Nashville Mayor David Briley signaled Monday that his office is turning toward what he sees as the “fundamentals” of local government as he tries to move past a series of surprising events and intense debates.
Briley told the Rotary Club of Nashville that the city has been through “unique” challenges — citing a tough budget season, the shock of the Waffle House mass shooting, and the “raw nerves” exposed during the debate over a pro soccer stadium.
And he said he spent his first few months in office trying to restore trust in government.
The speech didn’t unveil grand new ideas, but Briley shed some light on how his thinking has evolved in the past six months.
For example, he said he’s learned how tough it is to be a city police officer — and just how distrusting some communities are of the police.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s just a small part of town, if it’s just one ethnic group, if it’s just one community. When there’s distrust between anyone and the police, that is a problem for all of us,” Briley said.
He vowed to bridge the gap between residents and police.
On education, Briley said he wants higher pre-K enrollment, and that a new enrollment process is in the works. He also cited ongoing work to improve reading scores and to encourage more students to take advantage of the state’s free community college program.
The mayor had a mixed message about the city’s economic vitality.
On one hand, he touted low unemployment and rising wages, saying that “Nashville’s vitals are as strong as they have ever been.”
But he also said that too many residents aren’t feeling the full benefits of the boom time. He offered up a mission statement of insuring that “every resident benefits and thrives.”
After Briley’s speech, a member of the Rotary in the audience pressed him for more ideas to slow gentrification, and asked how Metro can help the “salt of the Earth” workers who are finding it tough to meet increasing costs of living.
Briley said the answer has to do with more housing density and transit options, even if those moves cause discomfort.
“If you really want to deal with the cost of housing, you have to add density along some of the major corridors in and out of town,” Briley said. “It is just not possible for us to expect that we’re going to be able to put a cap on the value of a single-family home.”
The mayor also challenged the developers in the room to build more affordable housing, saying that Metro’s programs — hemmed in by state law — can’t meet the need.
Mayor Also Notices Scooter ‘Problems’
After ranging widely in his prepared remarks, Briley also took questions from reporters.
He said that he, like many residents, has noticed electric scooter violations, as riders travel along downtown sidewalks and park the dockless devices haphazardly.
“We’ll give it some time to see if we can work out the problems. And if not, we’ll have to come back and address it through legislation,” Briley said.
Asked about another pending lawsuit against the city to try to halt the construction of a new soccer stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds, his answer was simple:
“We don’t think that the lawsuit has any merit, and it’s been dismissed once before,” he said.