ARTICLE


Mayor's Race 2019

Jun 16 2019
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Mayor's Race 2019

By: STAFF

 

JOHN RAY CLEMMONS

1. How do you think the city is doing in terms of helping its most vulnerable citizens?

Nashville is failing its most vulnerable citizens. Metro is failing to address the root causes of homelessness — wages, education, lack of public transportation, and access to health care services. A lack of vision and strong leadership in the mayor’s office, as well as its refusal to acknowledge our affordable housing crisis, is resulting in temporary fixes rather than long-term solutions.

 

2. What's your plan to increase the amount of affordable housing in Nashville?

We are expected to have a 31,000 unit shortage of affordable housing by 2025, so my goal is to significantly increase the net stock of housing options throughout our city. To do this, we must create a dedicated revenue stream for the Barnes Fund and fund it with $50 million annually. We will pass source of income protections to increase acceptance of Section 8 vouchers. Also, we will create a land bank to determine best uses for surplus property in a transparent manner with priority given to the development of affordable housing. As mayor, we will track and coordinate efforts across Metro departments and create an annual scorecard on our efforts to ensure accountability.

 

3. Do you have a plan to improve and coordinate services to help people who are Homeless?

Yes. We will provide the homeless community with all possible services, with the ultimate goal of transitioning all homeless into housing. To accomplish this, we will coordinate and streamline the efforts of the non-profit, faith-based, and private sectors. Our goal must be to end homelessness. Anything short of that is insufficient.

 

4. What do you think are the main drivers of homelessness?

Rising costs of living, lack of education, limited access to health care and substance abuse services, job insecurity and low wages, and a shortage of housing and transportation options. Additionally, Metro fails to acknowledge the true scope of the homelessness situation in Nashville, and this directly results in a lack of necessary resources and attention to this issue.

 

5. Over the past few years, we've seen money/deals given to businesses/developers while the budgets seem to leave very little for teachers, services and affordable housing. Is frustration with that justified?

Yes. It is time for Nashville to get its priorities straight.

 

 

NOLAN STARNES

1.   How do you think the city is doing in terms of helping its most vulnerable citizens?

I think the city could do a better job helping its most vulnerable citizens'. Now, some people make the choice to not be productive citizens. But we all know that most Nashville citizens are not making the median salary to afford the cost of living in the present Nashville area. The [Nashville Rescue Mission] is a good resource, but it seems like only a place to get some homeless people off of the street for only a moment. This is a very serious issue for me!

 

2. What's your plan to increase the amount of affordable housing in Nashville?

We have to find it in the budget to balance and factor the citizens tax dollars into our affordable housing crisis. The whole point of taxation is to make the economy work for the citizens. The employees that operate our society are not making the income needed to live comfortably these days. We also have to stop giving tax cuts to these billion dollar corporations whom are looking to move their headquarters in our city. Taxes from those entities would help out tremendously in a lot of areas.

3. Do you have a plan to improve and coordinate services to help people who are homeless?

I think that the resources that are already in place are good services to help the homeless.  There are, but [there] needs to be more transitional housing available for the homeless.  But, there is some accountability that the homeless has to accept in their situation. Like, you have to work a job and also take advantage of programs that teach skills that could be utilized to help put the homeless back on their feet.

 

4.  What do you think are the main drivers of homelessness?

There isn't a scope of the problem. The problem is abroad and it varies from different people's situations. But, everybody is only one step away from homelessness. One thing could happen and change their whole income situation.

 

5. Over the past few years, we've seen money/deals given to businesses/developers while the budgets seem to leave very little for teachers, services and affordable housing. Is frustration with that justified?

Frustration is definitely justified with this situation. But, you can reflect on the questions already answered could reflect this question.  

