District 3 Candidates on Climate & Energy: Knoxville City Council Elections

In this blog series, we share the Knoxville City Council candidates’ positions on clean energy and climate issues in their own words. This blog post contains the 3rd District candidates’ responses to SACE’s candidate questionnaire.

Brady Watson | August 2, 2021 | Elections, Energy Policy, Tennessee, Utilities

In this blog series, we share the Knoxville City Council candidates’ positions on clean energy and climate issues in their own words. This blog post contains the 3rd District candidates’ responses to SACE’s candidate questionnaire. View the responses of candidates from other districts here

Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to reports, candidate websites, and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by district.

City Council is the legislative body of the City of Knoxville. Later this year, City voters will elect five members to the nine-member Knoxville City Council. Early voting for the general election runs from October 13-28 and Election Day is Tuesday, November 2. City residents will be able to vote for a candidate in all 5 of the seats up for election during this General Election, no matter what district in the city they live in.  For more information on the election, the candidates, candidate forums, and how you can be a voter, visit the City’s Go Vote! Knoxville webpage or click the links below:

District 3 Candidates

Nick Ciparro

Interest & Experience

Why are you running for this seat?

My district is statistically, and ideologically misrepresented. Taxation and safety are major concerns from the constituents, yet our councilmembers think these are “non-issues”. Tell that to someone who is paying taxes on a house that was valued at $100k, who is now paying on the appraised value of $250k, and has a homeless camp in their backyard. They will certainly beg to differ.

​​What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you for the position that you’re running for? If you are a current or former public official of any kind, what positions have you held?

I’m a businessman with an incredible group of employees that are all looking at homes in the city. But I have ran for office in the past, (as far back as 2003) and each and every prediction I made has come true. This is because I rely on facts, not emotional outbursts to make decisions and claims. 

Climate and Energy Priorities

How would you see your role as a member of City Council in mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis and transitioning to clean energy? What would your climate and energy priorities be?

I’m 100% certain I’m the only person running that is actually doing something relative to clean energy. This is my business, I specialize in the wonder material called graphene, and have been working on the only true recycling of wind turbine blades in the world. A quick internet search will give you a far better scope of how important both of those projects are.

Now for the city, I can just encourage a better environment for others to come to Knoxville and work on other projects that would do the same in other fields. As is, Knoxville had a chance to make a huge move with VW and electric cars, but passed to have Chattanooga take up the slack. Next time, I won’t let that happen

Referencing the question above, what would you do to advance those priorities if elected, and do you have prior experience advancing those priorities?

My previous answer glossed over it, but the fact of the matter is that the city council has a chance to have a scientist/engineer on it with me, and many green solutions have many caveats in them that can be glossed over by the layman. Then, when they are implemented poorly, we have embarrassments that prove any naysayer correct. You can’t offer a solution that has giant holes in it, especially when spending tax dollars. They must be viable, and they must be everything as promised. Take my experience converting to an EV owner, for example. I drove cars that used premium gas and drank a bunch of it. It costed me the same at the pumps as it did for the EV payment, making getting the EV a no-brainer. Though all solutions aren’t so clean cut, we need policies that are as close to this as possible.

What is your vision of an energy and transportation system that best serves Knoxvillians?

It’s a 100% fact that things aren’t going to change overnight, let’s be clear and honest. But we can actively move in efferent directions if we try. We need to have the sense to make good decisions, and the will to carry them out. Traffic adjustment, infrastructure, and the use of those efficiently are keys to keep the city ahead of the curve. An example is the fact that the “Smart 40 fix” could be improved with a few small tweaks like a lane divider to prevent premature merging. This is why that area has horrible traffic. Every single time I use it, there are numerous cars trying to prematurely merge onto 40 from 640, and people slowing down to cross onto the Papermill exit at the wrong time. Just adding a lane divider changes this dramatically. The good news is that most of our issues just need a little thought to be put into them to be solved. 

How would you work to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy in Knoxville?

I personally am at the cusp for this from the technological standpoint. Those projects are on the way to be a huge leap for advanced efficient energy. Fostering a place that embraces the technical knowhow that changes the world is a far bigger prize than a single EV charger in a random location. Mind you, EV chargers are becoming very popular, thankfully. But the fact remains, we need to have the mindset that we can do something great here and encourage technical developers to come here and use the tools (UTK, ORNL) that we have. Then we have to use and encourage those developments to reach general use in the city. Right now, I’m incredibly optimistic that we are in the best time to live in history. 

How would you help lead the electrification of our transportation system (both public and private) in Knoxville?

Privately, I would encourage EV chargers for those who want to make them available. That’s the major and basically only setback for an EV. Yes, I can charge mine at home and work, but it would be nice to plug my car in at the grocery store, shopping center or other location. The city can do the same by using some of the land it owns, and the connections with KUB to make quite a dent. 

