Meet the mayoral candidates: Rep. John Ray Clemmons

Clemmons promises transit referendum
Posted at 6:16 AM, Jun 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 11:38:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — NewsChannel 5 submitted questions to the leading candidates to be Metro Nashville's next mayor. Here's what state Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) had to say about the issues facing Music City voters when they make their choice August 1, 2019.

How will your administration view the issue of affordable housing in Nashville? What steps would your administration take to improve affordability for more residents?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: Addressing Nashville's affordable housing crisis will be a top priority for my administration. We will create a dedicated revenue stream for the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, establish sustainable public and private partnerships, and collaborate with nonprofit and faith-based organizations to mitigate displacement and homelessness.

I support the creation of a land bank within Metro government to facilitate a best-use determination process for any surplus property. All property will be considered for affordable housing or other best uses in a transparent manner. My administration will also create a housing task force that will evaluate private and public efforts and annually score the city's progress on the state of housing and affordability so that we are held accountable.

Finally, I'm committed to taking a holistic approach to improve affordability by working to increase wages, expand access to public transportation, and fully invest in our public education system.

2018’s transit referendum lost in a landslide. Will your administration make any attempt to revive a comprehensive transit plan?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: Yes. Nashville cannot wait another day to address this major challenge facing our city. Under my administration, Nashville will take action and lead on this issue. There will be a transit referendum during my first term in office, and it will be run out of the mayor's office. We will establish an office of mobility within the mayor's office that will be responsible for executing this effort to undertake such a significant project and long-term investment.

Our aim will be to develop a mass transit system that works for all families. We will gather feedback form residents in every neighborhood across our city, and ensure that any plan reflects the specific needs and desires of each community. We will study evolving technologies so that all suggestions are grounded in reliable data and focused on improving mobility around and through our city, not just funneling workers in and out of downtown.

Additionally, we will work with regional leaders and private sector partners to build consensus on transit solutions that will benefit the entire Middle Tennessee region. While working on a regional, long-term plan, we will also enact short-term, cost-effective solutions to alleviate traffic such as synchronized-timed lights, variable rate public parking, and staggered work hours.

Downtown and downtown-adjacent neighborhoods have seen a boom in development, revenue, and property values over the last decade. What can your administration do to make sure that other neighborhoods – Antioch, Bordeaux, Hermitage and Donelson – aren’t left behind?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: Communities outside of Nashville's urban core deserve just as much attention and respect as those adjacent to downtown. As a former neighborhood association president, I understand the importance of strong neighborhoods. As mayor of Nashville, I will revitalize our office of neighborhoods to better empower residents and amplify their voices.

A good first step to ensure that all neighborhoods are able to benefit from our unprecedented prosperity will be to increase governmental transparency and focus on the equitable distribution of tax revenues. We will also update transportation and water infrastructure systems to mitigate stormwater flooding, increase pedestrian safety, and work with neighborhood leaders to build stronger communities in areas that have seen little to no investment by the city.

Bordeaux, North Nashville, Antioch, Hermitage, and Donelson should receive their fair share and be promoted to small and large businesses, to the extent desired by residents in a manner than does not sacrifice their unique character.

While investing in these communities, we must do so without decreasing affordability. This balance is critical to mitigating displacement. As mayor, I will work with Metro's planning department, our councilmembers, neighborhood leaders, and the community at large to determine the best anchor projects for each area.

The problem of youth violence has plagued the city over the past few years. How will your administration address that problem?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: My vision for Nashville youth is to provide them the opportunity to grow and thrive in a safe environment where violence is not seen as an option or constant threat. We will start by utilizing the Nashville Youth Violence Summit Report to follow through on its recommendations and address the root causes of violence such as poverty, joblessness, lack of educational opportunities, and a cycle of trauma.

My administration will then work to organize youth-focused nonprofits and faith-based organizations through regular strategy meetings led by the mayor's office. By bringing everyone to the table and streamlining services, we can do a better job of directly channeling students from their schools into after-school and summer programming where they can grow and learn in a positive environment.

We will also work to provide transportation options for all children who wish to participate in school-based extracurriculars. Keeping children engaged between 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm would have a significant impact on youth violence. Ultimately, it will take our entire community to help keep our youth on track so that they can achieve their true potential.

