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 10th mayor of Metro Nashville.

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. Candidates were also asked what they believe is the city’s biggest issue overall.

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Below you will find the answers candidates submitted for the question: What do you believe is the biggest issue affecting Nashville and how would you plan to address it? (Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.)

Natisha Brooks

“All ROADS Lead to MENTAL HEALTH! We are the “Bible Belt” Of The South! There are churches on every corner of this great city. We need Mental Health Clinics all around the metropolitan to have a “Safe Place” for those individuals struggling with depression. Have to work with the Metropolitan Davidson County School Board to make sure our students have their “safe place” in our schools. Finally, as Mayor, will work hard with DHS – The Foster Care/Adoption agencies to get children quickly in wanted and needed homes. A part of our Mental Health Crisis is the fact that children aren’t loved and are moved around throughout their school age years. This creates depression in many children and they carry that through adulthood. Only a Healthy Child Can Learn And Education Starts In A Loving Home.”

Fran Bush

“One of the most pressing issues facing Nashville is affordable housing. As the city continues to grow and attract new residents, the cost of living has increased, and many people are struggling to find housing that is both affordable and meets their needs. The lack of affordable housing can lead to displacement, homelessness and other negative consequences. Another major challenge for Nashville is transportation. With growing congestion on our roads and highways, commuters face long commutes and traffic delays. By improving transportation options, such as expanding the city’s bus system or building new light rail lines, could help reduce traffic and improve mobility for residents. Both issues I have addressed in questions 1 & 2.”

Heidi Campbell

“Nashville schools have been and always will be a top priority for me as a public servant. Our schools, and thus our students, are under-funded, under-served, and under-fire from our state legislature. At over $1B in annual costs, accounting for almost 40% of the entire municipal budget, metro schools receive only a fraction of every dollar that our city contributes to the statewide education budget.

Tennessee ranks 44th in the country in school funding. We spend about $4,000 dollars less per student than the national average. Many of our teachers are underpaid, overworked s/heroes who sacrifice each day to provide our kids with the education and life skills they need to thrive. As a state senator I’ve run and passed legislation out of committee every year to increase counselors and RTI instructors, but the bills have never been funded. Up until a year ago, Tennessee schools operated under the Basic Education Program formula which contained (unfunded) mandates for counselors and RTI instructors; under the current education plan this is no longer the case. Going forward, the onus for implementing these positions is on municipal government. We need to make sure that we aren’t letting these necessary roles go unfilled.

As mayor, I will work with the legislature to get cost-of-living adjustments and increased funding for our schools. We have a phenomenal school board and a proven track record of implementing community school organizers. I will work with school board members and MNPS to expand community services, to identify and improve inequities—as some of our schools are better supported than others—and encourage Nashvillians to invest in and engage with the schools in our community.

Every child in Davidson County deserves access to a high-quality public education, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or how much money their parents earn. As mayor, I will be a champion for public schools. Our children deserve better.”

Bernie Cox

“I see the image of Nashville roots in jeopardy of being permanently tarnished by a flurry of mismanagement. For instance, the fastest-growing investment market in the country is in jeopardy of diluting our Music City culture and unique downtown architectural atmosphere. I will re-focus city development on those projects that enhance our heritage, protecting the tourism industry, and all while operating within our revenue streams. Our most positive characteristic of Nashville is our charm. Our historic architecture of brick and mortar, artsy streets and downtown neighborhoods make us what we have been most famously known for around the world. Let’s stay true to our roots and what got us here in the first place.”

Jim 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.”

Sharon Hurt

“I believe we have to change public opinion about the definition of a minority. A minority is not race-based but need-based. It includes women, veterans, disabled people, working-class people that can’t afford healthcare for their children, and others. Our biggest issue is the lack of investment in all of these minorities in Nashville. Whether it’s schools, small businesses, skyrocketing rents, or whatever, the lack of investment in working and

middle-class people is hurting the potential of our city. As Mayor, I will work to restore hope and prosperity to EVERY block in our great city of Nashville.”

Stephanie Johnson

“The biggest issue affecting Nashville is leadership that refuses to hear. Just recently, a city council passed a bill that almost the entire city of Nashville wanted to be voted down, yet it was passed anyway. The feelings of respect in this town are low. And I will have to work hard to gain the trust of Nashvillans by ensuring the things they want to come first. That is why I am placing the burden of managing our disappearing housing stock on the council, and that is why I am placing the burden on eliminating crime-ridden districts on the burden of the council. If we want a city that has hope again, we must start taking their complaints seriously.”

