"I believe that prosperity and compassion are not mutually exclusive- we can protect our environment, care for the health of our citizens, fund our schools and fuel our economy."
Fiscal Discipline was the hallmark of my time as Mayor of Oak Hill. I returned $2M to my city’s reserves, eliminated my own salary, and balanced the budget during the six years I served.
Every year, the Tennessee General Assembly passes unconstitutional bills that have to be defended in court at the tax-payers’ expense. Meanwhile, our state refuses to fully fund our schools, allows rural communities to lose jobs and access to healthcare as their hospitals close, and leads the nation in unspent assistance money that would help families in need. Tennesseans deserve better.
Transparency and Accountability
Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and guards against any possible misuse of powers. Without transparency, trust will be lacking between a government and those whom it governs.
Whether the questions are focused on the administration’s no-bid contracts or critical failures in the Department of Children’s Services that put vulnerable kids at risk, Tennessee taxpayers deserve answers. Count on me to keep asking the questions. I will never stop being an advocate for transparency and accountability.
Tennessee is now one of only 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid. We have experienced more rural hospital closures per capita than any state. We rank a dismal 41st for health outcomes, and we lead the country in medical bankruptcies. No one should have to choose between food and medical care.
Expansion would provide $1.4 billion to our state budget every year, keep our federal tax dollars in our state, prevent additional rural hospital closures, generate thousands of new jobs, and provide health insurance to over 300,000 uninsured Tennesseans. Medicaid expansion will be good for public health and the economy.
Tennessee ranks 44th in the country in school funding, spending about $4,000 dollars per student less than the national average. The legislature has refused to provide funding for additional reading specialists, hire additional school counselors, or compensate our educators competitively. Instead, they continue to push for vouchers that will siphon public education money to pay for private school education, even as they continue to take local control away from duly elected school boards and threaten to defund school districts.
Our kids deserve better. We must
prioritize education, fully fund our schools, and invest in our students.
Renewable energy is not just good for the environment, it’s good for the economy. In 2021, Tennessee and Ford inked a deal to invest over $5 billion in Blue Oval City, a new mega campus to build electric F-150 pickup trucks. The project, the largest in the state’s history, will bring as many as 6,000 new jobs to rural Haywood County and the surrounding area.
Climate change and the environment are the most pressing issues we face. If we don't have a habitable planet, everything else is irrelevant. From rising temperatures worldwide, to more erratic weather patterns, to more droughts, to glaciers melting, the data is clear. Even here in Tennessee, the last few years have seen devastating tornadoes and deadly floods. It’s a problem that cannot be ignored.
Women's & Children's Issues
Tennessee is one of the most dangerous places for women to live. For over a decade, our state has ranked in the top ten states for women murdered by men, yet the General Assembly has repeatedly ignored calls to strengthen critical domestic violence laws.
Far too many of our most vulnerable children are falling through the cracks and being put at risk. In 2020 alone, at least two young children died while in state custody. Our Department of Children’s Services is in desperate need of reform. Tennessee is failing these kids. Ignoring DCS failures is immoral.
As the former Mayor of Oak Hill, I have a unique understanding of the infrastructure challenges that our communities face and how state and local leaders must work together to face them. From maintaining our roadways to solid waste management to high-speed broadband, infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and our public safety.
While our state has slow-walked efforts to improve our infrastructure, thanks to President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Tennessee will receive over $1 billion for our roads and bridges and even more to fund broadband expansion. We must take initiative to make sure the funds are spent wisely - and soon.
Tennessee has one of the worst gun violence problems in the nation, and it’s getting worse. Both 2020 and 2021 saw homicides spike. An alarming number of murder victims are children. Law enforcement links the rise in homicides to the dramatic increase in gun thefts from vehicles irresponsibly left unlocked.
Every Tennessean deserves to feel safe in their community. We must take meaningful and intentional steps to reduce the violence in our state by investing in intervention and funding organizations working in communities disproportionately impacted by violence.
Grave consequences occur when false or inaccurate information is spread. Disinformation is not just dangerous, it’s deadly. Disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines has caused immeasurable suffering and preventable deaths. If left unchecked, disinformation has the potential to degrade our democracy. We saw how the siege of the U.S. Congress on January 6 halted democracy for a few hours. Disinformation was the fuse that led to that siege.
Policy should be based on evidence and data, not social media and alternative facts. We must all work together to fight misinformation and disinformation.
Decency and Democracy for All
We are living in troubling times. Many of our elected leaders have little interest in actual governance, opting instead to stoke culture wars, invent boogeymen, and create further division. From unfounded attacks on trans athletes and the LGBTQ+, to racially-driven attempts to rewrite our country’s imperfect history, to revamped efforts to disenfranchise voters, rights are being trampled. Democracy is in danger.
Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It’s up to all of us to stand up, speak out, and keep bending that arc.