 

 

 

JON SEWELL

1. How do you think the city is doing in terms of helping its most vulnerable citizens?

Damn pitifully. A great deal of energy and focus on the leadership level has been to attract new people, new talent, new companies, while ignoring what we have here at home. Our neighbors with fewer resources end up putting into a system that we then carve out benefits for the newly arrived. We;re cutting and reducing basic municipal services because while everyone’s in charge there doesn’t seem to be anyone driving. With hope, we can steer the conversation back to taking care of each other.

2. What's your plan to increase the amount of affordable housing in Nashville?

It’s almost cliché at this point to discuss the deficit of affordable housing in Nashville because it is simply a crisis that has been misunderstood, misdiagnosed and then resulting in misguided prescriptions. The recently pitched One Roof initiative has admirable goals, but it remains to be seen if real increases in money investments will occur or if its a shell game that uses clever branding. While rent control is banned at the state level, there are still mechanisms in place that can prioritize the creation of an extensive affordable housing stock in Nashville, be it through streamlining codes processes and detached dwelling categorizations, inclusionary zoning type approaches, putting more money into Barnes Fund, are all obvious places to start. But tackling the problem requires us to address the issues as a crisis and requires normal people to step up and advocate for our neighbors with fewer resources. To that end, I do my best to walk the walk: I met with Urban Housing Solutions about a project in my neighborhood this morning with innovative ways to fund interesting projects of these private non-profits as well that can be incubators of new approaches with more flexibility.

 

3. Do you have a plan to improve and coordinate services to help people who are homeless?

Coordinating services has made strides recently with a coordinated database that can be shared across agencies. Providing more lasting services must build on a housing first initiative in order then to treat the underlying root causes, including some of the main drivers below.

 

4. What do you think are the main drivers of homelessness?

Homelessness represents the intersection of several factors, primarily, in a town like Nashville, a lack of Affordable Housing stock, persistent poverty (especially representative of the inability of local wages to keep up with the rising cost-of-living), as well as issues stemming from mental illness and substance abuse, fundamentally when those latter issues are not receiving the appropriate services. For women, a contributing driver would also be domestic violence, when the victim has nowhere else to turn and is forced into homelessness as a matter of survival. A deficit in service provision for these issues then exacerbates the initial issue, resulting in compounded trauma and ultimately often consuming more resources.

 

5. Over the past few years, we've seen money/deals given to businesses/developers while the budgets seem to leave very little for teachers, services and affordable housing. Is frustration with that justified?

Certainly. Misappropriation of municipal services by those with political legacies to build shouldn't come as a surprise. The track record recently has been to help build private profit from public resources. Meanwhile, those putting into the tax base locally suffer displacement and a lack of basic services creating a series of unnecessary traumas. We can save lives and save money thru a re-prioritization of our finite resources.

 

 

 

JOHN COOPER

1.  How do you think the city is doing in terms of helping its most vulnerable citizens?

Poorly. City Hall has lost track of the public’s priorities and lost the public’s trust. The primary obligation of city government is to provide high quality universal services and assist our citizens who most need help. We are severely lacking in affordable housing and supportive housing. This city too often treats our population experiencing homelessness as merely a nuisance to be removed for the sake of our image. We need to make it a priority to address the needs of our most vulnerable residents.

 

2. What's your plan to increase the amount of affordable housing in Nashville?

My full affordable housing policy statement is on my website (johncooperfornashville.com/affordable-housing/), but here are the key things that we need to do. We need to increase transparency and improve the functioning of MDHA. We need to improve residents’ access to services. We need to bring real expertise to housing policy and get it out from under the political purview of the Mayor’s Office. As your mayor, I will create a real 10-year plan to preserve and create a meaningful number of affordable housing units at an appropriate price. I will also establish a revolving loan fund for affordable housing.

The current mayor’s plan is all sound bite and no substance. The mayor’s supposedly three-quarter billion dollar housing investment is made up of unsecured promises for private contributions and a reframing of pre-existing funding and development plans. Neither of Mayor Briley’s budget proposals included any increased funding for the Barnes Fund.

