Interview with the Tennessean

I recently participated in the Tennessean’s Editorial Questionnaire. Please read some of my responses.

What is your age? 44

Why are you running for this office?

The people of District 3 deserve to be notified of decisions that will impact our neighborhoods, and they want their concerns to be heard before decisions are made. The people who live and work in Nashville are the ones who have made Nashville the “it” city. They deserve equal infrastructure and improvements as the downtown and tourist areas, and I will fight for the people of District 3. Many people do not realize that a large part of the council job is managing planning and zoning issues for the district. I have been fighting for smart development across District 3 for years now, and I want to continue that fight with the resources provided to council members to ensure that the character and quality of life in our communities is enhanced and not replaced.

What makes you qualified to hold this office and better qualified than your opponent(s)?

I have been fighting alongside the neighbors of District 3 at Planning and Council meetings for years. I have worked across the district with neighbors in Whites Creek, Bellshire, Grande Villa, Dalemere, and Hunters Lane to support responsible and smart development. I have over 25 years of experience in the business and government sector running projects and managing teams that implement projects. For decades, my job has been to get projects done on time and on budget, and I want to utilize those skills for District 3 and Nashville. I also have a graduate degree in Public Administration and graduated top of my class from the University of Colorado Denver. Because I have both studied and worked in government for years, I have the experience of working from inside government and already have a track record of success in government entities. I once saved the United States Antarctic Program over half a million dollars per year by reducing waste and utilizing resource planning tools to minimize unnecessary spending on communications equipment and services. I plan on finding similar opportunities for efficiency as councilwoman.

What are your top 2 to 3 priorities for your new (or next) term in office?

1. Ensure desperately needed capital improvements for District 3 are funded – such as sidewalks for the most dangerous areas for pedestrians in District 3 (Ewing Drive and Brick Church Pike), stormwater remediation across the district, and building an additional fire station in the northern part of the district to address the growth and long response times for fire and ambulance in the more remote parts of the district (people’s lives are literally at stake for all 3 of these types of capital improvements).

2. Ensuring properties and proposed developments in District 3 are compliant with Policy/Nashville Next. This promotes smart development and ensures that residents have a say in the future of their communities.

3. Enacting values-based budgeting that addresses our city’s growth. We need budget reform – it cannot wait any longer.

Do you think Nashville is headed in the right direction? Why or why not?

Nashville has so much potential as the “it” city, but the residents who have lived here and worked hard for our city’s success are unhappy with the direction of Nashville. We need to be addressing our ongoing budget crisis – which impacts infrastructure and improvements, education, the ability of Nashville’s city workers to continue to afford to live in Nashville, equipment for first responders (firefighters, paramedics, and police), and so much more. We also need to promote smart development of our neighborhoods that protect and enhance the existing neighborhoods and natural resources like forests and waterways which make them so desirable. District 3 neighbors in Whites Creek had the highest participation rates of any neighborhood in the Nashville Next process – we need to protect the strategic plan that was developed with our communities’ input. I believe these things are all within easy reach for Nashvillians – as long as they elect councilmembers who reflect their values.

What is your opinion on Nashville’s growth and should it be sustained? If so, how?

Nashville’s growth has not been equitable – it has not benefited everyone in our city. Moving forward, we need to ensure that the people who live and work in Nashville get their fair share. It starts with listening to the concerns of our constituents and finding ways to address those concerns before decisions are made. It means making transparent and equitable deals with companies who want incentives to move to the city, minimizing gentrification, ensuring economic justice for workers, and understanding what services are public goods that should remain in the public domain (schools, libraries, parking, emergency services, parks, etc.). It also means confronting difficult truths like racism, sexism, ableism, and otherism and how those persistent behaviors cause systematic harm and disadvantage to Nashvillians via income inequality, scarcity of truly affordable housing options, lack of access to healthcare, lack of paid time off, and inadequate retirement planning. Any discussions of growth in Nashville that do not address these concerns of real people in Nashville are not really addressing the issues of growth sustainability.

In his State of Metro address, Mayor Briley said he wants Nashville to be the most equitable city in America. How do we get there and what barriers are holding the city back?

To become the most equitable city in America, we need to have a strong understanding of what issues are holding us back. The mayor has already mentioned increasing access to affordable housing, providing provisions for minority-owned, woman-owned, and LGTBQI-owned businesses who will have a more equal opportunity to earn the city’s business for contracts. Adding ways in which we address inequalities for those with disabilities would be another great area to cover – and ensuring that all discussions on transportation, education, and economic development take into consideration the needs of our citizens with different abilities is vital. We need to boldly address the gender pay gap for workers in Nashville – and find ways that as a city we can move toward true pay equality. We can also address issues of inclusion on our boards and in economic development programs for the city – further diversity and inclusion in key decision making positions will help our city become more equitable. In the words of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, “we all do better when we all do better.”

