Candidate: Jason Spain
Metro Council District 35
Occupation: “Since 2010, I have served as Executive Director of the Tennessee Public Transportation Association, a statewide nonprofit association dedicated to improving public transportation in all Tennessee communities.”
Previous candidacy/offices held: None
Community experience: “I have been active in the community, volunteering with Hands On Nashville, Keep Bellevue Beautiful, and other civic initiatives.”
What will be your top three priorities on the Council?
“1. School Safety: Unfortunately, the tragic shooting at the Covenant School reminded us that we must take steps to keep our schools safe. The safety of our children should always be our first priority, and I will do anything I can to try to prevent another senseless act of gun violence in our schools.
2. Responsible Development: I will encourage and support development that positively benefits our community for those that live here as well as those who may want to move here in the future, and I will oppose any development that would harm Bellevue’s unique character and natural landscape.
3. Infrastructure/Transit: As our city continues to grow and congestion continues to worsen, it is clear that we need more mobility options. Sidewalks, bike lanes, public transit, and road improvements should work together to form a multimodal network that a) gives people alternatives to sitting in traffic in their personal vehicles and b) lessens congestion for those who choose to continue driving.”
What is the biggest issue facing your district? How would you approach it?
“Bellevue is a special community, and my neighbors want a representative who will work to keep it that way. At times it seems that there is new development happening at every corner. We have to choose if we are going to allow unchecked development to choke off the character of our city and quality of life that make people want to come here to begin with or if we will make strategic decisions about our built environment that will lead to smart growth that enhances our community, strengthens our neighborhoods and benefits everyone that calls Nashville home. Together, I know that we can ensure that future development works for us rather than happens to us. With responsible leadership, we can grow the right way and preserve the character of our community at the same time.”
Much of the city’s developmental focus, like plans for a new East Bank, have focused on downtown. What’s your vision for downtown?
“Downtown Nashville can be a world-class city, but we need to find the right balance between the needs of people who live downtown, those who work there, and those who are visiting. Right now, it seems clear that the focus is on our visitors, who of course are critical to the economic success of our tourism economy. However, so many residents who live in other parts of the city avoid going downtown because of the traffic, the cost of parking, and the perception that it is unsafe. We need a modern public transportation system that gives people alternative options to sitting in traffic and paying to park downtown while also ensuring that we are providing a safe environment for our residents and visitors alike.”
Did you or would you have voted to approve the new Titans stadium financing legislation?
“Yes, with some caveats. While there is some disagreement about the actual cost to renovate and maintain the current stadium, there is no question that the taxpayers of Davidson County are currently on the hook for it. A new stadium would be paid for using revenue captured from the new facility and surrounding development, removing this obligation from property tax collections and freeing up revenue for other important priorities such as education, affordable housing, and transit. Having said that, I support efforts by the Council to maximize the benefits to the city and enhance its ability to address other needs. I also have qualms about partnering with the state on this project when the General Assembly has threatened the financial well-being of the Music City Center and is in the process of at least a partial takeover of the Metro Sports Authority.”
Does Metro need more police officers beyond the unfilled positions?
“With around 200 unfilled positions in the MNPD, our first priority has to be to fill those vacancies. I support Mayor Cooper’s proposal to raise the starting salary for police officers, but it will take a continued focus to ensure that we are recruiting and retaining qualified officers. Nashvillians deserve to feel safe in their communities. While Bellevue consistently has some of the lowest crime rates in Davidson County, it feels like criminal activity has become more frequent and more dangerous. Nashville cannot be a world-class city unless it provides a safe environment for its residents, visitors, and especially its children. I would rely on the recommendations of Chief Drake and the professionals within MNPD to determine the appropriate number of officers needed to make that goal a reality.”
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 appreciate the Council’s efforts to balance the needs of law enforcement to efficiently and effectively enforce the law with the need for safeguards regarding how the information is collected and used. The results of the 6-month pilot project will inform future decisions on whether LPRs are an effective tool and if the safeguards currently in place are sufficient.
I don’t have sufficient information to make an informed decision about the use of facial recognition technology, but I would have concerns over the potential threat to privacy such a system could create.”
Do you think a property tax rate adjustment will be needed in the next 4 years? Why or why not?
“I don’t. The 2020 increase created a revenue stream that has allowed Metro to address priorities including education spending, salaries for Metro employees, and fund balance. While we will have to examine the impact of not receiving additional COVID dollars, I hope and expect that we can manage our spending and take advantage of tax growth through our city’s growth without increasing the tax rate.”
Do you view your role in the Council as leading your district on issues or simply reflecting the views of the district’s residents?
“I don’t think this is an either/or question. A council member is elected to represent their District. At the same time, voters are also choosing someone they trust to make the best possible decisions based on the information available. The key is communication – residents must be able to share their views with their council member, and the member is responsible for keeping his or her constituents informed on decisions facing the council.”
How do you view the relationship of the city and Council to the General Assembly in the face of adverse legislation from the state?
“As the state’s capital city and largest economic engine, Nashville’s prosperity and that of the state go hand-in-hand. We have to find a way to have a more productive relationship, work together when we can, and agree to disagree without fear of retribution when we cannot, but that is impossible without mutual respect. The Court’s decision to halt the forced reduction of the Metro Council is a good step in restoring some balance. I have worked with the members of the General Assembly for over 20 years on various issues, and I look forward to working with our new mayor and the members of the Council to chart a path forward.”
The city is experiencing an affordability crisis. What is the council’s role in creating more housing for buyers and renters in Nashville?
“Nashville’s lack of attainable housing impacts traffic by forcing workers to drive farther, public safety and education by forcing our first responders and teachers out of the county, and homelessness. It’s critical that we do better, including sufficient investment in the Barnes Fund, incentives for affordable housing in new development, and better transportation options so that people can spend less of their paychecks on their commutes.”
What improvements do you think WeGo should make during the next four years? Would you back creation of a dedicated funding source?
“This is a larger question than WeGo. WeGo is doing the best it can to provide the best possible transit system with the resources it has available, including constructing neighborhood transit centers, adding covered bus stops, establishing crosstown routes, and implementing new technologies to increase efficiency and improve the rider experience.
Nashville needs and deserves a first-class, modern public transit system. It will be incumbent on the mayor and the council to work with WeGo, NDOT, TDOT, the public and other stakeholders to develop, implement and finance a transit system that works for our residents and visitors alike. Establishing a dedicated funding source will be critical to those efforts, but first we need to get the plan right.”
Second-quarter campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $31,003
Link to full disclosure here
Pre-General campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $42,179
Link to full disclosure here