NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This August, Nashvillians will head to the polls to vote in the Metropolitan General Election.
Earlier this year, Mayor John Cooper announced he would not be seeking re-election, creating a wide-open field of candidates in the race to be the next mayor of Music City.
One of those candidates is Jim Gingrich.
Gingrich describes himself as “a problem solver, not a politician.” He is the former Chief Operating Officer of AllianceBernstein. The Cornell University graduate was named Nashville’s “Newsmaker of the Year” by Nashville Business Journal in 2019.
News 2 submitted questionnaires to each of the candidates running for Nashville mayor. The form featured six questions addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues—including crime rates, mass transit, homelessness, and the Metro government’s current relationship with the state government. Below you will find Gingrich’s answers to those questions.
How would you address the homelessness issues in Nashville?
Gingrich: “Nashville’s homelessness is a tragedy. Nashville is just getting to the point now where we’re starting to build permanent supportive housing in the city. We’re building 90 units, nearly $300,000 a unit. But we need several thousands of units. We could be doing many more things, like purchasing hotels and refurbishing them. We can do things at a third to a sixth of the cost of what we’re currently investing in our permanent housing, and that’s what we have to do to get thousands of units online quickly. The other tricky piece of this is the number of community partners that have to be coordinated to deliver supportive services. As mayor, I will appoint somebody to my office and use that office to both scale our plan and then coordinate it.”
What does the future of mass transit look like in Nashville, in your opinion?
Gingrich: “Years of unrestrained and unchecked growth have congested our streets and made our city unsafe for pedestrians.
As Mayor, I see dealing with our transit and traffic as a critical component in dealing with our unrestrained growth.
I will urgently implement solutions to our transit – from investing more in our public transit, investing in pedestrian safety, and working on a long-term regional solution to traffic.”
If elected, how would you work to repair the relationship between the Metro Nashville government and the state government?
Gingrich: “The fact is, the Nashville region accounted for nearly 50% of the economic growth of the state over the last ten years, and the sour relationship affects not only Nashville but our neighboring counties. We must build relationships with our surrounding counties to address the challenges we collectively face. The relationship between Nashville and Tennessee became this broken because we have politicians trying to score points, thinking about their next reelection or how they’re going to get to the next office rather than doing what’s right for the people who live in the city, live in the region, and live in the state. I’ve negotiated successfully with the state, and I’ve also disagreed publicly with the state. We need a leader who can repair the relationship and make sure both governments are working for the best interest of the city and state.”
What would be your approach to addressing crime in the city and the increasing rate of violent crimes committed by juveniles?
Gingrich: “Regardless of zip code, everybody should feel safe in their community. We need to address crime directly at the cause. That will require a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach that includes giving officers the resources they need, building and scaling community programs, and investing in workforce development programs.
As Mayor, I’ll dedicate a role who will specifically report to me and who will coordinate all these efforts across all departments. After the horrific events that occurred at Covenant School, we must do everything we can to invest in common-sense gun solutions and keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and invest in mental health services.
As Mayor, I’ll take on anybody who puts politics ahead of the safety of our children and families.”
How would you address the lack of affordable housing options around the city?
Gingrich: “We’ve done multiple affordable housing studies. Each one tells us the problem is worse than the last time we studied it. It’s a shame that the unrestrained growth has priced so many people out of our city.
Even the people who serve our city — our teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other Metro workers — cannot afford to live here anymore.
This is another example where the city has kicked the can. The magnitude of the challenge is now measured in tens of thousands of units needed and billions of dollars to make it happen.
That’s why we need leadership that will work for the people instead of for out-of-town developers to address the affordable housing crisis. And it starts with three things:
- Properly invest in the Barnes fund to create more affordable housing here in Nashville.
- Make use of the land the city owns that is ripe for affordable housing development.
- Harness the power of the private sector to make multibillion-dollar investments in housing and make it easier for affordable housing to be built.”
What do you believe is the biggest issue affecting Nashville and how would you plan to address it?
Gingrich: “Davidson County ranks 90th out of Tennessee’s 95 counties for child welfare. Compared to peer cities, Nashville’s violent crime rate has been 87% higher in the most recent five years. The time we spend in traffic is up to 9 hours from 2021, totaling over 2 days we spend stuck in traffic a year. Almost half of our renters and one out of four homeowners is cost-burdened. Our Metro budget is 60% more than it was 10 years ago, and our roads haven’t gotten any better. That is not my vision for Nashville, and I’m sure that’s not the vision for Nashville you want. But what have our politicians been focused on? Subsidizing a stadium for billionaires and catering to other special interests, like out-of-town developers.
Every family deserves to live in a neighborhood where they feel safe in a home they can afford, and every child deserves support, education, and foundation so they can build a better future. Unfortunately, though, this is not the reality in Nashville today.
For far too long, Nashville has been an ATM for out-of-town developers. Now is the time we start building our city for our families. We can’t wait. The soul of our city depends on it.
The mayor has a responsibility to improve the lives of every Nashvillian and prioritize funding for those communities that have been ignored and forgotten. We are long past being able to address priorities in sequential order. We have so many issues we must address all at once, and many of our problems are interconnected. If elected, I would immediately put into place a growth management plan that would provide a holistic vision and forthcoming actions that address homelessness, housing and affordability, transit, public schools, crime, and infrastructure.”
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To read responses from other candidates in the race, click here.
The Metropolitan General Election takes place on August 3. A runoff will be held on September 14, if necessary.
Candidates have until noon on May 18 to qualify.