Round 3... Candidates answer question about 'Green Lebanon'

This is the third part of the question-and-answer session.   Published in the Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008 issue of The Wilson Post)

What is your favorite movie?

Farmer: My favorite movie is “Patton.” I’m a fan of George C. Scott’s. I thought that particular movie teaches a lesson about life in many ways, and the struggles of it, and how people can overcome adversity in very important times.

Craighead: I really liked “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” When I lived here on Hill Street, we would go down to the old Capitol Theater and I guess I watched it seven or eight times. I remember one day I just sat there and watched it twice. I really enjoyed their humor and you know, westerns.

The other one would be “W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings.” Have you ever heard of that one? Well, I was in that one. I was in the dance scene. I was going to MTSU and it was Spring Break. They needed the old cars, and people that would be extras. So I went down and signed up. They sent a little map to me that sent me off down to Nolensville.

They had a dance scene and the cars were outside. I got paid for the use of my car. It was a good experience. I got in the dance scene. I’d always told my wife that I was in there. She looked for two years for a tape of it. She finally found (it) and then gave it to me for my birthday. It was a fun learning experience and I made a little money, too. Which church do you attend?

Farmer: West Haven Baptist Church

Craighead: First United Methodist Church on West Main. We moved here in 1969. My father was the pastor of a church in Pulaski until we moved in ‘69 and we stayed until ’75. Then he was transferred to become the district superintendent. Later I was a councilor for the youth, my wife and I. We’ve attended there for 40 years. 

What is your favorite season of the year?

Farmer: I enjoy spring except when my allergies act up.

Craighead: Right about now is just right. You don’t want it to be too hot and you don’t want it to be to cold. Right about now I enjoy the beauty of the leaves.  What are some ways to make Lebanon more environmentally conscious or “green”?

Farmer: Tough one. We need to encourage people to plant trees and to be aware of the fact of how important it is for our total environment to be improved in the so-called green area. We need to look at improving the recycling advantages we have in Lebanon.

The City of Lebanon has chosen not to set a separate recycling program as some cities have, that is where you save your cans and papers at the curbside. That has not come before the city council since I’ve been on it, but I think it was discussed in the past.

The problem was money, of course. It would be good if we could go toward that if we could find the money to do that because it would be a real positive toward improving the environment. There are things, however, that we can do. That is to encourage people to recycle with what is already available.

My wife and I recycle through the Humane Society, in that we take our paper and cans to them. They use the paper to assist them to enhance themselves. There are other opportunities without spending tax dollars that we can do.

But long range we need to look at a recycling program. We need to encourage more energy efficiency throughout Lebanon, and in particular one thing I’d like to see is to have a review of all of the energy that we are using in buildings in the city of Lebanon to see whether we can make them more energy efficient. That is important to the green environment, but it’s also important to the bottom line of saving money.

Craighead: Elect me. My wife is big into recycling and doing things that are green. Cans we collect go to different charities, and papers and all. She really is big on that and in the process I’ve jumped right in, too.

Also, I have a philosophy I’ve taken in on my own building, using products that help lower utility bills and energy consumption. We have to incorporate the whole idea, you look at things that are happening now, how much our fuel and oil is and the cost of electric has gone up 20 percent.

If we don’t take care of ourselves and conserve, we’ll never be able to take the next steps because we’ll be throwing money back at what we’ve used. We’re going to have to be conservative in the city when we can. Look at alternative fuels for all the vehicles. That’s one thing I’m interest in and I don’t know enough about it, but driving diesel trucks a lot I’m interested in bio-fuels, also running vehicles on alternative fuels.

As a builder and developer and a business man, I’m always looking at new ideas. You don’t just shun something off real quick, because you never know when that idea might make the project, or change the project or save you a ton of money.  At what point do you feel it would make sense for the citizens of Wilson County to accept a municipal form of government?

Farmer: Consolidation of government is attractive to some persons for the potential savings in jobs not having duplication and overlapping government services.

Having one government which would be the central government would require that one of the cities take the lead and become the central city. For example, it became Nashville/Davidson County Metropolitan Government. Under the state law the largest city would take the lead in doing that.

