Q&A with Metro Council District 22 hopeful Art Allen


Art Allen campaign photo of him (seated) with family members

By VINCE TROIA

Three political newcomers are actively campaigning for the open District 22 Metro Council seat being vacated by term-limited Bellevue councilmember Sheri Weiner. Being “active” is one thing they all share, having been active in the community for years.

The Bellevue HomePage reached out to candidates Art Allen, Gloria Hausser and Todd Sneed, asking them to answer the same four questions concerning their campaign strategies and their plans for Bellevue’s District 22 if elected on Aug. 1

District 22 serves most of the Bellevue population and encompasses most of the commercial properties, including One Bellevue Place. It is home to many Metro entities, such as the Bellevue Branch Library, Red Caboose Park, Bellevue Middle School and soon-to-be opened Ford Ice Center and Community Center.

Many voters missed out on a free candidates’ forum last month (a paid Bellevue Harpeth Chamber event — https://bit.ly/2LbpieF — is set for July 11), so this is a chance for voters to hear from the hopefuls.

The following are the emailed responses submitted by Allen, a private business project manager who spent more than a decade working as a case officer in Nashville’s trial courts:

As a political newcomer with the election less than a month away, how is your campaign helping District 22 voters learn about you in such a short period of time?

My campaign is focused on individual engagement right now, (mostly) door knocking. I will have a campaign meet and greet on Sunday, July 14 (noon at Plantation Pub). I’ve found that voters prefer direct contact and feel a one-on-one focus allows for a better connection and relationship building.

While I have a small team, I feel that allows for my message to stay true and have more impact. Each voice in our community needs to be heard, and I want to elevate the voices in our community. My campaign is funded by friends, family, and friends of friends who believe in why I am running.

The feedback I’ve received from the community has been very positive and supportive. I believe that will only grow as my team and I engage with more neighbors.

What is the biggest blight or community issue facing Bellevue now, and what would you do to remedy it?

The biggest blight or community issue facing Bellevue and Nashville as a whole is education. It touches so many other segments of life and we as a city must do a better job of supporting public education.

Each year, the state provides less and less funding for Metro Schools, which has increased the burden on Metro taxpayers. The Metro Charter is very clear what involvement the city and council have regarding MNPS and the rule of law should be respected.

Metro and the council must fund public education for success and support the school board and MNPS director in order to foster a cohesive and top-notch school system. None of us can change the past, but we can learn from past mistakes and move forward in a positive manner to address the issues and to support the students, families, teachers and staff who dedicate their lives to education.

The future of Nashville depends on how we fund public education. I want to work on funding our schools for success on day one. The new high school will be a beacon for the community and one we can all be proud of; I want to work and make sure it stays on track and support it fully. The site plan and renderings are beautiful.

Would you support a property tax increase to give raises to Metro employees (teachers, police officers, etc.), many of whom live in Bellevue?

Metro has seen some turbulent financial situations in recent years. Many feel our core values have been misplaced for certain projects and interests at the cost of core and critical functions. We are losing teachers, first responders and many Metro employees who are critical to the core functions of government.

I was a Metro employee for over a decade and chose to leave in order to have a better paying job. Raises for city employees have been used as political pawns and that must stop. One of the main reasons I am running for Metro Council is to make sure we as a city keep our promises to Metro employees. Our neighbors are teachers, first responders, DCSO deputies, court clerks, office staff, and many other city jobs.

Public Works is another large aspect of Metro that has lagged, namely with the outsourcing of sidewalk construction at an insane cost per linear foot. That practice must stop, and I will work on that immediately.

The recent budget that was adopted by council was basically another status quo budget that did not address many issues. The can was kicked down the road again, which will only make matters more complicated and important for the next Metro Council.

There are currently some funding and tax sources not related to property taxes that need to be explored as possibilities to increase some funding for Metro and free up some money on an annual basis. If that course of action is not an option, then a tax increase should be discussed well in advance, with the why, how, and when all clearly laid out for the community to understand.

No one wants to raise taxes, but I do think we can get more control on how certain projects are funded. The last tax increase was a few years ago, any increase should be done at a level that does not force anyone from their home or burden our most vulnerable neighbors.

If a constituent asked, “Why should I vote for you?” what would be your response?

Bellevue has been very fortunate to have Sheri Weiner representing us for the last eight years. Her dedication, insight, and ethical leadership are why Bellevue is on the rise. I want to follow in her footsteps and believe my outlook and perspective on matters offer the best course forward for District 22.

I believe that I would offer a seamless transition, (that the) combination of my experiences and analytical attention to detail is what we need to ensure progress moves forward. We have much to be proud of and to celebrate, and areas we need to address, and I hope the community chooses to participate in the upcoming election.

More information on Allen can be found at https://artforbellevue.com/.

 

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