Editor’s note: This Q&A is one in a series that aims to allow voters to get to know candidates who are running in the Aug. 2 primary. Nooga.com sent questionnaires to candidates on the ballot. We will post responses as we get them.
Chattanooga businesswoman Aloyse Brown is a Democrat running for county mayor, and if elected she’d be the first female to have the job.
Brown wants to focus on four main issues—fixing Hamilton County schools, repairing county roads, safely reducing jail overcrowding and committing to a transparent government.
The Republican on the ballot is incumbent Jim Coppinger.
Early voting is between July 13 and July 28.
What is the most crucial challenge facing the county, and how you plan to address it?
As much as I’ve been stressing Hamilton County government’s lack of transparency throughout this campaign, our community’s biggest challenge remains the state of our schools.
A $257-million backlog of facility maintenance and 70 percent of third graders unable to read is simply unacceptable.
I wonder about the lack of leadership that allowed us to dig a hole this deep.
Climbing out of it is going to take hard choices and strategic leadership, which I will provide as Hamilton County’s next mayor.
What opportunities do you see in the county’s near future, and how do you plan to help seize them?
All indications are that Hamilton County will continue to grow.
As that happens, we have to make sure that budget priorities are aligned with our community’s biggest needs: schools, workforce development, and infrastructure.
There is no place better poised to give itself a better tomorrow, but realizing that means making intelligent long-term investments in creating a workforce that can attract good-paying employers to invest here.
What, if anything, can county government do to improve education outcomes for all Chattanooga students?
My education platform comes down to an overall countywide commitment to excellence in education.
I believe that we can realize a great deal of that commitment within the constraints of current revenue and reserves. It’s been a long time since a new leader put fresh eyes on Hamilton County’s budget, and saw to it that each dollar can prove measurable success, and I’m eager to get to work.
What does transparency in government mean to you, and what actions would you take, if any, to increase transparency in county government?
Current Hamilton County leadership has made a long tradition of conducting its business away from public view.
It’s unethical, unacceptable and wrong.
Last year, Jim Coppinger raised our property taxes without any public input. He simply announced it and then a week later the County Commission passed it—the fix was in.
I support moving County Commission meetings to later in the day when more citizens are able to attend.
I further support a higher standard for agenda transparency and multiple readings for commission resolutions. I’ll also stream commission meetings and budget workshops live online. A
s mayor, I’ll invite every citizen to the table to participate in our government.
What specific ideas do you have to make Hamilton County a better place to live for everyone, including minority groups and the disadvantaged?
I would start with safely reducing our jail population.
Hamilton County spends $95,000 per day to house inmates—too many of which are there for nonviolent offenses.
We’re funding one of the highest rates of pretrial detainees in America.
The people of Hamilton County shouldn’t be paying to house and feed a person that simply can’t pay child support or is better-suited to mental health treatment. Those funds would be better spent on education and infrastructure.
What measures, if any, would you take to support small business owners and entrepreneurs?
I’m a pro-growth fiscal conservative.
I want to see our community in a state of constant economic expansion.
I’ll modernize county government by making it leaner, transparent, and more responsive to business. Businesses from inside and out of Hamilton County will know that this is the place to invest and thrive.
How do you believe a leader should handle people they don’t get along or agree with?
I’d start by meeting with them.
Most disagreements are worsened when citizens don’t feel like they’re heard.
I will host quarterly community town hall meetings at various venues through the county to better understand the needs of all our citizens.
There is no way that any leader can possibly agree with everyone, but in the Brown administration, everyone will know that their voice was listened to, and considered.
What values do you believe should drive the mayor’s administration?
Transparency. Honesty. Integrity.
What do you want the public to know about your background or personal life if anything?
I’m a mother of two young boys, and wife to my husband, Mac, who is a pastor.
I am a businesswoman who manages multimillion-dollar budgets for a multibillion dollar employee benefits firm.
For the last decade, I have worked to bring this 100-year old company to the modern era and the changing needs of our clients.
I love Hamilton County and believe that all of our citizens deserve better.
Why should residents vote for you and not one of your opponents?
A vote for me is a rejection of the good ol’ boy, backroom-dealing network of politicians that have been neglecting our community’s needs for far too long.
What is your personal motivation for running for this office and wanting to lead the county?
I’m a mother. My boys will start school soon, and for families in Hamilton County, too often that comes with hard choices.
Hamilton County should be a place where no matter what neighborhood you live in, you can rest well knowing that your children have access to a world-class, 21st-century education.