Candidate: Marcia Masulla
Metro Council At-Large
Occupation: “I’ve been a serial entrepreneur and launched Roar Nashville in 2017 when I was laid off by Gannett/USA Today/Tennessean. Roar Nashville is a brand building, strategy, communications and events firm of one. My clients include startups, small businesses, non-profit organizations, government and global brands.”
Previous candidacy/offices held: “Office of Mayor John Cooper: Director of Outreach & Scheduling (Contractor from June 2022 – December 2022 | Went full-time December 2022 – April 2023)”
“Co-founder & Managing Director: Nashville Fashion Week and the Nashville Fashion Forward Fund from 2010 – present. Founded the Tiny But Mighty Fund, a nonprofit that raises funds and awareness for animal welfare and rescue from 2013 to present.”
“Served as a mentor for Vanderbilt University’s Wond’ry innovation and entrepreneurship program since 2018.”
“Previously on the board of the Belcourt Theatre for 6 years, stepped up as the Fundraising and Community Engagement Chairperson for Tennessee Action For Hospitality in 2020 and has continued her work with food service workers in crisis as a member of Giving Kitchen’s Nashville Community Engagement Council to this day.”
“2018 Leadership Nashville alum – served on the Leadership Nashville Alumni Board in 2019”
“I was appointed to the YWCA, Inclusion Tennessee, and Arts and Business Council Board of Directors in 2022.”
“Still actively serving on the Community Benefits Agreement Board between Major League Soccer – Nashville Soccer Club and Stand Up Nashville since joining in 2020.”
“2023 alum of Emerge Tennessee”
“I am a member of both The Table Action which focuses on making Nashville the model city for equity and inclusiveness, and BrainTrust, a national community of women business owners that champions and challenges one another to grow their companies to their fullest potential.”
What will be your top three priorities on the Council?
“Safe flourishing neighborhoods with affordable housing along with high-quality schools and viable transit options should be at the top of every candidate’s priority list. These issues are certainly at the top of mine. But they aren’t the only issues that confront our city. If elected, I will prioritize hard work and find smart, effective options that benefit ALL Nashvillians. I have real-world experience in activating creative solutions to solve difficult challenges. From bringing resources for hardworking small businesses to amplifying and preserving our creative economy and artists, I have been a champion for our working class and know that our best outcomes happen when we work together. It doesn’t have to be this hard for Nashvillians. I’ll continue to roll up my sleeves and get the work done.”
Much of the city’s developmental focus, like plans for a new East Bank, have focused on downtown. What’s your vision for downtown?
“I am laser-focused on my commitment to staying on top of the oversight and deliverables promised in the vision for the East Bank. Regardless of people’s opinions of how we got here, we are all now moving forward. The next Mayor and the next council will be making decisions that will affect our city’s future for generations. Let’s talk about that future. We can now unlock 66 acres of stadium parking lots for a vision that includes: diverse and affordable housing, economic development, and a multi-modal transportation system that includes the first Bus Rapid Transit system – which can be the foundation to connect our neighborhoods. The East Bank should also offer up vibrant outdoor spaces, small business hubs, and creative spaces that our RESIDENTS can enjoy. Our downtown corridor shouldn’t just benefit our vibrant tourist community. Our work today will author our future direction. Through my ongoing work with the Nashville Soccer Club and Stand Up Nashville Community Benefits Agreement, I’ve experienced that with real conversations, creative dealmaking, and hard work we can find a way that is mutually beneficial for us all. The key to all of this is to also continue doing the work to support and provide resources for established neighborhoods that haven’t been distributed their fair share of resources, empowering small businesses, funding schools, etc. It’s not one or the other, we have to do ALL of it.”
Did you or would you have voted to approve the new Titans stadium financing legislation?
