Saturday, May 23, 2015

The big Belmont mayoral debate. Who won?

Last night was the night of the big mayoral debate at Belmont University sponsored by The Tennessean and WSMV-TV Channel 4.  Unfortunately I was unable to watch the debate. It was live-streamed but I was otherwise occupied. Fortunately, it is achieved on YouTube. Here it is.

The format of this debate is such that not each candidate gets to answer each question but any candidate can give a quick rebuttal to what another candidate says. With seven candidates in the race, there  is no way to have a real debate unless it lasted hours and hours then no one would watch it, so this is probably about as good of a format as one could have. Also, since most of the candidates are saying the same thing, there is no point to hearing seven candidates say the same thing but just saying it a little differently. Here are some highlights:

Transit and the AMP: Megan Barry says she would chase federal dollars to get transit funding and that sidewalks would go some where. Bone did not say anything much different and said we need a local transit plan and a regional transit plan. David Fox said we must find ways to have the private sector meet some of our transit needs.

The Education Gap between the good schools and the bad schools. David Freeman Howard Gentry get asked this question and neither one answer it. Freeman says the Mayor cannot do much about our schools except be a cheerleader and he says our teachers are not getting a fair shake by all the criticism of our public schools. Gentry doesn't say anything of importance either.  Kane, Fox, Bone and Barry give a rebuttal but one can't say much in one minuet. Fox says the mayor can be very important in influencing school policy.  Megan Barry calls for universal pre-K which confirms why I think she is the worst choice for Mayor. Young children from two-parent middle class or privileged families who have parents that read to their children, give them experiences and engage them, do not need pre-K while kids living in the projects may benefit. Why make pre-K universal rather than focus on where it may actually do some good?

The move of the jail and police headquarters to Antioch and Jefferson St..  Kane and Rebrovick are asked how they would have handled this. Kane says we should start from the neighborhood up and not impose things on neighborhoods. Rebrovick gives a lame answer not addressing the question.

How much would you invest and how would you pay for mass transit: Fox says he cannot come up with a dollar amount and say lets spend that amount. He says we need to come up with a plan, see what we need, what we can afford and sequence that. He again says he would seek private sector partners. I like his answer. Gentry gives a lame answer and says he would seek regional funding. Kane says, "whatever it takes."  Rebrovick offers a rebuttal and says we need to use smart technology.

I am discontinuing my question-by-question report. You can watch the debate for yourself. To save time you can watch it in double time and not lose content, if you know how to do that. Here are some highlights and impression:

  • Megan Barry says she would put more money into the office of neighborhoods and gives an endorsement of NashvilleNext.
  • Howard Gentry in addressing the proposed $100 Million flood wall ask a question I have wondered about. He says the water diverted from flooding downtown by the wall has to go somewhere else and he would want to know who would be negatively impacted by protecting downtown from a flood. He says the flood wall needs more study.
  • Freeman says he is frustrated that the first he knew of the flood wall proposal was when he read it in the newspaper. He says there needs to be discussion and debate before something like this happens. 
  • Freeman says we need to pay our police, fireman and city workers more, especially the police.
  • Gentry says what happened in Baltimore could happen in Nashville and we need to address inequality.
  • Are we investing too much too quickly and should the public be concerned? No, says Gentry; Kane says we must invest in education and transit but does not answer the question; Bone says keep the momentum going and quotes the Bible as he often does; and Barry says we need to take the growth all of the way to the county line.
  • Megan says everybody should have transit to get them wherever they want to go.
  • Rebrovick keeps pushing synchronized traffic lights.
  • Fox is the only candidate who expresses concern about our city's debt obligations.
All of the candidates are personable and seem like friendly, likable people. Charles bone is quick on his feet with zingers and is quick to quote the Bible. Just judging the candidates on performance as a campaign speaker, I think Bone is probably the best one to play the role of a mayoral candidate. Freeman seems like the closest to a good ole boy, backslapping politician and someone you might want to have a beer with.

Fox makes fewer bold and visionary statements and is a little less charismatic than some of the other candidates. When asked to name a song that would make a statement about their campaign, Fox could not come up with anything. I am not sure I could either on the spur of the moment, but anything would have been better than just passing on the question. It is a shame that debate moderators ask such stupid questions. These forums should be about who can best manage the city and what political values a candidate subscribes to rather than questions of the "boxer or briefs" category.  Fox seems the most thoughtful and cautious of the candidates but in a day of massive attention deficit disorder where campaigns more closely resemble a Miss America Beauty contest, Fox's thoughtfulness and intellect may not be an advantage.

Having watched this debate and several others forums and having read the position papers of the candidates and visited the websites of the candidates and knowing something of their record, I have come to the conclusion that Megan Barry would be the least desirable of the candidates to have as mayor, and David Fox would be the best.  The other candidates are kind of lumped together somewhere between.

Fox seems the candidate most concerned that we may be overextending our indebtedness, the most open to seeking private sector solutions to problems, and the only candidate to express respect for private property rights and concern about the abuse of eminent domain. For sometime my support for Fox has been growing but I have been reluctant to reach a conclusion that he was the candidate I would vote for until I knew more about all of the candidates. I met one-on-one with Fox recently and talked with him for a little over an hour and am convinced that he is the best candidate and is absolutely genuine and has deeply held believes about the proper function of government and how the city should be managed. He would not be the mayor that would offer shiny new projects as much as a mayor who would protect our bond rating, use common sense to solve problems, and repair our crumbling infrastructure.

To read the Tennessean report on the debate, if you can get behind their pay wall, follow this link and another Tennessean report at this link. To see The WSMV Chanel 4 report follow this link.

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