District 4 Candidates on Climate & Energy: Knoxville City Council Election

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 4th 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 4th 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 4 Candidates

Jim Klonaris

Interest & Experience

Why are you running for this seat?

As a local business owner and 45-year resident of Knoxville, I have grown very frustrated with the overall direction our city has taken over the last decade. We seemed to have lost our culture… The Knoxville Way”. No longer do we serve the community in a way that increases job opportunities; rather it appears we have created so much “red tape” within the government arena versus the mindset of welcoming and rolling out the “red carpet” to potential business owners and developers.

Current leadership no longer welcomes, supports and serves businesses and the corresponding jobs that come with those businesses, more so they literally push out housing and business developers and local small businesses away from the city into the County or in many cases other cities entirely.

We now have the highest levels of poverty in our city including unprecedented levels of homelessness including associated challenges of both addiction and mental health. Open your eyes!  Our city and suburbs, which were once pristine, are now filthy with trash, garbage, needles, and feces riddled throughout the community. Panhandling and the lack of safety within the community is expanding. The lack of good leadership and respect for our first responders and frontline workers, (again a culture issue) corresponds at a time where we have the highest levels of crime and murder in our history.

The city leadership does not appear to understand good fiscal responsibility. The (budget) use of monies paid by the taxpayer is now deep in the red. The likelihood of tax increases is now in the foreseeable future and any tax increase will only cripple many working-class citizens only to create even more poverty and hardship.

Instead of serving the entire population on the basic services and needs associated with government, the leadership appears to be focused on special interests, reactive responses, “artwork” and other feel-good line items (which while are sometimes important, should come only after first taking care of our tax paying citizens and their communities and neighborhoods). It is time for real change, to create balance within our government, to make our city better for everyone, not just a few.

I am running to make a difference in the way we grow and serve the community. To proudly serve and to help bridge a culture of trust for the people.

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 am not a politician rather a local business owner with over 35 years of experience, I will use my past executive and ongoing entrepreneurial experience (currently employing over 230 community members through seven local businesses) to get the job done. I am both a creative and an out of the box thinker.  I always focus on solutions and not the problems. I will listen to the issues of importance and address the concerns within our city then work to find solutions.  Problems do not have to end with a lose-win, a win-lose or even capitulation. We can work together for the win-win.

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? 

Climate change and clean energy are both issues that need to be continually addressed. I believe that that the best way to move our city forward is to remove the barriers and again, “red tape” that help create innovations surrounding the issues.  We should incentivize individuals and organizations focused on improving the issues. Our city currently employs and includes a plethora of very smart people, and our free enterprise system and culture dictates the needs, primarily driven by the local consumer. 

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

Again, reducing “red tape” incentivizing individuals and organizations will aid to advance the priorities.  While having extensive executive and entrepreneurial experience, I’ve not had any personal experience directly in this field.

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

A clean energy and transportation system is important to every growing city and Knoxville is no exception.  The real consideration is how it is funded.  It’s a real and fundamental challenge, as the entire city population is taxed and pays for systems that only serve a relatively small segment.  As technology progresses, I would like to think that the expansion of a clean transportation system could evolve and grow.  Again, the possible incentivization of both individuals and organizations and the focus on improving the issues will help in this development. In addition to mass transit ideas, the current strength in our local greenways and the expansion of those, allows walking and bicycling to thrive not to leave out the recent introduction of 3rd party “electric” scooters which also helps with the growing vision of individual transportation.

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

I believe that that the best way to move our city forward is to remove the barriers and again, “red tape” that help create innovations surrounding the issues.  We should incentivize individuals and organizations focused on improving the issues. Our city currently employs and includes a plethora of very smart people, and our free enterprise system and culture dictates the needs, primarily driven by the local consumer. We do need good facilitation between all parties including, energy efficiency experts, producers, investors and government to create these win-wins.  I believe I have the skill set to do this.

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

We do need good facilitation between all parties including, energy efficiency experts, producers, investors and government to create these win-wins and advance electrification of the transportation system. I believe in the free enterprise system so my belief is that the brunt of the direction should come from the private sector.  Government is meant to serve the citizens, I don’t believe that the entire city population should shoulder the tax and pay for systems that only serve a relatively small segment.  

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? 

While knocking on over 11,000 doors during the last several months, the one thing that has brought clarity to my thinking is how much of our community (in district 4) is truly in a poverty situation and I struggle and think about this daily. There is definitely a disproportionate of poverty within the district and throughout the city and unaffordable energy bills are only one of many issues for the masses.  The heavy tax burdens and likely soon to be increases in those taxes have the potentiality to cripple many more people in the city. Shouldn’t we focus on rising energy costs to everyone? It’s not only marginalized communities, Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. It’s about the entire community.  

