I went to public schools all my life and enjoyed the highest quality public education available. My teachers cared about my success, my parents put my academic performance first, and, most of all, I felt supported and driven to do my best in everything I took on in school. Every child should have the public education experience I enjoyed. I will work tirelessly to ensure that’s the case.
As our city grows, we must maintain the funding for our schools. This means putting education at the top of the priority list and ensuring that our tax dollars are being spent wisely in all areas to ensure our key commitments to our people -- to educate our kids, to keep our citizens safe, and to always work toward a decent quality of life -- are fulfilled.
There are several services and programs in place to assist our homeless brothers and sisters, and they do an excellent job. Our homeless residents deserve the same rights and respect as anyone else in our community, although we can acknowledge that some of the challenges they face, particularly substance abuse, require dedicated and sometimes repeated treatment. Our city should support the organizations providing this dedicated treatment through our resources and volunteer hours.
We must spend particular attention to our homeless youth, and especially our LGBT homeless youth. More than a third of Middle Tennessee homeless children identify as LGBT, and recent funding struggles among some of our city's nonprofits have left these children in a more perilous situation than ever. LGBT homeless youth often feel particularly abandoned or alone. We must put our arms around these children and ensure they are provided for, loved and protected.
Income equality has grown in our city. District 17 is the poorest by median income in the city, with some of the highest rates of unemployment. Five years ago, my wife and I were able to purchase a house at a price point that almost no longer exists in our neighborhood. We have seen neighbors and friends cobble together multiple part-time jobs to pay the mortgage, which has gone up with property tax increases. There is no doubt that Nashville is a more prosperous city than it was four years ago; now, it's up to us to ensure that everyone has a chance to enjoy that prosperity.
In my neighborhood, I have been at the table to change projects to include a wide range of housing and prices, but still at the market rate. I know developers who want to do below-market housing in their developments, but they want to know everyone is held to the same affordability requirements and standards. I will work to create that level playing field that encourages affordable and workforce housing.
We must ensure that, as we become a denser, more populous city, we are providing access to well-paying jobs close to transit and neighborhoods in order to maintain our high quality of life and relatively low cost of living. We must encourage small business growth and entrepreneurship through policies that cut through needless bureaucracy and create an environment that encourages, not stifles, creativity. And we must remember who we are and how we got here as a city that welcomes people from all walks and backgrounds, and continue that same spirit of kindness and hospitality in all that we do.
Preservation is a critical goal for Nashville as a whole and District 17 in particular. In Wedgewood-Houston, I have worked with the current and new owners of two very historically significant, privately owned properties: the May Hosiery Coop and the Merritt Mansion. In part because of the active neighborhood and culture we have created in Wedgewood-Houston, both properties have gone to local, historically conscious owners who are preservation-minded. Additionally, I have been a member of Friends of Fort Negley for the last two years and participate in several events at the property per year.
We can protect our historic resources best by showing the intrinsic value within them as part of Nashville’s past, present and future. We’re all very proud of Nashville these days, but oftentimes we can’t articulate why. Our pride should stem from our history and the incredible resources and properties that remind us of it.
Mass transit is a fundamental necessity for a growing city like Nashville and for the entire Middle Tennessee region. We will add a million people to the region in the next 25 years, with more than 200,000 of them in Davidson County alone. We must create a robust, multi-modal transportation system that allows our workers and residents a variety of options, including reliable, expanded bus service, protected bike lanes and sidewalks that connect neighborhoods to transit. One of the ways to quicken this process is by developing a shared sidewalks program that neighborhood nonprofits can buy into and that the city directs to ensure sidewalks are equitably placed throughout the city.
Then, every sidewalk should lead to a transit stop. Every transit stop should be a covered bench. Every transit line should be equipped with real-time sensors that link to a free smartphone app to inform riders of its pending arrival. Every transit line should run at least twice an hour, and those on busy corridors every 15-20 minutes. We must do more, faster with our transit system. It is the main way we will ensure Nashville remains affordable for many of our residents.
As a member of the Edgehill Bike Club and a bike commuter on my 60s-era Schwinn cruiser, I am a public proponent of biking as both transit and pleasure. For many residents in District 17, a bicycle means freedom, independence and self-reliance. A bicycle is often the only mode of transportation our residents can access readily and depend upon to get to work and family functions. As your District 17 Councilmember, I will focus heavily on the opportunities available to residents to obtain and maintain bikes, while participating in bicycle safety sessions like those I have attended with the Metro Nashville Police Department.
All Nashvillians should have access to greenways that provide interconnectivity throughout the city. We need to start thinking of greenways as transit corridors, and not just channels for leisure (although they certainly serve that purpose well). I participate in and promote events that demonstrate the connectivity of our greenways throughout the city while advocating for an expanded system.