What are you hearing most from voters about what they want you to accomplish, if elected?

District 3 voters want their fair share of infrastructure – sidewalks, stormwater remediation, education funding, and additional emergency response services to close the response time gap to the rural areas. They want smart development that keeps the character and harmoniousness of their neighborhoods intact. They want government officials and councilmembers that are transparent and responsive to their needs, who will communicate about key decisions that are coming up and listen to the people of District 3 before making any decisions. Our district is the second largest geographic district in Nashville – running from Briley Parkway and Ewing Drive to the northern county line near Ridgetop. That means there are rural, suburban, and urban neighborhoods who all have diverse needs, and our district deserves representation that understands (and will listen to) all of these different perspectives. Across the district, trash and litter have become an increasing problem for our neighborhoods. Finally, education is at the top of the list for many people in District 3.

What is your position on economic incentives to private companies in the past and in the future?

Many politicians have said that they wish incentives programs would be banned at the federal level, but until they are, we have to “play the game.” I disagree. Research shows there is little real benefit from incentive packages, and in some cases, the negative effects of such incentives are statistically significant. But if we are going to continue using them, there are ways to build incentive packages that are transparent, involve diverse voices from Nashville, and that can benefit our communities greatly. All it takes is strong leadership to demand that incentives are developed in new and innovative ways that truly benefit everyone in Nashville and not just a few. We can demand clearer clawback clauses and auditing processes, mandatory wage ranges, assistance/preference for small local business involvement in development and minority and woman-owned businesses, additional capital improvements for the city, and early involvement of city council members – especially those who will be impacted most (so that the first time they see the package, it isn’t to vote on the final plan).

How involved should the mayor and Metro Council be in governing Metro Nashville Public Schools?

The executive and legislative branches of Nashville, though currently limited in their control of schools, could be addressing many of the issues that impact students outside the classroom – ensuring parents are making a living wage, families have access to healthcare, have adequate transportation options to get to/from school, have the security they need to prevent school violence, and are also important. We should ensure that the school board has the resources it needs to make the decisions of how best to address our school issues. The school board should also ensure that it is transparent and open about the decisions it makes. Education is one of the most important topics facing Nashville right now, and we need to be addressing the inequality and need for strong effective leadership while supporting those who sit on the school board since they were elected by the people of Nashville to manage our education systems.

Do support increasing the property tax rate for Metro Nashville residents? If so, why? If not, why not?

It is never popular to raise taxes, but the Tennessean reports that in comparison, Nashville’s property tax rates are the lowest of any major county in Tennessee. The Nashville budget is in a state of crisis that cannot keep up with the needs of operating a growing city. It takes money to provide firefighters, police, paramedics, city codes enforcers, fire marshals, stormwater specialists, and all the other positions and equipment that need to be funded to ensure that Nashvillians are safe and healthy. We have been growing our population, number of houses and developments, businesses, but often without increasing the city support needed to maintain the services a city of size should be providing. I support tax increases, but we need to be mindful to ensure that the people who have lived in Nashville for years are not forced from their homes. There are several solutions worth investigating to address this concern – such as safeguard rebates (reduces property tax payments that exceed a certain portion of a household’s annual income), reducing tax loopholes, ensuring citizens are educated about tax assessments and how to appeal assessments, and looking into different tax rates for rental and commercial properties that could be ways to make property taxes apply more equitably. It is a difficult position to have as a candidate, but transparency and values-based budgeting are key tenets of my platform. I am also committed to honest and open communication about what is happening in our city – and residents of District 3 can always count of me to tell them where I stand on any issue.

Although the transit referendum of 2018 failed, how should Metro approach transit and transportation issues into the future?

Any future transportation reforms should be data-driven and include opportunities for input that reflects the variety of needs Nashvillians have for transportation (including disabled citizens). We should be working closely with surrounding counties and municipalities that are the home to so many of the people who work in Nashville. We should include innovative approaches such as programs that would allow for flexible work schedules and work from home options that could reduce traffic in high volume times. Nashville also needs to be addressing disruptive technologies and business models such as self-driving cars, ride-sharing programs, and services like Lyft/Uber. These options alone will not solve our transportation crisis, but together, a menu of options could provide some relief while larger scale projects like light rail, additional roadways, and additional public transportation are built. Transportation is expensive, but a strategic investment to address traffic and the environmental issues that fossil-fuel burning automobiles cause is long overdue.