“Now that the Titans Stadium deal has been approved, our focus should be on maximizing the value of $500 million in state bonds, $760 million in revenue bonds from the Nashville Sports Authority, and a 1% hotel tax increase that will funnel in more than $3 billion from tourists over the term of the lease. It’s always easier to be the Monday Morning Quarterback, but I can say that I wouldn’t have supported the deal in its initial incarnation. However, after the 30+ proposed amendments from council members including the approved “team rent” amendment from council member Jennifer Gamble, shifting the tax burden of the new stadium construction and upkeep (through sales, ticket, and hotel taxes) to tourists instead of Nashvillians and the estimated $120 million that will be funneled to Nashville’s general fund over three decades from a 3% ticket fee, the end deal made sense. It was also key that any maintenance or upgrades not covered by the revenue sources outlined will fall to the Titans, not Nashville’s budget. The Titans are also on record to commit $47 million over the duration of the lease to the Nashville Needs Impact Fund. This Fund will be grant funding to be allocated to Davidson County nonprofit organizations that include key areas of focus: affordable housing, public transit, education, diversity, equity, and inclusion with more resources offered for women’s sports. So, those are the positives and that’s the future benefit going forward. My goal on council will be to ensure that we aren’t being put in situations where we’re forced to decide between the lesser of two evils. Our city’s vital industries, sports included, should be mutually beneficial partnerships, with a strong emphasis on the mutual benefits part.”
Does Metro need more police officers beyond the unfilled positions?
“We need continued and regular investment in our current police force. The best possible way to have a police department that works to benefit its city is to invest in the people who comprise the department. We need to be recruiting the brightest and the best candidates who are equipped to handle the day-to-day rigors, stresses and challenges of being a first responder and keeping our community safe. Competitive salary and comprehensive benefits is one way to invest in our officers, but also we need to diversify our investment and look to innovate as well. We need new roles and job focuses, and the continued expansion of permanent programs like “Partners in Care” with the Mental Health Cooperative. We need to invest in programs that offer pathways to intervention in lieu of the direct road to the legal system, especially for those with mental health disorders. Ultimately, our investment in MNPD is an investment in our city, its people, and the necessary partnership we need to have between a productive law enforcement and safety organization and the people they are entrusted to protect and serve.”
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?
“This has been a long and necessary discussion on how we balance safety and privacy. We haven’t seen the full data yet from the 6-month pilot but I am following the progress closely. Should we move forward after the pilot period, we need to strike a balance between the safeguards to protect our residents’ privacy in a way where equity is front of mind. We also know that auto theft, burglaries, and other crimes are up so while protecting our citizen’s privacy, this pilot and tools are in place to see if they are actually doing what they are supposed to – which is to assist police in protecting Nashvillians. But again, I want to be very clear, it should not be at the expense of a reasonable expectation of privacy. I’m very interested in seeing the data and how it’s being utilized after the pilot period. Show us the data and feedback on LPRs first and I’ll have a better understanding if facial recognition is a logical next step.”
Do you think a property tax rate adjustment will be needed in the next 4 years? Why or why not?
“I think it’s extremely difficult to predict the future. To be frank, anyone that quickly says no to this question isn’t being honest, or worse, may just be pandering to the lowest common denominator. Let’s take a real look at the circumstances leading up to our most recent adjustment. You have previous administrations/councils kicking the can down the road, our city is struggling to find revenue streams, you have economic uncertainty of historic proportions due to a global pandemic, then you have a city whose economic fortunes bounce back from the pandemic in a manner unlike any expert or predictive measure could have imagined. The simple fact of the matter is that I do not have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future. However, what I can do is assure the voters that my priority is to maximize our city’s revenues and limit any additional burden on the taxpayer whenever and wherever we can. Fiscally, we are a thriving city, with our growth at an all-time high. It’s time that the heart of this city, its people, start benefiting from our city’s success and not continue to struggle with the pains of our growth. As more business brings more jobs to our city, they should be expected to bring resources as well. Amazon is a prime example of that. And lastly, as a small business owner and a single-income household, I live daily on my own personal budget. I understand the importance of making a plan, setting a financial course, and sticking to it. I am committed to protecting our city’s tax dollars and our city’s vital resources.”
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. If I were elected, it is crystal clear to me that my bosses are the people of Nashville. This requires a lot of listening and learning from the folks who live the day in and day out. The role of public service is to engage with Nashvillians and then to take those personal and diverse experiences to find creative and efficient ways to make all of our lives better. I believe that this is the DNA of serving as an effective council member. Over the past 15 years, I’ve given my heart and hustle to Nashville, and in return, Nashville has given me a beloved place to live, work and play. I am running for Metro Council At-Large as a natural progression of a life of service and to continue giving back to the city I call home. The thought of what I can accomplish for us, if and when I actually had a seat at the table, is truly an exciting challenge.”
