Where They Stand: Ted Murphy, Franklin city council

What are the top three issues facing the city? How would you address them?

First is financial management; we need to understand where our money’s coming from and where it’s going. We need to recognize everything that makes up the tax base and be good stewards of that money. Has experience in financial management. Would want to have regular meetings with constituents. We need to know what residents think is important, is vital for all of us to represent our community. The other issue is jobs. City has to be responsible when enticing people to come. We need to do due diligence, look at their track record, look at their financing, but we have to work to get good-paying jobs.

Would you support any tax increase? If legislators give local government the option to adopt new taxes, what taxes would you support and why?

Would hesitate to support any tax increase until he think it is needed. Would have to be satisfied that it would be critical. Doesn’t know of any tax that he would support as a new tax. We’ve got enough on the books, and if we use it properly, we do not need a new tax.

What is a conflict of interest for a city council member? What is a conflict of interest for someone you appoint? How would you avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of one?

If you’re involved in something that is receiving money from the city, that’s a conflict of interest if you vote on it. Have to all be careful as we look at the budget, that none of it bleeds over into something that we’re doing. Sometimes a conflict of interest can be not just financial but also using your position to influence something that you’re not as open-minded or you have a prejudice about. Need full disclosure, complete transparency. If you think that you have a conflict of interest, abstain from the opportunity.

Is it city government’s job to do more than just provide roads and police and fire protection? Is it the government’s job to improve the quality of life so that the city can attract new residents and businesses and become home to the top managers from those businesses? How does city government do this? What is your role?

City has a responsibility to serve residents. There are other issues that are important, social services that are needed, like the active adult center. The appearance of downtown has been improved greatly and that’s not roads, that’s not police, that’s a quality-of-life issue, which attracts new people. Have to analyze and evaluate all of the aspects of the city’s quality of life. Have evaluated physical appearance and also need to evaluate the needs of residents to see if those needs are being met.

What will you do to attract new business, industry and higher-paying jobs to Franklin? Where should the city focus its economic growth and why?

Will use any influence he has when we have visitors. Will help with entertainment; help with selling. Keeping the city attractive. Right now, would have to look at the areas that need physical improvement. Areas that are available, close to transportation, where we can, in good conscience, spend money to not only attract the business, but also on the area where we want the business.

Are you in favor of giving grants, leases and cash incentives or buying buildings for companies in order to entice them to locate in the city? Why or why not? How would you hold them accountable for the investment and job creation they promise?

Yes, with limitations. Going to have to do some of this, but need to be careful with how we do it. We’re in a competitive environment; everybody’s looking to attract business. Going to have to give some incentives, but have to be very careful with how we do it. They have to report to the city council and to others, and if they do not fulfill their commitment, then you have to look at penalties and be judicious in the way that you evaluate them.

The city has spent money from its tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts on road projects, incentives to new businesses and the Franklin Development Corp., which has funded grants and loans to business and homeowners. How do you believe TIF money should be spent? Has the city been appropriately spending that money?

Need to be careful that we’re not doing something for somebody that they can do for themselves. Just because they ask for it doesn’t mean they should get it; there should be a need. There should be an advantage to the city if we give TIF money to anyone. TIF money has been used to improve appearances, and that has improved the city. I think so. Might object to one or two things that have been done, but all of us have things that we feel are more important than others.

City officials are discussing a plan to borrow $15 million, which would be paid back with tax dollars, in order to keep some of the city’s TIF districts around for a few more years. Do you agree with this plan? Why or why not?

Has some questions about that and doesn’t have the answers yet. Would really have to study that. Doesn’t want to lose money, but doesn’t want to spend money that we don’t have to spend, either.

Taxpayer money has mostly funded the Franklin Development Corp. since 2008, and officials have been indicating they could ask for more. Should the city continue to provide money for that agency? How can you as a council member have any say over how that money is spent once it is handed over?

That’s a good question, and is not sure of the answer. Have to look at the projects that have been funded and see how they turned out. Cannot simply say yes or no without looking at their past projects. Doesn’t think the city council has any control, but it ought to have some sort of evaluation over how that money is spent.

Is revitalization of downtown Franklin a top priority? Why? Should taxpayer dollars be used? What do you propose be done?

Is a priority, but not the top priority. Creating new jobs is the top priority. Downtown needs to be cared for. Doesn’t see how you can keep from using taxpayer dollars. Goes back to what we’ve been talking about — the revitalization of its appearance, improvement to the infrastructure. Bringing new manufacturing, new retail, whatever we can get.

Housing development around Franklin has been sluggish since the recession. What problems, if any, does this pose? And what should be done about it?

Don’t have enough people working with the income to buy them. Even though we’re recovering, the recession still has its effect. Some people are afraid because they got hurt during the recession. The appearance of subdivisions need to be monitored by the community to make sure that they’re being kept up. The quality of housing being built is important.

Franklin has few high-end homes that company executives are likely to move into. Is this a problem for the city? And what should be done about it?

We have builders who can build those houses. Some homebuilders are ready and willing to build those because they think they’re going to sell them, but it’s the builders who need to make that decision, not the city.

The Franklin Redevelopment Commission approved spending $500,000 in tax dollars on laptops for Franklin schools. Do you agree with this decision? Why or why not? Should the city and school district partner on future projects?

Yes, the school needed them, but it should have come through the regular tax channels. Doesn’t see that as meeting the criteria of TIF money, but also sees the need that the school district has. The city should be open to requests that the schools might make. Can’t say yes or no until he finds out what the requests are.

What is the state of the city’s infrastructure system — roads, sewers, drainage? What projects are needed? And how would you pay for them?

Been improving it, but still work that needs to be done. Have improved it, but the need is there for more improvement. Sidewalks, parking and lighting needs to be improved and would be paid through tax dollars. Some parking lots have been updated, but others still need to be improved.

Drainage projects have been a key discussion lately, with the city creating a more than $40 million stormwater plan. How should the city prioritize which projects should be done first? And how should larger projects, such as a new water detention basin, be paid for?

Would turn to the experts in the field and get their opinion. Using our tax money wisely is part of the answer to that. Some of these things you have to borrow money and pay it back through a smaller amount of tax money.

Do you think parking downtown is an issue? What should be done about it?

Not a critical issue, but is an issue. Need to encourage companies to improve their parking lots and improve their capacity, and then the city should be aware of when they can improve their parking areas.

The city helped pay for a new shell building, which was filled by a business about a year later. Should the city be involved in future similar projects?

Yes, that’s a way we can attract new business. That’s part of what we’ve got to do.

The city has been working on developing new trails and planning for future trail projects. Where do you think more trails are needed? And how should they be paid for?

Will have to study that. Doesn’t know where trails should go and how often they’re being used. Doesn’t want to use tax money. Should use some kind of private enterprise money. There are a lot of things that he’d like to have that he can’t afford, so he has to prioritize, and that’s where the trails come in. When we have enough surplus money, then we can do it.

The city got multiple complaints from businesses and residents during work on Main Street downtown. Now, projects are getting ready to begin on Jefferson Street. What did the city learn from the first experience? And what is being done differently?

Can’t solve every problem. Have to minimize the problems that you create, and look at what you did that was right and wrong. Have to minimize the things that were done wrong and emphasize the things that were done right.

The area around the Interstate 65 exit is an area Franklin wants to develop. What is your vision for the area around the interstate?

The infrastructure needs to be updated. Look at the available space that you have, and study what would best fit that space. Don’t take anything that wants to come in. Need to evaluate the space, evaluate the income and the improvements that will bring.