What is your position on the future of scooters in Nashville?

Scooters are complicated. The cause many problems for our city in the current implementation. Yet, having worked for 25+ years in Information Technology, I support disruptive technologies that serve consumer’s needs where other industries have failed. We desperately need transportation reform, and I believe scooters can provide assistance with the “last mile.” But in a city that has a devastating shortage of police officers and has one of the lowest rates of officers per capita when fully staffed, the cost of scooter law non-compliance is too great for us to bear. If scooters were used properly, stored out of the way of sidewalks and areas where Nashvillians with disabilities must have access, if helmets were used for every scooter ride, and traffic laws were consistently obeyed by scooter drivers, then scooters would not be such an issue. The Tennessean reported that there were around 1.5 fire department transports of scooter injuries per day in April 2019, and those take up valuable time and resources from our fire and paramedic personnel. That number does not include emergency room visits for patients who transport themselves to treatment for injuries. Scooter companies must be responsible for the problems they have caused to our city, and if they cannot ensure scooter users will abide by existing laws and safety regulations, then scooters need to be prohibited until they are able to do so.

How should Nashville address the affordable housing scarcity? And what is your position on Mayor Briley’s Under One Roof initiative?

Affordable housing is often a misunderstood term – and I support ensuring that the teachers, firefighters, nurses, hospitality industry workers, and others that are the backbone of our city are able to afford to continue to live in our great city.

Nashville needs to address the lack of affordable housing in Davidson County, and it also needs to address gentrification within existing neighborhoods. The mayor’s Under One Roof Initiative is bold, and I welcome the investment. Yet, I still have questions about whether the plan adequately addresses the rates of homelessness in the city. I also have concerns about where the mayor will find the $500 million he has promised to fund the project. I would like to see more private investment, transparent incentive packages for companies moving to Nashville (including provisions for private investment in Under One Roof), and to ensure that Nashville workers are receiving a living wage that allows them to better afford housing in our city. Without inclusionary zoning practices (which were outlawed at the state level), we must seek creative alternative solutions.

What is your position on a proposal to privatize parking enforcement in the downtown and surrounding areas?

In the private sector, companies outsource services when they do not have the internal resources or skills to provide those services adequately. While the original privatization plan was proposed under the idea that only a private company could provide the new meter and payment technologies, parking services are generally a service every city provides. It isn’t rocket science. Metro could provide many of the improvements that the parking vendor would have provided without a sharing the revenue it would collect with a private company. We need to be making smart financial decisions about our services and be cautious about band-aid fixes that do not address the core budgetary issues Nashville faces.

What is your position on the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds?

The 2011 Referendum showed that many Nashvillians are passionate about the Fairgrounds and the legacy of our state fair, speedway, and flea market. I believe there are ways to preserve the existing uses, while making opportunities for innovative new uses on the property. Financially feasible, privately-funded, common-sense options that honor the existing Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) deserve careful consideration. The most important thing is that the decision process is transparent, honest, and inclusive of the many voices and perspectives from across the city. If the process does not incorporate feedback and address the concerns of the people, then it may never truly be successful.

How could Metro better balance the needs and wants of downtown and the outlying neighborhoods?

Nashvillians need more transparency into the capital improvements budget, what projects and improvements are coming to each district, and how those projects are prioritized. The new scoring system for councilmembers to apply points to the projects they think are important is a good first step, but clearly understanding the backlog of work that must happen in Nashville is a key part of being able to prioritize effectively. The city council should be brought into incentive package negotiations and deals that the mayor’s office brokers before those details are finalized so that they can also provide input and ensure their constituents’ needs are being addressed before the packages are too far along to be changed. Prioritizing the safety, health, and welfare of our citizens is paramount.

When visitors ask you, “What should I do in Nashville?” what are the top 3 things or places you recommend?

We love food and the arts in Nashville. So we often recommend the Frist Art Museum, the Parthenon, and Cheekwood. As for food, Monell’s (did you know they serve breakfast from midnight to 3AM on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings?), the Loveless, Lockeland Table, Slim & Husky’s, and Mitchell’s Deli are always on our list to take friends from out of town.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you, your values and priorities?

I am passionate about serving the people of District 3 and Nashville. I was born and raised in Whites Creek to a family of firefighters who taught me the importance of public service. I believe that everyone has a right to a timely response from their councilmember, and I will listen to what the people of our district have to say before I make decisions. I will fight for you. It is time that the people who live and work in Nashville are given our fair share.

Will you commit to being civil in how you present yourself and the way you interact with opponents and others? (Our definition of civility is being a good, active, honest and respectable citizen)