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 Vivian Wilhoite.
Wilhoite currently serves as the Nashville & Davidson County Assessor of Property. She’s Nashville’s first African American Assessor of Property, and only the third African American to hold the office in Tennessee history. She previously served on the Nashville Metro Council representing Southeast District 29.
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 Wilhoite’s answers to those questions.
How would you address the homelessness issues in Nashville?
Wilhoite: “Solving homelessness in Nashville will require a multi-faceted approach that involves addressing the root causes of homelessness, providing supportive services, and creating affordable housing options. There is not a one size fits all solution. And the government cannot work alone in solving homelessness. We must work with the private sector, developers, nonprofits, and faith and community leaders. Here are some steps I will take:
- Address the root causes of homelessness: Many people become homeless due to factors such as poverty, mental health issues, substance abuse, domestic violence, and job loss. Addressing these underlying issues can help prevent homelessness. Programs that provide job training, mental health services, and addiction treatment can be helpful.
- Increase the availability of affordable housing: The lack of affordable housing is a significant contributor to homelessness. Increasing the availability of affordable housing through initiatives like low-income housing tax credits, inclusionary zoning, and other incentives for developers can help create more affordable housing options for people experiencing homelessness.
- Provide supportive services: Many people experiencing homelessness need access to supportive services, such as medical care, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment. Providing these services can help individuals get back on their feet and reduce the likelihood of future homelessness.
- Coordinate resources: Collaboration between local government, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations can help ensure that resources are being used efficiently and effectively. Coordinated entry systems can help streamline the process of connecting people experiencing homelessness with the services they need.
- Increase public awareness: Raising awareness about homelessness and its causes can help reduce the stigma associated with it and promote empathy and understanding. Educating the public about homelessness and advocating for policies and programs that address its root causes can help create a more supportive community for people experiencing homelessness.
Solving homelessness is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach. By addressing the root causes of homelessness, increasing the availability of affordable housing, providing supportive services, coordinating resources, and increasing public awareness, Nashville can take steps to reduce and eventually eliminate homelessness.”
What does the future of mass transit look like in Nashville, in your opinion?
Wilhoite: “The future of mass transit in Nashville will involve working with our neighboring counties and other cities in Middle Tennessee and the federal government. We must have all stakeholders at the table to accomplish a regional approach to transit and I plan to do this as Nashville’s next Mayor.
When addressing the future of mass transit, Nashville must also work toward its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. To achieve this goal, mass transit must involve using the latest technologies, such as electric buses, and have a focus on sustainability.”
If elected, how would you work to repair the relationship between the Metro Nashville government and the state government?
Wilhoite: “First, I believe that our Metro Council should not have kept the Republican National Committee from coming to Nashville. The First Amendment, and Freedom of Assembly, does not get to choose sides, especially partisan sides. It is unfortunate that our city is being punished for the Metro Council’s decision. However, we all must move forward to find common ground where we can agree. I would meet frequently with members of the Metro Council and our state government leaders to keep the communication lines open.
As Mayor, I will make the effort to work with all our leaders in government, businesses, and faith organizations. It is critical that my administration focus on the common goal of servant leadership, for all people, and avoid the partisan fighting where possible.”
What would be your approach to addressing crime in the city and the increasing rate of violent crimes committed by juveniles?
Wilhoite: “As Mayor I would work with Chief John Drake to ensure that the police department has the resources that it needs to keep our city safe. I would also work with Juvenile Judge Sheila Calloway and District Attorney Glenn Funk to continue investing in restorative justice programs in our city. We also must empower and support the nonprofit organizations in Nashville, like Group Violence Intervention, that target the population at high risk for violence. I would also conduct outreach and personal interactive sessions with students in the Metro Public Schools to empower students about available resources they can use when they need help and how to deal with conflict. I will engage with existing neighborhood watch groups and encourage the forming of neighborhood watch groups and work with Neighbor 2 Neighbor to promote knowing your neighbors and empowering groups with the resources needed for building stronger community awareness.”
How would you address the lack of affordable housing options around the city?
Wilhoite: “Addressing the lack of affordable housing in Nashville will require a multi-faceted approach that involves increasing the supply of affordable housing, preserving existing affordable housing, and providing resources and support to low-income residents. I cannot say it enough. The government cannot do this alone. Here are some strategies that can be used to address the lack of affordable housing options in Nashville:
- Encourage the development of affordable housing: We can incentivize developers to build affordable housing units through measures such as zoning bonuses, density bonuses, and tax abatements. This can increase the supply of affordable housing and provide more options for low-income residents.
- Increase funding for affordable housing: We will allocate more funding for affordable housing development and preservation through sources such as bonds, tax credits, and grants. This can provide developers with the financial resources they need to build or preserve affordable housing units.
- Address homelessness: Addressing homelessness can help free up resources for affordable housing and prevent people from slipping into homelessness due to lack of affordable housing. The city can provide resources such as rental assistance, job training, and mental health services to help people experiencing homelessness get back on their feet and access affordable housing.
- Promote mixed-income neighborhoods: Mixed-income neighborhoods can create a more diverse and inclusive community while also providing more affordable housing options. The city can encourage the development of mixed-income housing projects through zoning and tax incentives.
- Collaborate with the private sector, nonprofit community, and faith organizations: The government alone cannot address the issues of affordable housing. We must work together with developers and business leaders and our nonprofit organizations and faith leaders to collectively address the affordable housing issues facing our city.”
What do you believe is the biggest issue affecting Nashville and how would you plan to address it?
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.”
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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.