Name: Cat Allen
Candidate for: City Council District 8, Position 3
Date of Birth: 09-11-1985
Occupation: Account Manager & Brand Strategist
- High School: White Station High School, 2003
- College: Indiana University, 2008
- Masters/Ph.D (if applicable):
Family: I’m a lifelong Memphian and a graduate of White Station High School. My husband Ben and I first met when I was a senior. We remained friends and eventually after many years, finally went on our first date. It was our last “first date”. My husband works in Inventory Management/Logistics for a local company in the Alcy-Ball neighborhood, and I work for a local advertising and branding firm downtown. We lived in Sherwood Forest with our seven-year-old daughter and two dogs.
Community Involvement: For several years I have served on the Board of Directors for the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, and most recently as Board Chair. I’m also a member of the Sherwood Forest Neighborhood Association because I believe that thriving communities are built block by block! However, I have been involved in community organizing and activism since I was a young adult and have organized in Memphis around issues such as: affordable housing and housing for people experiencing homelessness, transit rights (MATA), voting rights, racial justice, women’s rights, and police accountability.
Official Campaign Website: catformemphis.com
What background/experience distinguishes you from the other candidates who want voters to elect them mayor?
I bring many years as a community organizer and advocate, most recently having served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Midsouth Peace & Justice Center. I’ve also organized around issues such as reproductive rights, a living wage, transit, and housing. In my professional life, I manage multi-million dollar accounts for global clients. I understand the necessity of diplomacy, of compromise, of innovative thinking, and of the need for integrity and accountability in all matters. I regularly bring stakeholders with a common goal but somehow disparate priorities to the table to gain consensus and move forward. Shifting back to a personal lens, I’m a working mother of an elementary school child. I want her to know a Memphis that is truly full of equitable opportunities for her and her peers – and to give them a reason to call Memphis home as adults.
What are the top three issues facing the City of Memphis?
Education, Infrastructure, and Economic Development.
What do you propose to address the three issues you rank as top priorities?
We MUST solve for the education funding crisis in our public schools. We owe ALL of our children a quality education today so that they can properly decide what their tomorrows look like. We have to face the evolving workforce – and its challenges and requirements – head on and prepare our young people accordingly. That also requires infrastructure – roads, transit, housing, utilities – that are prepared for the future versus what we have now, which is crumbling around us. We need to understand how MLGW is allocating resources and ensure we are seriously exploring alternative energy providers and resources. Not only does this require more transparency in government spending and perhaps a reallocation of resources, but it also requires elected officials to responsibly guide public-private partnerships and ensure every route available to us is aggressively pursued. Be it grants, TIFs, PILOT reform, or investments/trusts – we’re simply not doing everything we can in the way we should now.
Do you favor the call for a half-cent sales tax increase to restore healthcare and retirement benefits for police officers and firefighters cut in 2014?
I support the restoration of benefits and pensions for our First Responders – absolutely. I also believe that this ballot initiative is on the table because the City did not explore in good faith a way to get it done. Any raise in sales tax is always going to disproportionately affect working class and poor folks, and I would give that idea great pause. I believe that with the right administration in office, we can find a way to restore those benefits without balancing it further on the backs of working people.
Do you think the local PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program needs to be reformed? If so, why and how?
Absolutely it does. First and foremost, the EDGE board should not have the scope and magnitude of power that it currently does – which allows it to award PILOTS with no requirement of transparency. That means, Memphians don’t actually know exactly how many millions of dollars are given away in tax breaks ever year. But we do know how many millions are not invested back in us. So with that, PILOT reform must include requirements that companies pay a minimum of $15 an hour and provide benefits for all employees. We also would do well to consider companies that provide jobs in skilled labor or emerging industries where our people can learn and grow in their positions. Memphis has been a logistics and freight giant for decades now – but FedEx just tested its first automated package delivery not long ago. The writing is on the wall and we have a duty to prepare our people for the next evolution of the workforce.
Do you see a risk of displacement and gentrification connected to the development boom in Memphis? If so, how would you address that risk from the position you seek?
I certainly do. We can start by instituting a rental registry ordinance which would bring out of state and overseas developers who allow their properties to be manage by slumlords to heel. We can take seriously the cries of our seniors about inadequate HUS-subsidized housing and demand in investigation and retribution so that our seniors can live in dignity. And we can be discerning about the intentions – not just the projects – of the developers who seek tax breaks to build luxury apartment homes that no one in Memphis can afford to live in.
African-American-owned businesses have made up only 1 percent of all Memphis business receipts for several decades. If elected, do you see playing a role in changing that statistic? If so, what do you think that role would entail?
I hope to play a role in that statistic. If elected, I would love to expand informational sessions for local businesses on how to contract with government entities so they have the knowledge and access to the bid process. I’d also work hard to ensure that our City-appointed Boards have proportional representation in the African American business community.