Friday, August 17, 2007

Mayoral Candidate Forum on Homelessness

The Nashville Homeless Power Project invited both candidates to attend the Mayoral Candidates Debate for August 20th on Monday, August 6th. Both campaign offices indicated that their candidate had nothing scheduled at 11am on August 20th and said they would confirm as soon as possible. Dean’s office confirmed the next day and on August 14th Clement’s office called to decline the offer. Nonetheless, the forum will continue with the same questions as planned but with only one candidate publicly available to respond to the questions.

On the June 13th, 2007 the Metro Police launched the Quality of Life Initiative. It involves undercover officers downtown and along the West End corridor targeting individuals identified as panhandling (not illegal), trespassing, vagrancy, public intoxication and other activities typical of low-income individuals and homeless people struggling to survive as well as many Titans fans. Data shows that officers have arrested 91 unique homeless persons 113 times while working the initiative through Friday, Aug. 3. In their history in Davidson County, these 91 individuals have been arrested 4,397 times on 6,860 charges, and spent a total of 21,339 days in jail since March of 2000. Using a jail cost estimate of $55/day, this adds up to $1.2 million (which is only the Sheriff’s portion of the expense). When reviewing the 4,397 arrests, 2,117 resulted in a conviction.

The Nashville Homeless Power Project, has factored in minimal costs of the Metro Police and Criminal Justice System, this means that Nashville government is spending a minimum estimate for these 91 individuals of at least $3 millions dollars. John Zirker, president shares, “We think that not only homeless people but all Nashvillians will be interested to know if this how the next Mayor will spend our tax dollars.” NHPP also notes that if 2,117 of the 4,397 arrest resulted in conviction that more than half of those arrested were found innocent and/or had charges dropped. It should also be noted that often times when someone does not “cop a plea” and declares innocence, this will necessitate 1 – 20 days in jail while this person waits for a court date and have the charges dismissed or found innocent.

This Mayoral Candidate Forum will focus on how Nashville best utilizes taxdollars for the well being of it’s citizenry.


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