We are not the largest city. Mt Juliet is the largest city. Therefore if that was pushed it would become not the Lebanon/Wilson County Metropolitan Government, it would become the Mt. Juliet/Wilson County government. 

I do not think it’s to the best interests of the citizens of Lebanon to have that occur. I believe that we need to work together with the many other governmental agencies to improve government agencies and not duplicate expenditures where we can do so. I believe we can do some of that, by what I would propose.

I talked to a county official and told him one of the things I wanted to do was what Sumner County and Robertson County do. I would put forth a program if I’m elected Mayor to sponsor a breakfast or lunch program maybe once a month where we sit down with the county officials and the Mt Juliet officials and break bread and talk, no particular agenda, not trying to sell that Lebanon’s better than Mt Juliet or that Mt Juliet’s better.

But to get to know them, and to understand them, because only when you understand the other person’s problems can you begin to discuss with them intelligently what we need to do for the future. Wilson County, Lebanon, Watertown and Mt Juliet should work closer together to solve the problems of this area, I think we can do so if we can get some of this communication improved.  I think I have the background to do that because of the qualification and training I have, and also I have worked in county government and in city government.

Craighead: I feel like it’s a long ways off, the reason being that the concerns for the whole county are so varied. Mt Juliet is growing so fast. We have our concerns here and then Watertown has their concerns. They’re similar, but they’re still varied quite a bit. I think we need to really open up communication and our working with each other.

It’s kind of like everyone’s kind of arguing and fighting with each other. Reminds me of the way me and my sister used to always bicker. We still loved each other, we were still family and we knew we were family. But we’d still bicker and fight and not get the job done.

I think we really need to concentrate on the future. I think our communities are different. I don’t think metropolitan government would work just yet. But there are a lot of things where we need to cooperate, work with each other and save the taxpayers money by sharing responsibilities.

What can we do in our city to increase the quality of life we now enjoy so that the “added values” we have by living in Lebanon will keep up with the ever-growing population?

Farmer: We need to continue to support the recreational activities the City of Lebanon has. We need to find a way to increase the park program. One of the major attractions for the City of Lebanon is that it is a great place to live. We have a lot of friendly people.  And we need to have the areas of enjoyment that people love to improve their quality of life. That can be done, however it’s going to take a great deal of work. I think working with the council I can improve Lebanon in that area. 

Craighead: We’re going to have to come together and identify our goals and where we want to be. But we can’t wait for government to do everything for us. If we wait for government to do everything we’re probably not going to see the changes we need.

We need our churches and civic organizations to really continue to work together. That does so much more toward improving the quality of life. It’s like the Low Country Boil we had out on South Fork, we had over 300 people to attend and it looks like we might have raised about $34,000. That money will go to people in need locally, to pay for ways to doctors and their medicine, whenever they have cancer. We have people and groups of people like that all over town and that’s what makes it so special.

We went to the Civic League, the mayoral forums and to Peyton Road Church and one thing my wife said, and I totally agree with her, the east side of town has been neglected in a lot of ways. 

We need to do some things. The revitalization of the Upton Heights area. We need to show we know they’re a part of the city. We need to step up and be supportive of their endeavors. We need to make a difference all over Lebanon, not just certain parts of it.  

This is the second part of the question-and-answer session.  ( Published in the Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008 issue of The Wilson Post)

What is your favorite sport?

William Farmer: Football

Philip Craighead: Growing up it was always baseball. Then coaching Little League, and also girls’ softball. I’ve coached 20 years, 10 years with my daughter and t10 years with my son. I like sports a lot, I enjoy watching them.

Who is your favorite NFL team?

Craighead: Titans

Farmer: Titans

Who is your favorite college team?

Farmer: I like to watch SEC football, particularly University of Tennessee, Alabama and Vanderbilt. I really enjoy watching them, but as far as cheering for one team over the other I really don’t do that.

Craighead: Vanderbilt, good and bad, whether it’s good or bad. Up to about two years ago my dad had tickets on the 50-yard line about four or five rows up. We went to all those losing games, but when he got sick he let them go. Now they’re winning, I could have been on the 50-yard line.

What do you feel should be done to ensure continued economic growth in Lebanon and provide desirable employment for our citizens?

