Raven Society endorses four candidates for May 4 primary

Gail Harris, chair of the Raven Society, explains a PowerPoint presentation on land use in Blount County during the group’s April 25 meeting at the Blount County Public Library.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Gail Harris, chair of the Raven Society, explains a PowerPoint presentation on land use in Blount County during the group’s April 25 meeting at the Blount County Public Library.

The Raven Society recently endorsed four candidates running in the Republican primary for Blount County Commission.

Receiving the group’s endorsement were: Jim Folts, District 7, Seat A; Tom Cole, District 7, Seat B; John Templeton, District 8, Seat A; and Mike Walker, incumbent, District 8, Seat B.

The organization “recognized these candidates as individuals who would promote responsible and sustainable development while also protecting the rural, natural and historic qualities of Blount County,” according to the group’s website, www.ravensociety.org.

The organization sent position surveys to each candidate in the upcoming primary and general county elections and recently put the responses to those surveys on their website.

Raven Society chair Gail Harris said members spent a lot of time considering all the information they had on the candidates. “We chose those who we felt were most likely to uphold the Raven Society mission. There might have been other people we could have endorsed, but they didn’t return the survey,” she said.

Organization secretary Doug Gamble the group looked at the candidates’ survey results and what each had said in the various forums. “We looked at their voting records if they are incumbents and decided these four people were people we thought could best work to advance the goals of the Raven Society on the commission,” he said.

Gamble said each candidate’s response to the survey is listed on the group’s website. “We want people to be as informed as possible about these issues,” he said.

At the group’s April 25 meeting at the Blount County Public Library, Harris presented a new land-use presentation. The PowerPoint presentation of her talk is available online at www.ravensociety.org.

Gamble said focus of the presentation is to highlight what the group thinks are the challenges and problems relative to land use that need serious and thoughtful attention. “We tried to name what we see as the challenges and hold up the idea these are important issues for the upcoming election. We hope voters will think about these issues and the candidates’ position when they decide how to vote,” he said.

Gamble said there are environmental and economic reasons for planning for growth. “If you fast forward 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, and we make the wrong decisions now, it will be irreversible then,” he said. “We talked about sprawl, population growth, the patterns of growth and the economic consequences.”

Harris said she was trying to point out that land in Blount County is finite. “And with more people, we get more uses for the land and often those uses are conflicting,” she said. “While the Raven Society doesn’t have all the answers, we certainly want the issue of land use to be a topic of priority conversation in the county.”

The group chair said land use can change slowly and subtly or dramatically before people realize what is happening. “Land use affects so much of our life, and it affects our health. The more roads we have, the more pollution we have,” she said. “If we pave over farm land, we cut off access to good quality fresh produce and food security - the ability of a community to feed itself - is affected.”

The Raven Society chair said folks should remember to vote in the May 4 Primary.

“Sometime these races are decided by just a few votes, so it becomes terribly important for people to vote and understand how appointments are made in the county, how the planning commission is made up and their importance in determining the future use of land in this county,” she said.

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