On a surprisingly chilly Nashville evening, the seven Nashville mayoral candidates answered questions in the first of two Nashforward debates at Belmont. The questions covered a number of topics, some as frivolous as naming the song that best represents them (special nod to Freeman for picking the 1968 classic ‘Tighten Up’ by Archie Bell & the Drells), but were primarily about a central theme: managing and sustaining Nashville’s growth.
During the debate, one thing became apparent, all the candidates believe that Nashville has experienced tremendous growth and the challenge of the next mayor will be managing and sustaining it. Nashville’s phenomenal growth has brought about issues with affordable housing, management of city funds, education, and diversity.
Frontrunner Bill Freeman said that he is the best person for the job because if you look at what Nashville needs: he’s already done it.
“I’m uniquely qualified to be mayor because the issues are ones that I have spent my career working on,” said Freeman. “Affordable housing is something that I’ve spent my career working on. I know how to solve that problem. You don’t understand the need until you don’t have housing. “
On the diversity of city government, Freeman’s plan is to make our city look more like his successful real estate business, Freeman Webb.
“My company reflects the diversity of our city and that doesn’t happen by accident,” said Freeman. Freeman is particularly known for his support of President Barrack Obama and numerous local African American candidates.
The candidates also answered questions regarding education, the transit system, and the controversial downtown floodwall.
All candidates believe that Nashville’s education system should be improved; however, there were differences in the mayor’s role in such. Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry congratulated high schools Hume Fogg and MLK for recently being named the best in the state, “ but that’s juxtaposed with data showing county schools had the lowest achievement in all of Tennessee.”
“Leadership is important,” said Freeman, “but so is heart—and we have to be mindful of that.”
The second debate will be held on Thursday, June 18 at 6:30 pm in the McAfee Concert Hall at Belmont. Tickets are available at <www.belmont.edu/nashforward>.
The Nashforward Series also included an opportunity for seven Belmont students to work alongside Tennessean Engagement Editor and event moderator David Plazas to write profiles on each candidate after reviewing a recent interview. Viewing the candidate’s platform with a millennial’s perspective in mind, the student profilers asked questions representing Nashville’s growing millennial population.
Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said: “We have long said that being in Nashville is one of Belmont University’s finest assets, and this institution is committed to returning that benefit through engagement with, and service to, our city. Hosting these debates also connects well with our mission to provide students with significant real-world educational experiences, demonstrating first-hand how they can be change agents in our community and the broader world.”
The series’ second debate will feature the Nashforward students participating and asking questions, this debate will focus on millennials and how, as mayor, the candidates would lead with this growing demographic in mind.