Monday, July 24, 2023

The Southeast mayoral forum is worth watching.

by Rod Williams, June 24, 2023- The video above is of two forums that took place at Lakeshore Christian Church in Antioch on Saturday July 22. The mayoral forum is first beginning at the start of the video and ending at time stamp 1:22. Following the mayoral forum is a forum of the candidates for Council Member at-large. 

This is one of the mayoral forums with the most substance of any I have seen. Others only allowed candidates 30 seconds or ten seconds to give an answer. Also, the questions asked at this forum are of more substance than others I have seen. However, most of the forum was taken up by an education question and we hear very little about the other issues of concern.

If you are going to watch the forum, but don't want to devote almost an hour and a half to do so, you can skip the intro portion and go right to the start of the forum at timestamp 14:24. Also, you can watch it at a faster speed. I watch at 1.5 speed but slow it down if someone is saying something of a little more substance. Also, knowing that Natasha Brooks, Fran Bush, and Stephanie Johnson are not serious contenders you may want to fast forward through their comments.

it is unfortunately that the no-chance also-ran candidates are included in the forum. There needs to be better criteria about whom to include. Anyone can get their name on the ballot by collecting 25 signatures. I wish it was much higher so people who just want to run a vanity campaign would not waste our time. Does anyone really believe Stephanie Johnson is a serious candidate?  She and some of the others just muddy the field and take time away from the serious contenders. Alice Rolli who is in second place in the race for mayor according to a recent poll, did not participate in this forum. 

In their opening remark many of the candidates state the same concerns or priorities that have been mentioned again and again, such as managing growth, improving public safety, improving education, transit and affordable housing. Candidates are short on "how" they would address these issues, but the issues are box-checked. In all fairness, the forum does not lend itself to a lot of "how" answers.

Here are some impressions of the candidates and the event. Why is everyone dressed so sloppily? I want a future Mayor who dresses the part. On the stage in addition to the mayoral candidates are the vice mayor candidates. Among the men, only Freddie O'Connell and Vice Mayor Shulman dress appropriately and among the women, only Natasha Brooks and Angie Dickerson dress up. Everyone else looks like they have been to Walmart and Stephanie Johnson looks like she has been working in her flower bed. Maybe I am out of touch, but I still think people should dress appropriate for the occasion and I think a mayoral candidate participating in a forum should dress up.

Sharon Hurt's main appeal is that she is Black and will advocate for the well-being of minority residence. She speaks of "economic equity" and says she will advance civil rights. She says Antioch is the new North Nashville. 

Heidie Campbell panders to the anti-downtown sentiment and the long-term Nashvillians resentment of newcomers and she speaks a lot about "equity" and "inequity." Maybe sometimes she means "equal" and "unequal," but when I hear someone speak of "equity," I hear equal-outcomes-regardless-of-inputs. Equity means a rejection of meritocracy. She also says women, people of color, immigrants and LBGQT people are under attack in this state. She appears to be ready to be combative with the State. If you are an angry leftist, she is your candidate.

Freddie O'Connell makes a good impression. I know I disagree with him on most things, but when he speaks, he appears sincere, thoughtful, not angry, and he does not pander. If I were a low-information voter without a firm set of values, I would vote for Freddie O'Connell. Matt Wilshire makes the next best impression. Among the other candidates for mayor, all leave me unimpressed. 

Both Council Member Angie Dickerson and Vice Mayor Jim Shulman are impressive and seem to be good candidates for the office of Vice Mayor. I am still undecided for whom I will vote in that contest. 

All of the candidates raise their hand saying that at a minimum they would commit to have their cabinet reflect the racial composition of the city and all say that their appointments to boards and commissions would also reflect the racial make-up of the city. To me that disqualifies all of them. I don't believe in filling positions based on one's ethnicity or race. I believe in finding the best person for the job. There are also other questions focused on race. Maybe anticipating the questions and knowing she would not tell the audience what they wanted to hear was why Alice Rolli did not participate in this forum.

While Alice Rolli is not present, a position she had taken on the role of the school board was the subject of the question to which the forum devoted the most time. She had said that if the School Board was not accountable, she would absorb the power of the school board into the mayor's office. Candidates at this forum share their view on that statement, speak about the role of the school board, school funding, charter schools, and accountability of the school board. That discussion starts at timestamp 54:30. All disagree with Rolli, but some do say they would hold the school board accountable for the funds they receive. 

The at-large forum follows, and I have not watched it as of yet. 

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