Freddie O’Connell and Alice Rolli met in the first mayoral forum on Thursday, a tame affair at the Schermerhorn before an audience of Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce members.
The format gave each candidate 15 minutes to make opening remarks. Lee Blank of Regions Bank moderated questions submitted by the audience on taxes, workforce shortage, helping teachers, the city/state relationship and affordability.
Taxes will be a bone of contention throughout the runoff as Rolli attempts to hang the Cooper administration’s 34 percent property tax increase on O’Connell.
“I have taken, Grover Norquist’s group, the American Taxpayer Protection pledge,” Rolli said. “A reporter who may be in this room said to me, ‘Alice, that’s a really extreme position.’ And I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that it is an extreme position. Governor Haslam did too. The Improve Act, which was changing the way that we finance our roads, that was American Taxpayer Protection Act compliant. It is about centering the decisions on the taxpayers, and say that as city growing revenues that we see, you know, six and seven percent a year should be able to operate within their means.”
O’Connell said it’s a more complicated situation and that “we heard a declaration of no new taxes [in Metro] as well. Unfortunately, that came with a lot of other volatility and disruption within Metro that left us without some of the other supporting revenue sources. And we started digging a hole where we started having to pay for government by asset sales for severe cuts.”
There was no back-and-forth between the candidates, who answered questions for a half hour. You can watch the entire forum here.
O’Connell and Rolli issued a joint statement after the meeting that they will participate in seven more forums/debates before the runoff:
Aug. 14: WZTV Fox 17 Debate
Aug. 17: NPT/Opportunity Nashville Forum
Aug. 22: WKRN News 2 Forum
Aug. 24: WTVF NewsChannel 5/Tennessean Forum
Aug. 28: 92Q Forum with Ernie Allen
Forums with WPLN-Nashville Public Radio and WSMV-Ch. 4 will be scheduled soon.
Endorsements came in for both sides yesterday as Rolli announced that former mayoral candidate Fran Bush had joined her campaign.
Meanwhile, former candidates Heidi Campbell and Jeff Yarbro endorsed O’Connell on Twitter.
“There is no question that @freddieoconnell is the right choice in this election!” Campbell wrote. “Let’s volunteer, donate, and campaign to get him over the finish line!”
Yarbro made his endorsement in his front yard.
Candidates Sharon Hurt, Vivian Wilhoite and Matt Wiltshire have not yet endorsed a candidate in the runoff. All three were out of town yesterday. A source told the Banner that Wiltshire and his wife each donated the maximum amount allowed, $1,800, to O’Connell over the weekend.
“All things work together for the good,” said Hurt when reached in Florida on Wednesday. “I congratulate Freddie and Alice.”
Also, the Central Labor Council endorsed O’Connell in the runoff.
“We have no doubt that as Nashville’s next Mayor, Freddie will keep workers at the forefront of our growing city,” said Vonda McDaniel, CLC President and member of the Steelworkers Union.