In her first run for an elected office, Oak Ridge City Council candidate Trina Baughn said she would like to cap the city’s debt, cut the property tax rate, and help attract industry.
Baughn, a 38-year-old communications professional and consultant, said the city ought to have a debt ceiling and debt reduction plan.
“You don’t spend what you don’t have,” she said during an hour-long interview Thursday.
Baughn said most families have had to tighten their fiscal belts since the economic crash of 2008, but Oak Ridge has increased its budget every year. That could change this year, however, with Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson reportedly proposing a “frozen” budget, she said.
Baughn said she supports a flat budget this year.
“It’s past due,” she said. “We’ve all had to cut, and now it’s time to share the pain a little bit.”
Baughn is perhaps best known for her frequent guest columns, public appearances at government meetings, and budget analyses. Although her analyses are not always well-received, Baughn said she is looking for alternative solutions to budget problems, hoping to help the municipal government and school system save money and operate more efficiently without cutting police officers and teachers, for example.
“I look for ways to use our taxes that don’t impact mission-critical services,” she said.
Baughn is running for a special three-month term on City Council, a vacancy created when former Council member Tom Hayes resigned in June 2011.
She also plans to run in the Nov. 6 municipal election for a regular four-year term.
Baughn said Oak Ridge must increase its property tax base and sales tax revenues, especially by attracting industries, in order to lower its relatively high property tax rate. Previous efforts have been unsuccessful, she said.
“We don’t have any results,” she said.
In response to questions, Baughn offered her opinions on some hot-button Oak Ridge issues. She said she would not support the construction of a new senior center, preferring to instead modify an existing facility such as the Civic Center or existing Senior Center on Emory Valley Road. And she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the sale of the mostly empty 60-acre Oak Ridge Mall.
“Any change is good at this point,” Baughn said.
Baughn will compete against businessman Chuck Hope in the Aug. 2 county general election. Hope, owner of Chuck’s Car Care Center, beat Baughn in a 4-2 vote in August 2011, when Council appointed a replacement to fill in for Hayes through the county election this August.
“I never wanted to go into politics, but so many people approached me at the time and encouraged me to put my name in the hat,” Baughn said.
Now, she has realized she enjoys trying to help solve city problems and influencing decisions that have long-term impacts.
The winner of the county election this August will serve through November, when Hayes’ term expires. Then, the winner of the Nov. 6 municipal election will serve a regular four-year term.
Besides running for Council, Baughn serves on the City of Oak Ridge Personnel Advisory Board, the Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, and the Bike and Pedestrian Working Committee.
For more information, visit her website.