A Mayoral Candidates Forum was held at the McPhee Concert Hall located on the historic campus of Belmont College on June 25. This was the first televised debate for the mayoral candidates. Mayoral candidates include: David Briley (current Nashville mayor), John Cooper (Metro councilman–at-large), John Ray Clemmons (state representative) and Dr. Carol Swain (retired Vanderbilt professor). The event was narrated by Rhori Johnston and David Plazas.
The top four candidates had an intellectual spa for the first time on television, addressing corporate tax breaks and incentives, property taxes, traffic congestion, affordable housing, education and more, during a debate sponsored by The Tennessean, NewsChannel 5 and Belmont University.
Mayor David Briley defended his budget that passed the Metro Council last week, saying that he opposed a property tax rate increase to fully fund schools.
“Real leadership is needed in Nashville,” Clemmons said.
Dr. Carol Swain took jabs at the establishment, including Mayor Briley, accusing him of being “tied to the good old boys network. We have leaders, who can’t say no. They spend like drunken sailors.”
Cooper said: “There’s a moment when you need to wake up and realize the current practice of using tax breaks to lure large corporations to Nashville really isn’t necessary.” He said tax breaks for companies should be focused on small business and local employers.
The candidates also addressed the low morale among the staff and teachers and turmoil in Metro Schools. Low morale can lead to productivity problems. Cooper feels that, “Schools need to spend more than half of the money on educator pay.
Mayor Briley didn’t like this idea, saying: “I am making a demand on them that they change the way that they do business. They need to be more responsible with their money.”
Another key topic was how Metro Police Chief Anderson has received criticism in his handling of two fatal shootings of African Americans, and whether they would keep Anderson as police chief.
Briley responded by saying: “I don’t agree with 100% percent of what Chief Anderson has done but I support him.”
“I think that we can do better and it’s time for a change,” said Dr. Swain.
Swain noted that she feels like Chief Anderson has lost the respect of many of the Metro police officers.
Democratic Tenn. state Rep. John Ray Clemmons, said: “No one is guaranteed a job in my administration.”
Councilman-at-Large Cooper said: “We are going to have a new era in our relationship between the community and the police.”
The debaters also covered the controversial topic of the use of e-scooters.
Dr. Swain she agreed with Briley’s decision to ask Metro Council to ban the scooters until a safety framework can be activated.
Cooper and Clemmons called for a larger-scale increase in infrastructure like protected bikeways.
Since e-scooters block the way for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs, Briley defended his push to ban them. Briley and the other candidates concluded their remarks by thanking The Tennessean and Chanel5 News and Belmont for having a televised debate. Briley concluded by saying: “I love Nashville.”