Freddie O’Connell

“Nashville needs a Mayor who has their priorities straight. Until we fix that, and focus on the issues that impact our daily lives, we can’t truly move forward as a city.

For too long, Nashville has prioritized tourism and development at the expense of residents. I believe it’s time to turn our eyes from shiny objects and toys for tourists and towards issues that we feel every day, like traffic and trash pick up. It seems simple, but reorganizing our priorities will drastically improve our quality of life. We need to be filling potholes, not wooing companies that will bring their own people with them. We need to be protecting our neighborhoods’ history and their affordability, not letting them be sold off to the highest bidder – whether a builder, or a bachelorette renting for the night. We need people to be the number one priority both in our Metro departments, and in our budget.

As a native Nashvillian who loves this town, I want people to know that their city cares about them, and see that in the work we do each day. I’ve heard more and more people say they are thinking about leaving, but I want people to stay. I want us to reinvest in a city worth staying in, one that reflects our progressive values, one where everyone belongs. This is our home, and we need to fight for it, together. Let’s be clear, more of the same is on the ballot, but I’m campaigning for something different – A Nashville for Nashvillians.”

Alice Rolli

“Our biggest issue is that our residents do not feel that they are receiving value for the taxes that they pay to run our city government effectively. Today Nashville residents are the highest taxed in the state – residents pay a greater share of their pay in taxes than other cities in the state. City Hall keeps talking about the rate of taxes – but regular people look at their tax bills – and we see that we are paying considerably more than we did a few years ago and getting less – longer wait times for 911, more potholes, only 1 in 4 kids reading on grade level, more than 100 homicides a year. We need to focus on delivering results and value for the money our residents are paying.”

Vivian Wilhoite

“I believe the most imminent issue affecting Nashville is the relationship between the executive branch of metro government and the supermajority Tennessee General Assembly. Not dealing with the relationship is not an option. As mayor, I will work to build consensus by meeting with them and be willing to meet with them often. I know what it takes to build consensus. As mayor, I will use my time, treasure, and talent to bridge the gap.”

Matt Wiltshire

“Nashville should have the best public schools in the country. I’m a graduate of MNPS. Each of our kids has attended public schools for at least part of their education. (Our youngest will start kindergarten at MNPS in the fall), and they’ve gone to a variety of schools: traditional zoned public, private, magnet, charter, and Spanish immersion. It’s about finding the right fit for each kid. Every parent and guardian in Nashville should be able to choose from a variety of great schools.

The reality is that we’re asking our school system to “solve” a whole host of broader issues in our society–poverty, violence, hunger, trauma, and homelessness–while also educating kids who are bringing those challenges into the classroom. We need to provide additional support services for kids, so that our teachers can focus on teaching and our kids can focus on learning in the classroom.

With all of the excellent colleges training teachers and dedicated nonprofits here, our schools have the opportunity to be truly excellent. To reach that goal we’re going to need to bring together the public sector, the private sector and the nonprofit sector to align our goals, objectives and efforts. That coordination requires leadership and the mayor is uniquely positioned to do that.”

Jeff Yarbro

“The critical challenge facing us right now is livability. Nashville can’t be a great city if it’s not a great place to live. Finding a home you can afford in a neighborhood you love near schools you trust shouldn’t feel like winning the lottery. Driving to work or dropping your kids off at school shouldn’t feel like a daily adventure navigating around construction closures and dodging potholes. Cities around the country manage to construct new buildings without closing down roadways and sidewalks, and Nashville should be able to do that too. There’s no silver bullet municipal ordinance or a series of economic deals that ensure greater livability. Instead, we need a mayoral administration that is designed around improving the day-to-day provision of services and making the block-by-block investments in neighborhood communities where we live. That means continuously improving response times to 911 calls, reducing delays in the repair of potholes and disabled streetlights, and preventing pedestrian fatalities. It means investing in the roadways, sidewalks, greenways, and parks where people connect with their neighbors and the larger community. It means making the zoning, permitting, and development of new childcare centers just as important as new hotels. As Mayor, I’ll work every day to make sure Nashville is not just a city where you can make a living, but a community where people can build a life.”

To read candidates’ answers to the other questions submitted addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues, click here.

The Metropolitan General Election takes place on August 3. A runoff will be held on September 14, if necessary.