Candidate: Chris Cheng
Metro Council At-Large
Occupation: “Hot Sauce Maker – My wife and I own Hot Sauce Nashville, a local food business.”
Previous candidacy/offices held: “United States Army – Airborne Ranger Captain (Kuwait, Afghanistan)”
Community experience: Active member of our local food and farmers market community: Richland Park, 12 South, East Nashville, Donelson, Crieve Hall, and others.
What will be your top three priorities on the Council?
“Champion for Small Businesses: I’m running to be the Metro Council’s steadfast advocate for small and local businesses – integral pieces of our city’s unique culture, taste, and charm. My wife and I are farmers market vendors. We own Hot Sauce Nashville, a local hot sauce company. I’m whole-heartedly grateful for our small business community and the enthusiastic support from our local neighborhoods. I want to commit my time and energy to representing and serving small businesses across Davidson County. Whatever the policy or issue, I’d strive to advocate for our local businesses: How would a new policy proposal impact our small business community? How could upcoming development plans best support the local shops, restaurants, and makers?
Community Investments: I’m passionate about supporting our public assets that build neighborhood bonds and strengthen community engagement and relationships: preserving our parks, recreational areas, and beautiful greenways; investing in our libraries, art hubs, farmers markets, and community centers. These spaces help us connect with each other, grow as individuals, and thrive as a society, regardless of age, income, or background.
Infrastructure: I want to advocate for safe and sustainable infrastructure: smooth roads, clean water, reliable utilities, green parks, safe sidewalks, attainable housing, and ubiquitous internet access. If elected, I would partner with local sustainability organizations to guide our county towards building a cleaner environment and strengthening our land and waterways for extreme weather and natural disasters.”
Much of the city’s developmental focus, like plans for a new East Bank, have focused on downtown. What’s your vision for downtown?
“For downtown and the surrounding area, my dream is that we focus on the fundamentals of healthy community building, by investing in spaces for locals to collaborate, celebrate, and create together – culturally, artistically, and entrepreneurially: our parks, greenways, libraries, innovation hubs, community centers, recreation facilities, art venues, and farmers markets.
With Nashville’s growing population density, our urban green spaces are more valuable than ever. Studies show that our parks and green spaces help fight pollution by improving air quality and reducing noise pollution. Our green spaces provide cool, shaded zones that help manage temperatures during the hot summer months, especially for our most vulnerable populations. Moreover, our parks are crucial spaces for recreation, exercise, and social engagements, allowing for community building and much needed physical and mental rejuvenation. Our community spaces, such as our libraries and museums, provide beautiful venues to showcase and celebrate our local artists, musicians, and cultural groups.
I want to serve on the Metro Council to preserve our downtown and surrounding area’s green spaces and communal infrastructure and invest in keeping these important places sustainable and beautiful for future generations.”
Did you or would you have voted to approve the new Titans stadium financing legislation?
“I love the current stadium and will undoubtedly miss its open air atmosphere. As a youth soccer player, I got to meet Mia Hamm there! (or, at least shyly ask her for an autograph). Also, there’s nothing like a frigid winter day but your blood is PUMPING from witnessing Derek Henry stiff-arm his way down the field. Or, it’s a humid summer night but you have cold chills from hearing your favorite musician live under the stars.
I get it – I, too, can appreciate the impacts from prime-time events that a modern domed stadium can potentially attract. As a small business supporter, I would, of course, be grateful for the income those events would bring to our local restaurants and small businesses.
With any public investment, my hope is that we do what’s best for us, the taxpayers. If the overwhelming renovation projections for the current stadium were indeed true and accurate, then yes – we’d be wise to negotiate ourselves off that financial hook, relieving us of the enormous debt burden from the current maintenance obligations. For future public development negotiations, I believe that my life experiences, public policy education, upbringing (being the son of a retired Federal Mediator and career negotiation expert) will well equip me to negotiate the best deal possible for the people of Davidson County.
For both the stadium and East Bank development, my ambition is that we prioritize long-lasting, sustainable infrastructure that also supports the nearby communities. If elected, I’d negotiate opportunities for our small and local businesses at the stadium and prioritize spaces for community recreation and celebration along the East Bank. Essentially, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right by taking care of our people and building something that lasts for generations.”
Does Metro need more police officers beyond the unfilled positions?