How do you view the relationship of the city and Council to the General Assembly in the face of adverse legislation from the state?
“In my conversations, the voters have been pretty clear. They believe that effective and efficient leadership is a priority and it starts with genuine bridge-building. We all lose when we don’t work together, period. I am grateful that the court upheld the rights of Davidson County voters to make decisions for themselves. Our city stands up when it matters, especially when it comes to human rights and democracy. However, we must prioritize rebuilding this damaged relationship. The more time and resources that we spend at profound odds, the less time and resources we have to serve our constituents. The role of government should be to effectively function through practical compromise. Davidson County and the surrounding areas serve as home for more than 2 million of Tennessee’s 7 million residents. We account for more than 52,000 businesses, and a record-breaking $9 billion in visitor spending last year. According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tennessee is the second fastest economic growth US state. That growth is largely based on Nashville’s contributions to the state of Tennessee. Nashville’s success is a key component of our state’s overall success, and our state legislature should be working to support our city. We need to find a working relationship with the state legislature that benefits Nashville and all Tennesseans.”
The city is experiencing an affordability crisis. What is the council’s role in creating more housing for buyers and renters in Nashville?
“While there has been some progress from the last few council terms and Nashville is inching up on 5,000 units a year soon… It’s still not enough to meet the growing demand. I’m ready to dig in deeper and can bring some tenacity and fresh ideas. We need to better utilize resources that we already have in place, such as continued regular and ample investment in the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing. This funding needs to come from both long-term public and private partnerships. With the Metro Planning Department, Department of Public Works, Department of Codes and Building Safety, Metro Water Services, and the Nashville Fire Department, we must continue to expand and update our processes so they are equipped to work in symphony together. These departments and processes are currently not working as efficiently as they could be but I believe that it is very “figure-out-able.” And, we need to continue our efforts to maximize the Property Tax Freeze and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to benefit as many as possible.”
“Our city needs to prioritize working with developers who want to be partners in the growth of our city, not just benefactors. I believe that we can do that by stepping outside of the box to find and implement some creative new tools. For instance, while the state has us handcuffed with available affordable housing limitations that include a ban on inclusionary zoning, there are ways to work around that. A solid example of that is Mixed Income Pilots – an optional program with tax abatements for developers.”
What improvements do you think WeGo should make during the next four years? Would you back creation of a dedicated funding source?
“YES. We are the only city of our size that does not currently have dedicated funding toward mass transit. Our inability to solve our transit issues will continue to, both metaphorically and literally, halt our ability to move forward as a city. We must proactively invest in a transit system that allows connectivity and encourages the mobility of our city’s people. Investment in WeGo has led to innovations like QuickTicket and now riders are no longer required to carry cash and coins to use our transit network. Right now, somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of all trips we make are less than 3 miles in distance. To the extent that we can get people to take more of those trips using something other than our cars, the better our road, transit and traffic systems will operate. We need more frequent service, dedicated lanes, more hours of operation and continued investment in neighborhood transit centers like Hillsboro, and upcoming areas like North Nashville, East Bank, and SoBro. The more routes that don’t have to go into WeGo Central downtown, the better we’re connecting our neighborhoods and making our transit system work for its riders. Mobility for seniors is a topic that we should all be paying close attention to. Metro Social Services just identified mobility and housing as our senior population’s two areas of greatest need. The ability to get to a bus stop for some seniors is what prevents them from using a system that would be a great benefit. There are volunteer nonprofits like SeniorRide that help seniors get to the grocery store and doctor visits. We need to figure out how to extend partnerships with WeGo to make our system more accessible to seniors. We need to continue to innovate like the Mobility On Demand pilot program that offers reduced fee Ubers & Lyfts to the nearest transit station/stop. More pilots. More innovation. More smart thinking. And that starts with long overdue dedicated funding.”
Second quarter campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $92,883
Link to full disclosure here
Pre-General campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $71,783
Link to full disclosure here