Mayoral candidate Tim Kelly told members of the Pachyderm Club on Monday that he is a “moderate” candidate who is only focused on Chattanooga.
“I grew up a moderate Republican,” the founder and owner of Kelly Subaru said. “I’m an economist at heart, and I’ve voted overwhelmingly Republican because markets solve problems better than government can, as long as they’re regulated well.”
Mr. Kelly also told the Pachyderm Club he has no interest in using a possible term as mayor as a stepping stone to a place in the state or even a federal post. Because of this, the candidate spoke solely about issues pertaining to Chattanooga. One of those issues is the Business Improvement District, which has recently been rebranded as the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance.
“In concept, the BID is a great idea,” Mr. Kelly said. “It’s almost like a homeowner’s association -everyone pitches in a few bucks and we all decide what we want to do with it. But the way it was executed here, it was poorly packaged, sold and executed. We’ll see if it survives.”
One of the reasons he believes the BID was poorly thought out was because of his belief that the DCA did not prioritize parking. He told the Pachyderm Club that when he was on the River City board during the BID’s formation, he believed that parking should be at the top of their concerns.
“I would’ve set parking way higher (on the list of priorities),” Mr. Kelly said. “I’m a small business guy, and my biggest frustration while I was on the River City board was that we weren’t paying enough attention to our small businesses downtown. They would tell you that parking was an issue. One of my priorities is to have a way to have locals come downtown and park and walk.”
The topic of investing or divesting, funding or defunding from law enforcement in general has been a prominent talking point in Chattanooga’s mayoral race, and Kelly shared his views on CPD. He said he has a good relationship with Police Chief David Roddy, and advocated for finding a way to give officers’ raises, citing how Chattanooga lags behind in officer pay compared to other places.
“They haven’t gotten a raise in years, and they have to compete with places like Florida, where cops are making 55 to 60 grand,” Mr. Kelly said. “They’ve got morale issues. We don’t have to do a ton, but we can do more with CPD. We can publicly support them from the mayor’s office, which hasn’t been happening recently.”
“There is a time when a police force has to act in two modalities,” Mr. Kelly said, the first being in an enforcement role. “The other modality is the police just being embedded in the community. People shouldn’t be afraid of their police force, and those two are not antithetical. It’s just a matter of which is the appropriate stance at the appropriate time. The CPD is a lot more progressive and forward-thinking than people realize, and I just think the city needs to do a better job of letting them tell that story.”
However, Mr. Kelly also said that one of his goals if elected mayor is to find ways to utilize social workers and other services to help the community, rather than asking law enforcement to be in charge of every task.
He also told the Pachyderm Club that CARTA is another service that needs to be revamped. After the presentation, he went into detail about how a budget could accommodate all of those things.
“What you find many times is that it’s not a question of the money not being there. It’s a question of the money not being managed well. CARTA and public transportation is important and the nature of it is changing, so it’s a question of what works best.
“We don’t derive much revenue from fares, but if we could find a way to expand sponsorship of CARTA, we may be able to find a way to make it free for folks to ride. We will go and establish our budgetary priorities based on what is important for the area. Then we’ll look at the money.”
Mr. Kelly also said that creating ways for minorities and other communities of color to improve their quality of life would be a priority if he wins the mayoral race. He said Chattanooga is still in many ways a segregated city, and he said much of that is due to inequality when it comes to education.
“If Chattanooga is going to make progress, it has to be as one city. So we have to be intentional about providing opportunities to everybody,” Mr. Kelly said. “It’s not about handouts, it’s about being intentional with providing opportunities. When you look at the worst-performing schools, it’s in places that were red lined. You couldn’t invest in those areas, and the situation snowballed. So now we have two cities.”
As a businessman running for an executive position, Mr. Kelly may remind some of the president. However, the man who declared himself a moderate Republican said any similarities the two may share are strictly superficial.
“I have about as much in common with Donald Trump as a guy who throws darts and a guy who drives Formula One for a living,” Mr. Kelly said. “They’re very different forms of business, and being a real estate developer is very different from running a retail enterprise with a lot of employees and direct management contact.”
“I get the concern, but if you go just beneath the surface, you’ll see I don’t have a lot in common with the president. What we do have in common is a common-sense approach to government. But I place a high premium on integrity and quality leadership, and I would not lead in the way he leads. I am not a fan of his leadership style in any way, shape or form.”
The Chattanooga mayoral election will be held March 2021.