Two candidates are running for the District 8 County Commission seat.
Myron Iwanski, who pledged not to run for mayor as part of the reasoning that he should be elected as interim mayor of Anderson County, is running against Buzz Patrick. (Patrick was appointed to that seat after Iwanski was appointed as mayor.)
Their district is primarily on the east end of Oak Ridge, in the neighborhoods of Emory Valley, Woodland, and Hendrix Creek.
[ ] What do you feel is Anderson County's biggest problem? And how do you plan to try to fix it?
[ ] Describe one of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your life, and how you worked (or are working) to overcome it.
[ ] For the recent jail expansion, you both favored opposing ways of funding it. Myron, you preferred a property tax increase, while, Buzz, you preferred a wheel tax. Would you both please explain the advantages of the funding mechanism you supported?
[ ] Make the case for why you should be elected.
What do you feel is Anderson County's biggest problem? And how do you plan to try to fix it?
Myron Iwanski: Lack of retail and land for continued industrial growth.
As Mayor, I set goals to help solve these problems (see andersontn.org
Increased retail benefits the entire county with sales tax revenue and convenient retail. I led a private/public partnership to help expand retail. This partnership program is in place, funded, and being implemented in cooperation with Oak Ridge.
We have been very successful in recruiting industries to Anderson County. We now have over 3,000 automotive/transportation industry jobs. SL Tennessee is undergoing $50 million expansions. However, we are running out of industrial land.
As Mayor and Chairman of Anderson County Development Corporation, I led efforts to secure $4 million for land purchase and infrastructure for continued industrial expansion. We are evaluating sites for availability, suitability, and cost.
As County Commissioner, I will work to ensure these retail and industrial expansion efforts are successful and avoid property tax increases and wheel taxes.
Buzz Patrick: Overwhelming pressure to increase spending. I am currently working to help alleviate pressure without cutting needed services or raising taxes through economic growth and improving budget processes. Economic Growth: Our county is underserved by retail, and our sales tax dollars frequently go to other municipalities or counties. Increased generation of sales tax dollars is the quickest way to give our local governments some breathing room. I am working with likeminded citizens on two projects that will generate new sales tax (in addition to my industrial diversification, and housing revitalization projects). Full disclosure: I will continue to work on these projects whether I am elected or not. Budget Process: I am implementing methods that have proven successful throughout my career: Monthly budget-to-actual reviews; developing a 5-year capital plan integrated with retiring debt; preventing excess payroll dollars from being used as a slush fund; and working with departments on budget processes. www.facebook.com/ElectBuzzPatrick
Describe one of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your life, and how you worked (or are working) to overcome it.
Myron Iwanski: One of my most difficult life challenges was going from a small rural town to attend a major university.
I grew up in a small town near a very large extended family. I was the first of my generation to attend college. My parents grew up on farms during the great depression and did not have the means to attend school beyond 8th grade.
While I did not have college role models in my family, I was fortunate to have parents that instilled in us the values of working hard, saving, and contributing to community. I also had teachers and a supportive church that helped me along the way.
With these values and some struggles, I was able to work my way through advanced degrees in engineering from the University of Wisconsin. This led to a very rewarding professional career and opportunities to give back to my community.
Buzz Patrick: This likely will sound minor to some, but it’s something that played no small role in ‘who I am today’. One challenge that I have faced throughout my life, is always being the ‘new guy’. Prior to planting roots in Oak Ridge over seven years ago, I had lived in twelve different communities in eight different states in just 32 years; I attended seven different schools before twelfth grade. In my younger years, I frequently struggled with being the ‘new kid’. I learned at a young age that I need to stand up for myself and for what I believe is right, without fearing the outcome. Most people, even bullies, suddenly have new found respect for those that stand up for themselves. I live my adult life much the same way: with conviction, passion, and a belief that I need to stand up for ‘doing the right things’. www.facebook.com/electBuzzPatrick
For the recent jail expansion, you both favored opposing ways of funding it. Myron, you preferred a property tax increase, while, Buzz, you preferred a wheel tax. Would you both please explain the advantages of the funding mechanism you supported?
Myron Iwanski: County Commissioners realized that jail overcrowding was a long-standing problem that must be addressed and that a tax increase would be needed pay for it.
After considerable public and expert input, I recommended a 7 cent (3%) property tax increase as the minimum needed to solve this problem. County Commission approved a 9 cent (4%) property tax increase for Oak Ridge residents, which I considered a reasonable compromise.
Commissioner Patrick made the motion for a $30 wheel tax.
I opposed the wheel tax because it would be more costly for most Oak Ridge residents than a property tax increase. For a homeowner with a $200,000 home and two cars, the 9 cent property tax will cost $45 per year while the wheel tax would have cost $60 per year.
Also, experience from counties that impose a wheel tax shows that it does not lower property taxes in the long term.
Buzz Patrick: Preferred is a mischaracterization. I proposed: Fund with a wheel-tax or continue negotiations with TCI. Funding with increased property taxes digs our ‘economic growth’ hole deeper. How many relocating people have your heard say, “We aren’t living there! They have a wheel tax!”? None? How many relocating people have you heard say, “Property taxes are too expensive to live there!”? Quite a few? Property taxes are a large factor in choosing a “home”. BUSINESSES ARE NO DIFFERENT. Oak Ridgers pay the 3rd highest property tax in East Tennessee – by no small margin. Build a business in Solway? Pay half the taxes. HALF! Piling on the property tax rate, no matter how small the politicians try to convince you it is (or how long it has been since the last tax increase), is a terrible, short-sighted idea. Classic case of unintended outcomes (decreased growth) becoming bigger than the original problem (jail).
Make the case for why you should be elected.
Myron Iwanski: I am running because I have the leadership experience, detailed knowledge of the county budget and operations, and a willingness and ability to listen and be a consensus builder and problem solver.
This experience has given me an understanding of the issues and what it takes to hold down property taxes and avoid a wheel tax. This experience will be especially valuable in helping transition to the new mayor, who will be new to county government.
As Mayor, I set some very ambitious goals to address some long-standing problems (see goals and accomplishments listed at andersontn.org.) Among these goals were several initiatives that will expand our retail and industrial tax base, promote tourism, and create jobs.
While we are well on our way to solving most of these problems, some will take more time and follow through. I can help see these solutions through to completion as a County Commissioner.
Buzz Patrick: I have:
helped recruit retail, industry, and residents;
invested in improving housing;
proven methods for improving budget performance;
run successful/profitable businesses, including large manufacturing operations;
strong desire to use my experience to do some good;
committed to work with either Mayoral candidate;
no care for who “gets the credit”;
not misrepresented records because voters deserve to know what they are voting for;
wished Myron participated at the televised debate so voters could make informed decisions;
accountability for my decisions;
been one of three commissioners that voted against every property tax increase; proposing a wheel-tax compromise only to avoid that increase;
to set the record straight: Contrary to what Myron has repeatedly stated, he presented ‘15-cent Property Tax or $30 Wheel-Tax’ for jail funding in his initial proposal to Commission – he proposed 7-cents only after significant pushback, stating his belief that it “will need to be fully funded at some point”.