Candidate: Courtney Johnston
Metro Council District 26
Occupation: “I’m a realtor, but I devote 100% of my time to council work”
Previous candidacy/offices held: “Metro Council District 26”
Community experience: “Neighborhood Association, Junior Chamber of Commerce”
What will be your top three priorities on the Council?
“Fiscal Responsibility, Reliable City Services, Infrastucture”
What is the biggest issue facing your district? How would you approach it?
“Public Safety. This issue isn’t just addressing crime but also traffic calming. I plan to continue working with neighbors and metro departments to identify pain points and solutions for slowing traffic, improving lighting, improving street quality and reducing crime.”
Much of the city’s developmental focus, like plans for a new East Bank, have focused on downtown. What’s your vision for downtown?
“Understanding that most locals feel like downtown is out of hand, it also brings in quite a bit of revenue for the city. Downtown and tourism as a whole is quite important to our economy from a revenue perspective. Tourism brings in money to the general fund so we need to protect that revenue stream. That doesn’t mean we ignore neighborhoods and the interests of people that live and work here. Balance is imperative. We definitely need to put some guardrails around some of the things that folks don’t care for downtown and create a more controlled and safe environment for people to visit, including locals. The East Bank development is exciting. I see that development as an opportunity for more family oriented entertainment that locals will enjoy and frequent. It’s a blank slate so we must be thoughtful about it.”
Did you or would you have voted to approve the new Titans stadium financing legislation?
“Yes. My detailed answer can be found here : https://district26nashville.com/news-and-updates/f/the-stadium-dealwhy”
Does Metro need more police officers beyond the unfilled positions?
“Absolutely. I spoke in a previous answer about public safety. This is the most important function of government. Unfilled positions are one thing and we’re at about 137 currently. But to properly take care of the entire city, growing as it is, I believe we’re hundreds of officers short. For example, traffic calming is a huge demand across the city. If we had enough officers to do simple patrol in our neighborhoods, just their presence slows people down. We spend millions on traffic calming every year and I get calls regularly asking for extra patrols from every neighborhood I represent. It’s time to focus on our first responders – not only with pay but with reduced shift mandates, technology and fleet – as every department in the country is recruiting officers and we need to be a department officers come to not leave.”
What do you think of the current framework passed by the council around LPR (license plate readers) usage? Do you think Metro should allow facial recognition technology to be used downtown?
“I was lead sponsor on the LPR technology ordinance and am immensely proud of it and how successful it’s been during just the 4 months we’ve been piloting it. I spoke earlier about the officer shortage. More and more we will have to supplement this shortage with technology just as many other law enforcement agencies have across the country. I believe tools like LPR’s and facial recognition technology among others, with the proper guardrails in place for privacy, can be incredibly effective at helping keep people safe.”
Do you think a property tax rate adjustment will be needed in the next 4 years? Why or why not?
“Many factors go in to property tax rates and the global and national economy is part of it. No one can predict the future of the global/national economy. Nashville’s economy is very strong and diverse, comprised of many different industries including healthcare, education, and growing technology field, etc. which helps mitigate major impacts of specific industry slowing or recession. We rebounded from the pandemic much better and faster than even predicted – our strong tourism industry fueled that. Barring any economic crisis which is out of our control, if we keep our priorities straight and invest in the right things, I see no reason why a tax increase should be necessary.”
Do you view your role in the Council as leading your district on issues or simply reflecting the views of the district’s residents?
“Both. My job is to represent the interests of my district. My job also is to elbow down into these issues and educate. That’s how I lead. Very few people have the bandwidth with every day life to really dive in to every issue that comes before us. It’s my job to do that. I certainly will have an opinion but I’ll always vote in a manner that reflects the majority opinion of those that elected me.”
How do you view the relationship of the city and Council to the General Assembly in the face of adverse legislation from the state?
“Clearly it’s not good. Having this constant battle is not productive for metro or the General Assembly. We have real work to do on both levels of government and it’s time to get back to it. I pride myself on getting along with and maintaining a good working relationship with everyone, especially those I disagree with.”
The city is experiencing an affordability crisis. What is the council’s role in creating more housing for buyers and renters in Nashville?
“Much of our affordability crisis is due to high demand. People are still flocking to our great city. All metro can control or contribute to is supply. Metro over the last four years has invested tens of millions into affordable housing initiatives and the Barnes Fund with thousands of units being built which is great. As long as demand is high and growing, we’re going to have a problem. I’d love to see us invest more in MDHA which is mission based.”
What improvements do you think WeGo should make during the next four years? Would you back creation of a dedicated funding source?
“Increasing cross routes with smaller buses and focusing on the first and last mile is critical to having a bus system that everyone can and will use. I’m always open to looking at dedicated revenue sources.”
Second-quarter campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $54,128
Link to full disclosure here
Pre-General campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $57,728
Link to full disclosure here