By EMILY R. WEST
The stage only had half the candidates Wednesday night, but Democrats Holly McCall and Courtenay Rogers shared where they stood on a host of issues from traffic to the legislature’s super majority.
At the Franklin Home Page candidate forum, McCall and Rogers accepted the invitation to answer questions and inform voters in Districts 63 and 65. Neither Republican incumbent Glen Casada (R-Thompson’s Station) nor Republican newcomer Sam Whitson would participate, citing they will only do one forum with their opponents. Whitson said he also couldn’t attend because of a conflict with an event with voters in Fairview and submitted a statement about why he wanted to run.
Despite Whitson and Casada’s absences, both present candidates had plenty to share.
Moderated by BIGR Media Managing Editor Mark Cook, both of the candidates explained ideas on how to fix traffic, which is plaguing much of Williamson County. The two also noted it’s what they hear about most when door knocking through Districts 63 and 65.
Some of the Home Page’s readers’ questions noted the Nashville region was becoming like Atlanta, and wanted to know what the state could do to fix that.
“I think part of the problem is Atlanta waited too late, and we are borderline at that point,” McCall said. “One of things I used to hear is Atlanta isn’t the problem. It’s the suburban counties around Atlanta. Nashville isn’t the whole problem. But we are part of the problem in Williamson County, along with Rutherford County and Sumner County. It’s really a regional effort.
“None of us want to pay more taxes, and most of us freak out it’s going to cost us more in taxes to pay for transit. But we could raise our hotel/motel taxes. We could look at naming rights and TIF districts. We can learn from mistakes from others and look at the communities who have done it successfully.”
Rogers suggested upping the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since the late 1980s, and proposed looking at options of taxing those who drive electric cars when they renew their tags. That way, those drivers would pay some share of wear and tear on the roads they use.
McCall also suggested a potential user fee based on annual mileage, so those who use roadways the most pay their fair share.
Cook asked how the two – if elected – would deal with a Republican supermajority at the legislature. He also asked why they felt the state hasn’t responded overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates the past eight to 10 years.
“I would say it’s not resonated because Democrats became complacent 10 years ago,” McCall said. “They held a supermajority after the Civil War. They stopped trying. I think the Republican supermajority is now in the same place where the Democrats were 10 years ago. We are seeing in-fighting and complacency.”
Rogers said she agreed, and that she believed Williamson County was starting to arrive at a turning point for those who lean moderate.
“There are other people that are middle of the road,” Rogers said. “We call them independents, and they are independents in Williamson. They don’t want to say they are Democrats or Republicans. But they are staying to say we need to work together, and we can join forces with others that feel the same we feel.
“It’s definitely a super majority at the legislature, and we are up against some great folks. I think overall we have some great lawmakers. But we have some lawmakers in Williamson County who are out of touch, and it’s important we get people in the state House who are willing to listen to move productive legislation going forward.”
This is part one of two in a series dealing with the Home Page candidate forum.