Tuesday, June 13, 2023

The Trevecca Mayoral Forum was underwhelming. I did not hear what I wanted to hear.

by Rod Williams, June 13, 2023- I missed last Wednesday's mayoral forum that took place at Trevecca Nazarene University. This one was sponsored by Civic Design Center, Neighbor 2 Neighbor, Transit Alliance of Mid TN, Urban Housing Solutions, and Walk Bike Nashville. Having had a long-time interest in the topic of transportation and having spent a career in the affordable housing field, I was especially interested in the topic of this forum.  I had my ticket but missed it- I got a better offer. An unexpected opportunity arose to go to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida with my daughter and grandson for a few days and I took it. I had a great time.

Fortunately, the forum was recorded and posted to Facebook, and I got to see it. I must say I am underwhelmed. 

First of all, with ten candidates on stage there simply is not sufficient time for candidates to lay out a policy position or articulate a vision. Also, missing from the forum was the candidate that I am leaning toward supporting, Alice Rollie. I know a candidate can't attend every event and I assume she had a good reason, but I wanted to see what she had to say on the topic of this forum.

The program had a couple questions where each candidate had 60 seconds to answer the question and maybe a couple more questions where candidates had 10 seconds. In total each candidate had about 3 minutes of speaking time. By the time the program was over I could not recall which candidate said what. No one stood out. No one distinguished himself from the other candidates in any significant way.

Secondly, the questions were soft-ball questions. One question asked of each of the candidates, when was the last time you used an alternative form of transportation. So, we learned that some of the candidates walk. Another question was about how to make people feel like they have a voice in Metro government. Time could have been better spent by asking more probing, hard policy questions. 

Another disappointment with the forum is that I don't think any of the candidates have a vision. I heard much of what I have heard before. Candidates repeated the same refrain of more of the same. They advocated things like more bus lines, building affordable housing on bus lines, a dedicated source of transit funding, public-private partnerships to build affordable housing, syncing of traffic lights, better planning for sidewalks, and filling potholes, and cutting the permitting process time for new construction. We have done all of this before or it has been at least advocated it before. Different day- same song.

Of all of the candidates the one that seemed like he had given more thought to the issues and seemed like he had some passion and insight on the topic of this fourm was Freddie O'Connell. This is by no means an endorsement. I probably agree with O'Connell on very little, but if anyone came out ahead from his performance at this forum, it was O'Connell.

 What I wanted was a bold statement that showed passion and thinking outside the box. I wanted a candidate to say that is ridiculous to build only 3.8 miles of sidewalk in a year and then brag about it as if it is an accomplishment. I wanted someone to say that under his administration we will stop ripping up barely worn serviceable sidewalks and replacing them with new sidewalks but instead with build sidewalks where there are not now sidewalks. I wanted someone to say that when we allocate $60 million for sidewalks and only get 3.5 miles of new sidewalks that something is wrong.  I wanted a candidate to say he would do more for less and build, baby build. 

On affordable housing I wanted a candidate to say that under his administration, we would recognize that a lot of the problem with the absence of affordable housing is the result of Metro policies. When you downzone great swaths of the County to single-family-only on large lots that that leads to housing scarcity and less affordable housing. I wanted a candidate to recognize that property tax increases diminish the supply of affordable housing. I didn't hear from any of the candidates what I wanted to here.

If you want to watch the video, at the start of the program each candidate gives an opening video statement just about who they are. That is worth watching if you do not know who's who. The actual forum does not start until timestamp 22:07.  Also, you can cut the viewing time by watching it at a faster speed and not lose any content. 

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