What role do you intend to play when it comes to the Metro School Board and its search for a new Schools Director? What role should the mayor play when it comes to Nashville’s public schools?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: I believe the mayor should maintain a strong working relationship with the director of schools and the school board through regular meetings and by serving as a true partner and resource. All three should work in tandem, and the mayor should provide necessary support to achieve a shared vision. I plan to take an active role in the search for a new director of schools to ensure that all stakeholders share the same goal of making Metro Nashville Public Schools the fastest improving school district in the nation.

The leadership of MNPS should reflect the cultural diversity of our city and include expertise on a vast range of our students' needs. As mayor, I will appoint residents to school board committees who have professional experience in the public or private sectors, so that members can utilize them as a resource on various matters at their discretion.

As a proud MNPS parent of three boys, I will work to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed through high-quality public education. I am committed to increasing per-pupil spending, as well as listening and keeping our promises to educators. To me, fully funding MNPS is more than just a nonnegotiable line item in the budget -- it is a direct investment in the future of our city. Every child should be empowered to reach their full potential and become active contributing members of our society and workforce.

To ensure that more resources reach our classrooms and teachers have the personnel assistance they need, I will work with large and small corporations to create partnerships with schools, incentivize employee volunteerism, and increase student-work programs. Additionally, my administration will submit equity recommendations to the Board of Education in each budget cycle.

By the time our next mayor submits their first budget it will have been eight years since property taxes were last increased in Nashville. Do you intend to raise taxes when in office to close gaps in the budget?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: There are obvious ways to generate new revenues and redirect existing revenues so raising taxes would never be my first choice. Also, I strongly disagree with short-sighted maneuvers such as selling off public property or privatizing parking to fill in budgetary gaps. These decisions are fiscally irresponsible in the long term and do more to hurt our city than help.

The landfill currently used to dispose of Metro’s solid waste will likely be full before the next mayor’s first term ends. How will your administration deal with Nashville’s trash?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: My vision for Nashville includes becoming a carbon-neutral city in the next twenty-five years, and my administration will work with leading experts to design a plan that achieves that goal.

To reduce the amount of trash produced each year we need to increase recycling pickup and expand the number of drop-off locations throughout the county. My administration will bolster the efforts of local leaders who are working to limit food waste and then get buy-in from local businesses to limit waste. While state law prohibits Nashville from banning plastics and other harmful materials, Metro should encourage and incentivize, if necessary, businesses to stop using items like plastic bags, styrofoam, and other non-biodegradable materials when possible. Also, property developers are a large producer of waste and they must be held accountable for their impact on our landfills and be required to take affirmative steps to compensate the city for their impact.

Did you support the creation of the Community Oversight Board? How will your administration work with the board to investigate police misconduct?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: Yes. My administration will provide the Community Oversight Board with the resources it needs to fulfill its intended purpose as an independent body. Yet it is my sincere hope that the oversight board has no police misconduct to investigate.

Are scooter-sharing apps enhancing or hindering the downtown experience for visitors and residents. Will your administration move to get rid of them?

Rep. John Ray Clemmons: Scooters, in their present state, are hindering the downtown experience for both tourists and residents. We need to be more thoughtful in how we legislate scooters and examine the realities of their usage. Currently, Nashville does not have the infrastructure necessary to fully support scooters. Many neighborhoods don’t have functional sidewalks, let alone bike lanes and well-paved streets. We also need increased education for scooter riders, so that they know the rules and how to operate the devices. If these challenges aren’t able to be addressed in a timely fashion, then Metro should evaluate the future of scooters in Nashville.

Rep. Clemmons has served in the Tennessee General Assembly since 2014. Prior to that he served on the Metro Fair Board Commission during the Karl Dean administration. To learn more about Clemmons' background and policies visit his campaign website.

There are ten candidates running for Mayor in the August 1, 2019 election. To be featured in our Meet the Candidate series we focused on candidates who met at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Have raised at least $100,000 as reported in filings with the Davidson County Election Commission; or
  2. Currently hold a Metro, state or federal elected office.

Meet the candidates
David Briley
Rep. John Ray Clemmons
Councilman John Cooper
Dr. Carol Swain