Jun 05 Meet the mayoral candidates: Councilman John Cooper
NewsChannel 5 submitted questions to the leading candidates to be Metro Nashville’s next mayor. Here’s what Metro Councilman John Cooper had to say about the issues facing Music City voters when they make their choice August 1, 2019.
How will your administration view the issue of affordable housing in Nashville? What steps would your administration take to improve affordability for more residents?
Councilman Cooper: We need to make affordable housing central in everything we do. Housing should be a part of every development incentive deal, but it hasn’t been. I’ve cosponsored legislation that would match affordable housing dollars with incentive dollars.
As mayor, I will put forward a REAL affordable housing plan that builds a meaningful number of new units. The current mayor’s proposal has deeply misleading numbers and would create very few new units over the next decade.
2018’s transit referendum lost in a landslide. Will your administration make any attempt to revive a comprehensive transit plan?
Councilman Cooper: Yes, unlike our current mayor, I will put forth a new transportation plan. I was the only countywide elected official to oppose last year’s plan because it was not the right plan for Nashville. I also clearly see that we cannot wait 5 more years as the current mayor has suggested. I am committed to delivering a cost-effective, fundamentals-first transportation plan that will help you get to work and back home. I was the first candidate to endorse the Community Transportation Platform that involved a ground-up planning process – exactly what was missing in last year’s top-down, downtown-centric approach. We need a transportation plan that works for every neighborhood, not just downtown.
Downtown and downtown-adjacent neighborhoods have seen a boom in development, revenue, and property values over the last decade. What can your administration do to make sure that other neighborhoods – Antioch, Bordeaux, Hermitage and Donelson – aren’t left behind?
Councilman Cooper: In Chapter 1 of Nashville’s growth, we spent a lot of public money creating a thriving downtown. We’ve done that. Now in Chapter 2, we need to invest in neighborhoods and schools. Our future depends on it. A property owner in Bordeaux or Donelson should not be paying for the costs associated with downtown. As mayor, I will make sure that tourists’ dollars are spent on residents, not residents’ dollars spent on tourists.
I will invest in neighborhoods by focusing on schools, parks, and community centers. When density and growth happen like they have in Nashville, we must use that growth to build a livable city by investing tax money back into the neighborhoods. I intend to prioritize the forgotten corridors of Davidson County such as Jefferson Street and Nolensville Road. We need to improve our infrastructure such as sidewalks, safer intersections, and an updated storm water system.
The problem of youth violence has plagued the city over the past few years. How will your administration address that problem?
Councilman Cooper: Our young people face an epidemic of gun violence. Last year, we had nearly twice the number of 13-year-olds charged with violent crimes than in the year before. Too many people don’t feel safe in their own neighborhood. Between 2014 and 2018, auto thefts increased 280 percent. Yet our police department is understaffed by more than 130 positions.
Our public safety agencies must work better together and with nonprofit and faith-based groups. I plan to create a public safety subcabinet that brings together representatives for MNPD, Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, the Division of Youth Services, probation and parole, as well as representatives of nonprofit and faith-based groups, to identify problems and solutions. It is important that this effort include restorative justice advocates and other intervention advocates who are on the ground daily.
What role do you intend to play when it comes to the Metro School Board and its search for a new Schools Director? What role should the mayor play when it comes to Nashville’s public schools?
Councilman Cooper: Education is the most important thing we do as a city. Instead of swinging around making threats, we need a mayor who listens and can bring out the best in everyone. I would work with the school board and the community to make sure that we find the best person to lead our school system. Support from the mayor will be crucial for the next phase of putting schools first.
By the time our next mayor submits their first budget it will have been eight years since property taxes were last increased in Nashville. Do you intend to raise taxes when in office to close gaps in the budget?
Councilman Cooper: Metro has over $100 million in new revenue for fiscal year 2020. A properly managed city should be able to thrive off of a 4.5% revenue increase. Metro needs a return to fiscal stewardship. I don’t feel good about asking taxpayers to pay more in taxes when we aren’t properly managing the money we already have. That said, there are still unanswered questions about the current mayor’s budget proposal, namely surrounding the property and parking sales.
The landfill currently used to dispose of Metro’s solid waste will likely be full before the next mayor’s first term ends. How will your administration deal with Nashville’s trash?
Councilman Cooper: As mayor, I would create a more robust composting and recycling program that allows us to divert waste into useful products for our community. Organics comprise up to 30% of our waste stream that what we’re putting in our landfill. Digging a hole and putting waste in the ground causes a problem for the next generation. Composting and recycling allows us to reap the renewable rewards of processing waste and allows it go to something new.
We need to look at alternatives to landfills. I support building a digester for composting and renewable energy. A fully sealed and fully automated digester would be the safest and cleanest alternative for our community. Food waste, yard waste and wood from demolitions can be digested and turned into topsoil and fertilizer for our farms. This is important in part because the 2010 flood washed away a lot of our topsoil.
Did you support the creation of the Community Oversight Board? How will your administration work with the board to investigate police misconduct?
I voted for it. I support accountability at all levels of government. Now that we have a COB, we need to support it. As for the role of my administration, the mayor’s office should not interject itself into the independent process
John Cooper has served as an At-Large member of Metro Council since 2015.