Candidate: Jacob Kupin
Metro Council District 19
Occupation: “Currently, I run a family-owned real estate business with my wife. We specialize in helping first-time buyers navigate the process and resources available to them through comprehensive education and support. Additionally, I serve on a number of nonprofit boards and enjoy volunteering within my community.”
Previous candidacy/offices held: “When I announced my council run, my dad found a newspaper article from when I was elected student government president in middle school. So I guess that counts, right?
In Nashville, I have served as District 19’s representative to the Participatory Budget Steering Committee and as the neighborhood association president in historic Buena Vista. I have also participated in a number of public information gathering sessions regarding transit and other city services.”
Community experience: “I have a large amount of community experience. I spent a number of years building and running the board for the young Jewish professional group here in town, even developing a dating meetup group during Covid called Kupin and Cupid. I have planned neighborhood socials in historic Buena Vista to bring neighbors together to foster a greater sense of community. Throughout my life, I have always played a role in bringing people together to create social experiences where people can better their community and their world. I believe in the importance of going, door-to-door, person-to-person, and developing a network of people who lift each other up.”
What will be your top three priorities on the Council?
“My top three priorities on Council will be:
1. To focus on developing and maintaining income-aligned housing so that all residents can find Nashville to be a safe and affordable place to live.
2. To put a strong focus on constituent services and work through the list of residential needs that developed over the last few years. This includes things like street maintenance, traffic calming, neighborhood development, beautification, and other needs that the residents and businesses have expressed.
3. To navigate growth in a smart way with supportive infrastructure – I’ll do this with clear communication to all who are impacted and work to develop supportive infrastructure so that the projects are successful for everyone. We have the opportunity to do a really great job as a community and a city but we need to make sure the projects are developed in a well-rounded way and that we support the growth we have already sustained.”
What is the biggest issue facing your district? How would you approach it?
“District 19 is comprised of a number of sub-districts. As I have knocked on doors throughout the area, I have seen firsthand that the issues that Hope Gardens faces are different from what historic Buena Vista faces. Germantown’s issues are different from Salemtown. The Gulch is different from Broadway. The Watkins park area is different than Rutledge Hill. And to top it all off, we will be developing the Beaman property, the East Bank, the Titans Stadium, and so much more.
As a residential REALTOR specializing in first time homebuyers, I have experience in juggling multiple projects at once. There have been times when I would be carrying 10 to 15 contracts at a time, having to make sure that I clearly communicated what was going on, and helping clients to make decisions so that they could be successful in their endeavors.
I plan to carry the systems I built to manage those processes over to the district. It will be important to me to continue to go door-to-door, conversing with neighbors at their convenience to learn and solve the issues facing them. I have a broad experience in problem-solving and solution-based execution, and I have set myself up to have a large amount of bandwidth over the next four years to address the various layers that affect our district.
I am excited about looking back in four years, knowing that we will have neighbors who will have had their concerns addressed in a clear and effective manner.”
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 remember when I first visited Nashville in 2012. When I first saw Broadway, I had to pause to take it all in. Some of the best music from the most talented musicians I had ever heard was pouring out of the doors of each bar and honky-tonk. As I walked up the street, I was amazed at just how many facilities had such talented performers. I started to fall in love with the city because of Downtown. As my time in Nashville continued, while Broadway was not my first choice of place to go on an evening out, I was still so proud of it and how it made my city special.
Recently I have been saddened by what’s happened to our Downtown. I don’t think the growth was the issue. In fact, it’s been great to have so many more people appreciate Nashville like I do. But the way people, especially tourists, are conducting themselves downtown is truly unacceptable. I’ve seen pedestrians almost run over, people urinating on the streets, and a general disregard for respect and cleanliness.
That said, I am optimistic about the possibilities. I recently saw signs describing “Nashville’s House Rules” that talked about things like ‘Say Hello to a Stranger’ and ‘Treat Everyone Here Like Family’. I really appreciate how this project aims to convey to people that they are welcome here, but please know what our culture is like and how it is important to behave. I think by leaning into standards like this, we can continue downtown’s growth in a way that is safe, clean, and desirable – where the people are kind, the music is great, and the experience is unparalleled. I want to feel proud of downtown again and I know we can do it. I remember how proud I was of downtown and I have a clear vision of how I want to get back there again.”
Did you or would you have voted to approve the new Titans stadium financing legislation?
“This Titan Stadium deal symbolized the frustrations that Nashville has faced over the last number of years. I went to a listening session about the stadium, where people shared frustrations with the affordability of the city, the quality of their kids’ school, and their inability to put food on the table, and to live in this city. I remember someone saying “Football? I am struggling to even feed my family, let alone go to a football game.”
It has felt recently like the big, shiny project moves quickly through the system while the fundamental needs of our city are overlooked. And that’s where I am prioritizing a focus on constituent services and rebuilding and repairing the foundation of our city over the next few years.
This doesn’t have to happen at the expense of growth. We can continue to engage the big shiny projects and also focus on constituent services.
