As mentioned in a previous post, I was with an interesting group of blogger-types who had lunch with mayoral candidate David Briley yesterday. Please click the links at the end of this post to see what the other attendees have to say about our time with Briley. Frankly, there’s not a lot I can say that hasn’t already been written but I did want to highlight a few things I barely touched on in my first Briley post.
When asked for the reasons that Nashville is attracting new business and new jobs, one of Briley’s answers was: no state income tax. I don’t know if he ever supported a state income tax, but with that one statement, he has already got the ear of some who otherwise would be repelled by his so-called progressive stance on issues.
Another hint that he is not beholden to traditional Democratic or progressive bases was his less than enthusiastic take on MNEA (metro teacher’s union). He didn’t dismiss the group out of hand, but stated that they had not been a helpful component of the incentive pay debate. A question posed by Ned Williams as to how he can appeal to Republicans and conservatives was overtly answered by stating that the election wasn’t partisan and there was a good reason for non-partisanship in a mayoral race. The statement on the lack of a state income tax as a plus along with his non-rollover for the teacher’s union spoke implicitly of Briley’s possible appeal to the conservative vote.
The most progressive statements of the afternoon concerned Briley’s stance on ‘environmental racism’. Kleinheider asked if adding the word ‘racism’ to the environmental issue wouldn’t be off-putting to many. ACK also suggested that it was perhaps a more ‘class’ issue versus a racial issue. Briley responded by stating that he initially had reservations about coupling ‘racism’ with environmentalism, but after he studied the empirical evidence and discovered that there was a clear linkage between environmentally damaging facilities (such as garbage dumps) and their placement in black neighborhoods, he decided to make this a core issue of the campaign. Personally, I think this will be a ‘hard sell’ and is probably something you won’t hear from many (if any) of the other candidates. I also believe that this is an example of Briley choosing what is right over what is politically expedient.
Briley spoke also of the correlation of the juvenile crime and the lack of a high school degree, and stated that the place to ‘hit’ the issue was in the middle schools where positive role models and mentors could make a difference before it is too late. Another word that caught my ear when discussing bringing good role models to the school was his desire to involve CHURCHES. I suspect he meant asking churches to help with volunteers for mentor-ships, but the fact that he specifically and clearly included churches in his list of groups, businesses and agencies was, I think, significant.
Another area of great interest to me (and my teacher wife*) concerns those students who clearly are not going to college or who have no interest in going to college. I’ve always thought there should be a clearer and more accessible vocational track for these students. Briley mentioned that Governor Bredesen is about to unveil a program for high school seniors whereby they could attend Nashville State as seniors and then continue there until they received a vocational degree, and I believe I heard that tuition would be free. Briley supports this program. I believe for this program to be effective that it would have to start well before the senior year, because many of the kids who need this type of program would be long gone before their senior year.
Finally, I asked Briley about health care, specifically about the Bridges to Care program in Nashville that has helped many Nashvillians (including our own Brittney) without health insurance procure low-cost health care and prescriptions. Briley was not only familiar with the program but also serves on the board of a clinic that serves Bridges to Care patients. He believes that the money going to General Hospital can be better spent – not by closing General, but by reallocating some of that money to better serve the community and the health problems that are developing in an aging population (diabetes and coronary specifically). When I asked him how that money should be specifically allocated, he said ‘I don’t know’. I found that answer to be refreshing, and as I stated in my first piece about the luncheon, somewhat rare. I’m pretty sure that Briley is developing an answer that will emerge as the campaign really gets going.
Other bloggers have stated that Briley stayed on point and in close touch with his talking points. I don’t disagree that he stayed on point,but I believe that the man is so prepared for this campaign based on his family and his political experience on the council, that asking him the type of questions we asked the man were like asking me about baseball, the Rolling Stones or Seinfeld. It’s not that I have talking points on these issues, but I know my stuff. Briley knows his stuff.
ACK Volunteer Voters
Braisted Nashville for 21st Century
Williams Wisdom is Vindicated
Brittney was also there, but hasn’t written about it…..yet!
*I don’t have wives in each of many professions, and in fact have only one wife.