The Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) group held a public meeting with Nashville mayoral candidates Thursday evening to discuss some controversial and critical topics.
The two-hour forum was held at Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church located at 1203 Ninth Avenue North. Twelve of the 13 candidates running for the mayor seat were in attendance.
Ludye Wallace did not attend, and told forum organizers he does not plan to campaign prior to Election Day on May 24.
The general topics covered included gentrification and affordable housing; criminal justice and mass incarceration; and economic equity and jobs.
When it came to affordable housing, candidates were asked if there is a conflict of interest if major for-profit developers are members on the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) board. MDHA is a quasi-governmental organization that is separate from Metro Government but has a great deal of power in downtown development, public housing, and affordable housing. The only influence the mayor has is appointing its board members.
Several of the candidates believed it to be a conflict of interest but that developers should be on the board for their insight.
"What we need to do is an analysis, and if there is a conflict, if there is, then the mayor needs to address it by appointing the right people," Carlin Alford said.
"We need developers on the MDHA board," David Briley said. "And let me tell you why. The biggest single housing development taking place in our community right now is Envision Cayce, and we need people with experience and perspective to help us go through that problem."
"The D in MDHA is for development. So it's important for us if we are going to develop fairly for the entire city that the mayor exercises the political will to 'A' remove any conflicting interest that are on the decision-making spaces like MDHA and 'B' make sure the development is spread equally throughout the city," mayoral candidate jeff carr said.
"We do want to make sure that you are equitable in your decision. We want to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table," candidate Erica Gilmore said.
"We need to have not just for-profit developers but also non-profit developers on the board. We also need to have people who have experience with MDHA as a person living on the property to talk about ways it needs to be improved," candidate Harold M. Love said.
"I believe there are some people who have been sitting in those positions too long, and we need to create opportunities for developers as well as individuals who have been shut out," candidate Carol Swain said.
There was a chance for the candidates to answer two questions from the general public's submitted questions prior to the start of the forum.
You can watch the forum in full in the three videos below: