Nashville’s candidates for mayor have weighed in on dozens of topics, appeared in televised debates, and answered several inquiries from WPLN. But one listener, through our Curious Nashville project, suggested what ended up being one of the toughest questions:
What long-term, generation-spanning policy would the candidates champion in office?
The question comes from North Nashville tech worker Toby Turner. He suggests politicians too often work on short-term projects aiming for quick results.
Asking for a long-term idea made each of the candidates pause.
“That’s a great question," said State Rep. John Ray Clemmons. "That’s one of the biggest things missing in Metro government right now."
Since the start, his campaign has pushed the idea that Metro lacks vision on subjects like education, housing and economic opportunity.
“Next, we must be focused on building out a 21st Century transportation infrastructure system," Clemmons said. "That is a long-term, expensive project that is absolutely required for the benefit of not only our city, but our entire region.”
For candidate Carol Swain, local education is most in need of change. Her competitors rank it as a top priority too, but Swain tries to distance herself.
“Their solution is to say that we’re going to throw more money at the problem,” Swain said. “I believe that there is a need to hold the school board accountable — but even to rethink how we approach education. Because we have had the same problem now for decades.”
Swain says she’d focus on teacher quality, parental involvement and stricter discipline of disruptive students.
The city’s current mayor, David Briley, points to his "Under One Roof" proposal to speed up the overhaul of Nashville public housing, which will incorporate both low-cost and market-rate units.
“Within a generation, we’re going to have all of them mixed-income, and we know that works better for folks," Briley said. "It’s also going to address some of the gentrification we're having in those communities.”
Meanwhile, Councilman John Cooper goes broad: He says the city needs to get its “bones” right.
“What do I mean by 'bones'? That’s parks, green space and connectivity as we grow beyond downtown into all these nodes of neighborhoods around the county,” Cooper said.
Cooper is calling on Metro Planning and Metro Public Works to help create neighborhoods so great that people brag about their sidewalks and trees.
But how exactly that would happen — or the follow-through on any of these ideas — won’t be clear until someone’s in office.