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

I believe that that the best way to move our city forward is to remove the barriers and again, “red tape” that help create innovations surrounding the issues.  We should incentivize individuals and businesses focused on and improving the issues around clean energy jobs in Knoxville. Welcome the free enterprise system. roll out the “red carpet” and allow the market to grow.

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

No

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 would like to think that City Council engagement with TVA and KUB to advance clean energy, energy efficiency and clean transportation is an option, but based on what i’ve seen, the Mayor ultimately holds the power and the purse strings.  I would be open and welcome to expand more transparency between the government and the people, opening lines of clearer communication and facilitating across both public and private sectors to improve and advance to goal.  

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?

not at this time

Councilmember Lauren Rider

Interest & Experience

Why are you running for this seat?

I was again urged by neighbors and community members to run for re-election. They feel I’ve done a good job listening to their concerns and making informed decisions that best benefit the community.

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 am an incumbent with many successes since 2017: supporting the addition of over 1000 units of housing, over 800 jobs to the 4th district, KUB Broadband, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Additionally, as a research and education librarian, my “day job” skills complement the need for well-informed decisions on council. I also bring business experience to the table: re-development experience, property management, and historic preservation. This has prepared me for the many conversations needed to work with constituents on agenda items council votes on.

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 worked with the previous administration in finalizing the unanimous council vote to set the Sustainability Goals. The intent of the goals was to make it clear that was an ongoing priority though administrations change. It’s a priority to convert KAT and city fleets to electric vehicles and to install charging stations across the city. Housing and alternative transportation are two areas city policy can impact how we use energy.

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

I also ran on the priority of adding better walkability throughout the 4th district. Sidewalks and Greenways that connect neighborhoods to schools, commercial areas, and bus stops are a basic way to encourage less personal auto use. I’ve worked with TPO staff on a Pedestrian Road Safety audit of Broadway which is a major corridor in the district. I’ve supported mixed use zoning and future development along corridors to create more walkable land. The zoning is in place, we need to look at ways to incentivize this type of development and move the needle forward on increased housing density in these walkable areas. 

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

Transportation: More frequent bus service, increased cross-routes and electric fleet. We also have rapid transit routes in the works that would sync with traffic lights and stop at the bigger stops along a route like Broadway. Getting that in place will help entice more riders for downtown jobs. Council recently approved an upgraded software system for tracking, to make app functionality better for KAT users. 

We also need better walkability. Some neighborhoods are cut off by roads with no shoulders and no sidewalks. These fixes are expensive but very needed to increase alternative transportation that is safe for all.

Energy – the city is looking for more opportunities to use solar and partnering with KUB on solar. We have rooftops that could support additional solar arrays.

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

As a council member – I can encourage the administration to seek opportunities. I’ve connected them with grant opportunities through MacArthur Foundation that funds climate change efforts. I can support votes on policy, purchases, and contracts to support alternative energy and transportation actions. 

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

We are on the path to all electric bus fleet and adding charging stations in additional areas of the city. Use of those charging stations over night is a policy change we could look at as well. I saw recently this was an issue for someone who used a park charging station. The city will need state and federal funding to maximize access. Accepting grants will help us further these goals.

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?

The biggest step we can take to help marginalized communities is to improve the housing supply. We have a large number of homes that need weatherization and efficient HVAC systems. Grants and projects like KEEM are needed on a large scale to tackle the need. In Indianapolis I worked with a non-profit that hosted an annual “Caulk of the Town” event. Supporting and funding these programs through community partners is needed to address the energy inefficiency. 

Education about energy use and reduction is a great area of need in these communities. Working with schools, community partners, and the faith community are paths to connect with the population and meet their needs on lowering energy bills and increasing efficiency. 

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

I support efforts to bring these jobs to Knoxville. We can seek those providers and possibly support them with TIFs or PILOTs if needed to establish here. The Chamber plays the largest role in company recruitment and tasking them with seeking those opportunities is possible.

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

Reducing our dependence on energy sources is important. We are never going to be free of energy sources. Shifting reliance to solar or electric on city owned properties has been an on-going effort. 

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?

Within the confines of the role of council, working with KUB and TVA to improve energy efficiency of aging housing stock needs to be an on-going effort. It’s an area where we could use additional federal grant funding to move the needle. 

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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