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Barry, Fox Address Top Issues During Mayoral Debate

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Posted at 10:30 PM, Aug 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-08 04:37:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Megan Barry and David Fox, the final two candidates in the Nashville Mayoral Election,  faced off in a debate Monday night.

NewsChannel 5 teamed up with Vanderbilt University and the League of Women Voters for a mayoral debate featuring your questions. 

 Megan Barry started off her opening statements by saying that although Nashville has made a lot of progress there is still more to do.

"We have to continue to invest in our public education, get our transit right, make Nashville affordable and continue to be a warm and welcoming place, “ said Barry.

David Fox spoke of his past 50 years in Nashville. He said he has always tried to make Nashville better than before. He said his Aunt Lois was the one who taught and inspired him to run for office. 

"It's really in her memory and her honor that I think of trying to serve the city,run for mayor and I hope I can be of service to the city," said Fox.

The candidates were questioned about their support of charter schools in Nashville. David Fox answered first by saying he supports the growth of successful schools in Nashville.

"Let's keep them (charter schools) moving up but let's focus where 90 percent of the kids are which is in our traditional schools," said Fox.

Barry said public education is the single most important thing that a local government can do.

"When we talk about the urgency of making sure our children are able to attend schools regardless of their zip code in order to be successful, I think everyone agrees," Barry commented.

A major issue facing many Nashville residents is affordable housing especially for renters.

Both candidates mentioned the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing and that providing affordable housing takes planning.

Fox added that transit is a big component to to the situation and that we need to spend within our means so property taxes do not increase. Meanwhile Barry said it's a situation that is already being worked on and she will continue to move forward with.

As far as transit , Megan Barry said it was a multifaceted approach with a short, medium, and long term answer. She said the short term answer is the city's bus service.

"The conversations we are hearing back is more frequency, more routes and more access rides," said Barry. " We have to get that right in Nashville."

Barry went on to say we have to be more aggressive about going after federal dollars and bringing them back to Nashville.

Fox suggested the first thing to do would be to change traffic signals. He said they haven't been changed in over a decade and would buy us some time.

"What that buys us time to do is take advantage of Governor Haslam's new focus on transit and infrastructure. This is going to be the state's focus for the next twelve to eighteen months," said Fox.

He said we need to pull together leaders and make sure everyone understands the urgent need for transit changes while also getting public opinion on the issue.

About halfway through the debate the tone changed when the subject was how Nashville spends money.

Even though Nashville is booming, the city had to reach into its' rainy day fund to cover a $75 million budget gap this past year. David Fox went after Megan Barry for approving the mayor's budget.

"I was just astonished that there could be any use of fund balance reserves in great economic times. It's just not how I'll do things," Fox commented.

"This has been an ongoing conversation about David's fear mongering about our overall debt," Barry responded. "Our debt is in a place where our outside investors, Moodys, rating organizations look at us and say you have been conservatively, fiscally responsible."

In closing arguments, Megan Barry spoke of a vision for Nashville's future saying the future is bright even with the challenges the city faces.

"This race really isn't about partisanship. It's about making sure you have a sidewalk in front of your house. It's about making sure your garbage gets picked up. It's about making sure we continue to invest in Nashville so that we can grow in a way that is fiscally responsible, that attracts new development and jobs but makes sure people who have been here a long time gets to stay," said Barry.

Fox closed by saying that as mayor he would be focused on local issues like  transit, education and helping the city's neighborhoods.

"There’s a time and place for everything. In thinking about the long-term health of our community. Well understand that the time now is to let our economy grow into our balance sheet, grow into our debt and then instead, focus back on the neighborhoods where we have the real challenges," said Fox.

Newschannel5 is conducting the only independent, scientific poll in the mayor's race. We've partnered with Yakubian Research to find out how you feel about the candidates and the issues facing Music City.

You can take the poll by clicking here.

Early voting began Friday at the Howard Office Building in downtown Nashville. All early voting locations will open Thursday and won't close until Saturday, September 5.

Election day is September 10.

You can watch segments from Monday's debate below: