Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mayoral Candidates Respond to DFA

Democracy for Tennessee's Candidate Forum for Nashville's mayoral candidates at the DFT Convention was a huge success, the only downside being that it wasn’t longer. The best part: that we were able to incorporate some of the issues we had been working with earlier in the day into the questions asked of the five wannabes. As we have in the past, we asked audience members to submit questions and selected some to ask the candidates after their three-minute speeches.

One campaign manager commented afterward it was the first forum where the candidates didn’t have the questions beforehand. Sorry, but the teacher in me doesn’t want to dumb down the test. If they haven’t even thought about the issues we care about without being told to prepare, that’s something we need to know about them. For the most part, I was pleased with what they said. The four audience-submitted questions were about the right to organize and earn a living wage, Vote By Mail, LEED, also known as "green building" standards, and also one about education.

There was substantial support for exploring vote by mail; they all seemed interested in expanding democracy by increasing participation and saw vote by mail as an option to do so. On wages, there was more support for making sure government workers were paid appropriately and less enthusiasm for several candidates, especially Kenneth Eaton, for local mandates on businesses. Councilman Buck Dozier reminded listeners of his longstanding support for paying government employees well, but felt the federal government was the best authority to set a minimum wage, and hoped they would.

The sentiment of first taking responsibility for government first echoed in the LEED answers too. Councilman David Briley asserted he was sponsoring a bill that would do essentially that. Others agreed, though Mr. Eaton signaled it might be best for new buildings and he didn’t want to tie businesses hands too much - he wanted Nashville to continue to grow as it has.

David Briley reminded the Nashville members of his advocacy in getting Nashville over $170 million new education dollars during his tenure on the council. He signaled support for a limited number of new charter schools, insisting we have to try new things to succeed in improving education. Vice Mayor Howard Gentry discussed vocational education. Mr. Eaton had a lot to say on education, and signaled he had already been discussing them with school board members.

There was a lot of substance to some answers, despite the short time we had. Some of the best points came in the candidates’ own open speeches. Howard Gentry touted his service to both government and non-profit organizations. He had a lot to say about schools continuing the progress we’ve made in recent years. He thought more vocational education would be a good idea. Karl Dean was optimistic about schools and his other responses were informed, too. He asserted his experience as an executive, and his work with both Bredesen and Purcell, make him uniquely qualified to be the next mayor.

Oh, and it should be noted that Bob Clement was not at the Candidate Forum due to "another committment".

All in all, I felt good about the field, better than I did before the opportunity to hear from them. And as our moderator Mary Mancini of Liberadio said, "2007 is a year to focus on local races and get progressives elected". Many of us at DFAN and DFT agree and hope you'll join us in the coming months as well build our grassroots by working for good candidates. This forum reminded me that we've got some. Thanks to the candidates, their staffs, the moderators, and the DFA members in attendance for participating!

Stay tuned - DFA Nashville will be posting exclusive video from the Candidate Forum within the next two weeks. Watch it and get ready to vote on which candidate you're supporting in the 2007 Mayoral race.


About DFA Nashville:

Democracy for America/Nashville (DFAN) is the official local chapter of the Democracy for America coalition. DFAN is a non-profit, grassroots organization made up of volunteers from across Middle Tennessee who are dedicated to stopping the threat to our democracy posed by the right-wing agenda and corrupt corporate interests.

Visit our website for the latest local political news, events, and opinion at


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