the council asks what citizens would like to see prioritized, and the ability to rank those priorities.

  • As major and even minor topics come up, survey citizens to understand their desires on that specific topic.

  • If fellow councilmembers will not agree to these, I will accomplish this using an online tool so that I can better represent you.

DECREASE THE POWER OF COUNCILMEMBERS

We also have some pretty antiquated rules that allow town councilmembers control over your governance that I believe is unwarranted in today's world where information can travel at little to no cost. While your councilmembers are elected by the citizens, let's be honest, we all get frustrated routinely with how our representatives choose to represent us at every level of government. Some of the rules we have were the best we could do when horses, buggies, and trolleys carried information for us. I will seek to change these procedures:

  • Councilmembers elect their own mayor and vice mayor. I realize this is likely purely a title, but even if only an honorary title, you should be able to choose who earned that honor from you.

  • Councilmembers have a lot of flexibility in choosing how to deal with their own off-cycle vacancies. If a councilmember leaves, it should not be up to the remaining councilmembers to choose how you are represented. We should develop rules and procedures to fill (or not fill) the vacancy, even using an informal poll to inform the council how to fill the vacancy if a better option cannot be found.

  • Councilmembers have no term limits. Even though we are a small town, and our council wields relatively a small amount of power, we need to understand our councilmembers are human like the rest of us. Allowing even the most virtuous councilmember term after term will tend to cause them to think of their position as a part of their identity. At this point, they will tend to serve their own interests and their own re-election rather than your interest.

TREAT ONE ANOTHER WITH RESPECT

We are all passionate about certain issues. However, we have all seen instances where people have allowed that passion to cause them to treat others with less than the amount of respect that they desire to be treated with. Maybe this isn't new, but politics seem to have become a new religion of closed-mindedness, where we meet opposition to our beliefs with hostility. In a small town like Signal Mountain, I believe we can do better than this. We can treat our neighbors with empathy, listen to their opinions, and be respectful even when the process leads to results that we do not agree with. After all, we all will be living as neighbors after every issue is resolved, and whether we do so peacefully depends largely on the degree to which we treated each other with respect during the process. 

For this reason, I will not be using social media to promote my candidacy. I do not wish to contribute to the divisiveness that tends to dominate the discussion on these platforms. Yes, social media platforms are a "free" and easy way to disseminate information for a campaign, but I believe we can spread this message with your passion, which will better serve to unite rather than divide our town.

SPEND WISELY

Town funds should be spent efficiently. Specifically, I believe this means we need to assess 2 things:

  • Are we seeking to maximize the benefit provided by the project or service per dollar of cost? We need to be creative in our solutions and not tied to our current ways. The projects and services provided by the town should seek to, at the least, be less expensive than an individual citizen would pay for the same service (or provide better service for the same cost).

  • Are we seeking to discover the preferences of our citizens and adapt our spending to better match those desires and preferences? With the current way our town does business, it is likely we are spending disproportionately on some items compared to the usage and preferences of our citizens. We should be seeking to better understand the usage and desires of our citizens, and redirect funds away from low-usage projects or services to more desirable ones.

At the end of the day, the average citizen should feel like they are getting their money's worth in benefits out of the taxes or fees they pay to the town. Put another way, to those of you who do not live in town limits, it should be a no-brainer to want to be annexed by the town. I think very few would agree we are there today.

Andrew Gardner

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN

TOWN COUNCIL

© 2020 by Andrew Gardner, Treasurer.