Nashvillians have spoken with a pretty clear voice. The results from Metro’s general election on Aug. 1 — in which John Cooper received 35 percent of the vote, and David Briley received 25 percent — have shown that most Nashvillians feel our city needs to head in a different direction.
After reviewing the mayoral campaigns and results from the election, I have to agree — it is time for a change in leadership.
I have been vocal in my support for David Briley over the past few months for two main reasons. First, David Briley is a good man who’s worked tirelessly to do everything in his power and capability to help Nashville, particularly during these recent months when our public trust in elected officials has been strained. Second, I’ve felt that continuity was vital during this season of transition. That same emphasis on continuity has also been a large factor in my own personal decisions to refrain from entering the race for both the special election and the general election.
As we head toward the Sept. 12 runoff, however, Nashville appears ready to opt for change over the reassurance that continuity brings. In many ways, I think this is a good sign that Nashville is more resilient than we may have thought.
I’ve known David Briley for most of my adult life and have always considered him to be a capable and strategic thinker. He has shown himself to be a caring public servant in Metro Nashville’s highest office. He’s been receptive to the needs of Nashville and has worked to marry his personal political philosophy with the needs of Nashville.
We have no poor choice between our two candidates. Both Briley and John Cooper are clearly dedicated to serving Nashville and have the skills and experience to do that. We saw significantly more votes cast in August 2019 (102,002) than we did in the May 2019 special election (82,368), and there were nearly as many votes cast in August as in the 2015 mayoral election (104,343). This shows that Nashvillians were by and large equally engaged in the outcome of the August election as they have been in any election we’ve had in recent years.
John Cooper has presented himself as the candidate with the most pragmatic approach to solving our financial burdens and forging a path to fiscal security. Fiscal security has been my concern since well before the campaign season. It remains at the top of my list and is clearly at the top of the list for the majority of Nashvillians as well. His plans for handling our fiscal matters responsibly and frugally would serve Nashville well, both in the short term and the long term. Our fiscal debt has been concerning for a number of years, but debt service burdens are eating up more and more of our Metro budget. That is a very real concern.
Our approach to corporate incentives is also worthy of review. We also need to refocus our budget expenditures and make sure we are spending our money in the most efficient and frugal manner. We need to get to the point where we can loosen the belt a few notches on key departments, including when it comes to public schools and affordable housing. Cooper has shown that his plans to address these issues resound well with Nashvillians.
Fiscal matters, along with the overall importance of directing our growth carefully and with precision, have the greatest potential to harm or help Nashville as it grows. Cooper’s plans to address these issues are not radical, but are strengthened by his years of experience in the world of corporate finance and real estate development.
Nashville’s population has grown by about 50 percent over the past four decades. Just a few months after my company started in 1979, Nashville’s population included 446,027 people. It has grown to 669,053 people, as of U.S. Census data from July 2018. Directing our future growth and managing the growth we have already absorbed will be critical in coming years.
We have the privilege and responsibility to elect our next mayor. The only poor choice is to avoid casting our vote. It is important that we all consider the issues carefully and with all of Nashville’s needs in mind. As President John F. Kennedy once said: “Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past — let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
Bill Freeman is the owner of FW Publishing, the publishing company that produces the Nashville Scene, Nfocus, the Nashville Post and Home Page Media Group in Williamson County.