David Hayes is running for Knoxville City Council At-Large Seat B.
David Hayes is an activist and working-class Knoxvillian who is committed to building a Knoxville for All; a Knoxville where all families, workers, and communities can thrive.
David grew up in a working-class, Christian household with two veteran parents who are committed to pushing for social justice inside the church. David’s upbringing led to his commitment to activism and overcoming injustice. This passion began in his teens and led to his leadership in several community, political, and labor organizations.
David came to Knoxville for college at the University of Tennessee, where he continued to organize through student and community organizations on local and regional issues. David is now a proud parent to his one-and-half-year-old with his partner Lisa. David and his family live in South Knoxville.
Through a number of hands-on experiences with various communities and organizations, David has gained the insight and courage necessary to bring needed changes to Knoxville’s city council. David understands that the people of Knoxville deserve a city council that will work with communities to improve folks’ daily lives. He believes all people deserve good jobs with living wages, affordable homes, safe and healthy communities, and real democracy in our local government.
“Once elected, my responsibility will not be to serve the rich and powerful. My responsibility will be to transform the city of Knoxville so it works for everyone – a Knoxville for All.”
Past Labor Organizer with Service Employee International Union (Fight for $15)
Co-founder of UT Coalition for Responsible Investment
Past member of Southern Energy Network’s Steering Committee
Co-founder of Stop School Push Out (Resists the school-prison pipeline)
Co-founder of East TN Community Defense (works with families and individuals navigating the legal system)
Co-founder of the City Council Movement
Who are you and what brought you into this race?
I have committed my life to empowering communities and improving people’s lives, and I will continue to do so once elected. The grassroots and labor organizing I’ve done over the years lead me to working with elders and fellow activists to create the City Council Movement (CCM), a community organizing and political organization with a goal of electing a progressive majority on city council. In 2017, CCM ran a slate of candidates, won an election, and has consistently organized Peoples’ Assemblies throughout the years.
These Peoples’ Assemblies have engaged hundreds of Knoxville residents and strongly influenced my platform and the vision for a Knoxville for All. This year, I am among a slate of 3 candidates (including Amelia Parker and Charles Al-Bawi) who are committed to winning a progressive majority on city council and building a Knoxville for All.
Through my work in the community, I have continuously engaged with those in our city that have been most marginalized and left out of planning and revitalization in Knoxville. What I’ve learned from being a grassroots activist is the history and current problems of unequal development straight from the voices of the displaced and disenfranchised in our city.
City development plans catering to the rich and powerful few have resulted in an affordable housing crisis, growing poverty and economic inequality, and permanent displacement of strong Black, Brown, and working class communities. Although it may appear that our city is thriving, these realities show that we need new political leadership with a focus on democracy, equity, and human rights.
Now that I have young child of my own, my urgency to transform our city has greatly increased. I decided to run for city council to be a part of that new leadership and make equitable changes to city policy and development. I believe that we can make Knoxville work for all of us.
How do you feel about Recode Knoxville, both as a concept for overhauling the city’s zoning code and its handling by the current administration?
I believe that we need real democracy in Knoxville. If a policy or development affects you and your community, then you deserve a say in that policy and development.
Recode is an example of an undemocratic process that places the agenda of political and economic elites over the needs of residents. Communities should have a say in how their communities are zoned and the city must invest more resources and capacity into obtaining community input. Moreover, the city must be accountable, follow the lead of communities, and prioritize uplifting and empowering underserved communities.
While Knoxville prepares for sustainable growth and ensure human rights for all, we must also respect the rights of individual communities and neighborhoods.
What should the Knoxville Police Department do to balance the needs of keeping the community safe without serving as an overbearing presence in communities?
In order to bring safety to working class and poor communities struggling with violence, we need to reimagine public safety, address the causes and effects of poverty, invest in mental health and social services, up root systemic racism, classism, and sexism, and provide solutions that heal our communities instead of harm them.
Police officers are often asked to do jobs that they are not trained for which can produce harmful results for communities and police officers themselves. Many neighborhoods are in need of mental healthcare and fully funded social services, and KPD is not equipped to meet those needs.
While there is concern in the community about the diminishing number of police recruits, especially Black and Brown recruits, this moment is an opportunity to address the systemic shortcomings of KPD. Currently, KPD has little to no accountability toward the community.
The Police Accountability & Review Committee (PARC) is not strong enough to make the impact necessary to build trust between many in the community and police. The community deserves the power to discipline officers who cause harm in the community, update police policies and procedures (such as the use of force policy), and communities should be empowered to effect the police budget if necessary. PARC deserves the staff, resources, and power to be the effective voice the community needs it to be.
We all deserve to live free from fear of gun violence, domestic violence, police brutality, and all types of violence; moreover, our children and future generations deserve to grow up in a healthy, well-resourced environment with accessible services and programs. The time is right for us to reimagine public safety and move from mass incarceration toward community healing and positive transformation.
Share your plan for addressing homelessness beyond the efforts which have already been tried?
The city must treat houseless folks with dignity and respect and end its practices of criminalizing and imprisoning individuals for not having a house to live in. Decisions about the houseless community must include the voices and perspectives of the houseless community and houseless service providers to ensure the necessary and most experienced voices are heard. Once on council,
I will continue to advocate for the “Homeless Bill of Rights”, increase investments into affordable housing and services, and engage houseless folks instead of displacing and dispersing them throughout the city.
Would you ever support a property tax increase?
I do not support raising taxes on working-class Knoxvillians, i.e Knoxvillians with no income, low income, fixed income, and mid-level income with high expenses.
I do believe that wealthy individuals and corporations who pay low wages and low taxes while everyday Knoxvillians pay high sales taxes should pay their fair share and contribute to the community and tax base.
What is your vision for the City of Knoxville in the 4 / 8 years ahead?
I envision a Knoxville For All. I envision a Knoxville that works for all its residents instead of just the rich and well-connected.
A Knoxville For All will have a strong, sustainable local economy with living wage jobs, unions, more Black and Brown owned businesses, cooperatives, renewable energy and democracy.
A Knoxville For All will have affordable and accessible housing for all its residents and place underutilized land in the hands of communities who need it.
A Knoxville For All will have communities safe from all forms of violence, accessible healthy food and healthcare, clean air and water, and well-resourced community organizations.
A Knoxville For All will mean all residents have a democratic say in the city’s budget and operations, equitable and sustainable development, reasonable utility bills, and a voice in all decisions that affect them.
Although there are many obstacles to overcome, I will continue to commit the next 4 to 8 years of my life to transforming Knoxville as an elected city councilperson. I believe that we have the power and political will to make Knoxville work for everyone. When elected, I will work for Knoxville to make this vision a reality.