The Tennessean today gave a lot of coverage to NOAH, the group that is hosting the mayoral forum at 3PM tomorrow at Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church. NOAH is headed by Mike Hodge a community organizer in the tradition of Saul Alinsky who for many years was the public face of the Neighborhood Resource Center. Hodge is good at what he does. He is a master at getting people stirred up and manipulating opinion and he is very good at putting people on the spot and making them commit to positions to which they may not want to commit.
The NOAH platform is the following:
Affordable housing. To preserve and produce affordable housing by enhancing the city's housing trust fund, developing inclusionary zoning, and using federal, state and local resources to prevent displacement.
Criminal justice: To reduce the jail population and the General Sessions Court docket by 50 percent by using alternatives to arrest and restorative justice measures.
Economic equity and jobs: To increase transparency on public project government incentives, to hire locally first and to attach community benefit measurements to projects in high-poverty areas.
Candidates will be asked to pledge to support this agenda. Candidates should be very careful how fully they commit to this platform. I agree with the goal of maintaining a mix of housing price points in Nashville, but would not use the heavy hand of government to force this preference. I support efforts to build affordable housing through tax credits and using the trust fund for construction loans and I support zoning that allow accessory dwelling units on residential property, but exclusionary zoning requires a given share of new construction to be affordable by people with low to moderate incomes. Do we really want the city to engage in this type price control? I do not. I am not really sure I know what is meant by "using federal, state and local resources to prevent displacement," but I would hope a candidate would not give an ironclad grantee to do that.
To reduce the jail population by 50%? That is a worthy goal and the jail population has been declining for several years now. However, the crime rate has been on a decline for about the last 30 years. If crime goes back up then incarcerations will go back up. I do think one way to achieve this goal is to cease jailing people for possession of small amounts of marijuana and even ceasing to arrest people for possession of small amounts. We already have some diversion programs such as the "John School" for people arrested for soliciting prostitutes. I think there are good answers to this question without moving far to the left. However 50% is an awfully big reduction on top of the already reduced jail population. I am going to be leery of voting for anyone who promises this much reduction without a convincing explanation of how they will achieve it.
Economic equity and jobs? I want the best deal for the tax payers and hiring locally is often not practical. When a company bids on a big job they usually have their own trained and reliable labor force. I don't want a mayor who promises that public projects will use x% local labor. Also, I am unsure exactly what is meant by attaching "community benefit measurements to projects in high-poverty areas." It will be interesting to see how candidates answer that question.
I hope the candidates will not pander and move as far to the left as this forum will try to push them. I expect Megan Barry is already there. It will be interesting to see how the others respond, perform, and are received. I hope a large crowd attends this forum and not just members of NOAH. Sometimes politician get more backbone when they see they are being watched. They may pander less if the audience is more diverse than just the people supporting the agenda of the host organization.
I plan to attend. Please join me.