How would you work to advance social and racial equity in the energy system (for example unaffordable energy bills)? What steps would you take to empower and partner with marginalized communities in your district, especially Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color?

Fist, I’d say anyone who thinks a certain race has to pay more or less in electricity is being rather disingenuous. To pretend that’s a thing is covering up the actual problem, and dividing our communities. Anyone who propagates this narrative should be ashamed of themselves. Now time for some real talk. Homes with lack of insulation, efficient appliances, and efficient design absolutely exist. A massive majority of these home are rentals. Now we found our problem. We can’t outlaw rentals, or a significant portion of the city will have nowhere to live. So we must incentivize landlords to improve the homes they rent out to people. The caveats for this, and major excuses given are that it costs money to do upgrades, and the improvements will be reassessed in the taxable value of the home, which costs the owner more, which will certainly be passed on to the renter. Addressing this cycle is where the city can help. We have to look at KUB, DOE, and other incentives to help break up the upfront upgrade costs, then the city can spend tax payer money wisely to lower taxes needed to be taken in. This makes everyone happy, because the tax rate goes down for everyone, lower KUB bills for everyone, and everyone is getting treated equally. 

How would you work to expand clean energy jobs in Knoxville?

This is what I do for a living. This is part of my entire platform on energy, so my previous answers spell this out. 

Do you have any particular stances on the following energy sources: nuclear, coal, oil (gasoline, diesel, etc.), and fossil gas? 

My stance is that all are viable for a time. Some will be replaced with others, and some will become incredible. I know personally, that technology is making leaps that give us a very bright future.

How would you engage with KUB and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to advance clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation options in the city?

Knowing what I know professionally, those entities (and more) are working very hard to make these advancements happen. Always note that TVA started on hydro power. You have to give them credit. I hold the same kind of optimism for all entities moving forward. 

Final Words

Is there anything else you feel we should know, relative to mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis or advancing the clean energy economy?

I think I laid most of my cards on the table. I feel I sand apart from the current city council as someone who actually walks the walk, instead of just delivering pleasantries. I also deliver callous truths when it is needed, just like a scientist should. 

Councilmember Seema Singh

Interest & Experience

Why are you running for this seat?

4 years ago I ran for City Council out of a fierce anger at the state of national politics and pervasive injustice. I have quickly learned that anger can be a motivator to work hard, but it is not the most effective tool for long term policy change. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that, to move from the status quo to new and better policy that serves us all, requires an ability to listen, to compromise and to work well with others. I have those abilities. I believe they have served all of us well in my first term.

What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you for the position that you’re running for? If you are a current or former public official of any kind, what positions have you held?

As the incumbent officeholder I already have about 3.5 years of experience in this position.

Climate and Energy Priorities

How would you see your role as a member of City Council in mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis and transitioning to clean energy? What would your climate and energy priorities be?

Solar in the Hood: I will support a Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy ordinance that will enable no-money-down financing of solar and energy efficiency projects for cash-strapped nonprofits and churches. 2. Expansion of all-electric public transportation: I support this in the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan 3. Low-income energy efficiency: Increase CAC funding for more of these upgrades for low-income homeowners and tenants.

Referencing the question above, what would you do to advance those priorities if elected, and do you have prior experience advancing those priorities? 

Since the legislature recently passed enabling legislation for local Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) ordinances, I will co-sponsor a C-PACE ordinance that will enable no-money-down financing of solar and energy efficiency projects for cash-strapped nonprofits and churches.  As you know, on city council I co-sponsored last year’s ACT on KUB agenda, which led to KUB compromises on fee increases and low-income representation.

What is your vision of an energy and transportation system that best serves Knoxvillians?

I need more information.

How would you work to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy in Knoxville?

See above 

How would you help lead the electrification of our transportation system (both public and private) in Knoxville?

See the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan

How would you work to advance social and racial equity in the energy system (for example unaffordable energy bills)? What steps would you take to empower and partner with marginalized communities in your district, especially Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color? 

See C-PACE above.  I would like to see the city target resources into promoting C-PACE for nonprofits and churches in low-income communities.  

How would you work to expand clean energy jobs in Knoxville?

See C-PACE above.  Also, I would like to see the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan be revisited and modified to integrate economic and workforce development factors into every aspect of the Plan.

Do you have any particular stances on the following energy sources: nuclear, coal, oil (gasoline, diesel, etc.), and fossil gas?

All of the above must be phased out asap, with coal and oil phase-outs as the priorities, replacing with 100% renewables in the next 10 – 20 years.

How would you engage with KUB and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to advance clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation options in the city? 

I have attempted to work with TVA in my capacity as a local government elected official but have not had much success.  I could use some help in this department.

Final Words

Is there anything else you feel we should know, relative to mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis or advancing the clean energy economy?

No response. 

View the positions of other Knoxville City Council candidates

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Brady Watson
Kansas native Brady Watson attended Kansas State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in History, and then a master’s degree in Documentary Film and History from Syracuse University.  After…
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