By BROOKE WANSER
In this month’s FrankTalks lecture series, hosted by Franklin Tomorrow, candidates for the city’s alderman race participated in a question and answer style forum Monday morning at the Williamson County Enrichment Center.
With early voting already underway, candidates continue to speak publicly about issues that affect the community, from growth to traffic and affordable housing to maintaining a small-town community.
City Administrator Eric Stuckey opened the program with a brief overview of how Franklin’s government functions. He also highlighted the roles that the aldermen and mayor play in the community.
Questions during the forum came from Williamson, Inc., Chamber of Commerce, the Williamson Herald, and the Williamson County Association of Realtors.
A theme emerged as the forum unfolded: What is the role of local government in issues like affordable housing, controlling gentrification, and maintaining the historic aesthetic of downtown Franklin?
Candidates largely agreed that free markets ought to win out, with varying levels of city involvement in issues.
In a question about support for the Williamson County sales tax referendum to fund schools, candidates agreed that schools are of high importance to the city and the reason why many make the move to Franklin. “Our schools are our crown jewel,” said Ward One challenger Elizabeth Wanczak.
Ward Three challenger Scott Speedy said he believed in leaving voters the opportunity to vote via the referendum, but voiced his interest in exploring alternative options to fund schools.
Mike Vaughn, Ward Two challenger, said he thought the referendum was “premature,” and sought to hear back from state government about monetary refunds first.
Most candidates, however, supported the three-year sales tax increase. “I will support the tax increase, not as part of BOMA,” Ward One challenger J. Edward Campbell said, “but we still need to be involved.”
The final question was about how to maintain Franklin’s small-town charm, and included a question about preventing continued population growth.
“Capping the population?” Ward Three Alderman Mike Skinner laughed, along with the audience. “I think we all have the right to have children.”
Ward Two candidate Mike Vaughn said he would like to see less development in a largely residential area. “Development in Ward Two has gotten out of control,” he said.
Alderman Margaret Martin attributed Franklin’s quality reputation to its people. Martin said her mother has always told her, “If you open your arms, Franklin will just fall in.”
Rich Buckner, a Ward Three constituent, came to the forum with an open mind.
“I came to learn and I haven’t decided yet,” he said of choosing between incumbent Skinner and political newcomer Scott Speedy.
He enjoyed the program and said, “I liked the diversity of the questions, that they weren’t all focused on traffic.”
FrankTalks is a free monthly lecture series, and the public is invited to attend. Franklin Tomorrow is an organization focused on engaging the community on questions of growth and other community issues.