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Gubernatorial candidate makes stop in Jonesborough

Gubernatorial candidate and current Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey made a stop in Jonesborough last week to meet and greet a few of the area’s major players. Dozens of people squeezed into a tiny downtown restaurant Thursday evening to hear from Ramsey and his local supporters.
Earlier that day, Ramsey spoke with the Herald & Tribune about several issues impacting Jonesborough and Washington County, including the continued controversy over red light cameras.
Last week, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper rendered an opinion about red light cameras, reaffirming the constitutionality of the technology, which is currently utilized by the Town of Jonesborough.
Still, some state leaders continue to fight against the cameras.
“I think we’ve gone too far down the road now to ban red light cameras,” Ramsey said. “If we were going to ban them, we needed to do it before all these cities and towns went and installed them.”
Ramsey did chide local governments for calling the red light cameras a “matter of safety,” saying they are being put into place purely for the “revenue they bring in.”
Ramsey, who said he is “politically realistic” enough to know it’s “too late to ban red light cameras,” balked at the concept of a similar type of camera that, instead of catching drivers running red lights, cites them only if they are speeding.
“I do think that crosses the line as far as (the government acting as) Big Brother,” said Ramsey, citing a speed camera in Piney Flats that sits in the median of a four-way highway and is not associated with a traffic light or intersection whatsoever. “There will be an effort to set criteria on both red light and speed cameras, but if we’re going to ban one of them, it will be the speed cameras.”
Ramsey also addressed the proposed creation of a courthouse square district for downtown Jonesborough, whereby the town could receive additional tax money from the state for sales revenue garnered in the allotted district.
“I am in favor of granting them this courthouse revitalization zone,” Ramsey said. “It will do two things: It will create jobs and it will allow Jonesborough to keep some of the revenue it’s bringing in.”
While Ramsey is in favor of the new zoning and said he going to “try to get that pushed through this year,” he said the state’s budget shortfalls could create opposition to the concept.
“We may have a problem because it’s taking money away from the state,” Ramsey explained, saying it would be important to properly propose the idea. “All Jonesborough is doing is keeping the additional money that comes in. So the state won’t be losing any money that it already receives.”
Turning his attention to education issues in the state, Ramsey expressed a need for an “economic turnaround” in Tennessee to remedy the lack of sales tax revenue coming in for schools.
The Washington County school system has already seen a $600,000 shortfall from sales tax revenue, according to Director of Schools Ron Dykes.
“We cannot tax our way out of this or spend our way out of it,” Ramsey said. “We have to grow our way out of it. We have to turn the economy around by creating a positive business environment.”
Continuing with education, Ramsey said he is in full support of legislation recently passed by the state to adjust the way teachers are evaluated. New laws require standardized test scores be more heavily utilized to evaluate teachers.
“I’ve been in favor of this for years. We have not been using our data properly,” Ramsey said. “I think even the people who are against it right now will look back and think this is a good decision.”
Ramsey, a native of Blountville, is among four candidates running for governor in the Republican primary. The others are Bill Gibbons, Bill Haslam and Zach Wamp. Two candidates are running for the position in the Democratic primary – Kim McMillan and Mike McWherter.
The position is being vacated by current Gov. Phil Bredesen, who has served two consecutive four-year terms.