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 Sharon Hurt.
Hurt has served as Metro Council Member At Large since 2015. She also serves as the executive director for the non-profit organization, Street Works. Hurt received her undergraduate degree from Tennessee State University and her graduate degree from Belmont University.
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 Hurt’s answers to those questions.
How would you address the homelessness issues in Nashville?
Hurt: “The first thing is to make it a priority and be intentional about executing the plan that April Calvin and the Homelessness Commission have created. We will also work with the coalition of groups that serve the homeless population. Now, I believe to get to the fruit of the problem you have to get to the root of the problem. If we want to fix the homelessness issue, we have to make sure housing stays affordable for Nashville’s life-long residents.
Now, we won’t drive down Nashville rents overnight. So until that happens we need to have a housing-first approach to getting people off the streets. Homeless people need a base from which they can build the rest of their lives. Houston, Texas has been really hitting hard on this approach and they’ve more than halved their homeless population in the past decade. Most of the people who received this housing in Houston were able to independently house themselves after they ran out of government-supported housing. I have personally seen the efficacy of this approach as the Executive Director of Street Works, where we have run a similar program through the Metro Homelessness Commission’s How’s Nashville campaign. The housing first policy has been proven to get and keep people off the streets, and these are the policies I will continue to support as Mayor.”
What does the future of mass transit look like in Nashville, in your opinion?
Hurt: “When you ask people what the number one issue in Nashville is, most people say affordable housing. The second thing they’ll tell you is traffic. We cannot fix the traffic problem without investing in mass transit. Prior administrations have kept kicking this problem down the line. With the amount of traffic people face now, we cannot avoid it any longer. Mass transit is also an equity issue. Because we don’t have reliable mass transit, people without cars are missing jobs and doctor’s appointments. From my experience, we need both short-term and long-term goals for this problem. In the short term, I plan on working with local companies to promote more flexibility in work hours to ease the nine-to-five rush hour traffic. I also want to encourage hybrid working models. We can also work with MNPS in the same way. In the long term, I want to invest in a multifaceted mass transit package, including expanding protected bike lanes, investing in light rail, and paving out bus-only lanes.”
If elected, how would you work to repair the relationship between the Metro Nashville government and the state government?
Hurt: “My plan is to leverage this common interest between the city and state to make this work. Communication is everything, understanding and being understood. I believe the state’s meddling with Nashville is an overreach. I don’t believe the state is taking a cooperative stance and that if the city concedes to one thing, the state will just keep trying to push more. It is hypocritical that the state would take a state’s right stance with the federal government but then abuse their power to interfere with city rights. Nashville is the economic engine of the state, so much of the state tax revenue comes from us, and the state knows that. They need to cooperate with us for the sake of both of us.”
What would be your approach to addressing crime in the city and the increasing rate of violent crimes committed by juveniles?
Hurt: “I will focus on the root causes of crime and give our kids the resources they need to be successful. This all begins with public services – getting money into our schools, our social services, and our recreational centers so kids have a place to go after school rather than the alternative. Studies have shown that doing something as simple as starting school later in the morning reduces crime because it keeps kids off the streets in the afternoons. I plan on investing in common sense policies like that.
We also have to make sure that Nashville is a leader in community policing and that the police have relationships with the people they’re supposed to protect. When I was growing up, the captain of the police lived a block away from me. That’s the type of relationship we need between the police and the neighborhood. Baltimore has successfully piloted a community-based policing program that has cut violent crime in the neighborhood. As Mayor, I will implement a similar program to ensure all our neighborhoods are safe.”
How would you address the lack of affordable housing options around the city?
Hurt: “Just like homelessness and traffic, we have to prioritize affordable housing. A lot of our housing issues are coming from people realizing how great of a city Nashville is, and how great it is to start a family and build a life here. Unfortunately, this is creating a lot of displacement for working and middle-class legacy residents. I have a two-pronged plan composed of preservation and creation to ensure anyone who wants to live in Nashville can.
First, is preservation. We need to make sure pre-existing affordable housing remains affordable. For this, we need property tax relief. Many corporations like Amazon are coming into Nashville. We can use the money they generate for a property tax relief fund. We also need money for maintenance. Many people who receive affordable housing have trouble maintaining the home, then sell it off to a developer, and then we’re back at step one. We need to provide financial support for owners of affordable housing by beefing up the city’s Barnes Fund.
Second, we need to create new housing stock to keep pace with how quickly Nashville is growing. We need to give tax credits to developers to incentivize them to build attainable housing. There is a huge market gap for folks who don’t qualify for affordable housing but can’t afford market-rate housing. Tax incentives can cause developers to fill up this gap. And needless to say, there is a lot of unused city land in the Bordeaux area of Nashville, acres, and acres of land just sitting empty. We can prioritize the development of this land for housing.
Finally, this is a big task. If we want to fix the housing crisis in Nashville, we need to form a coalition of developers, corporations, and grassroots organizations to work together to get housing development pushed through.”
What do you believe is the biggest issue affecting Nashville and how would you plan to address it?
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.”
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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.