On May 18, Belmont University hosted a 90-minute televised debate for the leading candidates for Nashville mayor.
Of the 15 candidates that have petitioned to run for mayor, nine participated in Thursday’s debate. Debate participants were chosen based on two factors: the candidate raised at least $50,000 by the March 31 reporting period of the Davidson County Election Commission and the candidate presently holds an elective office in a county or legislative capacity.
The panel included state Senator for District 20 Heidi Campbell; at-large Metro Council member Sharon Hurt, District 19; Council member Freddie O’Connell; Davidson County Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite; state Senator for District 21 Jeff Yarbro; former educator Natisha Brooks; Alliance Bernstein COO Jim Gingrich; business strategist and former political aide Alice Rolli; and former economic development and housing executive Matt Wiltshire.
Some of the issues debated included: Nashville’s astronomical growth, affordable housing, relations with the state legislature, and homelessness.
In discussing Nashville’s growth, candidate Laticia Brooks stressed the principle “pay-to-park-to-eat. We need to make Nashville more friendly—not just to our visitors but for the people who live here. We don’t want you to come out of a restaurant and have your car towed and a meal go from $40 to $250.”
In answering a question about affordable housing, Assessor Vivian Wilhoite stressed that a public/private partnership is needed.
“In order for us to have affordable housing, government cannot do it alone. They must reach out to public/private partnerships to create the public housing we need.
“My son lives with me. He cannot live on his own even though he has a college degree, and be able to afford even renting,” said Wilhoite.
“We have to get to the root of the problem before we can get to the fruit of the problem,” said Councilwoman Sharon Hurt, referring to Nashville’s growing homeless population.
According to Hurt, the solution to helping the unhoused is a matter of political will and utilizing vacant city land and buildings.
The debate series is sponsored by The Tennessean, NewsChannel 5 and the League of Women Voters of Nashville, with Belmont University hosting two more debates in June and August. American Baptist College will also host a debate on July 6.