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 Stephanie Johnson.
Johnson is a Creative Director for a skincare company. She attended Regent University where she also served as the President of the International Justice Mission. She previously ran for the District 7 Metro Council seat in 2019 which was won by Emily Benedict.
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 Johnson’s answers to those questions.
How would you address the homelessness issues in Nashville? | How would you address the lack of affordable housing options around the city?
Johnson: “I am putting the responsibility to house our neighbors on the streets on the council members who serve them in those districts. I will be meeting with the metro council and implementing unhousing housing plan, focusing on the 8,000+ metro students without housing first. Identity low-income and affordable housing stock in each district (building a live site and emergency alarm (potentially into hub Nashville) for any district that moves below our marker of acceptable low-income and affordable housing stock. Each member will be tasked with meeting with their district neighbors about the housing plan we must implement in each district and receiving input about feelings of where they believe we can add more low-income and affordable housing and what it should look like. We will also have a 48-hour response time to help people off the streets. If I continue to see encampments in certain districts, I will personally sit with them and the nonprofit leaders in outreach to help them implement their plans of housing the unhoused.”
What does the future of mass transit look like in Nashville, in your opinion?
Johnson: “Each district council member will work with the local transit authority to implement circular transportation hubs within their districts. Leading door-to-door campaigns encouraging and educating residents on new alternative transportation methods. Some districts are ready to connect to mass transit, and others are falling behind. Working within each district to work on the connectivity will bring each district up to a standard for us to connect a mass transit system. Each district’s implementation process makes it easier to get mass transit support. Community issues need communal solutions. We will work to change a culture that is greatly dependent on cars. This is not a one-and-done task; it will take time and deeply integrated efforts to make a difference.”
If elected, how would you work to repair the relationship between the Metro Nashville government and the state government?
Johnson: “I don’t like wild goose chases, I prefer planning ahead. We saw recently city council members attempting to help where they could, but not a concentrated organized effort to ensure nothing was missed. While one council member might alert us to a new bill, it’s more of a type of free for all with who takes it and tries to stop it. What if we have an organized system where our state policy team worked on the hill, interfering with bills coming down the pipeline and organizing citizens to dismantle them before they even hit the news? That is the type of work I will bring to Metro. It’s time to stop playing defense and go on the offense. This is the only way Nashville wins. We will have an office of political engagement (state policy team)- teaching citizens how to lobby, how government works and much more to have a very engaged city.”
What would be your approach to addressing crime in the city and the increasing rate of violent crimes committed by juveniles?
Johnson: “There are 35 districts, and 5 are considered to have the highest crime rates. 30 districts get to live in peace while the rest suffer. Community leaders, metro police, and district council members will meet to implement a plan for each of their districts and look to other cities to address how we will all work together as a community to become the big city with the lowest crime rate in the country. Senator Lamar tried to get bill, SB0017, passed through the house, and there are elements in this bill we can start implementing right here on the local level. Extending school hours on Friday nights has proved to prevent gun violence to the point of almost eliminating it among juveniles. In my first 90 days, we will also host a 35 district-wide gun buyback program coupled with education. I will consider seeing if our city can setup a gun buyback website through MNPD. Our gun buyback won’t just be with money, but we will expand the choices between money, school scholarships, gift cards, trips. We will reach out to progressive celebs like Sheryl Crow who showed up to call for the state to do something, put in concert tickets or money. Call on state reps like Bill Beck to offer pro-bono legal services. To get people to put down their guns, it has to be something that will elevate their lives out of the communities or situations that keep them attached to them.”
What do you believe is the biggest issue affecting Nashville and how would you plan to address it?
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.”
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County
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.