Farmer: The lack quality jobs that have come into Lebanon in the past six years is a real problem. We are losing manufacturing jobs at an alarming rate. And there are a number of people who do not have the same level of employment in the city of Lebanon.

We do need to improve the quality of jobs in the city of Lebanon. We don’t need to just talk about it, we need to do it. One of the things I will be doing is to look at the present activities in the economic development and see why our performance has not been what is should have been.

And I will be attempting to work with the State of Tennessee to improve our relations with the state government and state legislators. We have unfortunately, the city of Lebanon, has not done what it could have done in that area.

There are jobs that are coming into Middle Tennessee that are going to other places that we should be getting. We missed out on the majority of the Providence retail economic situation.

When I first came on the council five years ago I thought that most of the businesses that were going to Providence would have gone out here on Hartmann because we actually had letters of intent and we had one in particular, a Target Store that asked for and received an ability to purchase some airport property so they could expand on the back of the Hartmann Drive Mall.

The next thing I knew all of that had gone to Providence. For whatever reason, the City of Lebanon failed to get the jobs, the retail jobs, that went to Providence. We need to look at why we’re not performing in the manner we should be and make major improvements to attract not just jobs, but quality jobs.

Craighead: First of all, we would have to find a way to be a salesman, we have to spend a little bit more money going after jobs, try going to shows. We have to go to those and meet the people who are interested. Introduce ourselves to them and show our excitement and what we have to offer. We have to get face to face with them.

You don’t just lay back and hope someone will come by and say ‘I’m interested in putting a big plant in here.’ You have to be aggressive and go after it.

Once you find them and meet them, you have to deliver on what you’ve promised and make the whole situation work out to where they feel good about it. Then that might generate into new prospects.

There’re other ways of helping jobs and employment. On talking to my son-in-law, who writes a lot of grants, he says, that White County and some of the others, they got in one year $5 million for housing and industry. I feel like we have not really gone after that opportunity, as aggressively as I would like to. Every grant doesn’t fit the bill here.  My opponent said most grants are 50/50, well, from what I understand there might be some that way. But if you go for the ones that fit your situation, you’re able to find ones that are 80/20 or 90/10. Our airport grant is 90/10. If we really look for those and really go after them that would be one way of helping our job situation.

We also have a problem with what I call shoestring businesses, getting enough money up to even move in to their business.

The city has a few obstacles in front of someone that might be renting in an older part of town because the rent’s cheaper. But with what they have to do to improve the property and pave and things, they’re never able to even achieve the goal of opening, because they can’t get past that little bit of extra investment they didn’t think of.

These businesses might have two or three jobs, and then maybe 10 or 20, by the time they get through, you never can tell. It might start in a garage like Microsoft, and it got huge.  You can’t just lay back and help the big companies coming in, you need to try to be helpful to all businesses.

There have been reports that current city department heads are not showing up on time at work and still get a full salary with benefits. Are you aware of this situation and if elected, do you plan to make changes in their accountability?

Farmer: I’ve operated on the council as the Ward 3 council person to make our government more open and accountable.

If elected mayor I will review the performance of each and every department head or supervisor and all the way down through the employee status to make sure that we have the most efficient government that we can attain.

I’m aware of the allegations that there are some people who get special privileges. The city council has attempted in the past to set policies which would rectify and improve the problem that you questioned.

Unfortunately, the Fox administration has chosen to ignore the problem and has not put forth the management effort to improve it.

City employees who for the most part do a good job will be required to work or they will have a problem.

Craighead: I am familiar with what my opponent is saying. I know of one thing, one employee, that he might be talking about. He has had some tough issues and his daughter has just been married, so he’s taken some of his vacation.

If when I’m elected if I run into a situation, where the city is not getting the amount of work it deserves, for their pay and their benefits, that issue will be taken care of.

As a business man all my life, I know how to talk to employees; I know how to get more out of them; I know how to reprimand them if they do something wrong; and I know how to fire them if I have to.

It’s all in how you handle people and how you relate to people. The city has some good benefits, and if you’re on the job you need to make sure that you get the work done.

But I still think a lot of it is a problem with politicians. They kind of paint a little bit of the picture, but they don’t get the whole picture and tell you the whole thing so you can formulate a good honest decision on something.

