Candidate: Burkley Allen
Metro Council At-Large
Occupation: “My current job is a mechanical engineer and Metro Council Member At-Large.”
Previous candidacy/offices held: “District Council Member and Council Member At-Large”
Community experience: “I’ve served on the Hillsboro West End Neighborhood board for over 25 years, including 2 years as president. I volunteer for Room in the Inn, Meals on Wheels, and Habitat for Humanity. I serve on the board of Sister Cities of Nashville, and Rebuilding Together Nashville.”
What will be your top three priorities on the Council?
“My top three priorities on the Council will be housing affordability, working to make infrastructure keep up with growth, and supporting education from early childhood on.”
Much of the city’s developmental focus, like plans for a new East Bank, have focused on downtown. What’s your vision for downtown?
“My vision of downtown is a great place to live work and play that the rest of Nashville also embraces and enjoys. I would like to see downtown flourish, but I believe it can be a better place for everyone if we enforce the noise, open container, scooter, and transpotainment regulations that we have in place. That will require working with downtown merchants and law enforcement to agree on a unified strategy. I fully support the 2nd Avenue redevelopment plan to preserve its history, embrace the Riverfront, and to keep it from becoming simply an extension of Lower Broadway. I see the East Bank as a great opportunity to expand downtown in a more neighbor friendly way and to create a thoughtful, innovative mix of stadium, housing options for a range of tenants, local retail, high quality childcare, healthy food choices, and good jobs.”
Did you or would you have voted to approve the new Titans stadium financing legislation?
“I voted for the Titans stadium financing because I believe the new lease offers the best way to relieve tax paying citizens of the $62 million burden of the current debt and maintenance costs and of the $300+ million burden of keeping the facility in first class condition. I think it is a better deal for taxpayers to shift the burden to team owners and sports fans and to put maintenance costs and the risk of cost overruns back on the team. This frees up our property tax revenues to go to schools and sidewalks as people have called for.”
Does Metro need more police officers beyond the unfilled positions?
“The citizens and the council members of Southeast Nashville have been asking for their own police precinct for many years. That precinct will open in spring of 2024, and it will need its own staff to ensure that it does not negatively impact the operations of other precincts. Additionally the downtown entertainment district patrol is currently working through overtime, drawing from many areas. I agree that this downtown force will be more effective and cost effective if specific officers are dedicated to this service so that they can develop relationships with the downtown merchants and can specialize in the type of patrolling to control the unintended consequences of the party scene. Everyone wants downtown to be a safe and fun place, and the extra police are needed there to discourage the drug activity and violence that is currently a part of that atmosphere. I think we could be more creative with how we staff special events, school security, and some traffic and parking enforcement. Those roles do not necessarily need to come from the police ranks. I applaud the Partners in Care program that now pairs mental health professionals with police patrols so that they can deal with the underlying mental health crisis and provide alternatives to arrest in many cases.”
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?
“The council went through a very interactive process to develop the LPR framework that is currently being piloted at key intersections. Based on the input from citizens, we worked to incorporate multiple levels of protection so that it would be used only for solving car thefts and violent crimes. It is limited to major thoroughfares equally distributed in four quadrants of the city; there is a robust system for limiting access to authorized users; data is destroyed within ten days if it is not part of an active investigation. Once the pilot is complete, the council will be presented with data from the trial period to evaluate if the program has lived up to expectations and to determine if additional guardrails are needed. So far, it has resulted in 58 arrests for stolen cars or felony crimes. Data is openly available to see where it has been deployed, and what the results have been so far. I think it has been an important learning experience, and I look forward to the evaluation. I do not support facial recognition technology in any public spaces.”
Do you think a property tax rate adjustment will be needed in the next 4 years? Why or why not?
“Historically the property tax is adjusted around the time of the property reassessment. By state law every city is required to reassess property every four years to take into account the variability of growth throughout the city. This has to be a revenue neutral process, meaning the city doesn’t make more money as a result. The tax rate is typically adjusted downward so that the city is getting the same income even though property values have increased. In 1983 the tax rate was $6.83 per $100 of assessed value. In the proposed budget, it is now less than half of that at $3.254. The finance department has just this year developed a multiyear budget projection tool so that we can see how property tax revenue and sales tax revenue, the city’s two main sources of income, keep up with expenditures. That will provide a useful tool to determine an orderly way to incorporate cost of living increases for the city when they are needed. In this year’s budget, the growth in property and sales tax provides enough revenue to cover growth in programs and cost of living increases.”
Do you view your role in the Council as leading your district on issues or simply reflecting the views of the district’s residents?
“It is important for the council member to listen to constituents and to provide information to residents so that they have a full understanding of the nuances of each issue. I think the council member has to carefully weigh all the facts when making decisions on complex issues and to understand what the end objective of the citizens’ wishes are. Votes should be based on the facts and the key objectives of the citizens.”
How do you view the relationship of the city and Council to the General Assembly in the face of adverse legislation from the state?
“I view the current relationship between the Council and the General Assembly as harmful and non-productive. Too often extremist positions are driving the conversation instead of looking for common ground. We need to moderate the rhetoric and build relationships with legislators and with surrounding counties to get people listening to what really matters.”
The city is experiencing an affordability crisis. What is the council’s role in creating more housing for buyers and renters in Nashville?
“The council should continue to support the recommendations of the Affordable Housing Task Force, of which I was a member. The council voted to create and fund the new Office of Housing within the Planning Department, and that has put housing at the center of every development discussion and project. We have funded the Barnes Affordable Housing Trust Fund at unprecedented levels for the past two years consistent with the Task Force’s recommendation of $30 million a year. I sponsored and passed legislation to create a Housing Dashboard (to come out in July) that shows housing need and the progress the city is making, and that also provides resources for those that need housing and those that want to build affordably priced housing. I also sponsored and passed the Mixed Income PILOT, which provides tax incentives to projects that set aside a percentage of units for workers who earn less than the area’s average income. This provides housing options near jobs and transit for the very people who make this city tick. The Council is also looking for changes to our zoning code that allow more flexibility in housing choices while still respecting the character of each neighborhood. We have passed legislation to allow for a reasonable number of roommates, to loosen parking requirements in appropriate areas, and to empower neighborhoods that choose to allow mother-in-law cottages. The need is still huge, and there are more recommendations from the Housing Task Force to implement in the upcoming term, but I believe that the Housing Dash Board will show that we are beginning to make head way on this.”
What improvements do you think WeGo should make during the next four years? Would you back creation of a dedicated funding source?
“I support WeGo’s goal of implementing all of its Better Bus Plan over five years. The Better Bus Plan includes running routes more frequently and longer into the night, adding cross-town routes, improving bus stops, expanding the WeGo Link partnership with Uber, and adding more connections between routes. I would like to see a downtown/airport shuttle that runs every 15 minutes instead of every hour, and I would like to see the downtown circulator brought back. I think technology like queue jumps offers the opportunity for innovative solutions to enable buses to move faster than car traffic. Making the bus fast and convenient is the best way to attract new riders.”
“I would back a dedicated source of funding so that we can move on to the NMotion Transit plan that provides a regional solution to transit. With adequate funding and working with other counties, we could create better commuting options that would get workers into Nashville faster and reduce the number of cars on the road and driving in downtown. That investment benefits everyone.”
Second-quarter campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $106,901
Link to full disclosure here
Pre-General campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $124,029
Link to full disclosure here