Seven candidates vying for two seats on the City Commission in the April 23 municipal election fielded questions Wednesday at a Community Editorial Board Meeting hosted by the Johnson City Press.
The forum, held at the Johnson City Public Library in the Carl A. and Kathryn P. Jones Meeting Room, drew about 80 to 100 attendees on the same day early voting kicked off and only 20 days left to reel in supporters.
The candidates are Jane Myron, city commissioner and former mayor; Jenny Brock, former Johnson City Board of Education member; David Tomita, a Washington County commissioner; Frank Bolus, a former Washington County Commissioner; William Bud Hill, who ran unsuccessfully for a City Commission seat in 2011; Bart Mikitowicz, a project coordinator for Johnson City’s Glass & Concrete Contracting; and Vance Cheek Jr., a former city commissioner and mayor.
Q: What do you think should be done to better communication and cooperation between the city and county and state governments?
Bolus: The city and county don’t have that bad a communication problem — they just don’t agree on a few things. One thing is having common goals. We have to get things done, and we have to start by communicating better with our representatives at the state level.
Brock: If you look at Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County, it’s a trifecta for drawing business. We need to have representatives in Nashville working for us. They work for us.
Cheek: I asked County Mayor Dan Eldridge, and he said we get along with the city very well, we just have different points of view. I’m a consensus builder. As far as the Legislature, I’m telling you, if you’re not on the elbow of a legislator, you’re not going to be heard.
Hill: It doesn’t hurt to get to know the people you want to communicate with.
Mikitowicz: One of the obvious things is that there has to be an infrastructure that links us together. Secondly, if you want to be coupled with the state, TDOT has guidelines for public necessities.
Myron: I’ve talked to a lot of people over the past eight years, and if you heard the language about how the city and county get along ... But there’s a lot more cooperation than people think.
Tomita: Communication and collaboration. Much like the City Commission and the Board of Education, you can’t have winners and losers. And a reason I’m sitting here today is to try to improve that communication. I also agree we have in front of our state reps.
Q: There is a bill in the legislature that would place a moratorium for 2 years on city-initiated annexation. Would you favor that, and what are your thoughts on the city’s current policy on annexation?
Myron: It’s got to benefit both parties. We just got done going through an annexation in Gray. That hurt a little.
Mikitowicz: I would be against any further annexation. When you properly utilize the systems within the city, you don’t need to annex as often.
Hill: I think it’s (moratorium) good. The two years would give them time to settle down and think about the goals that were set and planned 20 years ago.
Cheek: This is a very interesting test. The cities are against the proposed law and the counties are for the law. I oppose it. Johnson City has always had an annexation rule. It’s our decision to make, not the state’s.
Brock: I agree. I would be against the moratorium. We have companies thinking about locating with the city, and we can’t jeopardize that.
Bolus: It depends on whose ox is being gored. If a community wants to be annexed, that’s one thing. I think annexation should be a mutual think, and I’m against annexing farms.
Tomita: When two bodies acting in their best interests things will be fine. I’m always for working things out locally.
Q: What should the city do to facilitate construction of the new animal shelter?
Mikitowicz: That is a really delicate question. The price tag doesn’t click with me. The problem is we’ll be looking for more than a million dollars to pay for it. The problem may be that the size is too large.
Hill: I’m apprehensive about the process when someone comes to you and says, ‘we’re going to give you money.’ I would step back and rethink the whole thing.
Cheek: If we continue to grow, we’re going to have to look at how we make this a no-kill shelter. We also have to be able to put some money into other projects that will spur growth. That would help us pay for a build-out.
Brock: There is a need for a new shelter. We have two entities working on this. The the city and the county have both given $350,000. We’re constantly looking to see if we can raise funds.
Bolus: The shelter is something the people in Johnson City and Washington County have said they want. I think both should provide more money.
Tomita: Animal control is a service. The city and county are responsible for providing that service. How large a facility we get depends on how much money is raised.
Myron: I was the fundraising chair, and I can tell you, there’s not a person in this room -- in this city -- that loves animals more than me. There are some things I can’t discuss.
Q: What role does the city have in helping ETSU start its football program?
Hill: Equal share. Our kids go there. I think it’s a win-win.
Cheek: Over the years, the presidents have reached out to the city, and I think it’s a great collaboration. Athletics does help define a university.
Brock: When ETSU grows, Johnson City grows. They’re going to have to have a place to play until they get a stadium, and that’s Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Bolus: I think the economic issue for the Bucs has been solved by raising student fees.
Tomita: I believe ETSU football is here. We haven’t been asked for help. We should ask. I imagine there’s something we can do.
Myron: We talked with Dr. Noland about the plan. The whole school is excited now. I think they will call on us when needed.
Mikitowicz: I love football and of course the university. But you’re encouraging tourism before you have the infrastructure in place.
Q: The city’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems expires in less than two years. Do you support the continued use of red light traffic cameras in Johnson City?
Cheek: No, I don’t. I don’t believe it’s constitutional. If elected I would let the contract expire.
Brock: One thing I would have to do is study the data, but I would place safety first. We have to find some balance.
Bolus: I’m not for having the cameras at all intersection, but I think they have made a big difference at major intersections.
Tomita: Chief Sirois seems to think it is increasing safety. Johnson City has not gotten revenue from me because I’ve become more aware. When that contract comes up, we need to take a look at it.
Myron: We discussed this three years ago, and we agreed that we would pull them down if they weren’t helping improve safety.
Mikitowicz: I want cameras overlooking parking lots and areas downtown where they help our police department.
Hill: I have mixed feelings about Redflex. We should let the contract expire. Let’s use that money to fix potholes and roads.