That’s what I always believe in, is trying to accumulate all the facts before you hear something, get mad  and go rush off and later you regret that you’ve done something that you shouldn’t have, because somebody just didn’t quite tell you the whole truth.

This is the first part of the question-and-answer session.  ( Published in the Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008 issue of The Wilson Post)

Who is your favorite Beatle?

William Farmer: My favorite Beatle is John Lennon

Philip Craighead: Ringo (Starr). He just kinda beats the drums (chuckle). When the Beatles came out I think I was in the third grade, and at that point the first time I ever heard of the group the Beatles I was thinking what are they talking about a bug for? When they first came out I didn’t know what the Beatles group was.

What is your favorite food?

Farmer:  Steak and potatoes.

Craighead: Here lately it’s been a lot of turkey breast. I’m on a diet, but I like pasta an awful lot, lasagna, spaghetti.

Do you prefer a shower or a bath?

Farmer: Showers

Craighead: (giggles) Always the shower.

Traffic in Lebanon, specifically, the traffic lights are not, I believe, synchronized, and I hear complaints from time to time from people getting stopped at, if not every red light, then every other one. What would you do to improve traffic flow in Lebanon?

Farmer: I would work toward trying to get a computer synchronized system up and down the main arteries particularly West Main. I have advocated during the five years I’ve been on city council that we attempt to put a computerized, synchronized system on West Main. That is a state highway and we would have to have the approval of the state. We would hopefully get some state assistance in putting a computer system in. We do have some synchronized traffic signals in certain areas in town, believe it or not, (chuckle), out on South Hartmann, but it’s just one or two lights. It is my hope that we can improve the traffic on West Main with a computer synchronized system. One of the things I would like to see is to widen the bypass. That needs to be done pretty badly.

Craighead: First if you’re getting stopped at every light, you just about know that they are synchronized. I think that’s true, because some times you can go right straight through and there’s not much traffic and you just go right through. But I’ve noticed especially when you’re in a hurry, you get caught by every red light.

But traffic as we continue to grow is really going to put a burden on our roads the thing I remember as a fine example of this is when businesses move from one area to another, years ago when Wal-Mart was down on West Main where Big Lots is. You just dreaded going anywhere near that because you just knew you were going to get caught by traffic back-ups, but then when Wal-Mart moved over to (Highway) 231 all of the sudden it was easy to go through there. We have to look at our roads. We have to work with the state to plan ahead.

Initially Bible Park promoters pointed to Hard Rock Park as an example of their work. Recently, that park has gone bankrupt, and the promoters are saying the only connection was the original idea, so Lebanon need not worry. What is your point of view about this issue? Are you researching the park? If so what information have you found?

Farmer: Yes, I am studying the proposed Bible Park, and I’m also attempting to learn more to learn more about the developers and their economic feasibility plan. I came just this morning from a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce with Mr. (Rob) Wyatt from the Bible Park developers. At this point in time with the discussions I had with Mr. Wyatt, I don’t have the answers to the questions about what the differences are between what happened at South Carolina Hard Rock Park and what is being proposed here. So I really can’t answer that. I’d have to have more time to study it. But I do believe the Bible Park could be an opportunity for jobs, but we need to approach the park with a great deal of due diligence to determine and be sure it does not cost the taxpayers of Wilson County and the City of Lebanon any money.

Craighead: As for the idea of the park, I really like the idea of the park coming here. But past experience was when we had the KOA campground years ago and Opryland opened up. My ideas, my hopes for this Bible Park is it become a place the youth could get a job, a place to express their talents in music or dancing or whatever, like Opryland did, but also providing jobs along with all the other things that are attached to it. But what you were talking about with the other park down in Carolina filing for bankruptcy, they’re reorganizing and then planning to open again the first of the year from what I’ve heard. The main thing for us for the City of Lebanon is to make sure we’re not the ones out there on a limb. From what I’ve heard their bonds, they would being paying for it all on the inside, but the City of Lebanon would have some expense, from the utilities and things getting them to the park. But along with it would come a lot of businesses, hotels and like that. Really, though, they’ve only had the one presentation.