From my understanding, doing nothing with the stadium was not an option. And so we were left with choosing to renovate or rebuild. I wasn’t part of the day to day deal discussions around the stadium itself, so I can’t say for sure what my final vote would have been, but I know I would’ve worked with all parties involved to make sure that the deal struck was a win for the city and the people who live here. And this is why I am running. I believe there is an opportunity to work with these large projects to create local benefit and positive smart growth that is supported and works to sustain our neighborhoods and city. These projects will be in my district and I’m excited to work closely with this growth.”
Does Metro need more police officers beyond the unfilled positions?
My understanding is that we are at least 200 officers short of the need that we have here in the city and additionally the officers are not paid to a commensurate level with other comparable cities. As part of a refocus on constituent services, I think it is essential to look at the police policy, pay, officer, & count, and support to make sure that our city is safely protected by officers who are well trained in positive neighborhood engagement to make sure that everyone feels safe and comfortable here. We must address the challenges that police have had with neighborhoods and residents as part of a conversation in officer count and pay through collaborative conversation and partnership.
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 believe that there are benefits and costs to the LPR program. While the ordinance is comprehensive and well-written, I have spoken to a number of people who have concerns about the program and its execution. As a council person, I will prioritize understanding deeply the concerns and hesitations around the LPR program and working to brainstorm possible solutions, so that a program can create more safety, without increasing the adverse effects this technology can have. I believe that facial recognition would fall into the same pathway where there are some benefits, but also some serious adverse effects and it would be important to me to understand all components to create a pathway forward that would be safe and successful.”
Do you think a property tax rate adjustment will be needed in the next 4 years? Why or why not?
“I think it is possible that we will need a tax rate adjustment, but if we do, it is imperative that we engage in this adjustment with clear intention and notice. The tax increase that occurred in the midst of a tornado recovery and global pandemic was disruptive and inappropriately timed. If any changes were to occur over the next four years, we would need to engage stakeholders, make sure to alert people who are eligible for a tax freeze that they have this option, and ensure that the revenue was going to places that the residents of the city deemed important.”
Do you view your role in the Council as leading your district on issues or simply reflecting the views of the district’s residents?
“In real estate, my job is to represent my client’s best interests. That means clearly hearing what they are saying, but also also asking critical questions to help them explore the boundaries of their wishes, sometimes uncovering new pathways in the process. My job is to support clients, making a good decision, but also to not allow them to make a bad decision that compromises their ultimate goals. I will approach serving on council the same way. It’s my job to ensure that I spend time going door-to-door and person-to-person hearing their needs and wants. But I also need to ask critical questions, and ultimately make my decision for how to best represent the interest of my constituents. While I can promise not everyone will always agree with my decisions, I can also promise that I will make time for conversations and make sure to listen and hear the voice of the people before making a decision.”
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 think that it is imperative that this next council repair the relationship with the state. The recent overreaching decisions by the state to get involved in the city, especially knowing the negative impact it was going to have on the residence is inappropriate, ineffective, and a waste of valuable time and resources. That being said, I am a believer in building bridges, not burning them down. As a council person, I would reach out to each and every member of the state legislature, inviting them to get a cup of coffee or a drink. I would work to build a positive relationship with those who are open to it and work to rebuild a collaborative spirit as best as possible.
I know this is a tall task, and at the end of the day, my duty is to protect the city of Nashville, and as the saying goes, if honey doesn’t work, I will have to turn to vinegar, and I am not afraid to push back, because at the end of the day our city’s ability to govern itself is essential. Overreach has no place here.
I am cautiously optimistic from conversations I have already had that a warming of relations will move us in a positive direction towards a more successful and productive future.”
The city is experiencing an affordability crisis. What is the council’s role in creating more housing for buyers and renters in Nashville?
“This issue is one of the reasons I decided to run. As a first time buyer specialist I used to guide people through the THDA grant, which gave them 5% towards the purchase of their home. This program would allow them to have the grant forgiven if they lived in the home for 10 years. I watched multiple people purchase affordable homes and begin to grow generational wealth through this process. Over the years, the resources available diminished, and the program is a shell of what it used to be.
I have also watched friends who work hard in the city have to move away after their new lease renewal came back at $600 more than they were paying before. We are in an unsustainable growth as it relates to housing affordability. My top priority in council will be to deeply explore this issue and come up with strategic public private partnerships, and other solutions to create affordable options that are income aligned across the board, allowing Nashville to be a safe and affordable place to live.”
What improvements do you think WeGo should make during the next four years? Would you back creation of a dedicated funding source?
“My friend Becca doesn’t have a car. She regularly rides the bus for work and play. She recently shared with me that it is challenging to navigate the bus system, even for her. She shared that sometimes she will be on time for the bus and will watch it run early, passing the bus stop and since the bus driver did not see her there, keep going. She then needs to wait almost an hour or walk far to another stop. I think that it is imperative that we work on WeGo from the ground up. Let’s start with stakeholders like Becca who are already using the system and make sure it’s working efficiently for them. Then let’s expand to the next most likely batch of users and build from there. I think there’s a way to make the bus system in Nashville actionable and usable but we need careful time and attention to make it work.”
Second-quarter campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $60,543
Link to full disclosure here
Pre-General campaign finance disclosure
Cash on hand: $53,762
Link to full disclosure here