 

3. Do you have a plan to improve and coordinate services to help people who are homeless?

A mayor, I would bring together the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to find ways to increase services for our unhoused population. We need to increase access to outreach services and support the utilization of a housing first approach.

 

4. What do you think are the main drivers of homelessness?

Not having housing. Roughly 17 percent of Nashville’s population lives below the poverty line. Nashvillians living check to check are often one or two bad breaks away from homelessness if they don’t have a support system. Gentrification of once-affordable neighborhoods is another concern.

 

5. Over the past few years, we've seen money/deals given to businesses/developers while the budgets seem to leave very little for teachers, services and affordable housing. Is frustration with that justified?

Yes. The Mayor’s Office’s approach has been to incentivize development and hope that benefits trickle down. Time and time again, Metro has been co-opted in the service of incentives that are often no longer necessary. As mayor, I will rebalance Nashville’s priorities and refocus our budget to find additional funding for education and affordable housing. I want to create a Nashville that works for everyone.

 

 

 

DAVID BRILEY

1.  How do you think the city is doing in terms of helping its most vulnerable citizens?

 This is some of the most important work a city does, and we’ve made strides over the last year:

Creating the Homelessness Planning Council, which will help govern, coordinate and target resources.

Strengthening coordination of providers through the Coordinated Entry System (CES), which led to a 14 percent reduction in our annual Point in Time Count.

Increasing our federal Continuum of Care funding by 10 percent.

Focusing on target populations such as youth and veterans. Last summer, we received $3.54M for youth housing and services. Through the 90 in 90 Veterans Campaign last fall, we identified more than 200 Veterans experiencing homelessness, and we’re housing more veterans each month. We are also building 40 units of Veterans housing at Curb Victory Hall.

 

2. What's your plan to increase the amount of affordable housing in Nashville?

This spring, I launched the Under One Roof 2029 Initiative, Nashville’s largest-ever plan for affordable housing. Over the next decade, we will invest $500 million in affordable housing and call upon the private sector to contribute another $250 million. Through this initiative, we will build more than 10,000 units of housing that include deeply affordable, work force and market rate housing. That way, we can deconcentrate poverty and help residents take the next step toward a better life. I am also championing the development of 100 units of permanent supportive housing and an accompanying homeless service center.

 

3. Do you have a plan to improve and coordinate services to help people who are homeless?

I will continue supporting the work of the Metro Homeless Impact Division and the Homelessness Planning Council as they build a stronger system to end homelessness. This summer, the Homelessness Planning Council will release their strategic plan, which I will implement. By expanding the CES, we will continue to better coordinate service providers and nonprofits, and we will keep investing in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). We must shift our mindset from not just managing homelessness – but actually ending it.

 

4. What do you think are the main drivers of homelessness?

Many of our residents are just one crisis away from homelessness. Mental health, substance abuse issues and lack of employment are compounding factors with homelessness, but ultimately the issue is housing. That’s why I’m working to expand “housing first” approaches. Residents need a roof over their head first, and then we can provide the wrap-around services they need.

 

5. Over the past few years, we've seen money/deals given to businesses/developers while the budgets seem to leave very little for teachers, services and affordable housing. Is frustration with that justified?

TIF is something we have used in the past to incentivize certain development and revitalization projects in the city. While I believe it’s been used wisely to date, moving forward we are going to be more diligent and stricter about doing it. In the two budgets that I’ve presented to Council as Mayor, neither of them included a single dollar for new TIF or other business incentives. A Metro-led committee recommended that we make a clearer set of rules for TIF, and I support that change. Secondly, regardless of past trends, I think I’ve made my commitment to services like education and affordable housing very clear. This year, I allocated more than $1 billion to MNPS — their largest-ever allocation from Metro. I created Under One Roof so that affordable housing will be a budget priority of Metro’s for the next decade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Swain, Jody Ball, Bernie Cox, Jimmy Lawrence and Julia Marguerite Clark-Johnson did not submit answers to The Contributor’s questions.


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