“Nashville should always be a safe city for everyone. I’m open and eager to explore any and all ideas for supporting that vision. If staffing is the critical issue, we should prioritize recruitment and retention. If more civilian social work support is required, we should consider investing in those resources. And, as a former Army Ranger, I understand that quality training is paramount. If elected, I’d work to ensure that we recruit and retain good people and support them with the resources to safely fulfill their duty to keep every one of our community members safe.”
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?
“With both of these advances in technology, we should rigorously test and evaluate them. I appreciate that Metro started with a pilot program to analyze the technology, so that we can learn and refine the parameters to assist our police officers’ investigations while ensuring that discrimination and privacy concerns are also addressed. We should respect and listen to the voices of those with concerns and continue to engage the community and address their questions throughout the testing and evaluation phases. For a safe society, it’s imperative that our community and first responders communicate and collaborate to keep us all safe.”
Do you think a property tax rate adjustment will be needed in the next 4 years? Why or why not?
“I don’t yet know the answer to that question. Before making any decision as important as a property tax adjustment, I would meet with local leaders and community members to be certain that I acutely understand their needs and financial burdens. I would not take that decision lightly. If there’s anything we learned from the last four years, Nashville is dynamic! The city and county are growing and evolving tremendously. With that growth, we need to ensure that our fundamental infrastructure, utilities, and services are functioning at an effective and safe level – while being responsible stewards of our budget and tax dollars. We’ll need critical thinkers that understand finance and budgeting. I believe I have the experiences and education to meet the challenge.”
Do you view your role in the Council as leading your district on issues or simply reflecting the views of the district’s residents?
“Leading! But, without a doubt, good leadership involves being strongly connected with community members. Listening to them. Engaging with them. Learning from them. I experienced this while serving as an Army Ranger. Our people were the most valuable assets. As a young officer, my decision-making was critically improved by my Soldiers’ feedback and insights from their experiences. Similarly, as a Metro Council Member, I would be actively involved with our communities to understand their challenges and harness their insights to make the best decisions possible for our city and county.”
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 we look forward as a local government, my hope is that we repair this relationship, expending more energy on leveraging our strengths to build a better city and state. My hope is that we elect thoughtful, empathetic leaders capable of communicating and negotiating constructively with others.
As an Army Officer, I led and worked with hundreds of courageous folks, representing a wide array of backgrounds, cultures, opinions, and experiences. We had many differences, but we shared a mutual commitment to making our unit successful. Our different perspectives made us sharper and stronger, collectively and individually.
The challenges facing our city and state are by no means small. We need to work together and move with a collective sense of urgency to address the problems facing our communities. We need to prepare our first responders for the next tornado, flood, or natural disaster. And, we need to invest in sustainable infrastructure to affordably live and safely navigate our growing county.”
The city is experiencing an affordability crisis. What is the council’s role in creating more housing for buyers and renters in Nashville?
“As a community, we want a city where we can afford to safely live, work, learn, and play. I’ve been speaking with folks from all across the county (friends, family, neighbors, strangers, academic leaders, and housing experts) about how we can address our housing challenges. Here is what I’ve learned: Increasing housing supply is critical, especially along our main traffic corridors. And, building different housing options is crucial as well, including not only single family and mixed use developments but also more doubles, quads, and other multi-family units. For aiding homelessness, transitional housing is another tool very much worth exploring. I’ve met with non-profit leaders in the local veteran community, and I learned that they’ve found success with transitional housing programs for assisting our veteran homeless population. We’re going to have to tackle this challenge from many different angles. I have the energy and enthusiasm to work on those tasks and appetite for coordinating with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to develop more attainable housing for our communities.”
What improvements do you think WeGo should make during the next four years? Would you back creation of a dedicated funding source?
“Our WeGo workers serve tirelessly to safely transport thousands of Nashvillians. Their work aggregates riders and alleviates road congestion. Public transit reduces the cost of commuting for workers by saving on fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs – allowing for more income to go towards food, housing, and education. I support investing in public transit, ideally including coordination with our neighboring counties to build interconnected systems that reduce traffic congestion throughout Middle Tennessee. Moreover, I recently witnessed WeGo’s commitment to our senior citizens by not just transporting them but also respectfully caring for them during a bus trip to a grocery store. I would absolutely be open to exploring ideas for a dedicated funding source.”
Second-quarter campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $5,848
Link to full disclosure here
Pre-General campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $8,283
Link to full disclosure here